Jumping into Japanese


Our SY2022-23 Japanese Plus program has begun, and that means intense Japanese classes twice a week. Here are some quick reflections from some of our students about starting out to learn one of the world’s most challenging languages.

Kayla:

So my name is Kayla and I joined my Japanese class almost a month ago and it has been one of the best things I’ve done for myself. Learning Japanese has expanded my intelligence. I don’t only know Spanish but I also am learning Japanese and as a young black lady that is wonderful and my family is very proud. Something that I really like about this class is the diversity. There are many different people trying to learn a new culture and language, that is very beautiful to me. I will continue my classes and I hope to learn so much more with my wonderful teachers and classmates.

Jahshawn:

I’m a little bit worried about keeping notes and keeping the knowledge I learned in each class in my head. The three alphabets also scare me a bit, especially because of the chance I’ll feel overwhelmed. I’m honestly scared of feeling overwhelmed and falling behind, but I’m excited to see all the amazing things we’ll do in this program, and the amazing and unique people I’ll eventually meet.

Margarita:

With Japanese classes I am surprised on how much we are learning so far. I feel that when we interact with the teachers and other classmates we learn more which I also find very fun. I like it when we talk to each other, because it makes us all feel closer as friends and/or a community. It’s also fun to see other people learn with you.

Chamiya:

Since I have started learning Japanese 2 years ago, the beginning lessons are reviews for me. I know the hiragana and katakana alphabet and a few phrases. But, there are still a few phrases that I have learned. For example, “Anoo, onamae-wa?” which means what is your name. I am really excited for future classes for this 2 year program.

Aaron:

I’ve been enjoying the classes so far. I feel like I’ve been keeping up well. I find it interesting how everyone is referred to a different way, depending on your relationship with the person. For example, you would always call your teacher sensei even when you leave school.

Thalia:

I think learning Japanese will help me grow – to try new things. So far I’ve had a nice experience. I’ve met people who have the same interest as me. I think the lessons are just right and if I practice and study, it can really help me.

Penelope:

I’m really enjoying Japanese Plus so far. I’ve studied Japanese before, but never in person, and I find that I’m learning new vocabulary much faster this way. One thing I find challenging is knowing when to use each level of formality, for example  おはよう versus  おはようございます. I’m looking forward to learning more during the next two years.

Seeking a part-time Japanese teacher for our SY2022-23 Japanese Plus program

Now that pandemic restrictions appear to be mostly behind us (we hope), we couldn’t be more thrilled to be making plans now – finally – to fully resume our Japanese Plus program for DC students in September 2022!

Japanese Plus is our innovative free afterschool Japanese language, culture, and career exposure program for DC public high school students citywide. Review this page, the student blog, and the full www.japaneseplus.org website for more information about the Japanese Plus program.

We are now seeking a dynamic new part-time Japanese teacher to co-lead this program. Interested? Download the job announcement here:

We will fill the position as soon as we find the right candidate. Please share this announcement with anyone you think might be interested.

Consider making a real difference in the lives of our DC students. Globalize DC’s programs are among the few opportunities available to them – at no cost – to pursue their avid interest in Japanese language and culture.

Any questions? Contact sally@globalizedc.org.

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.