For William Holmes the journey towards studying Japanese language and culture began with his childhood love of Pokemon.
Yesterday, William was the only Illawarra Grammar School student to sit the HSC Japanese Extension exam.
He said that unlike English exams, the questions were ‘‘direct and relevant’’ and the exam ‘‘wasn’t too bad’’.
‘‘Usually I have absolutely zero time for checking... but today I had 10 minutes at the end, so that was a nice luxury, unless I missed a question,’’ he said.
The proportion of students studying a foreign language for the HSC has fallen significantly, reaching an all time low this year.
It was the culture that drew William to the Japanese language.
‘‘When I was little I used to love Pokemon a lot,’’ he said.
‘‘The best way to get kids interested in learning a language is to get them interested in the culture.
‘‘Having an engagement with Pokemon, I had reason to get into Japanese, because it was something I was kind of familiar with yet slightly intrigued to find out about.’’
The 18-year-old went on a one-month exchange to Japan last year, which fuelled his passion for the subject and allowed him to immerse in the culture.
‘‘Just living there was amazing and I’d want to do that again,’’ he said.
‘‘When I was there the school had their Gakuensai, a school festival.
‘‘All the different home-room groups would build a stall and throughout the weekend students would have their stalls on display in the classrooms and people from the area would come in and buy stuff that they were selling.’’
Next year, the former school vice-captain hopes to enrol in International Studies at the University of NSW and continue studying Japanese.
‘‘I also did geography in year 11 and I was really interested in global issues like hunger and poverty, so I would like to one day work for a non-profit, humanitarian, non-government organisation,’’ he said.
Japanese teacher Makiki Naito said teaching William was a challenge at first, because he was the only student in the class.
‘‘I’m actually quite happy with the exam, it covered what we studied together,’’ she said.
‘‘He always studied outside the class.
‘‘Towards the end he became even more independent.’’
While preparing for the speaking exam in September, William spent time in his free periods recording short monologues to bring to Mrs Naito.
‘‘Instead of wasting [time] discussing how to approach this question, all I did was listen to what he recorded and give feedback,’’ she said.