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Faculty Interview: Tim Stout

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tim Stout is in his 11th year at Waterford, and is our Chinese teacher and Foreign Language Department Chair.  We learned that he recently published another popular language learning book, so we took this chance to ask him a few questions.

Tim’s family moved to Tokyo when he was 3 years old. He says that from a young age he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a teacher.  He earned a B.A. in Japanese Teaching from Brigham Young University, a M.A. in Japanese Pedagogy from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in education from Utah State University. He and his wife live in Lehi with their two youngest children, and have three older sons as well (two are recent Waterford alumni).

Japanese Kanji for Beginners by Timothy Stout
Amazon.com

What did you do before you came to Waterford?

After graduating from BYU in 1994, LaNae and I, and 2-year-old Ricky, took a job in Japan teaching English. After two years I accepted a job teaching Japanese at the American School in Japan (Tokyo), where we stayed for 10 years. Our other four children, Brian, Todd, Amy, and Luke, were born while we were living in Japan.  In 2006 I discovered Waterford, and we returned to the United States after 12 years abroad.

At this time I also signed a contract to write a book for Tuttle Publishing. In 2007, Japanese Hiragana for Beginners was published. The following year, Japanese Katakana for Beginners was published. These two books have since been republished into one book, Japanese Hiragana and Katakana for Beginners, and it is currently a bestseller among language books on Amazon.

The Chinese language program at Waterford is relatively young, and its birth and growth have been under your care.  What was this experience like?

Seven years ago the school approached me about starting a Chinese program at Waterford. After the initial moment of comical disbelief, I was curious. How much did Japanese and Chinese have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. Japan had borrowed heavily from China over the centuries, adopting the Chinese writing system, as well as many aspects of culture. China is like Japan’s grandparent. They each express themselves in very different ways, but they are unquestionably from the same family. Having lived in Japan for 20 years, it was fascinating to learn “the rest of the story,” as the many similarities became more apparent and explicable.

Being fluent in Japanese was no doubt very helpful in bridging the gap to Chinese. The school was supportive as I worked many hours, with many tutors, and then spent several summers studying in China, working many more hours, with many more tutors, bringing my Chinese proficiency up to speed.  Finally in the fall of 2014 we launched the new Chinese program at Waterford.

And how have the first years gone?

The reception has been wonderful, and our enrollment is steadily growing. Our students have shown a remarkable ability to learn Chinese, both the written and spoken language, and they have been a joy to teach. We currently have over 50 students in Chinese 1 through AP Chinese.

Can you tell us a little bit about your recent book?

My book that has just been published this month is called Japanese Kanji for Beginners and it is a “#1 New Release” in vocabulary books on Amazon. This book teaches the first 430 kanji characters, which is enough to pass the first two levels of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test or pass the AP Japanese Language and Culture Exam. Perhaps this book’s early success is due to an increasing awareness of the importance of Asia to the United States. More and more people want to learn the less-commonly taught languages, particularly Chinese and Japanese.

What aspect of the study of language are you personally most interested in?

The area of language learning that I have been most interested in is the use of mnemonic devices to boost memory and increase language proficiency. Since a child I have loved drawing, and have used artwork in my teaching and book writing as much as possible. I love drawing mnemonic pictures to help students recall the meaning and pronunciation of characters. These pictures figure prominently in my work and publications. It is exhilarating to see students succeed in their language studies, and it is gratifying to be a part of that process!

Is there anything you’d like to add?

It is a privilege to be a part of this exciting movement in the US education system, and it is a special honor to work with the wonderful faculty, students, and parents at the Waterford School.