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Japanese 102 – My second semester of Japanese June 14, 2011

Posted by coolmikeol in Japan.
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I should of wrote this post nearly a month ago, but various things have been happening as of late. Anyways, just like my first semester of Japanese I took in Fall 2010 semester, I’m writing about my experiences of my second semester of Japanese language study, JAPN 102 at SFSU. My experience of my first semester of Japanese can be found in my previous post called Japanese 101.

During my five week winter break in December 2010/January 2011, I didn’t do much in terms of looking over my Japanese studies from my first semester. That definitely did not help me when I returned back to school late January when I walked back into my Japanese 102 class. I felt a bit lost because of the lack of exposure of Japanese I gave myself during my break, it’s really my fault for being lazy in self studying Japanese during my break. I even started to forget some hiragana/katakana/basic kanji which really irritated me. Lesson learned, I need to keep studying/exposing myself to Japanese if I want to at least retain my minimal level of Japanese.

This semester I had two Japanese senseis like last semesters, though they weren’t the same senseis as I had last semesters. We had one main sensei and a teachers aid sensei who taught English back in Japanese schools in Japan. Both senseis English was at times a bit hard to understand due to their heavy Japanese accents, but still understandable. The teachers aid sensei taught the class on Mondays and Wednesdays and the main sensei taught on the Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Since the teacher’s aid sensei was new to teaching Japanese to English speakers than the other way around, he kept on reminding us about how teaching us is an exciting thing for him because it was a new experience. He also kept on encouraging us to “practice, practice, practice” because constant usage of Japanese will help us learn Japanese better. While this doesn’t sound like a bad thing, he constantly did this on a regular basis, and so once this became obvious (which it did fairly fast) it became somewhat annoying. My main sensei was ok, but sometimes her heavy accent would be hard to understand. That’s pretty much all there was to my senseis, but the next paragraph will explain more about the class itself.

What I want to talk about now is how well they did in terms of helping me learn more Japanese, and compare it to my First Semester Japanese class. First off, my second semester Japanese class was not structured as well as my first semester Japanese class. My first semester Japanese class basically covered everything in the chapter, and each new topic was explained in a simple way. My second semester Japanese was not as straightforward, the class really just sort of jumped into each chapter, but randomly jumped around the subjects within the chapter. The subjects themselves were not explained very well, we had more like discussions about the subject rather than explaining the subject from the ground up. I’m not saying there was no structure to the class, it’s just that it wasn’t “to the point” teaching like I experienced the semester before. I’m guessing the main reason why my second semester Japanese class was like that was because of the amount of material we had to cover, and also that my sensei never had to teach at such a rapid pace before with a book she never used to teach before either. Both with the rapid pace of the class plus shaky structure of the teaching made it hard for me to keep up like I did in my first semester of Japanese class.

My classmates were a very different bunch than from my first semester Japanese class. I did have some people I knew return from my first semester Japanese class, but majority of the people were new from various other places, at least having a first semester Japanese equivalent behind them. The class as a whole felt more like a community than a class, but not as a single community. There were groups of people who basically got along with each other, though there were a few that were alone, I was one of them. I didn’t mind being alone, I’m used to it, but it made it hard when it was time to form groups because everyone already had someone to pair up with. I always hated pair/group situations in my second semester Japanese class, because since I was always behind on my Japanese, I felt like a dummy when everyone else in the group knew what was going on, and I had to learn quickly from listening/watching them. I knew that the purpose of making pairs/groups was to help us in conversing in Japanese, and it did help so I’m not saying it was completely useless, its just that me not knowing exactly what to say plus my shy nature made it hard for me to function in a group when I didn’t know what to do. One more thing, one of my classmates in the class is what I would describe as a weeaboo. (A weeaboo is “Someone who is obsessed with Japan/Japanese Culture/Anime, etc. and attempts to act as if they were Japanese, even though they’re far from it.” – from Urbandictionary.com Now I usually would not be so critical of any person, but she took the cake in being an annoying person in class. Every morning she would walk in yelling out “Ohayo gozaimasu!” in a loud high pitched voice, and would randomly start speaking Japanese loudly all over the place (and let me let you know she is not Japanese). She would talk about games, anime, and manga to nearby people and I notice that sometimes the people who she was talking to did not care too much about it, which is understandable. Not everyone in a Japanese language class would be interested in Japanese pop culture (but still that’s probably rare). While she was annoying, I do admit that her Japanese was pretty good and that she did her best in making the class happy (I guess). As she was an “A” student in the class, it was strange when she was absent one day. You know in those animes where that  annoying person is gone all of a sudden, and then you realize how much you’ve become used to it? Yeah, it was like that. It wasn’t that I wanted her in the class, its just those kind of things that you’ve become so used to that it becomes strange when its not around. Anyways those days were rare.

Another thing that I remember doing a lot in my second semester Japanese class was “question dodging”, you know, when the teacher picks on random people and students don’t want to answer so they try to hide or look away. I remember a scene from Negima that visualizes just that.

Since I didn’t always know what to say if I got picked, I tended to duck behind people who were sitting in front of me, or at least not make eye contact with sensei. It worked most of the time, but those times when I got called and was called off guard really made me feel uneasy. Oh well, I still got through it none the less.

Food from my final day of class before finals week.

Despite the bad times in class there was some good, like the times when sensei showed us videos on YouTube of various Japanese things, usually cultural or something to help us in our Japanese studies. There was times when the teacher’s aid aid sensei was funny because he mixed up some words or because he kept on tripping on the same chair. The final two days of normal class was the best day, because we were doing skits on the final two days of normal classes before finals week and both senseis and some other students brought food on the final day of normal class to celebrate a semester ending. Sensei even brought some traditional Japanese weapon, not really dangerous, for us to play around with. It was all fun, I even got video of that day, but I’m probably not going to put it on the web.

Fun time in Second Semester Japanese class. I love the expression of my teacher's aid sensei (in black coat).

On Friday May 20th, it was our final exam which was composed of everything we had learned during the whole semester. For the most part I think I did ok, as most of the exam was fill in the blank. There were parts where we had to write sentences and translate English/Japanese to the other language. Reading comprehension, dictation, and kanji also. I know I failed the Kanji part though. I don’t know my actual grade on my final exam, but I got a B- as my overall grade for the class. I’m satisfied with that when considering all the problems I had with the class. After I turned in my final exam to sensei, I bowed to both of them in respect and left the room for the last time. I saw a group of the other finished classmates of the class and went over to talk about the final exam. Some of them were moving on to take third semester Japanese, some were not like me. I am choosing to not continue my academic study of Japanese because I need to focus more on my major of Biology, but it’s not like I won’t keep learned Japanese, I’ll just have to self study to keep myself at the level of Japanese that I know, hopefully I’ll make progress. If I feel confidant enough, maybe one day I’ll try out the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) to see if I can get certified as a non-native speaker of Japanese, though maybe the best I can get is Level 4 out of 5 levels, 5 being basic with 1 being the most difficult.

As I walked away it dawned that I was leaving my academic Japanese studies behind, meaning that I was moving into a new time where my own determination in studying Japanese will be the sole holder of my knowledge of the Japanese I know now, and if I don’t do anything then I’ll start forgetting and it will put all my time in school studying Japanese to waste. I assure you I will hold on to my Japanese knowledge and will try to expand it. I feel that with my Japanese language knowledge, I’m opening up a world that I can understand rather than learning it through others. I know I still have a long way to go in terms of learning Japanese, but at least I put my foot in the door, giving me a chance to continue moving forward into the future, doing what I want to do, whatever that may be.

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Animation on Display 2011 February 27, 2011

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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Sorry for being a bit late on this, busiest school semester for me ever.

I attended this year’s Animation on Display (AOD) at San Francisco’s Japantown’s Kabuki Hotel that ran from February 19-20. I consider it my first anime convention, and since it was small it was a good start to experiencing how cons work. AOD is good practice for the bigger cons I’ll be attending later this year such as Fanime and Anime Expo 2011.

I already did a post of this on Figure.fm, here is a link to it: Animation on Display 2011. That’s pretty much the main reason why I’m lazy to do a re-post of this here, but I still feel it’s necessary. I won’t post as much photos of the event on this post as I did on Figure.fm, I don’t want it to be too long. All the photos taken from AOD 2011 can be found at my Flickr, here is the link for my photo set from AOD 2011.

Animation on Display 2011

Found an Angel Beats! cosplay group. I found out that they are actually from an anime club from my old high school. Was surprised by that fact because back when I was in high school I heard that the anime club wasn’t too great. I’m impressed with how my old high school’s anime club has improved.

Animation on Display 2011This was the weather on the first day of AOD, Saturday the 19th.

Animation on Display 2011

At AOD I volunteered for four hours on the first day of the con. I basically helped out in the game room by supervising and watching the game room itself and switched out with another fellow volunteer to check badges of people who want to enter the game room. No work too hard, perfect for me who was attending his first anime con. I got some compensation back of my registration fees but not all of it, I think only half because 8 hours of volunteering gets you everything back from reg fees, but I didn’t want to waste all of my time working at the con so I did 4 hours only.

An overview photo of the game room. Most of the official staff working in here is actually from my AnimeFX club from SFSU. They were the ones who actually started the game room at AOD. I feel a bit proud working with people who are actually involved in the con as staff.

All of the game consoles that were being used for the game room are owned by the staff members themselves who bring their own consoles for the game room. Some of there include PS2, PS3, XBox 360, SNES, a computer for Touhou, and one for some DJ game thing. The games range from Super Street Fighter 4, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Blazblue, Marval vs. Capcom, Rock Band, Touhou, retro games, and more. We had a few tournaments for the more popular fighting games.

I was in the Super Smash Bros. Brawl Tournament that was on Sunday. I joined for fun because I knew I wasn’t good when compared to hardcore gamers who usually come to these kind of events. The setup of the tournament was this, each match is 1 vs 1, with best 2 out of 3 games. You win you more forward in the tournament. I wanted to win at least one match, but failed. I used Mario(1) and Kirby(2). The guy I was playing against was good and after-wards we became friends (on Facebook of course). I didn’t stick around to see the final match but I heard about who won. The night before I was practicing in the game room late at night for the next day’s tourney against 3 other level 9 computers because there was no one else around. A guy came around and joined the battle, and he was good. He used Samus and his combos are timed pretty well. I had a good game battle with him only a couple of times and it was sort of close, but he always had the upper hand. At the tournement he was there, and I heard that he was the winner. I wasn’t surprised at all, congrats to him. I found watching the battles to be far more fun than playing, I felt kind of bad and a bit embarrassed because I didn’t put up much of a fight, only took out one of my opponents stock in my second game. Well overall I had fun.

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Here are a few cosplay photos from AOD 2011. The rest you can find on my Flickr link mentioned on the top of the post.

Animation on Display 2011

Animation on Display 2011

Animation on Display 2011

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Animation on Display 2011

There were many different panels at AOD. There were also  Vocaloid and Touhou panels, and I got to say they were both interesting. I already knew what they were but it helped to elaborate on the history of both and how they became popular.

Hideo concert was great. I was falling asleep during the opera singing part, final part with the mega man music woke me up, the sudden drums did anyways.

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On the second day of AOD 2011, the weather was in much better shape. Snapped this picture within Kabuki’s inner garden. From this photo, does it look like I’m in Japan?

Animation on Display 2011

Animation on Display 2011

More from Kabuki’s Japanese style garden. Very beautiful.

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The dealer’s room was packed with many vendors selling figures, nendroids, cosplay accessories, manga, and much more.

Animation on Display 2011

Animation on Display 2011

Animation on Display 2011

Here you can see some swords, some fake some not. At AOD I didn’t really buy too much, I’m a bit stingy when it comes to money. The main thing I tell myself and others all the time that the most valuable thing to me are my pictures, because they are a snapshot of something that I see that I want to share to others on the world wide web a.k.a. the internet. However, I got tempted to buy a nice fake wooden katana for a future first cosplay. I don’t have picture of the sword yet, I didn’t buy it from this stall, but in the future you’ll see my cosplay complete with the sword, for now I’ll keep my cosplay a secret, but as a hint, my cosplay will be simple and not related to any anime/manga series.

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Animation on Display 2011

And to end this post I show you the standard Peace Pagoda of Japantown. AOD 2011 was a great experience as my first anime convention, even better was that I got to volunteer and go with my anime group who is involved with staffing in anime conventions. Before going, I can honestly say I was a bit nervous going to AOD  because I really didn’t know what to expect it to be. I mean I’ve seen many pictures of cons from people like Danny Choo, but you really don’t know what its like until you experience it for yourself. I can say with confidence now that I will looking forward to future cons and I’ll be better prepared for them. Fanime 2011 and Anime Expo 2011 are the big ones I want to go to and I’ll need some major preparations for them to make sure that I’ll have the best experience. I good thing is that since I’m within my AnimeFX group, I’m not alone so I can get help from them as well such as rooming and transportation and other things related to going to big cons away from home. I’m grateful to my friends at AnimeFX because they have helped me to connect with others like me with interests in Japanese Pop Culture, and also encouraged me to attend anime conventions, something I remember a year ago I wasn’t planning to do.

The next J-pop con, or should I say event I’ll be going to will be the Cherry Blossom Festival in April at SF Japantown. I don’t think I’ll be going to Wondercon in late March/early April because I need to work on my first cosplay and save up money for the future cons/events. Look forward to more posts of Japanese related events!

Japanese 101 – A college semester of Japanese December 18, 2010

Posted by coolmikeol in Japan.
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Sensei’s final class doing review for upcoming final exams.

Wow how time flies, I remember when I did the post about my first week of Japanese class. I did mention in that post that I was going to make continuous posts about my progress in my Japanese class, but I got lazy and also had other classes to focus on. Well anyways, this post is to summarize my experiences of my JAPN 101-01 First Semester Japanese class.

My semester started in late August with me taking this class and three other classes, one of them being Japanese immigration in the US  history class. I had no prior knowledge of the Japanese language, besides the several phrases and words you hear constantly from anime watching, and so I felt, while this was going to be a great experience learning Japanese, I also knew that it would be a challenge as well. Back in high school it was required for me to take at least two years of a foreign language, the language being Spanish. I choose Spanish because I didn’t have interest in any of the other languages at the time, them being Chinese, French, and Japanese. Why I didn’t choose Japanese? Well I was not into the Japanese culture like I was today, I was just your average American watching whatever was on TV, like Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. I had a hard time learning Spanish and had pretty bad grades in the class because I didn’t have any interest in the language. I remember telling myself that I was never going to take a language course again. That was before I got interested in Japanese Pop Culture, before I got into it so much to make myself do something I never imagined I would do, learning Japanese, and even right before I choose to take the class I was hesitating to take it because it felt I was doing it on impulse. I convinced myself to do this for two reasons, one was for the units for school, and two was to see how dedicated I was to Japan and my interest in it. I knew for a fact that if I was motivated and interested enough in any subject, I could do well in it. All throughout my semester, my word held well as I maintained high grades in hopes of it someday bringing me closer to the land of the rising sun.

The class itself was organized very well, meeting once every weekday for an hour in the morning. We had a schedule of what we were doing for each day, homework due, and when tests and exams were. A few times however I overlooked obvious things on my class schedule and on those occasions caught me off-guard for turning in homework and a couple of mini exams. The book we used is Genki 1: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese 1 along with its red workbook. The class was focused on basic Japanese grammar usage, along with learning the Japanese alphabet (Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji), to be able to read, write, speak, and understand basic Japanese.

Hiragana and Katakana are part of the basic knowledge of the Japanese language. Memorize these are you will be able to read Japanese, though you need Japanese grammar and vocabulary to understand it.

During the first couple of months, we got into learning and remembering Hiragana and Katakana right away. I had no problems with learning Hiragana. Hiragana is the basis alphabet for Japanese, so you can write solely in Hiragana and be understood, but usually Katakana and Kanji are mixed in writing. Katakana is essentially the same like Hiragana, but most of the characters are different from the Hiragana ones except for a few. Katakana is used in a few ways, such as for foreign words and names, and for emphasis to gain attention such as advertisements. Kanji is slightly different, and for me, much more difficult. Kanji are borrowed Chinese characters that each have multiple meanings, appearance, readings, and usage. What makes them difficult for me to learn is how each is individually unique, so it makes it hard for me to memorize individual Kanji. Many single Kanji have multiple meanings and thus different readings and usage, and so it’s hard to memorize the different combinations of hundreds of Kanji. I know that some Japanese have trouble with Kanji as well, so I’m not too worried about lacking in the Kanji department. I guess what made it truly hard was that I only had a few months to digest all of it into my head.

The grammar stuff overall is not too hard to learn. I’m not going to mention everything I learned because there is so much. If you ever take a look or get a copy of the textbook I used, I studied lessons 1-8 of the grammar. At the very least I can make simple sentences in Japanese such as 私わはたちです。(I’m 20 years old), 私のともだちわうたうのがじょずです。(My friend is good at singing.), and おてあらいわどこですか。(Where is the restroom?). The style of sentence structure of Japanese seems to be the same through all the different grammar rules I’ve learned. The subject of the sentence is first, followed by time, adjectives, etc., then ended with the verb. In short the subject is always mentioned at the beginning of the sentence and the main verb of the sentence is at the end. Once you have that down, the structure in the middle of the sentence is fairly loose and free moving so it’s not too restricting. Another important thing in Japanese grammar is the particles such as わ,に,を, etc. Particles are used to separate the different parts of the sentence. Japanese sentences do not have spaces, so particles play that role partly. An example, the particle わ(wa) comes directly after the subject of the sentence to indicate what is behind it is the subject of the sentence. (Ex: Watashi wa amerikajin desu. (I’m an American.) “Watashi”, meaning I, is the subject of the sentence indicated by the following particle “wa”.) There are many kinds of particles used in Japanese and they are very important in its grammar structure. I just wanted to give some background on what Japanese I learned, this is just a tidbit of my whole semester’s worth of studying.

This is what my Japanese studies look like.

The class itself was a fun experience. I remember the first day of class, my two senseis were talking to each other in Japanese while I took my seat where I would be sitting everyday. Since we were starting from the bottom up in the Japanese language, we started with greetings and basic phrases and such, most of which I already knew from my hours of anime watching which made me happy. Throughout the semester we would do a lot of speaking practice by speaking in pairs, usually with the person who sits next to you. My partner wasn’t too great with Japanese as she would constantly forget some of the stuff we did in class, but I helped her out a bit and also it made me feel better about myself because I knew it better than her. I know that’s kinda mean, but you know how when others don’t know something but you do, you feel better about yourself? Do you know what I’m talking about? I hope so. Moving on, one of my senseis was a starting new teacher, and so there was some days where evaluators came and watched her days when she was teaching the class, and some days where she brought in a video camera to record herself teach the class so she can watch it and learn what she can do better. At her day being in the class, I felt sad but also glad that she was my teacher because she helped me out and also because she tried her best to make the class fun. I wish her good luck in the future for her teaching career.

All of what I learned in my semester came down to my final exams. It was yesterday at 8 in the morning and for about two hours poured my semester’s knowledge worth of Japanese into it. I got to say it was real tough, not like my previous 7 lesson tests. I know I didn’t do so well on my Japanese final, mainly because I didn’t have too much time to study beforehand due to all my other finals and papers pecking at me to be done. I believe I got at the very least a B on my final, but accounting for all the mistakes I realized I did after the fact, it could be worse. My final grade I got for my Japanese 101-01 class is a B, which is good and also predictable when I think about my performance in the class as a whole.

I think my decision in taking Japanese 101-01 was a great decision for me, as it sort of shows myself that as long as I’m willing and passionate enough to work hard, I can achieve and find my future, which is the story of my life right now. I’ve always felt lost in a thick fog, not knowing where I should go. Certain radical events have happened in my life this year, and so finding a future for myself is very crucial. It seems that I’m slowly finding my way through the fog, finally above it, but still need to fight the obstacles above it to reach the stars and my future. As a college student who is free to make my own decisions but under the influence of the current global economy, I’m still finding ways to enjoy life and pursue what I want to do, what ever that may be.

P.S. – I have a couple of review sheets, Hiragana, Katakana, and some Kanji practice sheets as PDF files. Here are the links to those: Hiragana_Others Hiragana_Practice_ Katakana_Practice_ katakana_combination I also have some Kanji writing practice sheets but they don’t have any descriptions about what each are because these sheets go with the Genki book I used for the class. If you want those as well, request it and I will post it.