Monday, April 16, 2007

Japanese School Blues

Oy vey

So school started as of the 12th and... I'm busy, really busy. If anyone is interested in my classes (mostly my parents I'm assuming) I'll just give a quick rundown of the scoop on how things are goin down at the moment.

Intensive Japanese 3
Japanese History
History of the Japanese Language

Did I mention I'm in Japan? Yea, so my course work is definitely on the heavy side of Japan/Japanese this time around. I'm also still trying to see if I can't take a English Comp class while I'm over here to take care of that requirement back at home that... for whatever the reason, I still haven't completed. Other than that though, my biggest concern at the moment is my Japanese class and... well this is where it gets a little deep...

Now my initial main goal in coming to Japan was to learn how to speak the language fluently enough so that I might freely go anywhere, do anything, talk to anyone, etc. And I have, for all practical purposes, achieved that goal, and I continue to increase my my numerous experiences of a variety of situations every day. However my one drawback is that I may have focused on this one specific part of my journey to becoming fluent a bit too much, perhaps because it comes easier to me than other parts. This has unfortunately lead me to a kind of unbalanced Japanese ability. My speaking ability is almost native. I've got the accent and everything down pat apparently. On more than one occasion I have been asked if I were a "half" (half Japanese/half American/other country). However despite my 'native sounding' speaking ability, my kanji is well... yuck

And it's not that its that hard to study kanji, its just a bunch of memorization. Learning the proper idioms and mannerisms of how to speak proper native Japanese is much more demanding and difficult than just memorizing a few thousand kanji. But you can learn how to speak like a native Japanese by just... hanging out with other Japanese. I'd pick a conversation at an Izakaya with a good friend of mine over studying kanji in my room for the same amount of time.

The 2nd obstacle to kanji is technology. I am a Computer Science major. I deal with and exploit computers to the max. My laptop is a tablet PC, which I use to literally write on the screen what kanji I don't know, and then look them up on a dictionary. At the same time, if I know a word but for the life of me can't remember, or just can't remember exactly how to write the kanji, I just whip out my phone, and type in the hiragana and boom, it spits out the kanji for me, no memorization needed. Now my reading ability is definitely improving, but remembering how to write them... in one day and out the next -_-

The other area I'm lacking in is my writing ability. Japanese speaking and Japanese writing is apparently very very different. As English speaking and writing is different but... well theres a problem for me there as well. I'm a Computer Science major. We don't write papers. It's not that I'm avoiding papers, its just that lab reports for Physics apparently qualify as a writing intensive class for my major. In other words, we don't write papers. I've also, for whatever the reason, not taken a writing class yet, so... I'm pretty much untrained in the ways of writing (I hope that doesnt show up in this stuff). Of course I've taken those classes in high school and way back when, but I've not taken anything recent, nor have I had to write anything of recent so... I just write whatever I feel like comes to me, haha.Which is one of the problems I have with writing in Japanese. I write what I would speak, cause... thats how I know Japanese. Aside from the different grammar structures, Japanese writing only words, etc, I'm just not too well informed on good writing styles... or something.

So this brings me to a very interesting point in my travels through the Japanese language. Just what is my goal for Japanese? At what level will I be satisfied with my Japanese ability? Now I am a perfectionist, so most everything I do, I like to do until it is perfect or I am quite satisfied. But my Japanese is, as a whole, and especially as a foreigner, great. In fact really good, or at least thats what everyone tells me. Which makes me wonder, if my kanji/writing ability isn't really that great, is my native sounding accent throwing my perception on my own ability askew. Granted I would much prefer to be assumed more fluent than I actually am of course, but thats a whole other topic I could fly into for a few more paragraphs

...of course I could be just over thinking this entire thing, and what I really should be doing is start studying some more kanji, now. ^^

Anyways, I took a placement test today to try and get into Adv Japanese 1 which would fit into my schedule oh so much nicer than Intensive Japanese 3. Adv Jpn 1 would allow me Weds off and no class until after lunch! Intensive 3 has me here 1st hour (9:15) Mon - Fri, for 3 hours a day... T_T I could switch to the regular Japanese classes, Japanese 3 is M, Tu, Th, and F 2nd hour (11:00) however... that would be repeating what I've already repeated the past couple years. I could also take Japanese 4, which is also M, Tu, Th, and F, but
thats from 1st hour which... also isn't very ideal, but not as bad as 3 hours every day.

So... I'm totally lost as to what I should do, haha. And my chances of getting into Advanced are slim at best. My kanji is just terrible. At best I've got daily use stuff down. But then when I think of switching to regular 4, that means I have to leave the class where I know the teachers and most of the other students since its practically the same class from last semester. Ugh... just a mess. A whirl of pros and cons inside my head that keeps getting biased depending on if I'm having fun or bored as hell during Intensive, or dreading getting up in the morning in time for class. You come to hate the morning train when you know you don't *have* to take it.

Crap... I have to get up super early for class again tomorrow... ugh


Blogger Erik said...

now, i don't want you to take this the wrong way, but if i was in japan and you were the one sitting here hoping that the check you just mailed out for taxes doesn't bounce, i would want you to hit me for complaining about my class schedule...

also, i have this cake

4/18/2007 1:00 PM  

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