Today’s Commencement Ceremony was conducted at 11am, so once again I was able to sleep-in to an unreasonable hour. This will only make tomorrow’s classes at 9am all that much more painful. The ceremony was conducted entirely in Japanese, and entirely without translation. My Japanese is good enough to follow the gist of what is going on, without being able to trouble myself with any of the actual details. The head of the school delivered an amazingly clear speech using pretty simple Japanese and lots of hand gestures. I think I understood 90% of what he said. In contrast, the instructors, who followed him, where harder to understand.
After the head master’s speech come the introductions, first students, and then teachers. Each student was called, in turn, and was expected to deliver an introduction. The first student was clearly quite advanced and ratcheted up the dread in my mind several notches as she flawlessly said the Japanese equivalent to “it’s nice to meet you”, stated her name, city and country of origin, favorite thing in Japan, and concluded with a formality which I had never heard before “yoroshiku onegai shimasu”. In fact, each subsequent student also followed this form, so my panic increased as I realized that not only was I supposed to use a phrase I had never heard before, but I was also supposed to build a sentence about something I liked, or where I’m from, which, frankly, is something I forgot long ago.
I decided that I’d just stick to saying “Nice to meet you”, my name, and conclude with this new mystery phrase. I was sure that this would be good enough, and it brought a measure of calm to me as I feel confident that I can tell people my name. I was also calmed by the fact that, since the letters of my name fall into the middle of the alphabet, I would not be the first one called. Usually I’m right in the middle; so with about 20 students, I figured that I’d have no problem memorizing the new phrase after 10 repetitions. No sooner had I thought this than my name was called; the fifth student. It occurs to me now that they may have been following the Japanese alphabet, where the first letter (sound) of my last name is in 9th place.
It was just my luck to be the first lousy speaker; it’s like having Mozart (and a few of his protégées) do the introductory music for your first piano recital. Great, I thought, now that we’ve heard some pretty good Japanese, we’ve got me to show you some pretty awful Japanese. I stuttered through my introduction, but managed to say “orosuko onegai shimasu” at the end (which is what I thought that they were saying. It was only when I got home and looked it up did I learn the correct spelling and meaning- in this context it means something like “Thanks in advance” or “I’m in your care” or “I nice to meet you”. It doesn’t translate very easily.).
Although I sank into my chair as the next person told anecdotal stories about their love of karaoke, it was not too much later that they hit a whole patch of clearly panicked and unpracticed speakers. I guess I should feel relieved that I didn’t have long to suffer with the dread of speaking. While I was bad, I had plenty of company, and I didn’t fail completely. Afterwards the guy who sat next to me (whom I had sat next to yesterday at the orientation) told me that I was probably ahead of him with my spoken Japanese, boy do I have him fooled.
After the students introduced themselves, the teachers all got up and were introduced, and then we finished off with a group photo and the dissemination of class materials.
So now I have my student ID card, my homework schedule for the month, and my first night’s homework (which is to study hiragana, which I already know). The course schedule looks a little aggressive, so I’m interested to see how well this works out. Anyway, I’ve got a lot of time, so I might as well hit the books and do a little review.