The Day Everything Changed…

And of course by this I mean, the day that classes actually began…

It started of as bright and cheerful as any other day so far—the sun was shining, life was good—until I showed up at the classroom and learned just what I’d let myself in for.

I suppose that sounds a bit dire, and it’s not that it’s going badly or anything, but it just made me realize how much of a gap there is between what I know about Japanese and what I have yet to learn. Our morning teacher, Kishi Sensei, led us through the usual introductions and then dove straight into our topics for the day: potential verbs and the use of “し” (shi) in connecting multiple reasons to an explanation. We learned a bunch of new vocabulary, and it seems that every time I was called on to do something I drew the short straw and got one of the words (especially verbs) that I didn’t know. Sigh…

I met with Yasu (my Monday/Wednesday CP) and we had lunch in one of the student cafeterias—the Ramen was good and inexpensive. Once again, I was immediately aware of the great gap in my abilities to speak and understand and felt like an idiot half the time. I know that this is always the case when one picks up a new language—especially adults—because it’s absolutely impossible to even begin expressing yourself at the same linguistic level you normally use in your own language. It was fine though, and fun watching all the other students. Yasu showed me his speech for the upcoming English speech contest (at which we’ll be “celebrity judges”) and it was really great! I had only a few tiny suggestions and know he’ll do a great job. He’s pretty excited because the winner of the contest gets ¥50,000 in prize money—around $500.

Our afternoon teacher, Ikushima Sensei (生島先生)kicked off with introductions again and we watched 3 episodes of the (in)famous “Yan-san and the Japanese People” (やんさんと日本の人々) video which was kind of entertaining and brought back some nostalgia from last semester at Pierce. It’s completely different, though, when you listen to it here and have to actually understand everything—it was a good exercise in just how fast Japanese people speak! The next topic was to begin planning what we would do with the children at the Sumire Kindergarten when we visit them on July 6. Now that’s going to be nerve-wracking—we get to have little kids talk rings around us! Actually, it’s going to be lots of fun and we’re going to sing some songs and play games with them in English and Japanese. Finally, we ended up with the afternoon CPs and rotated around through the room just talking about things, asking questions and generally practicing. Though that’s tough and uncomfortable—at least for me—it’s really beginning to help.

Back to the dorms, completely wiped out, I spent the rest of the evening studying, doing my shukudai (homework) and running a load of wash. While completing my written homework, I even learned a few new kanji on the fly and am fast coming to the conclusion that that’s how I remember things best. It’s strange, because learning kanji is such a daunting task for most people—I guess I really am a visual learner after all.

So—we’re off and running!

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