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Rupa Sensei is the English teacher you’re looking for, especially if you’re a Japanese speaker. In this episode Elle chats with Rupa about his journey from Melbourne high school graduate to Japanese ESL teacher to superstar YouTuber.
Elle: Hello everyone. And welcome to the LingQ English podcast with me Elle and today I have a treat for you listeners. I am joined by YouTuber Rupa Sensei, Rupa Sensei, how are you?
Rupa: Oh, brilliant you know, I’m feeling good today. Uh, woke up and just felt amazing today. Cooked some breakfast. I did a little bit of work and now I’ve got some coffee in me. So might be a little hyper today.
Elle: That’s fine. That’s fine. So you’re joining us from Australia, Melbourne, Melbourne. Is that right?
Rupa: That’s right, so Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia. This is where I was born and raised. And oh brilliant place. And it’s actually getting a little, a little nippy these days. We had summer, but now it’s starting to chill down a little bit.
Elle: Of course, right…
Rupa: How about yourself, you’re over in Vancouver, right?
Elle: Yes. Yeah.
Rupa: Shout out to all the Canucks.
Elle: Nice! Were just starting to get warm here. I mean…
Rupa: Oh brilliant.
Elle: Not, not very warm. It’s very wet. It’s basically a rainforest. So, but, uh…
Rupa: OKay. How’s the summers though, you get pretty hot in the summer?
Elle: You know, I’d say like 26, 27 degrees is hot here.
Rupa: That’s not too bad.
Elle: It’s nice. Yeah.
It might hit 30. That’s like, that’s a very hot day. Nothing like you, Australians.
Rupa: We get very hot. And it’s very dry, hot and dry summers.
So you’re from Melbourne, Australia, and that’s where you are now, but you’re usually based in Japan, right?
Rupa: That’s right. So, uh, that’s where I went when I was 18. So I finished high school and then I got a job opportunity to go be an ESL teacher in Japan. So I thought hey, well, what a brilliant opportunity. I was going to take a gap year anyway. So all the stars aligned and I was off to Japan and then I was stationed in a place called Ibaraki. Okay. So have you, have you ever been to Japan?
Elle: Yeah, I actually, I lived there for three years. I did the ESL thing too.
Rupa: That’s great. And yeah so Ibaraki is kind of like north of Tokyo and, well, it’s pretty countryside or Japanese they say “inaka”. And you know, but I felt that was such a great starting point into Japan. I could get so much of the culture there, they were so open and willing to accept me and treat me as one of their own.
So, you know, I think of Japan as, as like my second home, you know, just the, the way that they treat me over there. It’s brilliant. And I’ve got the utmost respect to, uh, to Japan.
Elle: Excellent. So you went over 18, that’s really young to leave your home country.
Rupa: I was a young chap. Straight after high school and yeah over in Japan and I was…
and the funny thing is I was teaching the students, they were around 15 years old, middle school students. So there really wasn’t much age gap at all. If I happened to be teaching, um, high school students, they would have been the same age as me. What about that?
Elle: Wow, that’s great. So you went over and then, so had you studied any Japanese before Japan?
Rupa: So, so how, how I kind of got the, the job opportunity was because my, my high school, they, they taught Japanese lessons. And they had a partnership with one of their sister schools to kind of do a bit of like a, a transfer of the teachers. So some of the teachers from that school would come over here to teach Japanese and vice versa.
So I managed to snag in at the perfect time and I was, had a golden opportunity there and I feel blessed for the, for that. And that was what’s called a working holiday. So you do a bit of work, you do a bit of travel. Um, so after I finished up with the, with the school, I traveled around Japan, went over to Tokyo and ended up working in a, in a bakery.
And that was a great opportunity too. Just a random Australian bloke working in a Japanese bakery that would have been a surprise for them.
Elle: So your Japanese must have been pretty good, even then you started working in a bakery, your interacting in Japanese every day. So you enjoyed the language? Yeah?
Rupa: Oh, definitely. I think, you know, just having that kind of, um, The pressure of the bakery, you know, the, the, the head, uh, head baker he’s kind of talking to you in Japanese and all the customers are talking to you in Japanese. It gives you a lot of motivation to learn quickly.
Elle: I bet. Yeah.
So how did you go from then… um, so you went over, you were teaching English, you worked in this bakery, learned Japanese.
And how did you then start your youTube channel, which is a really successful YouTube channel for English learners, um, for Japanese, Japanese speakers or Japanese people who are learning English. Um, how did you move from… how did you start the channel?
Rupa: Yeah. Good question. So I started the, um, actually started off on Instagram.
So I, I, it was pretty much just like a real casual thing to do, and that was back when I was 19. So after I returned home from Japan after the first time. You know, I was 19. I was just about to start uni at university. And, um, I dunno, I think actually one day I watched on TV and this bloke, he was like, just doing this, um, like cooking show or something, travel show, and then he just dropped this, uh, one point, um, Japanese lesson.
So I thought, well, that’s a brilliant thing to do. So every day on Instagram, I did the, I did the reverse. I did the one point English lesson in Japanese, and it was also a really good way for me to, to keep motivated, to study Japanese because you know, back in Australia, most of my mates, uh, are Aussies. Um, I mainly just use English with all my family, friends and for school.
So I didn’t really have much motivation to keep learning Japanese. Um, but, but that was a way to just, you know, at least study for myself and then if people can benefit and learn English at the same time. Wow. That’s a, that’s a win-win isn’t it? So, so I kept doing that and I, I continued that for about 650 days.
Every single day I did that hour teaching one phrase on Instagram. Um, and then I decided to go over to YouTube and make more kind of long-form content. Much more kind of, you know, professional looking, uh, at least as professional as I can be. And then, and then, yeah, that started to takeoff really well, and actually going on from there, that’s about the time when I went to Japan for the second time and that way was through my university.
So just through like a study abroad and I did a one year over in Osaka.
Elle: Love Osaka. I went there one Golden Week and it was amazing. Yeah.
It’s such a vibrant…
Rupa: Yeah. They just had their Golden Week, last week, I think.
Elle: Right. Of course. Yeah.
It’s that time of year. Yeah.
I guess it, maybe wasn’t such a crazy Golden Week this year.
Rupa: Oh, that’s true. Yeah, absolutely.
Golden Week at the home, you know?
Elle: Yeah. Yeah.
So amazing. Your, your channel is just excellent. I was looking through some of the videos. I love how, especially the videos where you, um, kind of go through the, the English used in a movie or a TV series. Um, it’s just great for, you know, that immersion style.
It’s excellent so…
Rupa: THank you. Cause during the, the lockdown, cause I used to do much more kind of interactive videos where I would, you know, talk to people on the street or maybe interview someone like I did the interview with Steve. Uh, and he did his, he kind of showed up and spoke 20 languages and that video got, went really well
so that’s kind of how, I’m how I got into contact with LingQ. And that was so fantastic, but then once I got back to Australia and we had the lockdown, I just started watching a whole bunch of movies, almost a movie every day. And I think movies are such a fun way to learn a language. I learned Japanese through a lot of like media, like movies or TV shows.
So I thought, Hey, probably my viewers they want to do the same thing, but learn English instead of from me all the time. Maybe Tom cruise or Leonardo DiCaprio. And it makes it a little bit more interesting.
Elle: For sure. Yeah.
So I wonder, so your channel, you have almost, I think it’s like almost half a million subscribers right now.
Rupa: Blows My mind, you know, I don’t know how I did that.
Elle: It’s excellent. I mean, you can see that you have just such an enthusiasm too, um, yeah, it just kind of, it’s great to watch, you know? It gets people into it.
Rupa: I think that’s just proof that anyone can do it. You know, I’m just some random bloke from Australia and I speak Japanese okay. But I’m only teaching English and that’s my native language.
So I think if, if I could do it, anyone can do it. If they want to start YouTube or some social media business, any, anything like that.
Elle: I wonder then if you get, you must get lots of messages and obviously comments on your videos. I wonder if there are some standout questions that you get from English learners.
Are there any areas that people… you get the same kind of questions about, whether it be pronunciation, you know, certain grammar points, um, are there things that crop up more often?
Rupa: Yeah. So I think, especially because my content kind of focuses a lot on listening and listening to native speakers in particular from the movies and stuff like that.
So I do get a lot of questions from, uh, you know, how to improve my listening or, or maybe the student they, they watched their movies and TV shows with thsubtitles, which is fantastic, but they want to, uh, start watching like English shows with English, subtitles, you know, make that transition, which is a pretty hard transition, you know? Even sometimes when I’m watching Japanese shows, I’ll, I’ll try my best, then I’ll check on the subtitles.
But sometimes it’s too overwhelming. So I’ll have to go back to the English subtitles. But really, I think for, for listening, one of the best advice I can give you is just time on the task, you know, where, um, this probably for, for all the skills in learning a language or, or all the skills in generally in life is just focus as much time as he can, and really give your, your brain time to get used to the sounds and the sound differences from your own language.
And that’s really gonna help you kind of get the, get the ease of the language you’re trying to learn.
Elle: That’s excellent advice. Um, and what would you, so that’s, uh, that’s great advice for listening, is there anything that you could, I wonder if there’s something for English learners that they could take action on, maybe like right now, tomorrow, soon, when they stopped listening, is there something that, um, some piece of advice you have that can help them really improve their English?
Rupa: Yeah, absolutely.
Elle: You know…
Rupa: as fast as possible. Hey, I guess that’s one thing, a lot of people, um, they say they want to learn like overnight, or, you know, after one week or one month, I think the, the most, uh, advice, the best advice I could give for that is just understand. It’s going to take a time. It’s going to take a long time.
I’ve been learning Japanese for about eight years on and off. You know, sometimes I study harder sometimes I don’t. Um, but it’s just going to take a long time to really get to, to a high level. But one, one good advice for kind of speeding up that process. If the student did want to, I actually got this from Steve.
When I was interviewing him, he said, just make a routine. So make it a daily habit. Um, he gave a great, uh, point. He said every morning when he’s cooking his breakfast, he’ll just listen to a podcast. Or some kind of, you know, listening content in the language is trying to learn. And I’ve been trying to try to pick that up as well.
I’ll put on a Japanese podcast or something and, or YouTube video. I think now we’re so blessed with a whole bunch of media formats, podcasts, YouTube, and everything like that, Spotify. Um, so yeah, I guess, yeah, I’m kind of rambling on here, but I guess my point would just be kind of try and make it a habit, make it a, really a habit and stick to it because I think this goes for any kind of habit, whether you want to lose weight or anything like that, we kind of do it for about 30 days or something.
And then we kind of, we kind of brush it aside and it becomes a once a week habit rather than an every day habit. But just really just trying to try and soldier on, you know, um, stick to that habit every day. And the best way to stick to a habit from my experience is try and make it as enjoying as possible, as joyful as possible.
So, yeah, so, you know, if you, if you want to improve, you’re listening and you’re trying to make that a habit, you have to really find some content that you would be interested in. So, so maybe not find a, like a dedicated um, English podcast, but maybe find an English podcast that you’re interested in. And it might be a little bit difficult at the start, but once you pick up a word here and a word there, you might be able to start connecting to dots, connecting the dots.
And I think LingQ is pretty good for that. You know, I’ve been playing around on that app and you can do a lot of, um, things like that.
Elle: Excellent. Yeah, it’s so true what you say, you fall, you get into a habit… most people bad at this, you get into the habit, you feel great, and then you just stop even one day you miss,
and then you’re like, oh, you know, it’s over. I may as well stop. But, uh, yeah, I think, I think you’re right. Find enjoyable content. Work it into your routine in a way that makes sense for you and is fun.
Rupa: Yeah. Probably my other, my other main hobby, other than like doing English lessons and YouTube and stuff like that is fitness.
I’m really into fitness and. Yeah, going to the gym and dieting, and I have the exact same kind of, uh, advice for that. A lot of people will come to me and say, oh, how can I lose weight? How can I stick to a diet? The key to a successful diet is making the diet food delicious so that you want to eat more of them.
And I guess we can, we can put that same context to our, to our language learning, make that delicious language content.
Elle: Exactly. I like that. I like that. I was, um, I am still studying French and I also am studying just, just using, uh, Netflix shows and movies, and it almost feels wrong in a way, I’ve been kind of struggling with this.
I’m like, am I really studying French? You know, I I’m just watching movies and I LingQ through the transcripts and I am. Yeah, I am. Because like you say, you’re, I’m, I’m interested. I want to know what’s going on in this TV show in this movie. And then, so the French I’m, I’m getting it. I’m understanding more and more.
So, yeah, it’s kind of hard to move away from this, uh, traditional, you know, way that we’re taught in school. That’s it’s just textbooks and lists and, you know, it doesn’t have to be that way, especially… I mean, if you’re studying for a test, of course it’s different, you know.
Rupa: For sure,
Elle: Studying for fun. Yeah.
Rupa: Yeah. No, I think, um, I think, yeah, you know school, we kind of just did it for textbooks.
That’s the way I learned Japanese in school at, and actually no, I did… Sometimes the teacher would show like a movie or something and I always remember the, when they did show the movie, I was way more excited to learn, you know, rather than just textbook page 42 and just writing out notes and stuff like that.
Elle: Yeah, exactly. I remember our French teacher used to play us. It was like a French Simpsons or the Simpsons dubbed in French.
Um, so you’re, you’re now in Melbourne, is that, will you be going back to Japan or are you now based in Melbourne for good?
Rupa: So well, that’s one of the brilliant things about, you know, uh, working online and through YouTube and stuff like that. You can pretty much live anywhere as long as you’ve got internet connection and your trusty laptop.
Um, and a camera, I guess that’s pretty important. So yeah, absolutely. As soon as this whole situation starts to calm down a little bit, I’d love to do some traveling, you know, back over to Japan, um, and see some more of the world because I kind of went to Japan when I was 18. And then I went to Japan again when I was what, 21.
Um, and now I’m back here. So, so I would also like to see some other parts of the world too. So. I dunno, just go and, and, uh, go travel the world for a little bit.
Elle: Sounds good. Excellent. And what about for your channel and for the rest of the year, are there any plans, do you, um, are you planning to focus on the kinds of content that you’ve been putting out that fun kind of movie TV show based stuff?
Rupa: So yeah keeping up with the English lessons. And, uh, I think what’s important for any kind of content creator or YouTube is just listen to what the people are requesting, listen to what they want to see and, you know, check the analytics. We can kind of go in the back end, check the analytics, see what the people watch more of and, you know, keep doing that.
So, so that’s, that’s how I’ve done YouTube so far and it seems to be going all right. And, um, yeah, I just plan to keep, keep making YouTube videos. I think I’m so lucky to be in the position I am for, for being able to, I was able to leave my job. I used to work as a full-time as a salesman, and I was able to leave that.
And now I’m just pursuing this, uh, the YouTube lifestyle and it’s been going all right. And I plan to do it for, for many more years.
Elle: Fantastic. Fantastic.
Well, anyone who is interested in checking out your channel, I will pop the link, uh Rupa Sensei is the name of the channel and, um, best of luck with the channel and any, anything else for the rest of the year and beyond.
And thank you so much.
Rupa: Oh, no, thank you. It’s my pleasure. Um, shout out to all the LingQ team, Steve, Mark, yourself, everyone there. So it’s such a brilliant app. So guys, if you, if you’re wondering for what tool to use hey go download LingQ as well. I use it and I recommend it.
Elle: Amazing. Thank you Rupa Sensei.