Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Watashi wa nihon go no seito

This morning, I got up early and warily made my way to the Tochigi International Center for my first Japanese language lesson. It's about darned time I guess, since I've been here going on 11 months now. After making my way upstairs for the first time ever and taking a seat in the large room reserved for meetings and lessons, I listened in on a leveling interview going on a few tables away and shrank into my seat as this first timer rattled off seemingly perfect Japanese sentences explaining how he had studied here and there and blah blah blah. It was at this point that I was quite pleased Matto would be joining me, at least we'd be two low students in class...

Of course, I had nothing to worry about. As the room filled up with people, three groups were formed after testing the newbies for levels (my tables was the 0s and 1s from what I understand) and Yoshida-sensei took over. It was quite interesting to be on the receiving end of a lesson for the first time in a long time. I would say he used about 70% Japanese during the lesson, explaining some things in English and translating from Hiragana to Romaji on the board for us since only 2 of the 7 of us can read it. It was an eye opening experience to say the least.

It made me appreciate a series of things:
  1. My students and the hard work they put in to learning English. You guys rock! (of course I knew this before, but being on the other side of the lesson reminds one of such things)
  2. The fact that I learned English AND French as a child. The Advanced group table was half made up of kids.... here we are all adults trying to cram this complex foreign language into our overstuffed skulls....
  3. The AEON lesson structure! Damn but this guy was all over the place... there was almost a method to his madness but it was difficult to pin it down. I will have to transcribe and re-organize my notes after every lesson, which I guess would be a good idea to do anyway.
  4. Yoshida-sensei is a volunteer teacher coming in on his own time in his retirement to help us out... he was quite good and enjoys interacting with us just as much as we do with him.
The 2 hour lesson went by pretty quick, considering... as we covered a lot of things from personal introduction and introducing someone else to some basics such as dates and numbers. My cleaned up notes take 4 letter sized pages to fill, quite the volume of information. Luckily, since I seem to be one of the longer term folks in our group, I do have a distinct advantage in that I know lots of the basic things, a fair amount of vocabulary and my listening is pretty damn good. I would say I am in the top half of the group, and once I learn to read hiragana will be much better off. To this end I purchased a book today entitled "Let's Learn Hiragana" which I will devirginize tomorrow. Matt did well today, considering he's only been here a couple of months. He is certainly more motivated than I am, being constantly beaten at Japanese language games by his young niece and nephew.... soon he should be able to get his revenge. It's great to have him as competition, will keep us motivated to study for sure.

Yesterday, Scott and I headed out for another one of our trademark walkabouts and here's a few pics I snapped.

First off, the cherry blossoms are coming along nicely, and have started to come out in earnest. This weekend should be prime time in Ueno according to predictions and we should have a great day.


Little scene from Sho'unji temple.


This feller was toiling away in a traditional oya stone building, making all kinds of little concrete things.


And finally, the busiest train crossing in Utsunomiya stopped us once more as a freight train was passing by.


Anywho, now for some studying, and dinner at some point too.

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