Friday came, none too soon, as the class accelerated through it’s third chapter. Today saw the first student drop from the course, which I think came as a shock to us all.
I can’t say that I was surprised necessarily, after all, as a class we hardly know each other and blindly assume that the other people are doing much better than we are. Still to have someone from your “team” drop out makes you suddenly become introspective and wonder how well you are really doing. At the beginning of class, the person in question surprisingly refused to write five characters of hiragana on the board, which isn’t that hard- if you know the characters. I guess that we had all assumed that everyone knew their hiragana (alphabet) before applying to the class. Learning it from scratch, while working, took me a week; so if you knew nothing, there is no way you’d be able to get up to speed in one day.
I feel that the class is divided into two groups. The first group are those who know their Japanese pretty well. Those whom I have talked to have completed a six month course prior to coming to Japan. They tell me that we are moving through the material so quickly that we will have covered everything they know in the next week or so. The second group, and I count myself amongst them, are those who are already working hard. There are about five of us (six until today) who fall into this group. One of them I talked to after class, and she is really nervous that she won’t be able to make it. I cheered her on and hope that she’ll be able to stick with it.
By the end of class they had already replaced the dropped student. I have no idea where the new student came from; perhaps there is a waiting list.
Despite all this, I’m feeling pretty good with how things are going, it’s a lot of work, but I’m not falling behind yet.
The lesson started erratically again, we started with the same teacher from the day before, so maybe it’s a trait of that teacher, but it’s too soon to tell. We covered our homework and then set about reviewing the next batch of hiragana. This is really kind of a farce because all of the homework is in hiragana, so it isn’t like we could do the work and not already know it. It’s almost like they feel that they need to pack the day with lessons, but they also realize that new material will overwhelm us, so they are giving us review as filler. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they just reviewed the stuff we are supposed to be learning, there is a lot to go over. Anyway, we reviewed the content from last class and dove into another listening session where we followed a video conversation between two neighbors, one introducing himself to the other. Then we listened to another introduction on tape, and then we practiced saying the conversation to each other. Everything went well, but our teacher seemed a little hurried and disorganized.
The second period brought a new teacher. She taught us how to count money, how to recognize different values of currency (which is largely unnecessary, you can’t make it a day in another country without figuring out how to use the currency) and how count floors in a building. The quirks of counting in Japanese are probably the most challenging aspect of the language. Just as we have “st”, “nd”, and “rd”, which are exceptions to the general rule of “th” which we add when counting (ex. “1st” and “2nd” vs. “5th”), Japanese has similar constructs. Except the English system is standard, if you are counting money, drinks, or floors, when you have five, it’s always the “5th”. In Japanese, there are different names for the numbers depending on context, and there are different ways of pronouncing them based on what you are counting. We only covered the basics today, but there is a whole appendix in our text book devoted to “counters”. We finished off with a video of someone buying something and then a round of practicing that conversation ourselves.
Homework tonight is the same as last night, about 20 minutes of workbook activity (which turned into an hour), more hiragana practice, and a full page of vocabulary. The vocab is going to kill me because there are 50 words in the list. Luckily, I already know exactly half, so I only have to learn 25 words in two days, which isn’t impossible, but isn’t easy either.