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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Japanese Language vs My Legendary Ego

Sorry about the lack of updates. Parents were here for a visit in Tokyo.

Anyway, my Japanese classes started on Wednesday, and students were assigned to each class based on their results during the Japanese Placement Test on Monday.

A couple of people, and I, were excused from doing the test because we haven't learn Japanese before, and immediately, we were given a level of 1, and will have to take Level 1 Japanese classes.

I was asked to choose between Japanese 1A and Japanese 1B. When asked what their differences were, I was told that both classes are the same, except that Japanese 1A, having 13 units a week (1 unit = 1.5 hour), is more intensive compared to Japanese 1B. Being the diligent person I am who is desperate to learn the language as quickly as possible, I picked 1A...

... and got a tremendous shock on the day that the class started.

Everyone else in the class already know hiragana. And had no trouble when they were being taught to construct simple sentences (for self-introduction).

All the teacher had to do was write words on the whiteboard, and WHAM! Everyone else was already reading the lines, and then asking the teacher (in JAPANESE) the meaning of words, for affirmation of his or her pronunciation etc etc.

I stared blankly.

(Thankfully, a couple of others stared blankly too.)

Swiftly, I took out notes and tried to jot down as quickly as possible what was being taught then. Recording the sentences in their roman form

(namae wa edmund yeo desu, malaysia no ryugakusee desu, o shigota wa mai producer desu, o sen mon to shumi wa ee ga desu, watashi no suki na tabemono wa katsu-don desu!)

It was frantic, it was sheer desperation. It was like a boy who hadn't learn alphabets being asked to write simple essays. And I guess that really was what happened.

For example, when the teacher took out flashcards of numbers and asked everyone to say each number in Japanese, everyone could do it easily, but I myself, who never knew beyond '1 2 3/ ich ni san' had to quickly write down what the rest are based on my own listening. It's hardcore.

On Thursday, the second day of the lessons, I noticed that a few weren't in the class anymore. I started voicing my worries to the Japanese teacher.

"Erm. Sensei. I have a problem here." I said. "I think I might be too, ah, slow, for this class. I don't know hiragana at all!"

She was immediately sympathetic, telling me that she wasn't expecting everyone in the class to know hiragana before their first lesson and was planning to teach them that.

-_- was my expression.

Then she told me to hang on tight and that she would voice my concerns to others in the department.

During lunchtime, I ran into a few guys who were at the class during the previous day, but had since transferred to Japanese 1B.

"Wait, there's a difference?" I gasped.

"Yeah, man," Said Martinez, a dude from Philippines. "1B's much easier, we are just learning the first fifteen hiragana, how to read them, how to write them, that's the one YOU should go to."

"Okay." I nodded, realizing that I need to transfer.

So I went to ask around my classmates, to see who wanted to transfer with me.

"TRANSFER TO 1B? HAH! That's a downgrade!" Said a girl from China. "I was actually thinking of transferring to 2A!"

"What? They're still teaching how to write hiragana? You mean a class even more basic than the one we're having now?" Another girl from China scoffed in scorn.

-_-' was my expression as I decided not to ask anyone else.

Returning to the class after lunch, the teacher approached me and told me that she had spoken to the department, just when I was going to tell her that I wanted to transfer.

So she said that things will be a little tough for me, and that I'll need SHEER STRONG WILL to stay in the class. If I cannot follow, I can feel free to ask questions.

"Daijobu desu ka?" The teacher asked.

My mind raced quickly to the list below:

Pros and cons of doing Japanese 1A

- I'll have to learn everything quickly
- I might be able to have a basic grasp in the language by the end of the semester (if I could maintain my sanity)
- Japanese 1A has 13 units compared to Japanese 1B's 10 units. A bit more time to learn and practice... perhaps.

- Everyone's ahead of me.
- Each class will be stressful as heck. Info overload.
- I'll lose my sanity easily.
- I might not be able to miraculously catch up with others.

Even so, the teacher said that I needed STRONG WILL to stay.

... if I seek to transfer to Japanese 1B, does that mean that I'm weak-willed?

So, after 2 seconds of swift contemplation capable only by one who calls himself Swifty, I forced a smile and said:

Miyazaki Aoi is hell cute"No problem. Daijobu! I'll stay in the class!"

Thus I returned to my seat and begun, yet another roller-coaster ride of Japanese lessons. At night, I tried to learn around 20 hiragana characters. (I succeeded) Jonathan, an American guy in the class, told me that it'll probably take me 3 months to learn them all. But thankfully, I realized that knowing how to read Chinese does help me a little with memorizing the hiragana characters due to some similarities (obviously, it's much easier for me to recognize kanji), so I think it'll take me a shorter time to learn.

Despite my normally massive ego, it'll be a humbling to experience for the first time in my life what's it like to be slower than everyone else in the class. Har. Har.