Japanese reflections on a visit with Hokusai

On Saturday, February 8th, our Japanese Plus group had a special day outside the classroom. First we went to the Freer Gallery of Art to visit the very special exhibit, “Hokusai: Mad About Painting.” We are so grateful (again) to good friend of the program, Robin Berrington, who was our extremely knowledgeable and interactive docent. Then we walked across the Mall and into Chinatown – we were only allowed to speak Japanese the whole time! Last stop was the National Portrait Gallery, where we stopped by a painting by Japanese American artist, Roger Shimomura. Then Eshita-sensei asked students to write about their day – again, in Japanese. A fun challenge!

Cyrus サイラス

今日クラスでフリアーサックラーにいきました。 フリアーサックラーはびじゅつかんです。ツアーをしました。北斎のえを見ました。きれいとおもった。ぼくのすきな北斎のえは「Storm Personified」です。らいじんとしんとうがすきですから、おもしろかった。

Aeris エリス

フリアーサックラーにいきました。ロビンさんは私達のガイドでした。ツアーはとてもおもしろかったです。北斎のえはかんぺきでした、たしかに北斎はよくがんばったとおもいました。びじゅつ学校に入っていますから、本当にたのしかった。ロビンさんはとてもじょうずなガイドでした。私の一ばん好きなえはおしょうがつの女シリーズでした。スタイルはじょうひんだとおもいました。もう一回見に行きたいです!:D

Theo シオ

フリアーでとあるひとのれきしをみました。ツアーのあいだにほくさいさんのえはかわって、もっとうつくしくなりました。あのさいごのえはわたしのいきをとりました。あのいろとかげがとってもすばらしかった。

ツアーもすばらしかった。そしてロビンさんはちしきがありすぎました。ロビンさんからいろいろならえました。そして、わたしはたぶんひとりでもっとべんきょうします。つまり、たのしかったです。もういちどいきたい。

Jonah ジョナ

ほくさいはほんとうにゆうめいです。私の一ばんすきなえはらいじんです。ロビンはいいガイドです。ぜんぶのほくさいのえは、かっこいいです。

Jazmin ジャズミン

ふじがすきです。

みずがいちばんすきです。

ほくさいのまんががすきです。でも今のまんがはわかりません。

Katie ケーティー

ほくさいはおもしろいです。Gazing into the Distanceがいちばんすきです。ふじと男の子があります。きれいでくろいです。

Lucca ルカ

大きいびじゅつかんにいきました。このびじゅつかんはオバマのえがあります。私は2018ねんにみました。すごいですよ。日本のえもあります。日系アメリカ人がかきました。すごいけど、かなしいです。

みんなは三十分ぐらい日本ごではなしてみました。今日はさむかったですから、たくさんの人はコートをきました。でもジョナくんはコートがありません。みんなはほんとうの木をみました。この木はすごく大きいです。びじゅつかんのえもぐこし大きいです。そして、きれいでうつくしいですよ。

みんなはほくさいのびじゅつかんにいきました。ほくさいは日本のゆうめいながかです。ほくさいのえはほんとうにすごいですよ。そしてとてもちがいます。

 

Hiragana

By Jazmin Angel-Guzman

It’s the time of year where we switched alphabet gears and moved on to Hiragana. Hiragana is the Japanese writing system for non-foreign words. As a class, we have mastered Katakana, the Japanese writing system for foreign loan words. Since we learned Katakana first, which is written with straight lines and is more angular, learning Hiragana now is a little bit more difficult for me. The reason being is that the Hiragana alphabet is more curvy, not really straight, and some of the characters look like Katakana characters which sometimes can be tricky to differentiate. For example, the Katakana character for “se” is セ but the Hiragana character for it is せ.

The ways that help me learn Hiragana is through quizlet, because it allows me to review the characters and it helps me get familiar with them. Another thing that helps me learn Hiragana is the amazing packet my Japanese teacher, Eshita Sensei, provides for us. Not only does it have a whole table of all of the Hiragana characters, but also it has sentences and exceptions within the Hiragana alphabet system that should be taken into consideration. I need to use more of my Katakana and Hiragana pink book as a resource, because I’m not exploiting its use. The book is called Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners by Timothy G. Stout. Hopefully, I’m really looking forward to mastering Hiragana as well, if I study more and practice writing them. But again, it is all about the process of learning it!

Learning Hiragana


By Kenny Nguyen

After mastering Katakana, one of the three writing systems Japan uses along with Hiragana and Kanji, we jumped straight into learning Hiragana. At first I was struggling with memorizing the characters, because I was still used to the Katakana characters, and Hiragana seems to have a lot of characters that resembles each other. For example A (あ) O (お) Wa (わ) are just examples of some of the characters that resembles each other. But thankfully, Sally and Eshita-sensei provided us with a Hiragana and Katakana book that provided us with extra practice writing Hiragana and Katakana at home. Along with a quizlet that my fellow classmate, Lucca Bey, created, so that we can have an extra way of studying.

Once we master Hiragana and Katakana, there is going to be a karuta competition on March 3rd which hopefully I will be able to attend once I have memorized the new Hiragana characters. Another advantage of mastering Hiragana is that we will finally be able to write and read anything in Japanese, since Katakana are used to represent loanwords and Hiragana for everything else. So I am very excited to master both Katakana and Hiragana, even though it is very challenging. If you ever decide to learn these writing systems, I would recommend writing the characters over and over so that you can get the feel of doing the strokes and your hand will get used to it. But also after mastering hiragana, we will move into Kanji, which I am very excited for. But in the meantime, I will continue to practice my Katakana and Hiragana.

New Alphabet: Hiragana

By Maria Garcia

Lately in class we have been busy, but what else is new? Every day we learn something, and well after our midterm, a break was needed. I love the class and the energy from my new group. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we have new groups!) This group is funny and stays on track with everything, so getting work done won’t be difficult. Either way, a couple of classes ago, we started this new alphabet called Hiragana.

Hiragana is composed of forty-six characters, just like in katakana. The only difference would be in the appearance of the characters, and when they are used. From my understandings, it is used as particles in the typical sentence structure. Katakana is used to make foreign words legible for Japanese people, while Hiragana is used as the standard form of writing system. Children first learn Hiragana and then move on to Katakana and Kanji. Unlike Katakana, I think this alphabet will be a little more difficult for me to grasp. Hiragana is commonly used with kanji to make words. Studying will be crucial if I want to stay on track with the program and my new group. But it will be fun learning alongside new people and friends.

Hiragana

By Angel Njoku

Recently, we took our mastery test for hiragana and I didn’t pass it the first time but I will try my best to pass when I take it again. I can honestly say that learning katakana was easier for me than hiragana. Hiragana is harder for me, because I can easily get confused with some of the symbols and, unlike others, I don’t really learn exactly from sound like say ka ki ku ke ko, but instead I learn it by the order that I put it in. I feel like katakana was easier for me, because it was the first system we learned, but mostly because the characters aren’t similar to each other so I didn’t get confused a lot.

Hiragana, for me, takes more studying, because now I can say that I studied more hiragana than I studied for katakana. I feel like learning both systems in the language is fun, but it can be hard at times, especially when there are things that I don’t understand. The harder things for me would also be writing out the romanji of the hiragana, because I can easily confuse characters, but there are some characters that I don’t know enough.

Katakana vs. Hiragana

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

In my Japanese Plus class, I was able to learn both of the alphabets that would allow me to read and decipher a lot of words I was not able to before. However learning katakana was easier than hiragana. When I was first placed in this Japanese class, I would be studying katakana, the alphabet that would be used for English loan words. Learning this first alphabet was easier than anticipated, probably because I was able to find a way to memorize in my own manner that allowed me to efficiently store the characters in my head. Also there was no knowledge of Japanese characters in my head that would confuse me, like when I was studying hiragana.

When it came to learning hiragana it proved to be a more difficult task than I expected, as hiragana was quite easy. However, we were taught in a different manner than before which made it harder for me to study and try to retain the information being shared in class. This first method of teaching that I learned to study with was going in alphabetical order, and when we did not do the same for hiragana, but rather went into it by learning of the more important characters first, this would pose difficulty for my already established study method. Also having the katakana characters in my head made things harder, as I would often confuse the characters from that alphabet with the ones I saw in hiragana. I did not really have a proper approach to study hiragana, and so a lot of the time it fell to the wayside and did not get done, and this would make my process of learning hiragana a lot harder than I expected.

Recognizing the difference helped me progress in hiragana learning, and I currently know all of the characters that are in both hiragana and katakana.

Learning Katakana

By Arjernae Miller

When I first saw Japanese letters, I felt like a newborn baby with a crowd full of adult faces surrounding me blubbering nonsense. I knew absolutely nothing about the characters, I had nothing to compare it to, I was stuck seeing unknown symbols float off of the paper.

Unlike some of the other students in my class, I have never attempted to learn Japanese language nor have I taken Chinese. My reasoning behind mentioning Chinese is because in my class I tend to notice that some of my peers have better progress with the Japanese writing portion of the class due to the Chinese courses they have previously taken during their years in school.

I’d spend time in class writing the lettering over and over just to have a nearly terrible grade on the quiz. I literally laughed at my score the first time I saw it, because I never had a score so low before, due to the overachiever that is built into me. In fact, I didn’t think it was possible to have so many emotions in one sitting.

The next big test I had I scored a 100%.

I spent the previous night rewriting the lettering over and over nonstop. Then the next morning on my way to class I was literally on the train studying on my way to class.

The best way to learn katakana, in my opinion, is to take Senpai Chi’s advice and write it EVERYWHERE. Your teacher’s whiteboard will be your new best friend. Along with every piece of paper you find, even scrap paper, I surely became a big recycler of paper while learning Katakana. I struggled with memory a lot, so to refute this I used the method of studying every other day or every three days, a method I learned in my Psychology class which I found to be successful. Katakana filled the pages of my notebook, front and back.

Now to fully master Katakana I try writing words in my notebook. I write small words such as cake, bin, as well as my name. After that, I hope to move on to phrases and sentences. I find that the best way to learn something is to immerse it in your everyday life, that way it will become a norm in your everyday life. Like speaking English and singing a song.

Japanese in my life

By Chetachukwu Obiwuma

There are small things here and there that are truly needed when learning a language. One of them is immersion. There needs to be a healthy amount of the language included in your life. One of the ways I do that is through anime. Of course, there are differences when it comes to anime and Japanese in real life, but when you recognize a phrase that a character used or read a sign in katakana, there is a sense of pride. It’s not very large but it makes learning more worth it. To see it being applied in your reality, and for you to understand it, shows great progress and allows for you to feel more motivated to learn more.

Chinese and Japanese

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

For as long as I can remember, learning Chinese has been a great love of mine. My involvement with Mandarin and Chinese culture has afforded me opportunities to explore more of the world. My Mandarin Chinese language journey helped me discover the enjoyment of learning a foreign language and the appreciation of the benefits of being able to converse in a language shared by 1.3 billion people. When I was first introduced to Chinese in the 1st grade, it was extremely difficult in the early years. Despite the initial hardship of learning such a complicated language, I was motivated to continue my studies out of a sincere desire to connect with people from the other side of the world in their own language!

The years devoted to learning Chinese really helped me find my love for languages and cultures, and would ultimately lead me to embrace the Japanese language and culture. As I have grown up with the skills to learn difficult languages, I find that my Japanese class has been easier than my Chinese classes. Each and every time I go to Japanese class, I am excited and ready to learn, knowing that I am building the language skills needed to connect to a whole nation of people who speak Japanese.

Although Japanese and Chinese are completely unique languages, there are some important similarities between the two that make studying a completely new language like Japanese a lot more manageable. Both languages rely on the memorizations of many characters, a skill that I have developed from my background in Chinese. The use of Kanji characters or Chinese characters would give me a head start, and provide me the opportunity to bridge my previous language knowledge with a new language that I embrace with eagerness. What I’ve learned about these Kanji characters are that they are written the same and have the same meaning most of the time, however are spoken differently to fit alongside the other alphabet pronunciation. I was intimidated with the nearly hundred characters that I would have to remember. It seemed intimidating as I knew that English only has twenty-six letters and, therefore, estimated it would be four times harder than English. Chinese gave me the ability to memorize characters and that skill really helped me in more ways than I had not anticipated.

My Japanese Plus class is taught in a different manner than what I am used to. The classroom environment seems more friendly and less pressure-filled than my Chinese classes. At Yu Ying and DCI, the Chinese language is taught in an immersion model where they exclusively speak only Chinese. Because my Japanese class is not conducted in an immersion model, my Japanese class environment is allowing the students to learn in a more stress-free manner as the teacher makes sure that studies are not so intensive and uses both English and Japanese in classroom instruction. Learning Japanese this way makes it more accessible and allows the students to build up their foundational language basics so that we can progress together as a class.

Skit Preparation

By Theo Greiff

On December 12th, our class will be holding an open house to display the Japanese we’ve learned in the last month. During this open house, each group will perform a skit in which they must demonstrate all the Japanese they have been taught. Preparations have, of course, already begun.

As of now, my group and I have started on our script, been given feedback, applied said feedback, and are beginning memorization. The process has been amusing to me as, though we have learned a good amount, most of what we know is phrases which limits what we can do. To fix this, small amounts of English are allowed and Eshita-sensei has offered to provide us certain words. Overall, being someone with some experience in other languages, I am pleasantly surprised at how quickly the class has moved on to such a large assignment and am eager to see how it turns out.