Monday, April 12, 2010

No English Please!

I checked out some more books on Japanese culture and business in order to keep me motivated to learn Japanese. I figure this way, even when my brain hurts from studying Japanese, I can still be concentrating on Japan somehow. I really do like Japan - I’m not sure if I could live here permanently until I die but I’m seriously considering a career that involves traveling to Japan, if not moving here. Lots of other international students feel the same way. On Sunday a girl from Berlin was getting really depressed about how she is going to have to leave Japan in four months. She wants to stay in Japan for at least another two years and is looking into getting her master’s here. My Chinese friend, Sydney, wants to stay in Japan for another three to four years. She doesn’t miss China at all and thinks Japan is really great. I miss my family and friends from back home but that’s pretty much it. I don’t miss my car or my cell phone.

I grown accustomed to the “minimal-English” approach I’ve adopted here. I've distanced myself from the people that only speak English because then I’m only going to speak English and forget all the grammar and vocabulary I learned that day. Even just hanging out with Chinese and Korean people and hearing them speak their native languages makes me focus on things. I’m at the language learning phase where English is boring, ugly-sounding, and stupid. I can already predict that I am going to get somewhat annoyed that my friends back home don’t speak Japanese. I know there is one Japanese girl studying abroad in Vermillion next fall and I hope we can be friends and converse together. I’m going to contact the Sioux Falls Multicultural Center and see if they can place me with a Japanese language partner as well. I’d rather be able to say 10 sentences a day in Japanese than chit-chat in English. I know there are some students that disagree with the philosophy I am following but there are others that agree. There are two Korean boys that do their own thing with other Japanese students because they don’t want to hang out with other international students and speak English, and I don’t blame them.

Well, just a little tidbit of my thoughts for the day. My schedule for yesterday (Monday) included: studying Japanese, doing laundry, practicing violin, going for a run, and sitting through a lecture where the professor speaks super-slow English and I’m bored out of my mind.But, I’m sure some Japanese friends feel the same way about my Japanese ability so it is just linguistic karma biting me in the butt. In my Japanese economy class, the professor started talking about the social problems facing Japan. The powerpoint slide was "Has Japan Dead?" and the first bullet on the slide was the declining quality in the education system. Hmm..

I don't have class today. Just going to go veg out at the campus coffee house for a while and catch up on some reading. I'm meeting my tutor later this afternoon to go pay some bills and then I have to teach English from 4-6. My days are moderately busy - it's the perfect workload.

Here's some pictures:

Grabbing sushi with my Chinese friends last Friday night

The Korean girl I tutor! She refused to smile hahaha.

I like to read Japanese baby books.

Real ramen = amazing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Life is definitely picking up around here. The days go by so fast for me - it's definitely a bad thing. I found out that I may be taking a French class here. I need the foreign language credit and not taking this class would mean I just accrue another pointless economics elective that I don't need. I am waiting to hear back from the international student coordinator here about how this would all work out. If the textbook is Japanese-French it may be a problem..

I got a job teaching English to a little 6 year-old Japanese/Korean girl. She just started 1st grade a couple of days ago. Her parents put her in a private English school when she was 1 but since she goes to school all the day now, they needed a tutor. It pays $20 an hour and I tutor for 6 hours a week. It's pretty much the ideal job. They drive me home when I am finished and said that they would cook for me soon.

I had my first official lesson with her yesterday. It was sort of awkward with the parents initially. The little girl just brought me upstairs to an office and we started the lesson right away. About five minutes later the father came in with one of her old English teachers on the phone. The teacher was really helpful because I really don't know all that she knows or what level she is at and what we should be doing for lessons. He told me that since her lessons are scheduled for 2-hour time blocks, we should only be really sitting in front of a book for about 50 minutes max. He suggested that we go to parks and just have natural conversation so she can tap into the words she already knows - a "use it or lose it" approach to memory.

We ended up going to a really old-looking Japanese ice cream shop. It was pretty amusing to be led around town by a 6 year-old and to have a 6 year-old place our orders. At one point she told me "I don't understand your hard English. Speak to me as though you were 6." She is pretty funny. Then we decided to keep walking around the area a bit and went to a department store quick to look at the Hello Kitty things. It was cute because she wanted to hold my hand and run along the streets but I got a few odd looks. "What is a foreigner doing with a little Japanese girl?!" The lesson went good but it could have been better. I'm going to look around and try to find some puppets to buy so we can make-up stories and whatnot. Every week we are going to talk about a different country. Tomorrow's topic is America!

Today is a busy day for me. I need to go head to the university and eat, go to the library for at least an hour and review some kanji, I am meeting my new tutor at noon, I have class from 1-4 today, then I am meeting another friend for a Japanese lesson at 4, then I have to run to the grocery store to get something for dinner, re-peg my violin and practice for tomorrow's rehearsal, and think of a lesson plan for tomorrow's tutoring.

Tomorrow I have orchestra for a few hours then tutoring. This weekend is too busy to really go out. Sunday I'm planning on grabbing some ramen somewhere and isolating myself in the library to study Japanese. The library closes at 5 on weekends here so usually everyone tries to be there until closing time or near to.

On a brighter note, I bought my ferry ticket yesterday for Kyoto for Golden Week!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I haven't really been up to much this past week. My sleeping habits were really messed up there for a while. I would be going to bed at 4 am and waking up around 2 pm - so not me! Then one day I took a sleeping pill and went to bed at 11 but woke up at 4 am ready to go - then I crashed at 3 in the afternoon and slept until 7. The vicious cycle continued for a while. Actually, I probably won't even get to bed at a decent time tonight because I finally got internet in my room so I'm excited to think about everything I can do now! Movies, TV, youtube, skype, blogging, online shopping - life is awesome.

A Pikachu school bus? Only in Tokyo..

School starts on Wednesday (finally).
Here is my class schedule:

Monday: 12:50 - 2:20 Japanese Economy
2:30 - 4:00 Japanese Companies in Global Business

Tuesday: Nothing

Wednesday: 8:50 - 10:20 Financial Economics
10:40 - 12:00 Japanese Lesson @ The City Hall

Thursday: 12:50 - 2:20 Topics in Microeconomics

Friday: 12:50 - 4:00 Intermediate Macroeconomics

Tomorrow I'm going to go grab coffee with my Chinese friend, Sydney. I really need to learn more Japanese fast. I learned about 150 words last week but I should probably be learning at least 50 a day with the amount of free time I have.

I bought my first Japanese comic book on Wednesday! My tutor took me shopping (having a friend with a car RULES) and we had coffee and desserts at a cute cafe and worked on my Japanese.

Here are some of the books I have been studying Japanese with:

A total lifesaver - it was only $7 in Sioux Falls and it has more grammar information than I'll ever need to know. They have books for nearly every foreign language so keep your eyes open! I should probably write an Amazon review or something but I'm too lazy.

My Japanese friend bought me this book at a Japanese bookstore in her hometown so we had some structure in our Japanese lessons. She wants to work on her English so she also bought herself a copy. It works out really well. Another fun book. It's helped me be able to ask grocery clerks where stuff is at in the supermarket.

I use this book for only about 30 minutes a day but it's really good. It shows me stroke by stroke out to draw each character and gives me 50 blank squares to practice each one. I try to learn 5 characters a day - super easy if I don't procrastinate. I am going to have to try to find the 1st Japanese 100 characters (Note: Mom - please buy :) )

This book is super hard but it forces me to plow through grammar and conversation exercises. The Japanese professor here said if I can get through the 31 lessons in this book, I will have learned the material for 3 semesters of Japanese classes. Woofta. Each lesson takes me at least 5 hours. There have been no easy questions in here so far! Random tidbit: Yes, that is an Eiffel Tower on my Japanese textbook. There is a fake Eiffel Tower in Tokyo and its a famous landmark in Tokyo (copy cats).

Well - I'll think of more to write later. I've adapted to Japan, now I'm getting used to all the other cultures that are floating around in the international dorm hall.