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.