What I’ve been up to.

Sorry for dropping off the radar for the past few weeks. I was hit with an impending test covering the first 13 chapters of my book, on the 12th, followed by the instigation of quizzes at the end of each chapter, and another test on the 28th. This has left me with very little free time once weekends are subtracted out for sailing (I know, I’ve been promising a post about that).

The first test didn’t go very well, I ran out of time on the vocabulary section, which kind of sucks because I consider vocabulary to be one of my stronger points. The grammar section was pretty bad for me as well, mostly because I don’t know it as well. I was pretty unhappy with my performance on the test, but at least I didn’t fail it.

The constant barrage of quizzes is killing me. The quizzes are supposedly on vocabulary, but really they cover a lot of grammar. The quizzes are scheduled at the end of class Tuesday, halfway through class Wednesday, and one halfway through class on Friday. This means that in five days we are covering three chapters and that I have to learn an entire chapter on Tuesday night. This has resulted in a lot of cramming to keep up the pace, which in turn means that even more time is spent on retaining the information. The average chapter has about 40 new words, so I’m learning 120 words a week. The flip side to this statistic is that I’m forgetting about 50 of those words.

In an effort to combat the loss of knowledge, I’ve installed a flash card program on my iPhone. I’m using AnkiMini, based on the Anki software, which does spaced repetition. I found the word list from each chapter of the book online, and loaded it into the software. I set this up just before Golden Week, and have been using it daily ever since. The problem is that I have to catch up with my class (currently on chapter 20), so I’ve been studying 80 cards a day (that’s 40 new words front and back). This isn’t as bad as you might think because I already know most of the words (thanks to the quizzes), and I typically end up with about 10 new (unknown) words per day. There is a side effect to this, however, the software will repeat words you don’t know more frequently than words you know, so after a few weeks of this, I was greeted today with a message stating that I will get 80 new words plus 245 reviews. That’s a lot of words, and it takes a lot of time to cover them (about 4 hours). The good news is that soon (in the next two days) I will run out of new cards as I finally catch up to chapter 20. Thus, I’ll only have to learn the new words from each chapter as they come along.

Finally, there was the test this last Friday. It was a similar experience to the last one, I ran out of time halfway through the vocabulary test, I would have made it father along, but I didn’t notice that one of the sections was “select words from a list of possibilities” instead of fill in the blank. That meant that I was wracking my brain trying to think of the correct word instead of just choosing from one of 10 choices. Here’s a tip to test makers: Put your selection box at the top of the question section, not at the bottom on the next page.

I was mostly able to finish the grammar section, though I had to guess the last few answers.

Lucky for me, having a history of running out of time on tests, I have a system. I do all of the high value questions first, and then choose fill in the blanks before multiple guess questions. This way, when I run out of time, I can frantically circle random answers and hope for a few bonus points.

This test had some new parts to it as well, there was a reading section and two listening sections. I figured that I would fail all of these because I’m a slow reader and my listening skills are also really bad. As it turned out, I did really well on the reading (because I read the questions and skimmed for the answers). The listening sections I had decent success at as well.

Going into this test, I was convinced that I was going to fail. During the review the day before my brain locked up and I couldn’t make sense of any of the questions. Consider this exchange between person A and person B:

A:  ____________
B: That sounds good.

Technically you could put anything into the blank, it could be a question or a statement, the options are unlimited. These questions drive me insane because the teacher will not accpet anything in the blank, the question assumes that person A is going to say something out of chapter 15 where the response to B makes sense. This is fine and all, but it drives me crazy because I’m supposed to forget all of the knowledge I have of the language except for what was covered in chapters 14-19. I mean, a native speaker of the language would fail this question unless they happened to guess correctly.

Coming out of the test I actually felt alright, I mean, sure I’m going to get a D on the test but I did better on the listening and reading than I thought, and I would have done better if I had more time.

At least one other student seemed to do as poorly as me. She seemed pretty down after the test. I’m sorry to say that it’s reassuring to me that someone else is also struggling. This reassurance is necessary because the two girls sitting on either side of me get perfect scores on everything. I have no idea how well the rest of the class is doing, I can only assume that they are doing better than me based on their performance when called on for class participation.

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One Response to “What I’ve been up to.”

  1. Annie Says:

    D’oh! Welcome to Japan… Remember that this country is known for the “cram schools” that students attend AFTER a full day of classes to take even more classes. Even if you fail here and there, you’ll be fine. You’re there to learn, and it sounds like you’re learning. Good luck and post more pictures!!

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