To class or not to class, that is the question

I have decidedly, and solidly, mixed feelings about Japanese class.

On the one hand, I have found it of some value.  I was finally able to get my hiragana and katakana very solid, which is something I was missing, I learned things like telling time, and I took away things that were definitely of value to me in my ongoing studies.  In that sense, I don’t really regret it.

In another sense, though, I regret it very much.  I’m trying to take these classes while holding down a full time job, many of the students there are literally old enough to be my children (and a couple are, if my hypothetical children and I were particularly irresponsible, old enough to be my grandchildren), and to be quite frank, the curriculum is not oriented towards adult continuing education.  We just spent a week or two talking about our college major, and I have a full time job.  I only have a college major on paper, and I don’t think that’s happening.  So I ended up having to just call myself 一年生 (first year) and just be done with it.  That really made me feel like I was an outsider.

Even though I pretty obviously am, for many reasons.

For that reason, I’m seriously considering taking a break from Japanese II and just studying on my own for a while.  I have a much better foundation now to know what I’m missing, I have a textbook and workbook I can play in that seems to be somewhat effective, and if I study I think I can get most of what I get from class without the structure.  That said, they do have online or hybrid classes, so I’m considering taking that instead, maybe it will be a little less stressful than having to go to class twice a week.  Either way, I have about a month more to get through this, and then I think something’s going to have to change.  It was a valuable experience in some ways, a stressful and painful experience in others, and regardless, I think something will need to be different next semester.  I don’t think it’s working as is.


Proceeding Apace

Japanese class is proceeding apace.  It is going at a rather breakneck speed.  To be quite honest, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I’d studied ahead for a year, I’d be sunk.  Many students seem to be.  It’s been, what, four weeks now?  And we’ve already covered all of hiragana and are finishing up katakana now.

I don’t think all students are going to make it out of the class unscathed, to be honest.

I have noticed something odd, though.  I am able now to carry on simple conversations with Japanese speakers.  Nothing too complicated, and about half the time I can’t understand them until they slow down, but I am now able to carry on a conversation.  So that is absolutely a positive.  But that’s not the odd thing.  The odd thing is that whenever I speak to a Japanese person or practice Japanese with any intensity, for about two hours afterwards, whenever I say something in English, I’m also saying it in my head in Japanese.  There have been several times when I have almost (or have!) said “arigatou gozaimasu” to someone who has no idea what the heck I’m talking about.  I’m not sure if it’s cool or frustrating, but it’s very much unexpected.

I guess that’s good practice, in an odd way.

Hiragana isn’t that hard.  Katakana is a little harder.  Switching between them is hella difficult – I have to really think about it when switching between writing systems (when taking a quiz, etc).  Grammar isn’t that hard, but constructing the grammar from whole cloth on the fly is really difficult.  I need to find an effective way to practice.  There is a tutor over at the Northridge campus, I’m going to impose on some of his time for conversation.

Onwards and upwards!

Japanese Class: 1st day.

Today was the first day of Japanese class at Austin Community College.  For many reasons, I will avoid any mention of the other people in the class, other than to say there were other people in the class of varying ages, backgrounds and knowledge of Japanese.  As expected.

As for me, it is clear that there are gaping holes in my knowledge.  In my “introduction” (which I absolutely, positively, did not want to do) I said that I “know enough to be dangerous” – and I feel that more strongly now than when I began the class.  In some ways, I feel handicapped by the fact that we’re using romaji instead of hiragana and kanji, but in other ways, there are things I’m learning even now, and the holes are obvious.  I learned the mechanics of Japanese, but not how to think in it, or more accurately, not how to think on my feet.  I will have significant challenges in this class – but they’re not the challenges that most of the other students will have.  I will have little problem with grammar.  I will have little problem with kana.  I will have some problem with vocabulary.  I will have a huge problem with the fact that speaking to other people is a requirement.

Which leads to the obvious question:  Why, then, oh glorious blogger, did you decide to study a foreign language when the last thing in the world you want to do is actually use it?

That, dear readers, will have to be a mystery, I suppose.  Even to me.

Losing the Mystery

I have become very discouraged with Japanese lately.

It’s not because it’s hard, honestly.  It is hard, but it’s manageable.  There’s a lot to learn and a lot to memorize, but it’s not beyond my abilities.

It’s really not because it’s time consuming either.  It kind of is, but I can carve out the time.

I think it’s more because I don’t really see an end game to the whole thing.  I started learning it because it interested me, and it still kinda does, but it is starting to feel like I’m learning it in a vacuum.  I’m in that place where I know just enough to know that there are probably things I’m missing, and not enough to be able to hold conversations to learn those new things.

So I’m backing off a little.  I’m still doing the Jalup reviews, but I signed up for a community college class starting in late August, and I do plan on taking that.  I honestly don’t expect it to teach me much I don’t already know as far as hiragana, katakana, pronunciation, etc.  I think I probably already know the meanings (but probably not the pronunciations) of about half the kanji they’ll teach.  So I’ll be going in with a head start.

But the value is this:  it will give me people to actually speak with.  Maybe they won’t be at quite the same level I am.  Maybe a couple will even be more advanced.  But at least then I don’t have to be embarrassed to try.  I probably will be anyway, but I don’t have to.

When I start those classes, I will start a series here, blogging about it.  I don’t know much about them yet except the textbooks are expensive, they’re Fridays and Sundays at ACC, and the teacher’s name (which I won’t mention here, though you could find it on the syllabus if you really wanted).  It’s been 20 years since I’ve taken any kind of class.  I hope I don’t stuff this up.