How far we’ve come

By Lucca Bey

As the school year’s close is fast approaching, so does a period of reflection. With our final presentation for our Japanese I class closing in, it’s crazy to look back on how much progress we’ve made as a class so far. We learned over 90 different Japanese characters, excluding Kanji, learned over 120 different vocabulary words, and too many cultural aspects than I can count.

While we still are in the beginning of our Japanese journey, it’s important to look back on how far we’ve come in just a year. Whenever you study a language you begin to recognize it in places in your everyday life more than you thought could actually be possible. It truly gives you an entirely different perspective on little tidbits on the world around you. The connections that can be made from the basics of Japanese that we already know is amazing.

For example, just the other day I was browsing twitter and saw a post with Japanese. Now while no one in our class is completely fluent (yet), I wanted to give it a go. I didn’t go into the post expecting to understand any of it, yet surprisingly enough, I did! Well, kind of.

One doesn’t become fluent in a day, but the post had so many of some of the basics we learned in class, and some words I picked up along the way. Before I start droning on, as I tend to do, I’ll cut to the chase. The post was about a girl who was studying art, and how she had progressed from her first year to her third year. While I can’t say “progress” in Japanese, I do know the words “study,” “art,” general number counters, and how to say “year,” so all I needed to do was some light guess work to fill in the blanks!

It was a pleasant surprise that really made me reflect on how much we’ve managed to learn in such a short period of time, and I’m excited to show that off during our Capstone project on the 29th!

Beyond The Wall

By Lucca Bey

Recently, through Japanese Plus, I got an amazing opportunity to see the opportunities that learning a different language can bring someone. We attended a community screening of the documentary, Beyond the Wall, at Roosevelt Senior High School. The film is about a group of kids learning Chinese who got to experience Chinese Culture and a language immersion environment firsthand.

In truth, I wasn’t terribly excited to sit in a theatre for an hour, watching a film after a school day and lessons, but it turned out to be one of the most eye-opening experiences that I’ve had in Japanese Plus. The film was around an hour long, and it was crazy inspiring in my eyes. I’d have to say, some of my favorite parts were that the four main kids inside of the documentary were so open to new experiences, really embodying the concept of a global thinker.

I, myself have been learning Chinese for around 9 years now, and so, understandably, this film struck a chord with me. I saw a lot of some of the things I wanted to go on to do in the kids in the film. They were all high school students, just like us, who sought out language learning activities, which again, made me think of our Japanese Plus class.

This also led me to dwell about the different pathways that learning Japanese will have on my career later on, and how it’ll open many doors in life for just about anything that I choose to pursue. A prime example is the addition of cultures you’re familiar with, people you get to meet, and language specific experiences that you can relate to. Language, as I’ve realized in this class, is intricately tied to culture. You can’t separate one from the other, which is why it’s so very important to learn and understand both.

While it can seem a bit overdramatic to say that the film we watched caused me to have some sort of life changing revelation, seeing other high schoolers my age using language to participate in a foreign culture was definitely key to some of the aforementioned introspective thinking. With the school year unfortunately coming to a close, I’m excited for what else this class has in store.

Chotto

By Lucca Bey

Since the beginning of the 2018 Japanese Plus program, we’ve not only been learning about the Japanese language, but we’ve been learning about the coinciding culture. This is how we came across the Iceberg metaphor. Above the iceberg’s waterline would be aspects of a certain subject, or in this case culture, that are readily visible, and can be seen from basic observation. However, icebergs are much deeper than they initially appear. Aspects of the Japanese culture that cannot simply be seen from observation are labeled ‘below the surface’ information – one of the many overlapping sections of the spoken Japanese language and the ‘below the surface’ Japanese culture.

When we learned about Chotto, the Japanese word that’s directly translated as ‘a little,’ I was surprised and interested at the context in how it was used. Chotto, as I learned, is the super polite Japanese way of denying someone something. One example that Eshita Sensei told us about was, if you were asking if there were any movie tickets left in their theater, and there were not, a ticket booth worker would still say, ‘Chotto,’ despite it not making too much sense in translation.

Simply learning about this word gave me a great introduction and general insight into the culture and value placed on respect in Japan. Typically in America, we would say no, straight out, but finding out how commonplace that Chotto is in Japan really opened my eyes to how much value people place on manners and offering people what they want in Japan. All in all, I’m getting more and more excited to learn about the interconnectedness between the Japanese culture and language, and Chotto was a great introduction to this!

A Wild Ride

By Lucca Bey

The start of Japanese Plus has been a wild but truly exciting ride. When I had first signed up for the program, I genuinely wasn’t expecting to learn what I have so far, even in just the last few weeks. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my peers, as well as Japanese cultural concepts and viewpoints that I wouldn’t typically know or learn outside of this environment. One great example that I can think of was how oddly specific many concepts of the language were. General knowledge that almost everyone knows is that ‘Konnichiwa’ typically means hello. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that this wasn’t the case. Apparently, there’s no general way to say hello, and most greetings are based on the time of day, i.e, Konnichiwa is a greeting used in the afternoon, Konbanwa in the evening, etc. These seemingly insignificant bits of knowledge have genuinely prompted some interesting dialogue within my head lately.

Learning things like this is what makes learning about cultures other than your own interesting. Realizing and comparing these gaps between our American linguistic view and the Japanese cultural view is honestly a key to becoming an internationally minded person. The classroom in general is an extremely welcoming environment. That said, everyone there is there because they want to learn about said nuances and differences between cultures. It enlivens the atmosphere and energy of the classroom, knowing that everyone you know isn’t there out of obligation, but in willingness to learn. In this way, participation in this class is so much more different than I initially expected.

We learn about and implement aspects of Japanese culture in an engaging way in class. We follow the practice of arriving to class on “Japanese time,” which we’ve learned involves being  at class at least five minutes ahead of time, with materials prepared and ready to learn. Every class begins and ends with “Gourei,” which is the practice of one student leading the rest of the class with standing, bowing, greeting the teacher, and sitting down to mark the start and end of class. Getting to participate in these cultural experiences, personally, makes me even more excited to learn more and do more. The perspective, learning opportunities, and environmental opportunities that we gain and experience through Japanese Plus is definitely something that I’m looking forward to seeing more of.