In Depth 2k19 Blog Post #2

A little more than two weeks have gone by and quite a bit has happened. I had my first mentoring session; I met my mentor, learned how to pronounce her name, and got a sense of her teaching style. Additionally, my mentor also got a chance to grasp how much I knew about Japanese. Having someone to critique my pronunciation in a one-on-one setting is quite effective for my grasp of the oral language. Not only that, my mentor is quite straightforward and tells me directly whether I’m pronouncing a word right or wrong. Anyway, here are some of the things we discussed and went over.

  • Hiragana and the pronunciation of the syllabaries. I already learned hiragana on the side before the meeting, however, so we were able to skim over that rather quickly.
  • Common phrases and pronunciation. We went over pronouncing common useful phrases, such as asking for what something was, greetings, parting phrases, and thanking someone.
  • Vocabulary. My mentor brought flashcards with pictures associated with basic vocabulary words. I knew a few vocabulary words right off the bat, but I learned a dozen or so new vocabulary words.

Progress Report:

On the side, I have finished learning the kana (hiragana and katakana). I can’t write them quickly, but like writing in general, constantly writing in the language is better than reviewing flashcards over and over again, so only consistent practice and time will tell. My understanding of the yōon, or kana diphthongs, has been improving, but is still a work in progress. Here’s what yōon basically is.

き is pronounced ki, while や is pronounced ya. Therefore, one might assume きゃ is pronounced kiya ( two sounds, ki and ya). However, the second syllabary is a small や so きゃ is actually pronounced kya (one sound, kya). This is what yōon is. It is a bit confusing at first, but through simply writing out kana consistently, my understanding of the yōon has gotten much better.

Due to an extended break on kanji for learning the kana, I have fallen a bit behind on my kanji studies. However, I plan to ramp up the intensity so that I can still finish memorizing the writing and most common English translations of the kanji before the date listed on my contract. For immersion, I’ve managed to fit in some active immersion, giving all my attention to a Japanese show for half of an hour everyday. Partial immersion or having the language play in the background while I work on other tasks is going as usual. While I understand very little of what I actually hear, I occasionally catch words and phrases, which allows me to get a basic understanding of the context of what I hear.

How to have a Beautiful Mind:

How to Agree:

According to Edward De Bono’s How To Have a Beautiful Mind, a person could act in a way that I could strongly disagree with. However, “that person may be acting ‘logically’ within his or her ‘logic bubble'” (p. 7). Similarly, my mentor’s ideas on learning Japanese were quite different from mine. I favored more of a high input, unorthodox method of learning the language that allowed me to start learning the language in the language as soon as possible, while my mentor favored using a workbook and different episodes to teach common phrases using roumaji, the roman alphabet. However, I realized that her experiences with teaching Japanese inevitably shaped the way she thought language should be taught, creating her own “logic bubble”. Her students were predominately adults who simply wanted to know a few phrases to say in Japanese and didn’t really care about fluency in the language. I considered this and tried to find similarities in our views, and I found out that both of us agreed on speaking the language as soon as possible. This allowed me to agree with my mentor.

How to Disagree:

Mentor: Let’s work through these worksheets.

Me: Are these for hiragana?

Mentor: Yes

Me: I’ve actually already learned hiragana on the side.

Mentor: Okay. Can you write these in hiragana?

(…)

Mentor: Do you want to take these worksheets?

Me: I think I’ll be okay. From my experience, I’m finding my method of reviewing hiragana to be quite effective.

Mentor: If that’s what works for you.

Since I had already learned hiragana, I found that going over these worksheets would not be a very effective usage of our mentoring session. De Bono states that “when [I] disagree”, I should “do so politely and gently rather than rudely and aggressively” (p. 26). By not aggressively stating my opinion and presenting a logical reasoning using my personal experiences, I disagreed with my mentor in a way that didn’t negatively impact our relationship while also positively impacting our session by not wasting time.

How to Differ:

Me: You stated earlier that konichiwa meant hello for first time greetings and good afternoon.

Mentor: Yes

Me: You also told me that konbanwa is the only phrase used in the evening when greeting someone.

Mentor: Yes

Me: So if it’s your first time meeting someone, but it’s the evening, Wouldn’t I still used konichiwa because it’s my first time meeting that person?

(…)

Mentor: Yes. You would use konichiwa, not konbanwa since it’s your first time meeting that person. This is the first time someone has asked me that.

I shouldn’t differ just because I think my opinion is superior to someone else’s. However, “there are times when only one of a different set of opinions can be right” (p. 39). Such was the case in my mentoring session. Whether I thought konichiwa or konbanwa was used for first time greetings in the evening was not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact, since only one option could be right. Therefore, in this case, I had a reason to differ to clarify what my mentor said and make sure I didn’t walk off with a misunderstanding.

Well, that’s it for this time. さよなら。

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