おてもと

I love it when my friends share interesting information about Japanese with me. There are not many places in India where one can come across Japan related items. And so, when one does happen to see them it is imperative that he/she share it with friends.

Here is one that a student sent me last week ー

WhatsApp Image 2016-10-21 at 9.25.33 PM.jpeg
Otemoto

Courtesy – Namratha-san

 

I had thought that the Japanese word for chopsticks was 箸(hashi) and was quite excited about the prospect of learning another one. But after doing some preliminary research, I learnt that おてもと referred to 割り箸 (Waribashi) or splittable wooden chopsticks. Often found written on the paper wrapper of chopsticks used in high class restaurants, the word is usually used by service providers in the humble language.

Apparently てもと originated within the imperial court and was used by the women working there. It served the purpose of elevating the standard of the language and to differentiate it from that of the commoners.

I passed JLPT!

I’m sorry I haven’t been updating my blog these past two weeks. Busy weekends and lazy weekdays got the better of me and no I haven’t made a mistake describing my week there. My weekends have been taken over by language classes where I’m trying to help out fellow Japanese learners get ready for the N5 in December and my weekdays have been plagued with unsatisfying work. This had taken a toll on my Japanese and while I did keep in touch with the language, I had nothing new to offer to the blog.

And so, today, I wanted to announce something that had been long pending. I have finally passed the JLPT! I now have a N3 level certification in Japanese that shows the progress I have made since I first started out five years ago. It was surreal reading “Passed” on my report and it took me a moment to realize what it meant. It meant that I could finally show my mom that I hadn’t been wasting my time. With this exam, I had opened up a treasure trove of opportunities that could possibly help change the direction in which my life was heading if I so wanted it.

Of course, this also meant that I had a long way to go and I was nowhere close to being fluent in the language. However, with this result I know that it is a possibility. This is definitely an accomplishment that I’m proud of and I hope to God, there’s more to come.

 

The struggles of a fledgling Japanese language student

The defeated look on my student’s face still haunts me. We were huddled close to the speaker, our ears straining to pick out familiar words from the audio clip that was playing. Amidst the silence, I found a few heads nodding in understanding.

“時計売り場はどちらですか?”, repeated a student, looking at me expectantly. He was right and the others quickly noted down the answer. 

The audio clip was part of the listening section in the textbook we had open before us. We were well into the second lesson and the students were faring better than I had thought they would. Except for one. He was lost.

I replayed the audio clip once again and asked him to try and recognise some words. He did much better the second time around.

We then moved on to longer conversations where the objective was to figure out if the statement given after the conversation was true of false.

A: エレベーターはどこですか?

B: あそこです。

A: 電話は?

B: 電話は。。そこです。

A: どうも。

Q:電話はあそこです。

I looked over to my troubled student and he didn’t look so good! He couldn’t follow the audio like the other students. So I broke it down for me, sentence by sentence until he was on the same page. But he wasn’t happy at all. I realised he was trying to achieve something he wasn’t capable of at that stage. He was putting a lot of pressure on himself to understand a foreign language he was hearing for the very first time!

Most of the students who attend my classes haven’t been exposed to Japanese before and almost all of them want to pass the test due to happen this December. Listening sections can be tough if you aren’t used to how Japanese sounds and the only way I know how to tackle this problem is to watch a lot of anime and drama.

However, most of the content that I have watched or listened to are suitable for levels intermediate and above. I am yet to find something that can be shared with my students. The challenge for me this week would be to find appropriate listening material for my students and I can only hope that the discouraged souls from my class hang in there a little while longer.

P.S. What do you think I should make them listen to? Songs? An anime series? Podcasts? If so, which ones? Any help is much appreciated.

Tentative plan for August

The application forms for the upcoming JLPT exam in December are out, but I won’t be attempting it this time. I’m still waiting for the results from the July exam to be announced. While my friends are gearing up for the exam, I’ve decided to slow down in my studies partly because my current schedule and habits give me lesser time than in the past.

While I practised reading more than I did any other skill, I haven’t really made any progress because I wasn’t consistent with it. In addition I made the mistake of not returning to the read material to make sure I understood it better the second time. As a result, even though my vocabulary list grew, the words and the Kanji never stayed with me.

In order to correct this, I have decided to stick to one reading material for the time being. I will read my Crayon Shin-chan manga cover to cover and go through the same once more to retain all the new words and sentence patterns I will come across. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that this is a setback and I’m back to square one.  😦 In addition to this, I will try and learn more vocabulary through songs and through conversations with my Japanese friends.

My second focus is on speaking and I’m hoping to get started on it in the second half of this month. I was fortunate enough to meet a Japanese teacher here in Bangalore and she has agreed to help me out in this regard. My speaking skills are awful. But I’ve seen a considerable improvement in my writing skills and I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually get better at speaking as well.

Slow and steady.

Japanese with Cardcaptor Sakura

I am embarrassed to say this, but the reason I haven’t been studying Japanese these past few days is because of my laziness. My plan for the month was to go through the notes I had made on Evernote and Cram before the JLPT exams and then move on to learning something new. I have about 2 magazines and 6 odd Japanese books that I would like to start reading. But alas, I can’t seem to move an inch!

Frustration and guilt would have swallowed me whole if I hadn’t turned to Sakura to help me out. Since the day I read about a sequel coming out, I’ve been devoted to watching Cardcaptor Sakura an episode a day. Even though I’m watching it for the second time, the fact that I am able to understand most of what they’re saying makes the experience even more exciting!

Here is why I think watching Cardcaptor Sakura can help your listening, especially if you’re between the beginner-intermediate level.

  • Interesting content

Who doesn’t like having magical powers or being friends with supernatural creatures? Cardcaptor Sakura is a story about friendship, courage, love, magic and adventure and I bet each of us needs a little bit of all that in our life. I’m not sure who the intended audience was when the mangaka first created her and it clearly doesn’t have the violence of psychological mind bending content that most of the current anime have, but I’d still recommend this one to anyone interested in watching anime.

  •   Easy to follow dialogues

From the very first episode you will realise that most of the conversations in the anime are very simple to follow. The dialogues are easy to understand and evenly spaced out. The words used aren’t unnatural and are definitely used by real people in real life.  Another advantage of watching this anime is that words are often repeated throughout the episode allowing the listener to learn and absorb vocabulary easily.

I saved a couple of notes on Evernote listing out all the words I’ve learnt thanks to the anime. They’re easy to remember because I know the context they were used in. I’ve also used the content to practice shadowing. Since the conversations aren’t fast paced, it is very easy to follow the dialogue and repeat until I can speak Japanese as well as the characters do.

 

As you can see I’m clearly excited about this because I feel I’ve finally found content that suits my level. All this while I’ve been struggling to find podcasts and drama that I can follow atleast 50% of the time. Most of the content I’ve come across is too faced paced or use vocabulary I’m not familiar with. But now that I’ve found something what works, I hope to develop a standard method to help me fully utilise the content and eventually figure out what I need to listen to next.

My first class as a Japanese Language Teacher

I had mentioned a few weeks ago about my wish to teach Japanese. The idea was born out of two things

  1. This blog which documents my journey as a self-learner
  2. My need to stay connected with the language

Around two weeks back, I had reached out to the language institute I had attended for Japanese lessons in search for a weekend teaching gig. I had some experience teaching random subjects to 15-17 year olds back when I was at university and thought teaching a language would be the same. The institute got back to me asking me to do a couple of demo sessions post which they would decide whether to hire me or not.

Last Sunday was my first class at the institute. I had before me 10 adults, some older than I, most with no knowledge of what Japanese sounded like. I began my class with basic vocabulary like ご挨拶 before introducing Hiragana. The entire session went on for four hours and by the end of it, we were all tired.

I remember the time I had been the student. The four long hours were difficult. But I kept going back because Japanese was my world. The others, however, did not have that motivation. The class that began with a strength of 10 people quickly reduced to a mere four or five. I had learnt then that not everyone loved the language as I did.

After my class, a few concerned students reached out to me hoping I would provide them a magic pill to quickly turn them into masters of the language. Truth be told, I was annoyed that they hadn’t done their research before coming. But I sent them off with a few words of encouragement, hoping they’d  put in the time and effort learning a language needed.

While the students do their bit, I, as a teacher need to do mine. A major fear that I face is not knowing how to answer a student’s query. The fear that my own basics might not be so strong as I’d hoped creeps up time and time again. However, I’ve been told by my friend, an aspiring teacher of science, that this fear is common and that there’s nothing wrong with it.

I hope that my students and I overcome our challenges during the course of the next few months. Teaching Japanese is a totally new experience for me. It is certainly challenging, but there is a lot to learn here – about myself, about handling people, about teaching and learning a language.

It’s time to prepare for my next session. Lets go!

 

When you go two weeks without learning

Japanese is an important part of my life. The day I began learning my first Hiragana characters was the day I became a different person. I began living my life with a discipline that surprises me even now. Thanks to Japanese, learning has become a way of life.

So you can imagine how distraught I feel that I haven’t studied anything since July 3rd, the day JLPT was held. A lot of things have happened in the past few weeks and the whole thing has been building over to such a point that I feel mentally tired every day I come back home from work.

I’m at a point where I’m thinking about a lot of things – a job change, skill development, extra-curricular club responsibilities to name a few and while all this activity is keeping me on my toes, I’d like to have a breather once in a while where I don’t have to think about anything else but Japanese.

The challenge I see before myself is to use my time and energy wisely. I usually function well when I set aside chunks of my time for different activities. For example, I would study Japanese for 1-2 hours straight without anything else distracting me. But now, this might not work out so well for me.

What I need now is a way to ensure I get some studying done even when there are a lot of other things happening on the same day. I need to get a little smarter and creative with how I learn languages.While I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to do this, I have to get back into studying again. Two weeks has been a pretty long time and I hope I haven’t forgotten anything.