Archive for November, 2007

Practice Run

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I have no idea how I am expected to pass the Japanese exam which I will be sitting next Sunday. I tried to complete a past paper tonight but I haven’t been taught around 50% of the words that appeared on this. I feel really fed-up as I have spent hours studying the verb and vocabulary lists that I have been given but these don’t seem to bare much resemblance to the verbs and vocabulary that I will be tested on.

I don’t know if I did the right thing when I agreed to do this exam. Part of me likes the idea of having something to work towards but my feelings about the exam are putting me off the language. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not Japanese I hate but rather it’s feeling unprepared for an exam that makes me feel like this.

I’m going to take a break to eat the strawberries dipped in chocolate that Marty bought me as they are bound to improve my mood.

One Year On

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

It’s hard to believe but Marty and I have now been in Japan for one year. I have spent more time travelling than any other year I can remember having been on 34 flights and flying about 89,000 miles. I am struggling with Japanese and I miss my friends and family but it still feels like an adventure.

Fabulous Scrabulous

Monday, November 5th, 2007

I spent a while this weekend playing Scrabble on Facebook. I love how the internet enables me to spend time playing games with my friends. I imagine that it would have been much more difficult to settle in Japan if I my communication options had been limited to phone calls and letters.

I was surprised that I have been playing online with Marty as we have a scrabble board in the game’s cupboard. But playing online means that we can take longer over our moves and we don’t have to set aside a specific time to play the game. We also get to be lazy as the computer is checking the words and adding up the scores for us. I just wish I hadn’t pointed out to him that it is a strategy game as I was doing much better when he thought it was a “make cool words” game. Our current game is really close as he managed to place “mega” on the board giving him a triple word score with “megabytes”. In Marty’s book this means he’s already won the game, as he doesn’t seem overly concerned with conventional rules for winning, as anyone who’s ever played Risk with him could testify.

English: not quite everywhere

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Standing on the train last night I commented on how badly it smelt. I really hate the smell of alcohol seeping out of people’s pores. Marty asked me, when we were walking back to our apartment, if I realised when making that comment that people on the train might have been able to understand me. I was surprised that he asked me this because of course I know that people may be able to understand me when I speak. And I have no problems stating that I find something smelly.

Some linguists reckon that around 1.5 billion people speak English. That’s an estimate based on mother tongue, second language and foreign language speakers. That means that 1 out of every 4 people in the world can speak English well enough to understand when I say that a train carriage is smelly. Of course I am living in a city were English is only known as a foreign language so it won’t be a many as 1 in 4 Japanese who can speak English but I can’t imagine being on a full train carriage in Tokyo where there isn’t someone there who could understand me.

Being a native English speaker I have never had the luxury of thinking that others can’t understand what I am saying. Yes, I have an accent that some find hard to follow but the meaning of what I am saying can usually be picked up by other people who speak English. I have noticed that some people speak in their own language when they want to hide what they are saying. It’s rude to do this but it hasn’t people I know in Holland from saying things in Dutch that they hoped I would not be able to understand.

It’s not that sensible to assume that the people around you can’t understand when you insult them in your native language. I know that my Dad has had a lot of fun listening into Dutch conversations when he is on holiday as the Dutch assume that only other Dutch people can understand them. They hear him speak English and just assume that it’s the only language he knows. Not clever.

So Marty, your wife who is currently studying the English Language and who was reading David Crystal’s “The English Language: a guided tour of the language” when you met her last night is indeed aware that lots of people in the world can speak English.

Studying for Japanese Exam

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Yesterday I received confirmation of the Japanese exam I will be taking on the 2nd December.  I have spent most of today trying to learn new vocabulary.  I realised yesterday that the grammatical constructs I am currently being taught are not hard and the reason I was having difficulty putting sentences together was that I didn’t know enough verbs or adjectives.   I have a month to make sure I know the 700 or so words that could appear on the exam.