By Jenny Jimenez
On the 25th of February, our Japanese class had a special visit from university students from Meiji University. We spent the day learning about Japanese calligraphy, which is known as shodo, and some students spent time making origami! Personally, I was in a group with students that taught me calligraphy. One of the students wrote tomodachi, or friend, perfectly on the calligraphy paper and proceeded to give me a sheet so I could write it as well. Although it seems simple at first, it does take practice! The brush glides on the paper easily and one false movement can make an impact on your handwriting. Although my calligraphy wasn’t perfect, it was fun to learn about Japanese calligraphy and its impact on their culture.
Later in the day, Eshita Sensei told us that we would be having conversations with the students about anything! I met Yuta, a freshman at Meiji University and we talked about American culture as well as Japanese culture and university life in Japan. To my surprise he explained that he has been learning English since middle school and that he actually has visited California last year! Since my Japanese language skills are limited to talking about family and food, we talked a lot in English. He explained that a troubling aspect of learning English is the pronunciation of “L” and “R,” because in Japanese the syllables ra, re, ri, ro, ru are said with the mixture of the sounds from “R,” “L,” and also the “D” sound. He explained that it’s a little bit difficult to notice the difference between “L” and “R” when it comes to listening but he could tell the difference when it came to reading. I found this interesting because I noticed that when Eshita Sensei said ramen in Japanese, it wasn’t pronounced in the way that American people say it. Learning from Yuta that English learners have difficulty with pronunciation was surprising because I wasn’t aware about this challenge since it comes naturally for English speakers.
I enjoyed the visit from Meiji University because I was able to connect with students like Yuta, with whom I have exchanged communication, because I want to learn about Japanese culture from a Japanese person rather than reading from a book or from watching a video of an American explaining it. I hope we have more visits from Japanese students in the future because it was an amazing experience due to the fact that both the DC students and the Japanese students were able to exchange a tiny piece of each other’s cultures!