Last night found me sitting in a Japanese language class. I had studied Japanese eleven years ago, for two years, so I was loathe to go back to square one and gamely registered for the second level yesterday afternoon. I was given the textbooks and advised that we would be starting on Chapter 9 in class that night. It was about 100 degrees out as I walked back to the apartment, but my sweat-drenched self was more a result of perusing the book on my way home. Yikes. Did I bite off more than I could chew?
The class meets one time a week for 2 hours. How much could that first level class have covered in that relatively short time? At one time, my Japanese proficiency allowed me to travel in Japan on my own, shepherding a weary and wary 15-yr old Molly around Kyoto after a stay with my friends in Nagoya. (She gagged down the food...*I'll eat it, just don't tell me what it is*...became faint from the July heat and though always polite, made it clear to me in private that one trip to Japan in her lifetime would be quite enough, thank you.) On subsequent visits, however, my skills deteriorated as I relied more on my kids' proficiency (they have each lived in Japan for years) and my Japanese friends became more comfortable using their English with me.
Once home, I took a quick shower and frantically reviewed the first chapters. Our realtor came by to get some papers initialed...JGB...JGB...back to the book. By the time I got to class, I had convinced myself that needed to drop back to level one but the teacher assured me that I'd be fine. Others arrived and we started reviewing Chapter 9. Talk about synapses firing!! My brain hasn't had to scramble like that in years. It was exhilarating to know that it hadn't turned to complete mush. And then we started conversation practice.
If you've ever studied a foreign language, you know the drill. Students pair off, assuming the identity of characters in the book and read conversations back and forth. I was immediately wowed by the ease of their reading as I struggled to even find my place on the page. They had learned this much in eight weeks? When it was my turn, I haltingly spit out word by painful word, apologizing that I had not read Japanese text for several years but would practice and be better next week. It was then that one of the students noticed something. The others were all using the Romaji version of the textbook, so theirs was written in phonetic Japanese, using the English alphabet, looking something like this:
But I had been given the Kana version of the textbook, so my page looked like this:
A bit of difference! Molly and K will be happy to hear that I'm sticking with the Kana version. Despite my current pathetic level of mastery, I was way ahead of this years ago so I would like to get back up to speed quickly. And I'm enjoying the mental gymnastics. So much more interesting than crossword puzzles!
This is our Kanji textbook. I think we have three copies of this same book in storage. Maybe I can teach a class some day. Ha. Speaking of storage, we signed a contract on a house this week. My fabric will soon be liberated. Yippee!