Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stop! Grammar time

It's half nine at night, and I'm shattered. But since I've had a couple of people (specifically, my granny via my mum, and Dr Mark Payne) saying they're enjoying the blog, I feel encouraged to keep it ticking over. Maybe I'll try writing shorter but more frequent posts.

Why am I shattered, I hear you ask? My reasons are fourfold:

1. I have to be in school by 08:20, and since the Japanese take punctuality very seriously, I give that quite a good error margin. When I was a PhD student I considered being in the office pre-10 a triumph. Pre-9 would warrant high-fiving anyone else in the lab who had turned up at that ungodly hour.

Reason the second: Last night I went to a judo class. My quasi-supervisor and all-round diamond geezer Hosokawa-san asked me if I was interested in trying judo, and while it's not exactly top of my 'to do' list, I figured it would be churlish not to take up some kind of martial art while I'm here. When in Rome, and all that. I spent most of the time watching from the sidelines, but I did get a brief lesson in how to fall properly. Falling and getting up repeatedly can really take it out of you. The most physically demanding part, however, was probably the respectful kneeling. I really can't kneel.

I'm fairly up for judo, but I have a couple of reservations about this class. One is the language barrier, but I guess that's not such a big problem since not that much talking is required. The real issue is that the class appeared to be entirely composed of primary school kids. For as much as martial arts are supposed to let you use someone's strength against them and all that stuff, it doesn't really seem fair to pit a hulking 87kg gaijin against an 11 year old girl. Also, they were the most exuberantly energetic kids I've ever seen. (The Japanese word would be genki, which I hear all the time, but is hard to translate into English. My textbook says 'energetic', but it kind of means 'on top form', in a gung-ho sort of way. How an ALT should be, essentially.) Anyway, I spend every day in schools, so I don't know if that's really what I want in my freetime. We shall see.

Reason san: Today I did some proper teaching, and flew solo for the first time. Now, this isn't really in my job description; I'm supposed to be an assistant teacher only. I could get all arsey about this, but I was quite pleased to be given this amount of responsibility at this early stage. My brief was to listen to the students give self-introductions they'd prepared and give them feedback. Considering they were first-years, the average student could only manage about four sentences, which is fair enough but meant I had a good twenty minutes left to fill. I whipped out a vocab game straight from my training seminar, and it went down a treat. Well, the kids were jumping around and screaming, which I'm going to take as a positive outcome.

IV: I just had my second weekly Japanese lesson. I'm in the second class (of four), so I'm not a total n00b. I think it'll be alright once I get into the swing of it, but for now it's keeping me on my toes because they keep pulling out vocab from the first class that I don't know. It's also made tricky by the fact that there is no English in the class - most of my fellow students are Chinese.

The super-kindly Marie-san recommended I join the third class, but when I showed up and failed to answer their Japanese questions they stuck me in the second one. It's just as well - I think I'd be in a world of pain in class three. I'm not sure why Marie overestimated my abilities so much - she says I have a good ear for phonetics, which I guess I do having studied some linguistics in my time. But it doesn't matter how good you are at noticing vowels becoming unvoiced between voiceless consonants if you don't actually know any grammar. Or words.

Alright, I'm going to bed. Oyasuminasai!

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