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O Fim duma Viagem

A Day in the Life

JAPAN | Tuesday, 1 March 2016 | Views [233]

By Monday, it had become increasingly clear that we had settled into the pace of the class. Which is to say we were moving very quickly.

To get some idea of that, consider our homework for Monday (and, per CET policy, homework assigned over the weekend is not supposed to be more intensive than homework assigned over one day. They don’t want to discourage us from exploring Japan while we’re here.) We were supposed to write six sentences using kanji on three pages, do the two-page reading, and read no less than five new grammars. Oh, and in addition to the daily (ungraded) grammar quizzes, we also had a graded vocab quiz.

Now, none of those assignments are individually that bad. Certainly, the kanji by themselves are simple enough (though I do wish we would do more with the kanji in class. The general philosophy seems to be “you have the books, you can study them all by yourself.” Which is technically true, but you don’t need to spend much time on kanji just to make sure that everyone has a clearer idea of what they should look like.) The reading was just reading and no questions associated with it. The grammar points are all pretty short and harmless, we just needed to write an example sentence for each one.

None of it was bad by itself. And scaled down, it was more what I was used to. Two new grammar points a day is fine. Two pages of kanji with four sentences is easy. Part of a reading I can do. But when all that work is doubled, the quality of that work tends to drop, because you run out of time or energy to do a good job on all of it.

And then the daily grammar quizzes. Those, like I mentioned, are pretty easy. They’re fill-in-the-blank questions about the grammar that you were supposed to review for that day, and if you’ve done that, they’re usually pretty simple, because the context makes it clear what new grammar you should use there. Simple. It’s a problem if you didn’t read and understand the grammar explanation in the textbook. It’s a problem if you’re not fully awake during class. And it’s a problem if, say, you’ve needed to learn five different grammar points and have quizzes spread out over two periods. Because the quizzes are open-ended enough that you can feasibly use two different grammars for one example.

If the quizzes were graded, I might complain about the fact that they always switch formats. Sometimes they’ll have a sentence which they want you to rephrase using the new grammar. Sometimes they’ll have a sentence with a blank for the new grammar to go. Sometimes they’ll suggest which word they want there, other times they won’t. Sometimes they’ll have most of the new grammar and just want you to put in a particle. Sometimes all they want is for you to conjugate a verb correctly. This fluctuation makes the quizzes slightly harder, since if you do want to study and get a perfect grade, it’s not always clear which part of the grammar you should study.

Once the quizzes are done, we go over the answers, and then further examples with the grammar. Yamaguchi-sensei prompts us with questions, and we need to respond in full sentences using the new grammar. Sometimes the responses she’s looking for are obvious, sometimes they’re not. This is probably my favorite part of the class, because it gives us practical experience with the new material.

After that, it was time for the reading. So Yamaguchi-sensei called on us to read certain sections, and we did, and then summarized what we’d just read in two or three different ways to answer different questions. Then we had a slight break, and basically repeated that same process for the second hour. A typical Monday without high schoolers.

I ate lunch, then decided to head to Umeda. I was waiting for the train when Yamaguchi-sensei waved at me. Apparently she was also going to Umeda. So instead of reading, like I’d intended to do, I had to answer questions in Japanese for the entirety of the train ride. I suppose it was good practice, but it ended with me deciding I definitely needed a coffee the first place I could get one. So I went straight up, sat on the roof for a while soaking in the atmosphere and thinking.

The first time I took a train by myself in Osaka, I went straight to the top of that same building, looked around, and promised myself that I would not allow myself to get so locked into my routine that I ignored the major city a simple train ride away from me. I think I’ve done a decent job of keeping that promise so far.

I’ve now been here for over a month, and I haven’t really left Osaka. And although I should, and a part of me wants to, there’s another part of me that’s fairly content where I am. One of the things that really struck me as I was studying in Europe was how many Americans there rarely spent a weekend in their apartment. And although that’s one way of doing it, that certainly wasn’t my approach. And it appears to not be my approach.

Spending my weekends in Paris wandering around and finding places to spend my time made my connection to that city so much stronger. Paris wasn’t the city I stayed between weekend trips- it was my home. So, although I should plan something for my next three-day weekend, in the meantime I was perfectly fine taking a few hours off just to be in the city that I was slowly falling in love with.

Self-contemplation complete, it was time for the coffee I’d promised myself. (I got it from Tully’s, because it was so nearby.) Then I wandered around a little more, and headed back to start on the next night’s homework. There was a lot of it.

Tags: coffee, grammar, japanese, kanji, roof, umeda

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