Sunday, May 13, 2012

Some class- and study-related ponderings

I've been thinking over the past few days that everything I've seen so far in my 102 class has been review, grammar-wise. I'm not particularly surprised by this, since grammar was just about the only thing I studied in the 4-5 years since I left Cincinnati. In fact, I think 102 is still the perfect class for me, because instead of having to focus on learning the grammar I can focus on my weak points (i.e. everything else).

For example, I've gotten really quite good at studying kanji characters. I have a very nice Anki deck with all of the example sentences from all the kanji tests we've been taking over the weeks, and I review them every... many of the days. I add new ones as soon as I get them, which turns out to be once every week or so. The pacing is fantastic--I'm very solid on kanji study and consider it one of the easiest aspects of class here.

Then... there's vocabulary. Vocabulary is a little trickier. I can't really do the same sort of flashcard thing for vocab because there's so much of it and it goes so quickly. Essentially there's no way that I can consistently review all of the previous vocabulary words like I have been doing with kanji, because just the review period would take hours and hours, and there's just not enough time in a day. I need to find a way to study and remember vocabulary more effectively.

The same goes for grammar points, actually. Most of the things in 102 have been review for me, but when we begin to encounter new grammar points I'm not sure what way will be the best method for studying and remembering them. What I've come up with today has been maybe to have a private blog thing where I write little entries every day, specifically for the purpose of using and practicing grammar points. I'll try that and see how it goes. That'd probably work for vocabulary study, too.

Really, I'm trying to figure out the best way to study these things because I want to kick my studying into overdrive. I feel like I haven't been doing enough studying, and (pretty much) everything new I've learned so far has been kanji. For that reason, I think I'm going to go buy the next textbook that we'll be using and see if I can study ahead for the purpose of skipping 103 and moving directly into 201, the start of the intermediate-level classes.

I have the feeling that this will be totally possible for me to do, especially if the test involves a heavy written portion. The only thing that worries me is the fact that I will probably also have to have a speaking test sort of thing and speaking and listening are by far my least comfortable skills. Regardless, I feel like if I manage to find a way to effectively study my weak points like I've found for kanji study, I will be able to test into 201 no problem.

We'll see, though. Sorry this entry was pictureless. The next one will be more travel-oriented, I think!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Past few weeks' activites

It's been a while since I've last posted. Between classes, keeping up with friends and relatives back home, and hanging out with the people here, I've found little time to actually sit down and write much in my blog. I'll try to be better though. Here are some things that have been going on at Yamasa!

Lookin' dorky at Nagoya Castle
Last week was a thing called Golden Week. Basically, it's a few Japanese holidays that happen to fall back-to-back, so companies (and schools) generally give the whole week as vacation. We didn't get the whole week because of scheduling issues, but we did get Thursday and Friday off, which is nice. I kinda prefer the shorter breaks anyway. Class every day means I spend less money, am more occupied, and am actually improving in an observable way, as miniscule as a day's progress may be. Still, the four-day weekend was very much appreciated.

Before I get to Golden Week activities, I should mention that right before the long weekend we happened to have a large comprehensive test, covering everything we've studied since class began. It was a pretty normal test, involving grammar, particles, and whatever else. Pretty easy. However, the test also involved a listening section, and some of those native speakers talk so brutally quickly that it becomes really difficult to actually comprehend what they're saying, much less answer questions about the conversation. I thought I did pretty poorly on the listening section, especially because listening and speaking are my weakest points, but apparently I did well. So far, so good on grades.

The second part of the test is an essay and a one-on-one speaking test. That happens tomorrow. I'm not necessarily worried about the essay. I outlined what I'm going to say, and I've never had any trouble being long-winded (obviously). The speaking test worries me a little bit because I still feel like I'm near the bottom of the class in terms of speaking ability, but luckily the teacher gave us loads of study materials for the speaking test, including a list of about 20 questions that may be asked, so I've been working at developing fluid responses to all of them. It's the followup questions that are gonna hurt.

Anyway (sorry to keep jumping around chronologically but I can't really write any way but stream-of-consciousness these days), Golden Week was pretty relaxing / interesting. On Saturday I went with a classmate to Nagoya Castle (see above) to see a martial arts demonstration by students of various dojos in the area. It was really cool to watch (though obviously I didn't understand the majority of what was going on), and because the styles of martial arts were so diverse it stayed interesting for longer than it would have if it had just been one style.

After a few hours we walked around and looked at all the cool stuff around and inside the castle. Nagoya Castle is waaaay bigger than the one in Okazaki, so there was actually quite a bit of ground to cover.

Longest rollercoaster in the world
Then, on Sunday, for some reason, I decided to allow myself to be peer pressured into going to Nagashima Spaland amusement park. I had never been to an amusement park in Japan before (obviously), but honestly it was very similar to amusement parks in America. I was reminded of Kennywood, a park in the Pittsburgh area. In fact, some of the rides were exactly the same, including the one where you get into a big car and it goes down a hill into the water and gets everyone totally soaked. There's even an observation deck for the people who want to get wet without all the fun of the actual ride.

I went with my friend CJ as well as a new(ish) classmate-turned-friend and her Japanese friend who spoke zero English. It was a little discouraging when I wanted to talk about things or make observations or jokes and absolutely could not do it because I lacked the Japanese ability to form those kinds of sentences. I really can't wait until I get better at this language and I can actually participate in things with the locals. I do my best, but often I find that I'm just totally at a loss for words, grammar, and anything else. It's especially bad when I start a sentence (usually about something mundane, just to keep the conversation going) and realize that I have absolutely no idea how to finish it, so I just stop and look helplessly at the people around me, finally giving up and saying 'nevermind.'

Still though, we managed to have a good time despite the fact that we didn't really share a common language. Everyone loves rollercoasters.

So that was essentially Golden Week. This week has been a little rough study-wise for everyone, I reckon, just because everyone had four whole days to slowly forget everything that was going on in class. I think we're back up to full speed, though, and I managed to make it through both of my Anki flashcard decks today, so I should be set. Tonight I'll probably end up reviewing the speaking test questions and trying to cram more nonsense into my essay outline.

But first, I'll probably make some spaghetti. I need some comfort food right about now for some reason.