Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Infrequent Updates

I'm not sure what it is, but I just don't fell like blogging these days. Even when I find myself with free time, it is difficult to sit down and do anything like this. And the more time that goes by, the more I have to try and pack everything into one entry -- or at least remember the notable things that have happened since last writing.

The photos are coming, as soon as I can find the time to work out how to get them from my phone to my computer at home.

School is school, and sitting in the office hasn't changed. I am still studying Japanese and living each day as per normal. Everyone is gearing up for Christmas and this month has gone pretty fast. Just over a month and we will be in the next decade. Contemplate that for a minute.

Mika and I went for a walk yesterday, and I kept coming back to the issue of learning Japanese. It has been a real struggle for me to motivate myself to actually study effectively or consistently. Renshuu.org has been a great help, as it is an interesting way to see what I remember. The way it is set up, where it tracks your review progress, is interesting enough to keep me coming back regularly.

Reviewing vocab -- the English meaning, kanji characters and pronunciation -- is about the highlight of my Japanese study. Sure, I delve into whichever chapter I am currently studying, from time to time; but I just feel as if I am not getting anywhere. It's been an uphill struggle the entire time since I began studying 14 months ago (from September last year, when my first JET-based study book arrived).

Part of me really wants to improve and be able to have a conversation in Japanese, if not be able to read and speak to people to improve more and more as I absorb more of the language. But the difficulty of it all, and having to read things over and over, only to not have them make sense or see how to utilise them, or even remember how they should be used or what they mean, has dissuaded me from getting enthusiastic enough about learning the language to really make good progression.

Things just do not make sense. The whole structure of it is so alien and the thinking behind how to say things doesn't even make sense to me. But I will keep trying and keep slowly making my way through my textbook, and keep coming back to review words and their kanji and what they mean.

I don't do enough speaking or listening practice. I think that's pretty obvious. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I don't ever see the opportunity to. Japanese TV? It's really boring and pointless. What they show on TV doesn't interest me. It all seems so foreign and uninteresting and doesn't make sense at all.

Speaking to people? I try to do this, but if they ever respond -- which of course is a pretty normal thing to do -- my brain freezes as I struggle to pick out the words that I know. And even recognising words doesn't really help, as I don't know the form, the tense, or the context within which they are being used. Not to mention that I have absolutely nothing to say to people to begin a conversation -- and blurting out random sentences from a textbook would only make people think I've lost my mind, I think.

That said, there have been the occasional times when I've been able to involve people in what I am struggling to grasp. And I do ask people -- especially JTEs at the junior high schools I teach at -- to explain things to me, or to check my attempts at Japanese sentences, or even to just try and elicit a response from them so that I can better understand what it is that I'm learning and practising and trying to embed into the language centre of my brain.

It's not all negative. I don't want this to be a gripe post about the near impossibility of learning the Japanese language. Perhaps I am just not happy with how seldom I tend to practise speaking and/or listening to the language. When you live in a country where the language is different to your own, you are supposed to have more opportunity to learn the language. But that just hasn't been the case here. After 15 months, there is so much beginner stuff that I just don't know, and it is frustrating week after week to not make any progress, or to make progress and then realise that I've forgotten what I should have learned, or don't fully understand it.

There was a festival in Nakamura from Sunday. Why it wasn't happening on Saturday didn't really make sense to us, but we found out that it hadn't started when we went into the city then. It was nice to go over and do some shopping, though.

Yesterday was a public holiday. We just stayed at home while Eddi's grandparents took her over to the festival. It was simply a lazy day for us. I even baked cookies from some cookie dough I had made the previous day. :)

So we have a four day week, I don't have Taisho chuugakkou today because Kitazoe-sensei is away, and I don't have any school on Friday. It's a good week!

Well, back to my headache-inducing studies / internet browsing. ;)



Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Christmas is Coming

It's been a struggle to submit regular entries here. I don't want this blog to turn into simply a reflection of my diary, but to keep it relevant to my experiences in Japan. Perhaps being married to a Japanese national and somewhat settling down has desensitised me to the wonder that Japan once held. Or maybe I've just become complacent and haven't put in the effort that I should have.

I've wanted to put up a set of photos for quite a while, but wasn't able to find my micro-SD reader. After church on Sunday, I bought a new micro-SD card that came with a reader, but upon inserting my cellphone's card into my laptop, it wasn't able to read it. Go figure. So, I'm still working on getting the photos from my cellphone to the computer so that they can in turn be put up here. Whew.

I had a flu shot yesterday. It meant I had to drive through the pouring rain, to and from K-town. The hospital was very busy and there were no parks. So I prayed, drove around again, went down to the end of the carpark and took the single, last one that God had provided for me. So you see, he always comes through when we need little things like that!

Mika baked an apple pie on Monday night. Half of it is gone already (although one quarter went with Eddi to her kindergarten), and we should be able to finish it off tonight when we go to Mika's parents' for dinner. Her mum has been at her grandma's for the last week or so, looking after the old lady. We have had Mika's dad around for dinner once, and so tonight it is our turn to go there and eat with him.

The flu is going around -- or at least, that is the fear that many people have. They are so serious about health and getting sick here that I wonder how much of it can be attributed to this overshadowing fear of getting sick and passing sickness onto others. On Monday at shougakkou (primary school), every single person -- teachers and students alike -- was wearing one of those face masks. And apparently there were ten students away sick that day.

Some classes have been cancelled this month. We were supposed to have an upcoming class on the 18th where a whole lot of teachers would come to observe the proceedings, but that has been cancelled. A couple of junior high days have had their classes cancelled, but this is mostly due to JTE activities, not sickness. Still, there have been some complete school cancellations because of the influenza that is "going around" right now -- such as this coming Friday, which I will now spend in the office twiddli- erm, taking care of important documents.

There was a festival in K-town on Sunday. So after buying my new micro-SD, we checked it out. It wasn't that impressive, but there was a whole lot of shiny farm equipment (should have taken pictures, doh!), the meat-on-a-stick was yummy (o)()(o) and they had a huge bingo game. We had four cards but only got a couple of "reaches" (one square short of bingo). Seems that I have no problem with Japanese numbers. ;)

Christmas is coming up. We went into K-city on Saturday to do some shopping. It was a very long, tiring ordeal, but we all got new clothes and it was fun looking at Christmas stuff. The atmosphere is definitely festive, and Christmas is taking on more of a tangible presence here. It will be a great opportunity for me to share with the kids at school about why we celebrate Christmas. Any opportunity to tell them about Jesus should be snatched up without restraint!

Move over Santa, Jesus is King and he's the Real Thing.

My Japanese study is going well. I may not see much progress, but I know that one day I will be fluent enough to improve exponentially, as I listen, speak, read and write regularly. As I continue to struggle through each thing to learn, it's encouraging to know that somewhere down the track, something will click and the things I have learned will begin to make sense and will take shape in my mind. So far, very little makes sense and remembering words and structure has been very, very difficult. But I will speak it one day, and knowing that is what keeps me going!

Renshuu.org is a great Japanese study review website. Even though I haven't specifically studied for the JLPT level 4, I have included the entire thing in my review schedule. This way, as I encounter words that I am unfamiliar with, either from a meaning perspective or even kanji pronunciation, I will eventually get to know everything. Also, as I continue to progress through my Genki I textbook, I can add the chapters to my schedule as well. So far, I have studied up to chapter 8, which I am working through when the mood strikes (ie. when I have free periods at school).

My aim is to finish Genki I and to get through all of Genki II -- or at least its equivalent -- by the time the JLPT rolls around in June next year. I may not make it that far, but I still intend to sit the level 3 during the next JLPT intake, prepared or not.

Today, I will no doubt continue both study and vocabulary practice. I don't make many opportunities to flex my conversation skills, but this is mostly due to not being able to think of anything to say. It's not a fear of getting things wrong, as I do that all the time in writing. It's being unable to express myself adequately, and not understanding what people say to me whenever I have to use Japanese. But I try!