Wowed by Mochi

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

During the Opening Ceremony of the Cherry Blossom Festival, I was able to see this new kind of performer, who went by the name Mochi. Mochi is a performer who uses a Chinese Yo-Yo but is also known as a Diabolo, but often has a digital display behind him to enhance his performance. When going into it I was not expecting much, as this was a toy I played with as a kid, but this performer made magic with this “toy” and I was very thrilled through his entire performance. There are many things he did with the Chinese Yo-Yo to wow many people like myself, but that would be hard to put into words. His performance definitely pulled the highest level of excitement and thrill through all the people in the audience with all the tosses and flings. Mochi’s expertise was quite evident with how he handled the Chinese Yo-Yo. We can tell his dedication to this field of entertainment.

Mochi was an amazing performer and deserved all the applause he got that night and more. He was phenomenal.

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.

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.

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.

J-Live

By Jonah Nguyen-Conyers

George Washington University held the annual J-Live event which other Japanese Plus classmates and I attended. J-Live is a Japanese language competition for college students, where contestants would make their own presentation on a topic of choice and then share it to an audience all in Japanese. There are also categories for contestants as not all are at the same Japanese proficiency level. This event allowed me to talk and listen to so many people in Japanese and in English, allowing me to be more aware of what opportunities lie ahead if I keep on learning Japanese. Even though there were only a very few things I could understand with the one and a half months of Japanese under my belt, I still had a blast!

This event ingrained hope into the language that I already loved and set more goals that I wish to reach. I have never attended an event like this before, and it was really an eye-opening experience being able to see the connections being made and the fruits of those who are studying Japanese for a while. J-Live allowed me to see a new barrier broken with the wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities present at this event, and really allowed me to know what Japanese can do to connect people and be the bridge to create a more united world.