In Depth 2K19: Blog Post #6, The End is Near…

This is the last blog post for In Depth.

*gasp*

This is the last blog post for In Depth Jerome will ever write.

*GASP*

That’s certainly marks off for concision, but I don’t think I’ll ever have an opportunity to do this again, so I might as well do it.

Jokes put aside, time really has gone by fast. There is only a few weeks left to In Depth, and very soon, I’ll start putting together my learning center. From the penultimate blog post, I have had two sessions with my mentor. What we discussed was rather normal and mundane compared to the elaborate preparations some of peers are making right now. However, while the end of In Depth is near, my journey of Japanese will probably never end, so for now, I’m taking my time and learning what I need to learn. Here is what my mentor and I discussed:

  • Vocabulary. My mentor and I went over new vocabulary, however, they were mostly random words without any particular kind of grouping. I did learn the second way of counting in Japanese. One convenient attribute of the second way of counting is its ability to ask for a number of things without the need for a counter. For example, 新聞を一枚ください and 新聞を一つください both mean the same thing, “please give me one newspaper” (rough translation). However, the first method requires the counter 枚 (counter for flat objects) after the number 一 (one). This requires the speaker to know the counter for the object, which differs depending on the object. Using the second method of counting eliminates this need for a counter, making it easy to say the number of objects up to ten.
  • Oral. The bulk of our sessions are oral. We repeat the same procedure of asking questions and answering, but we also make an effort to ask each other what the weather is like, how we are doing, and other similar formalities in Japanese.
  • Etymology. This is mostly the result of my questions. One word we covered the etymology of was the word 日本 or Japan. Many, including myself, know this word means origin of the sun, but I didn’t quite understand why. 日 means “sun” by its most common definition, but 本 means “book”. I later found out that 本 could also mean “origin”. Thus 日本 would mean “sun-origin”. The ancient Japanese saw the sun rising over the horizon, and as the sun plays an important role in traditional Japanese religion, they named their land 日本. According to my mentor, the fact that the Japanese themselves wouldn’t have known they were in the east until Westerners arrived denies the theory that Japan is called 日本 because of its position in the east. The internet claims otherwise, but I find my mentor’s theory more believable.

Progress Report:

I have learned a couple hundred new kanji by their loose translations and stroke order since my last post. While I have not yet achieved my goal of knowing 3000 kanji using the Heisig method, I still have a few weeks to learn the remaining the kanji before In Depth night.

I’m picking out new pronunciations for certain kanji, but I am also picking out pronunciations and meanings for certain kanji compounds. For example, 新聞, combines the kanji 新(new) and 聞(hear) to create 新聞 (newspaper). More or less, this makes sense and through regular usage, I can cement this compound into my memory.

As usual, the amount of immersion I’m understanding is increasing, but there isn’t anything new to write about.

Learning Center:

I plan to focus on how I learned the different writing systems, how each writing system has a role, and how the language just works in general. I thought about having phrases in Japanese and translating them in English, but while this might work for European languages that have similarities in grammar, it wouldn’t be very effective in Japanese.  I want my audience to walk away with an idea of how Japanese works, seeing how interesting and unique the language is from English, how one might tackle the complexity of writing kanji, and how I learned Japanese. If visitors have any oral questions or just want to know how to say something, I can reasonably answer most Japanese questions, but I don’t want this to be the main focus.

I currently have two ideas in mind for making my learning center interactive. One way is to have visitors write their name in Japanese using katakana, but personally, I think this is rather boring. The other idea is to have visitors create their own mnemonic sentence for memorizing a kanji. Through creating their own mnemonic sentence with the primitives of the kanji, my audience will be able to get into my kanji learning mindset, which involved creating thousands of mnemonics sentences for each individual kanji. Kanji is known to be very difficult for western learners because of how similar the characters look and the complexity of each character. By having my visitors create their own sentence and write the kanji, I hope visitors walk away with the knowledge that kanji isn’t that difficult, if you’re using the right method to learn it.

How to Have a Beautiful Mind:

Concepts:

Concepts act “like road junctions that open up several other roads (p.88). Similarly, in Japanese, concepts branch into various different components that make up parts of the language as a whole. For example, the concept of speaking Japanese, branches into pronunciation, whether the way I’m speaking is appropriate to the situation, and whether the listener is able to understand what I am saying. During our sessions, my mentor and I discussed the concept of speaking Japanese and took the time to critique the various components of the concept, such as pronunciation. Additionally, my mentor and I discussed the concept of clarity. When writing Japanese the difference between か and が seems very minuscule, but this slight difference can change whether my writing is clear and understandable or not. My mentor noticed my negligence and discussed the concept, which could be achieved through accuracy and practice.

Alternatives:

So far, my mentor has provided me with a lot of alternatives. For example, she offered me the alternative of continuing to work on my kanji and incorporating my knowledge into the work she gave me. Without this alternative, I would “have rigidity and complexity,” and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn kanji, a vital component of reading “actual” Japanese, so early in my journey of learning Japanese (p. 97). De Bono states that “having an adequate way of doing something is as much of a problem as a traditional problem” (p.89). Early in my sessions with my mentor, this very “problem” occurred. My mentor didn’t know I already knew kana and wanted me to do worksheets to cement my knowledge of the kana. This was a way for me to make writing the kana automatic, but it was not the most effective way. By exploring the alternative of moving onto new material and having me cement my knowledge of the kana through practical application that came with learning the new material, my mentor and I accelerated our pace and moved on.

Another mentor, with a traditional style of teaching the language, might have not offered me these alternatives. Generally, kanji is seen as something a Japanese student might learn years into the study of the language. A different mentor might want to provide strong guidance to me while learning kanji and would’ve given me the alternative of learning kanji with their counsel, if learning kanji was something he/she would permit in the first place. As for the second alternative, another mentor might have provided me with the alternative of still doing the worksheets but with an accelerated pace.

Well. That’s it. Once I finish typing the final word of this blog post, the last In Depth blog post I will ever write will be finished. さよなら。

 

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