Word Fear

Yesterday’s Japanese class introduced 75 new words.  I know this because I diligently typed them out last night in horror as I watched the list of words I’m supposed to know get longer and longer.  I don’t know how to learn this many new words and if I think too hard about it I panic and don’t believe it is possible. But I do appear to be retaining words.  Much as I dislike having tests on a Friday they are certainly showing me that I am remembering what I have been taught during the week.

The lessons can be boring.  One of my classmates was complaining to me about the speed of the classes as he would like things to move faster.  I wouldn’t.  It is true that it’s tedious listening to 15 people recite in turn the same sentence patterns over and over but this constant repetition does appear to be working.  Things that I used to find very hard in sentences, like selecting the correct particle, are not even things I think about any more.

The classes aren’t completely dull, after all we have a room full of people trying to learn to speak a language.  Between ridiculous role playing and making silly mistakes things can become fun.  My favourite mistake from yesterday was referring to my husband as my prisoner – the joys of lengthening a vowel by mistake.



2 Responses to “Word Fear”

  1. Tod MCQuillin Says:

    I use Anki to drill my vocabulary lists … it really works well. Just enter a card for each word (with english meanings on the “back” or whatever helps you remember).

    The key is to make and use your own cards, not someone else’s deck.

  2. karen Says:

    I should do that. I did try to use anki before but it was with a pre-made deck and I did not feel like it was that useful.

    And since I’m typing up the words every day anyway anki may be a more useful place to put them than in a google doc.

Test Day

Tests make me nervous.  I made a mistake during my test today in my haste to finish the horrible thing and to get rid of the nervous feeling.  I no longer feel nervous, now I just feel stupid.  Getting a question wrong because I don’t know the answer doesn’t bother me in quite the same way as actually knowing the answers and then writing them in the wrong spaces!  Hopefully I still pass.  I did forget how to spell a couple of words in Japanese and I need to come up with a better way to learn these.  I recognise the words when I see or hear them, but I don’t spend a lot of time writing in Japanese.  Typing is much easier as the computer helps by highlighting words if I make a mistake, or I will notice if the correct kanji aren’t available to me.  But typing doesn’t seem to be helping me improve my spelling.

I am getting braver in class.  I argued with my teacher for the first time today.  There was a question on my homework regarding the opening hours of the school, which I answered correctly.  It was marked wrong because the teacher actually wanted information on when I attended school, but that’s not what was asked.  It’s the first time I have tried arguing in Japanese and I wasn’t good at it, but I did get my homework remarked as the teacher did agree that there was nothing in the question about when I attended school and it really did just ask about the building.

I think I’m going to ignore Japanese tomorrow and start to study again on Sunday.

Japanese Study

I’m attempting to work in a coffee shop.  It would be really comfortable if not for the horrendous background music.  It also explains why everyone else who is working by themselves is wearing headphones.  My poor mind is spinning trying to cope with the awful jazz muzak, the announcements from outside the store, and the Herculean task of trying to memorize 100 new Japanese words.  I don’t know much about the etiquette of sitting in the one spot for hours.  I have been watching other people and there are some who have been sitting with one drink for over two hours.  My plan is to buy two drinks over a four hour period and hopefully that will be considered polite.

My hand is sore from trying to write as I am out of practice. When I write in English I have the handwriting of an aspiring doctor.   My Japanese handwriting is actually easier to read but it’s still not as good as it should be.  I have to hand write my Japanese homework, which is a pity as my I type Japanese so much faster than I write it

(I’ve just looked round to see who was wailing but it’s part of the music.  I wish I had developed the skill that allows me to ignore background music but that usually only happens when I’m reading something really interesting.)

So far this week we have been taught more than 100 new words and I worry that I won’t be able to retain those even with the repetition during class.  I’m incredibly impressed by the amount of grammar we have been taught without anyone mentioning the dreaded word.  I thought that not knowing the exact meaning of things would bother me but with so much to learn I don’t have to time to worry about that.  I was reciting a conversation dialogue to Marty today and he asked me how on earth we had been taught a particular complex form of the verb.  I just laughed.  We weren’t taught anything about verb forms, just how to say a particular thing in conversation.

There is going to be a test on Friday of everything we have been taught to date.  I’m not sure how that will go, but it will be interesting to see how much I am retaining.

2 Responses to “Japanese Study”

  1. Shawn Says:

    I don’t think you have to worry about overstaying your welcome at Japanese coffee shops. 🙂

    Best of luck with your study! 100 new words at a time is intense.

  2. karen Says:

    I should stop counting them, and maybe they would scare me less 🙂 I think I might actually be enjoying the classes. I was worried that I would dislike it, but studying with other people is making me feel less stupid – they can both inspire and show me that it’s OK to not understand everything first time.

    I’m thinking of trying to sort out my travel schedule so that I can actually make this 6 months of study and not 3.

Learning Japanese in Japanese

I am just home from my third day of Japanese lessons.  It’s tiring and quite different from any class I have taken before.  All my other teachers spoke English and translated things into English.  But there is no English spoken in these classes.  Not only that, the first rule of the classroom is that you are not allowed to speak English in it.  (It’s Japan, as you can imagine there are lots of classroom rules.)  We were given one page of translated vocabulary at the start so that we would understand the classroom instructions given to us by the teacher, things like “please read” or “please say aloud”.  The textbooks are also only written in Japanese.

I found the concept of no English horrifying at first, but it’s actually quite interesting.  The lessons are incredibly structured as everything has to be built on what you just learnt.  There is a lot of miming and talking about things you can see, the sort of thing you might have to do it you were actually in Japan trying to interact.  Most of my conversations with people in Japan are about the physical world.  You want to buy something or go somewhere or you want to try on a dress.  Normally you don’t have conversations about the structure of a sentence, something that was very important in my previous lessons.  So important that I had to buy books on English grammar to try to work out what was meant when my teacher told me that something was an “indirect object marker” or that the verb was in “causative passive”.  I had to learn more English before I could learn Japanese!

There is no discussion of grammar in my new class as we don’t know the Japanese words to be able to describe that.  I don’t think there ever will be as I really can’t imagine my teacher miming “indirect object” or coming up with examples that make it obvious to the class that that is thing she is talking about.  Instead there are pictures of objects, acted out scenes on DVD, and miming.  We are learning grammar, but we are learning it without having endless discussions about particles and the correct one to use.  Instead there is repetition and conversation.   It’s stressful, as you have to role play and take part, and it is also boring as you hear the same things over and over again.

I was ranting to Marty last night about the conversations and how tired I was of hearing them.  Mind you, I was able to repeat every single one of the dialogues we had been using in class.  You have to concentrate on them as you know that you will be made act them out and you get to hear everyone else in the class do the same thing.  Boring or not I may actually have found a way to improve my ability to speak Japanese.

One Response to “Learning Japanese in Japanese”

  1. Shmuel Fomberg Says:

    which school do you go to?

New Routine

Tomorrow I begin a 3 month intensive Japanese course.  I’m not exactly looking forward to this.  I have thought about doing it before but my travel schedule has made it almost impossible.  This year, however, I have no plans to travel between now and New Year.  It’s been nearly two years since I attended a Japanese class and I have forgotten so much.  I had to attend a test on Saturday morning to determine which class I should enter.  It was not a pleasant experience. The first half was a written test which highlighted just how much I had forgotten.  I could read it, but I could not answer most of the questions.  The speaking part was an exercise in frustration.  Apart from one question I understood everything I was asked but I could barely form a coherent sentence in response.

The next few months are going to be challenging.


4 Responses to “New Routine”

  1. Norwin Says:

    How intense is intensive?

  2. Alan in Belfast Says:

    Best of luck!

  3. karen Says:

    It’s every week day which makes it 50 days of lessons. Every day has a test, every night there is homework, and every Friday there is a bigger test that covers all the work done that week. There are also exams at the end.

    It’s quite tiring. Every lesson is conducted in Japanese and no English is allowed in the classroom.

  4. Norwin Says:

    Yep, that is pretty intense!

YAPC::Asia 2012 - Tokyo

Last week I went to YAPC::Asia in Tokyo. One of the many good things about this conference is the amount of blogging that happens around it, but I have been finding it difficult to think of anything to write. This was the seventh YAPC::Asia that I have attended and the conferences have been incredibly consistent. Having a core group of people who are involved in the conference every year does mean that some things just work. The registration is efficient, the signs are wonderful, and the talk schedule runs like clockwork.

There were a number of things that I really liked. This conference, like the other YAPC conferences, is very cheap to attend. My “two day pass with t-shirt” cost me 5,000 円 (40 GBP, 64 USD). But it was also possible to become an individual sponsor of the conference by buying a ticket that started at 10,000 円 (79 GBP, 127 USD). I think that this is a great way to show support and help with the conference costs. These sponsors also received a special t-shirt and a conference mug.

YAPC::Asia Individual Sponsor T-shirt

The registration process was so well organised that having another category of people registering didn’t cause any problems.  Making everything look so easy has to be a combination of the experience of the organisers and also the fact that there were 43 people helping out with this conference.  I know that when I was involved in running a European conference that we maybe had 10 people volunteering during the event.  Mind you, this YAPC in Asia was a much bigger event with 798 attendees.

There was also a professional photographer at the event.  This means that there are now good quality photographs of all the speakers and of the general conference that are nice to have but can also be used in the creation of promotional material or to show future sponsors.

YAPC Day 1 - On Arrival at the Venue

It’s not the photographers fault that I was pulling silly faces early in the morning.

I do like that there are prizes for the top three talks.  I believe this year that the third prize was a set of books, the second prize was funding to attend three local Perl Monger events in Japan, and the first prize was funding to travel to either YAPC::NA or YAPC::EU.  The attendees of the conference use a web-based system to pick the best talks.

It was also the first time that I have seen a Lightning Talkathon.  My Japanese language skills are not good enough for me to have quite worked it out on my own.  I could see that a group of people were giving lightning talks but my first thought was that it was an area that allowed people to practice their talks before giving these before the entire conference.  It turned out to be a mini-conference running inside the main one where all the talks were lightning talks.  It was not as well attended as the main sessions but there were still a fair number of people involved and it is certainly an interesting concept.

Larry Wall was the opening keynote speaker, so I’ll finish with a quote from his talk:

There are many computer languages in the the world and they all they think they  are perfect.  With Perl 6 we are not trying to make it perfect, but right next to perfect, so the next generation can make it perfect. 

Larry Wall

Larry Wall, Day 2

2 Responses to “YAPC::Asia 2012 – Tokyo”

  1. Jack Lupton (itnomad) Says:

    Wow! That is a really nice t-shirt. Thanks for posting. I’m in Austin and which is the site of YAPC-NA 2013. Hopefully we will have a great conference next year. Thanks for posting about that which makes YAPC-Asia so successful.

  2. karen Says:

    I did like the origami raptor. Actually a lot of the YAPC::Asia t-shirts look good and there are the only ones I actually wear. The European and the American ones tends to be only made for men and a lot of them have that horrible plastic stuff on them that stretches strangely if I try to wear them.

    It was a good conference. I am hopeful that Austin will be a good conference also.

Green Country

I was born in a country that’s well known for being green.  It’s not something that I hear said about Japan, but once you get outside the big cities you quickly become surrounded by green.


Green Mossy Carpet


Ryuzu Waterfall, Nikko

Ryuzu Waterfall, Nikko

Shrine Grounds

Shrine Grounds