Level Check

I have been trying to find ways to improve my Japanese.  I have lessons twice a week but these are mainly to teach me reading, writing, and grammar.  My conversation skills are terrible and I know I need to find more people to talk to.  I don’t think that private lessons will be that useful for gaining conversation skills so I’ve joined a language school and I start group lessons on Saturday morning.

Before I could sign up for  a class the language school wanted me to take a level check.  I’ve never had a level check before.  As I’m starting a conversation class I imagined it would involve a conversation.  The teacher came into the room, told me her name, looked at a piece of paper, and started to ask questions.  She asked, “Can you eat natto?”.  I looked at her strangely and she asked the question again.  This is not how I expected the conversation to start.  But I answered, “No, I don’t think it tastes good”.  And the teacher sat and looked at me.  I had no idea what she was expecting.  I said in English, “You said, can you eat natto”.  She said in Japanese, “yes, can eat”.  It was then I realised that she wanted me to respond with either “Yes, I can eat natto”, or “No, I can’t eat natto”.

I wasn’t there for a conversation, I was there for a grammar check.  By the time I worked out how I was supposed to be answering questions the check was nearly over.  It didn’t go well.  Not only did I misunderstand about the grammar but I didn’t even have answers to some of the questions in English.  I don’t know what I want for Christmas, I don’t have a favourite type of food, and I can’t explain what I like about Belfast in three simple statements.  I thought it was a conversation.  In a conversation you try to answer truthfully.  In a grammar check you make things up and make sure that you use the correct grammar.  She didn’t want to know what I want for Christmas.  She doesn’t want to be told, “I don’t know” or “I haven’t thought about it yet”.  She just wanted to see if I could say something like, “I want a necklace for Christmas”.  The fact that I really wouldn’t like a necklace isn’t important.  Next time I am having a level check I should really ask which level.

4 Responses to “Level Check”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    That sounds frustrating. I have the same problem with conversation skills, but there isn’t really anything for me here, short of taking expensive group lessons.

  2. Norwin Says:

    The irony here is of course that the answers you’ve used as your examples showed more of a grasp of the language than the standard answers she wanted would have!

  3. karen Says:

    Jessica: Group lessons are expensive. I’m only taking them because I need Japanese to make it easier to live here. If it was something I was learning for personal development I don’t think I would want to spend the money – especially as I already have four hours of private lessons a week.

    Norwin: The whole thing maddened me. I’m also too much of a geek to cope with questions like “Can you eat natto”. Of course I *can* eat it but why would I want to? On the bright side it does mean that I should get to review a lot of material I’m supposed to know in the conversation class. My vocab is weak so this should really help.

  4. Jessica Marie Says:

    That’s the problem; I have two hours of private lessons a month, though I try to do something with it every day. I go through phases where I try to think using French, but it fizzles.