Sunday, July 24, 2011

My first week of Japanese class

Our more avid readers may have noticed that I didn't post anything all week. I'm sure you missed me :)

The reason why is that I finally started my intensive Japanese language class. We meet from 9:30am to 1pm every weekday for three weeks. Most free Japanese classes meet once a week in the evenings but, because it is the summer, some places are offering more time intensive options. If you remember, I took the placement exam awhile ago and felt like a complete idiot afterwards. Well, it turns out there are actually people in Japan who know even less Japanese than me. Crazy, I know. I placed into level 1. There is a level 0 class. There are also level 2, 3, and 4 classes to give you a feel for my actual level of knowledge.

The class is exhausting so my brain is mush by the time I get home. Not just because 3.5 hours is a long time to be paying such careful attention, but because it is ALL in Japanese. None of the teachers have spoken anything other than Japanese. The common language all the class members have is also Japanese, so even during the 5min breaks we get, if I want to talk to anyone that has to happen in Japanese. I come home and preface everything I tell Craig about my classmates with "I think" because I'm not actually sure I'm understanding what they're telling me. We are a very international group and I'm the only person from the western hemisphere. There are two women from China, two women from Nepal, one woman from Malaysia, one from Myanmar, one from the Philippines, one from Thailand, one from Burkina Faso, one man from Tunisia, and one man from Spain - I think he's from Spain, he started the class late so he didn't introduce himself and I'm going by the Japanese written on his name tag. We wear name tags with our names and countries of origin written on them in katakana. I did discover on Friday that the woman from the Philippines speaks English, we went to lunch together after class. I had had Craig help me write out "Everyone, tomorrow let's go eat lunch together after class" in Japanese and I read it aloud on Thursday. Unfortunately, a lot of them have kids that they have to go get out of day-care as soon as class is over (I think) so Gianel-san (the san is an honorific that's used like Mr. or Ms. but you only use it for other people, I would never say Quinn-san whereas I could sign something Ms. Quinn) was the only taker on my offer.

The teachers are very animated, which especially helps around noon when everyone is tired and starting to get a little loopy. They are all volunteers and I've decided that when I get back to the states I am going to try and volunteer as an ESL teacher because it is so hard moving to a country where you don't speak the language and I am greatly indebted to everyone willing to offer free Japanese classes. I'm not only going to be taking this one. Most evening classes start up in September and I'll sign-up for one of them. Also, and Craig is already doing this because his Japanese is much better than mine, you can sign-up through one organization for one-on-one two hour conversations once a week. Craig has been meeting with an older, recent empty-nester and learning about her kids and dog. Once I can put together a sentence and my vocabulary reaches that of a toddler I want to sign-up.

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