Swag blog

By Alexx Thompson

Last Sunday, a few people from the class and I attended the Japanese New Years Celebration hosted by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, DC (JCAW). There were numerous events, such as taiko performances, to countless food stalls and games. There was even a shrine to pray/wish at, and receive your omikuji (fortune slip)!

It was a very family oriented event, and there were mainly Japanese families attending. I was really overwhelmed to hear all the Japanese around me, it felt as if I’d gone to Japan almost. I could understand it mostly, but when I was waiting in line, a lady came up to me and asked me if I was waiting for the line, in Japanese of course, and I blanked out immediately and just kept stuttering. I was really embarrassed that my Japanese wasn’t as good as it was in class. I want to work harder to be able to respond more readily and engage in conversation easier. Coming to this event really helped me think about my future as a translator, and kind of scared me a little, as I thought that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but of course I want to continue, so I’ll try my best again next year.

The one time I did use my Japanese well, or responded easily, was when I was playing karuta with Kenny, Luis, Maria, and two girls who were at the celebration. One of the girls was only six, but spoke mostly Japanese to the girl who was teaching us how to play. I wanted to get pictures for the blog, so I asked the older girl if it was okay in English and she said sure. But then the little girl asked me what I was doing, so I asked if it was okay that I take her picture in Japanese, and she said yes. I was really proud of myself for being able to respond so readily. Although afterwards she asked what the picture was of, and I didn’t understand until the older one answered for me. I think I still have to learn and work on informal questions in that case then!

Overall, from the food, to the games, I really enjoyed karuta the most, even though it was the easy version. I played it multiple times because I really liked it and I won twice! The event was really eye opening for me and really helped put a perspective on things for me, and I want to come back again next year.

Kemushi-chan (Loretta)

By Alexx Thompson

When I saw Sally had posted a Kemushi-Chan (Loretta) video in our Facebook group, I was beyond excited. She is one of my favorite YouTubers to watch for foreigners experiencing Japanese culture, and I’ve been watching her for years. I really like her drive and how motivated she is, and I can relate to her a lot. We both started learning Japanese when we were around high school, but she is obviously really good now. The entire video she did was her speaking in Japanese, minus a few sentences in English for an example. I was really blown away and she’s been one of the reasons I want to become a translator and I want to be able to speak as well as she does. Check it out for yourself:

The video Sally posted was about Loretta explaining how in Japan the voices the store workers use to welcome people is very interesting. It’s kind of a loud nasally sound and they say “irasshaimase!,” but then she goes on to say it’s not their real voice, and normally they don’t speak that nasally. She was really surprised at first when she saw and she wondered why they didn’t just speak normally. I thought it was extremely interesting and I really wanted to know how it developed into what it is today! She then compared it to America in that when we go to a store, usually store clerks have a “customer voice,” if you will, and I thought that maybe it really wasn’t that different after all. Especially since I’ve noticed that the worker voice is higher pitched while talking to customers, kind of like a robot, or a set of lines. So even though it is shocking at first, it’s still kind of similar!

Sharing appreciation

Before winter break, we asked students to take time to express appreciation or recognize the accomplishments of one or two of their Japanese Plus classmates. The results:

Angel: Asa, thanks for always having a smile on your face. It’s really nice talking to you. You make the learning environment brighter.

Maria: I like how Angel tries hard and takes lead of our group. I also appreciate how both Carlos and Luis did the performance the other day alone.

Cyrus: I like hearing Alexx and Theo’s Japanese, because it sounds close to what I’ve heard in media.

Asa: I’m thankful for the encouragement of Lucca for helping me practice and also Che for being the person to help lighten the mood and make me laugh.

Chetachukwu: Carlos is a nice and funny person. It is really helpful and helps me grow educationally. Asa is a funny soul and I like her skirts.

Alexx: I’d like to thank Che for always being on point. She did a lot for our group and was really responsible. I’m glad I have her in my group. I’m also thankful for Gabe who always works really hard. He inspires me to push myself even harder.

Gabe: Jonah, keeping the class always positive and giving heartfelt thanks to visitors. Alexx, for helping a ton in my group, especially during the skit.

Jazmin: I would like to thank Theo and Elena for helping me a lot when learning my katakana. They always make me laugh, and I’m glad to have them in my group.

Katie: I’m really happy that Asa is here with me since she told me about this program and that she’s been with me this whole entire time, even if I am annoying to her. I’m also really happy that Jazmin is here since I can ask her about Japan since she has been there and that she is someone I know who can be there for me.

Jonah: Carlos is very optimistic and a good friend always willing to help. Kenny seems to always want to learn and never bummed and is fun.

Arjernae: I’m proud of Alayshia for being dedicated and not quitting even with people telling her to. I’m proud of Cyrus because he’s one of the few people I see and he acknowledges me when I come to class. Also he’s becoming more open and not as shy as he was in the beginning.

Theo: Jazmin is a very hard worker and I really respect her drive. Alexx has a strong grasp on the language and I find her very impressive in general.

What are you most proud of?

Before winter break, we asked our Japanese Plus students to reflect on their time in the program so far, and to share what they felt most proud of. Here are they answers:

Angel: I’m proud of the onigiri that I made and improving in katakana.

Maria: I am most proud of the self-introductions we have learned.

Cyrus: I guess just being able to talk to new people and not be a complete mess.

Asa: I’m most proud of me mastering katakana but mostly gaining more courage to speak out and meet new people.

Che: The fact that I memorized all my katakana. I know most of my combinations.

Alexx: I’m most proud of my speaking abilities in terms of public speaking. I’m not very good at speaking loud and clear, so I’ve been really happy with how far I’ve come.

Gabe: I went from knowing one Japanese word to being able to introduce myself and knowing katakana.

Jazmin: I’m most proud of my speaking skills, because I’ve improved a lot since the last time Eshita sensei taught me some phrases when I was in “Japan in DC.”

Katie: I’m really proud that we finished learning katakana and mastering it. I really thought it would take a long time to learn.

Jonah: Learning katakana and meeting with new people.

Arjernae: Learning basic Japanese is what I am most proud of (katakana, introduction, writing).

Theo: Probably the feeling of mastery over a different alphabetical system to the point that I recognize meaning relatively quickly.

Samurai Cooking! . . . Makes Me Hungry

By Alexx Thompson

On November 11th J-LIVE was held at George Washington University, and my classmates and I went to go see it. I stayed the entire time and the competition was really interesting. It’s a Japanese speaking presentation contest between college students. I studied outside of our class, but even still I couldn’t understand a lot of what was said. I only really understood the general idea of it. But nonetheless, I was still really interested and I hope to one day be able to speak as well as the contestants.

After the competition ended and the results were announced, they had a small movie showing. The movie was called A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story. It was a really interesting movie mainly revolving around the story of a samurai (Yasunobu) who was the son of a kitchen samurai (similar to what we’d call a cook or a chef), and his wife. His wife, Haru, was a really good cook and she was asked to marry him so he can become a better cook.

I was really interested, because the movie displayed the  gender roles in that era of Japan. Haru was considered undesirable, because she’d been married before and divorced and I found that interesting. I also found the succession of family roles intriguing, because in the movie Yasunobu has to succeed his father as kitchen samurai. Not a major spoiler but another character, Sayo, is the daughter of a dojo owner. But unlike Haru, whoever marries her will succeed her father, since she’s the only daughter and therefore she doesn’t have to move into her husband’s house.

Overall I found the movie really interesting and I even showed it to my family over Thanksgiving break. I really liked Haru’s character and how Yasunobu changed over the course of the movie. It really showed how much Japan values food and cooking. And how much they pay attention to detail when preparing the food. If you have the chance, please watch A Tale of Samurai Cooking: A True Love Story.

Our First Visitor

By Alexx Thompson

We had our first guest speaker! I was really curious as to what he’d be like. At first I thought he might’ve been a student, but no! He’s a teacher. He introduced himself as Simon and told us to call him Si! In class we learned honorifics recently, so I think it’s polite to call him Si-san. Or maybe Si-sensei, since he is also going to be helping us with Japanese!

He told us that he started studying Japanese in middle school and I was really moved. I also connected with that due to the fact I started studying Japanese in middle school too! Sometimes I would hear him talking to Eshita-sensei and I thought, wow! This guy is really good! I want to be as good as him. When he started telling us about how he got a job through a company in Japan, I was really interested. He said the program made sure that the businesses that employees worked at had to pay them and make sure they had living accommodations. I want to ask him how he found that company!

I really liked him and thought he was a really fun guy! I hope he comes back more. I think he was amazing as our first guest speaker and I’d like him to come again. I really liked listening to his story. I was also surprised that he came back. Living in Japan is my dream but when he said he didn’t know if he wanted to be there until he retired really made me think. Maybe I should rethink my goals and don’t rush towards my goal, because maybe I’ll end up becoming unhappy later on.

Having a guest speaker really made me think that class was finally getting into swing. It made me feel like I’m diving into the real world. I really look forward to what he’ll help us with! His Japanese skill makes me really want to practice with him. He told us in order to stay passionate about learning Japanese we had to find something we were passionate about other than things like manga and anime. The first thought that came to mind was history, and then later fashion. But I love history and think it’s super interesting. I sometimes devote hours to researching random facts about history that I won’t even use for anything, I just think they’re really cool to read about.

I really like having guest speakers come in because I think it’s super interesting. I love hearing about other people’s stories! I’m really excited to see who comes in next so I can learn from them as well. There’s lots of joy, for me, finding out new things and opportunities. I’m looking forward to the next guest and the fun experiences to come soon! Like we learned in class, I’ll say see you later for now. Jyaa ne!