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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.