New Japanese teacher shares Japanese-pancake flipping dilemmas and more

By Giping Huang

Originally published on April 18, 2016

Japanese teacher David Averbach teaches at Lowell for the first time this semester. Photo by Kenny Dzib

New teacher David Averbach talks to reporter Giping Huang about teaching Japanese at Lowell.

What are some of your hobbies/interests?

I watch all kinds of movies: Japanese movies, documentaries and slow movies. I like slow movies because I feel like they capture things that no one notices and the movies make you notice them. I love to cook, especially Japanese food, except I’m not that good at Japanese cooking. Sometimes it’s inconvenient to go to a special store to get the ingredients to cook, but my favorite food to make is okonomiyaki. It’s a savory type of pancake in Japan. You put cabbage in it as a base and then you can put whatever you want in it like squid, beef, pork, vegetables, anything you want. Okonomi in Japanese means what you want, and yaki means grilled, so you have to put your batter into a griddle and grill it.

“Japanese was completely different — there was no way that I could know it without studying, unlike French.”

You have to flip the insides and I practiced flipping it without using a spatula, because spatulas can be too big and break the batter, so I got really good at flipping, but sometimes I miss and it goes everywhere.

What were your favorite subjects in school?

Japanese of course, and also literature and math. I took French in high school, since they didn’t offer Japanese. I wanted to learn Japanese because I had a friend whose mom was Japanese and spoke it, and I thought it sounded cool. Japanese was completely different — there was no way that I could know it without studying, unlike French. I liked that in Japanese, the order of everything is completely backwards from English, so I had to train my brain to think in a completely different way. I was kind of scared to learn Japanese because it was a big commitment, but a friend of mine in my freshman hall also wanted to take Japanese, so we were like, ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it.’ It was great. I felt a bond with my Japanese classmates in college. Lowell language classes also have a little community, they have a common interest and bond, and that’s not true for most classes. My Japanese students at Lowell are into Japanese in a way that I was never into French.

What’s one thing you would change about your high school experience?

I wish I had thought more about what I really wanted to do after college. I should’ve tried to think about what I wanted to do in the world and really look for an internship or something that could show me what life was like outside college. Sometimes, just knowing what you want to do is great. I didn’t find out until years later. You have to do your job everyday, so you have to like it. I wish I had found what I wanted to do earlier.

“My Japanese students at Lowell are into Japanese in a way that I was never into French.”

I was just a regular kid, I did orchestra and played the clarinet and piano. They were very private things, so I wish I had done something that was less private and more engaging in the world.

If you could teach another subject for a day, what would it be?

I could teach graphic design, but it won’t be fun. It’s just the only thing that I could definitely do. I could do math, but I’d have to relearn it.