Quick update

I see I’ve fallen behind on updating this blog, so I thought I’d at least take a moment to check in.

I still haven’t heard anything from JET. Near the end of May, I decided to go ahead and move forward with my Master’s program, and I’m working on my online orientation this week. I start my courses July 1st. I am not giving up on going to Japan or learning Japanese, but I probably will not do JET this year, even if I am offered an upgrade.

I continue to slowly work through TextFugu and Human Japanese, and I also keep reviewing my flash cards in Anki. I’ve also started taking weekly Taiko drumming lessons with Seattle Kokon Taiko. It’s so much fun! I’m looking forward to the next one tomorrow night.

I’ll try to post a more in-depth update on what I’m learning later this week.


Pilgrim’s journey

In case you missed my addendum to my last post, I did finally receive my results for the JET program: I am an alternate. Being an alternate basically means I meet all the criteria to be an ALT, but because of the shortage of positions, I’m on the waiting list for a place in the program. It is not at all unusual for alternates to be upgraded and go to Japan–but it’s not a guarantee, either, and there’s no real way of estimating what my “odds” are. I could potentially be upgraded as late as December, but most likely, if I manage to score an upgrade, it will happen by early August. (And yes, that may mean missing the regular departure date and orientation with the other JETs.) I’m still considering what to do as far as delaying grad school. I will probably wait until the end of July at least. After that, I’m not sure.

But I’m not really stressed out about it. I believe it’s in God’s hands. All I can do now is complete the paperwork required to keep my spot on the alternate list and then let it go. If I get a phone call from the consulate saying I’ve been upgraded, then that will be wonderful. And if I don’t, and I simply go forward with my Master’s degree and wait until that’s done to make further plans to go to Japan, then I can live with that, too.

The night before I learned my status as an alternate, I was working on a devotional reading from Beth Moore’s study on The Patriarchs (based on Genesis 11-50) in which I had to complete an exercise illustrating how God’s purposes sometimes seem to be on a different schedule from what we want or expect. I don’t know for sure that God has a long-term stint in Japan in store for me, but I know that if that is His will, then it will happen–just maybe not when (or how) I expect. Anyway, just for kicks, here’s the drawing I made “charting how a person typically gets from the place of receiving a divine promise to the place of its fulfillment”:


The mental image of that chart has stayed with me throughout the week. Whenever I start to feel tempted to worry about my “alternate” status, I think of it and (^_^).

Learning log update:
After working on it for at least a week, I’ve finally finished another chapter of Human Japanese. Chapter 29 was on counting and related words. Japanese has several different ways of numbering–depending on what kind of object you are counting–so this was an epic 39-page chapter. I made well over a hundred flash cards for this chapter alone. And I still feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface of the material. However, I have an idea for a fun exercise to help me become more familiar with the counters, which I will be posting the results of here as soon as I get the technical aspects figured out.


Two roads diverged…

Fourteen out of seventeen Japanese consulates in the US have sent out their JET results–but mine is one of the three that have not. So I’m waiting. And as the close of the business day draws near, it looks like I will have to get through another night not knowing my status.

In a way, I’m not nearly as anxious as you might guess. It helps immensely that I have a spot in grad school waiting for me if JET falls through. On the other hand, I feel like I’m ready to know which way I’m going so that I can really put my whole heart into it–whether it’s completing my Master’s degree or being a great ALT, I’m ready to direct my energy into one path now, and I’m finding it frustrating to still be hovering at the crossroads.

The possibility that makes me the most anxious at this point is that I will be listed as an alternate, which would mean more waiting. I would have to put off grad school at least another month or two in that case, because early May is a time when a lot of alternates have their status upgraded. After that, if I still didn’t get a spot, I would probably have to seriously consider dropping out. That would allow me to go ahead with grad school, but it might hurt my chances of being selected as a JET if I decide to apply again in a future year.

Anyway…I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. (Have I used enough traveling metaphors in this entry yet?)

Japanese learning progress is still ticking along. I’m planning something fun for a future post, although I won’t promise it will be my next post as it’s going to be rather time-consuming. Regardless of what happens with JET, I do intend to keep working on learning Japanese and updating this blog.


ETA: My results came in a couple of minutes ago. I’m on the alternate list.

Watashi wa _________ desu.

I’ve completed two more chapters in Human Japanese. Chapter 26 covered more verbs, including shimasu, which is used to “verb” nouns. Chapter 27 covered using ga with interrogatives like who and when, and how to ask how and why questions. I still need to practice these quite a bit, so perhaps I will do that in a future post. For today, I’m going to focus on what I learned in TextFugu season 2 chapter 7, which covers ways to identify oneself and others. Again, in TextFugu, most of the material I’m covering is already familiar. But I really like the way TextFugu encourages me to actually practice what I’ve learned and gives practical ideas on how to do that, so I feel like it’s valuable, even if I already know most of the words and grammar concepts that have been introduced so far.

Ways to say “I”:

  • わたし (watashi) – standard “I”, polite
  • わたくし (watakushi) – a little more formal than わたし, a bit more frequently used by females; uses the same kanji as わたし
  • あたし (atashi) – more feminine form of わたし
  • ぼく (boku) – a bit more masculine way to say “I”
  • おれ (ore) – masculine, informal, almost vulgar
  • じぶん (jibun) – masculine, almost militaristic, rarely used

This chapter also covers ways to say “you”, but I won’t enumerate all of them. My impression from looking at the list is that there are a lot of ways to refer to other people that are considered rude! These are the main ones I think I’ll probably actually use:

  • あなた (anata) – general all-purpose “you”
  • おまえ (omae) – literally means “my front” (as in “the person in front of me”, or so I suppose); used for casual conversations between friends; could be considered rude
  • Using the person’s name plus -さん (-san) or another appropriate honorific. In other words, when talking to someone in Japanese, it’s okay (and in fact is more polite) to refer to them in what would be thought of as third person in English.

When I read that last item in TextFugu, I connected it to something that I’ve seen in a lot of the dialogue examples in Human Japanese. Often, the dialogues will begin with one person, Mariko, asking a question of the other, Jon. Jon answers the question and then says, “まりこさんは…” (Mariko-san wa…), which means something like, “As for Mariko…”. The implication is that Jon is re-directing the same question back at Mariko. It’s like saying, “And what about you?” after you’ve just told someone your occupation or your favorite movie.

Text-Fugu also covers honorifics at this point. All these and more are already familiar to me thanks to anime/manga, but it’s good to have a review, and to get a general sense of which are most important/useful.:

  • -さん (-san): All-purpose polite honorific. “If you’re not sure, use さん.”
  • -くん (-kun): Usually used for young men and boys by someone of equal or higher status. I’ve noticed this one turns up a lot in anime and manga when a young woman address a young man, especially if that young woman harbors a particular affection or respect for the young man. e.g. Sakura says “Sasuke-kun”, but addresses Naruto without an honorific. I believe Tohru says both “Yuki-kun” and “Kyo-kun” after she’s been living with the boys for a while. (It was Sohma-san and Kyo-san at first, though, IIRC.) It’s not really an affectionate honorific per se, from what I understand, but for some reason it sort of works that way in some anime/manga stories.
  • -ちゃん (-chan): Affectionate, mostly used for children, but also used among people who have close, affectionate relationships, and more commonly by and for young women and girls. Often accompanied by shortened nicknames. For example, TextFugu author Koichi’s name becomes こうちゃん (Kou-chan).
  • -せんせい (-sensei): Literally means “teacher”, and is, of course, used to address teachers, but can also be used as an expression of respect for other types of professionals and leaders. We used this to address both the pastor and his wife at the church in Yamagata that we worked at when I went to Japan with Asian Access (then called Life Japan) on a mission trip in 2001. The pastor was addressed as [surname]-sensei and his wife as [given name]-sensei.
  • -せんぱい (-senpai): Used to address a peer or colleague of higher rank. I’ve noticed this one in a lot of anime and manga, used by, for example, a first-year high school student to a second-year high school student. It can be used in other situations, though, such as from a person of lower rank in a trade or hobby to someone of higher rank.

    To practice introductions and honorifics, the text encourages the reader to look up occupations of friends at Densha Jisho, an online Japanese-English dictionary and try to make sentences stating what they do, or possibly what they don’t do or used to do. So here are my sentences I came up with.

    Disclaimer: I don’t know for sure that the words for the occupations (or maybe closer to hobbies in some cases) I chose are really accurate for what I’m trying to say, since Densha Jisho doesn’t really give any clues on what context the words are used in. Also, just to practice typing katakana, I’ve tried spelling each person’s name with the closest Japanese syllables I can manage. I think there are specific conventions for doing this that I don’t fully understand yet, so these may not technically be “correct” but…I did my best. I also tried out nicknames with -chan suffixes, in a few cases. Hopefully none of them came out sounding like anything vulgar or otherwise inappropriate. XD

    タンニャさんは いんせい です。
    Tannya-san wa insei desu.
    Tanya is a graduate student.

    ターちゃんは かんびょにん でした。
    Taa-chan wa kanbyunin deshita.
    Tanya was a nurse.

    (In reality, she’s still a nurse, too, but I’m practicing my past tense copula here.)

    マクにいさんは かいはつもと です。
    Maku-niisan wa kaihatsumoto desu.
    Mark is a software developer.

    マくにいは にんじゃ じゃりません。
    Maku-nii wa ninja jarimasen.
    Mark is not a ninja. (Sorry, Mark!)

    (The suffix -niisan is used from a younger sibling to an older brother; -nii is a more casual version of same.)

    ネーサちゃんは はりこ です。
    Neh-sa-chan wa hariko desu.
    Vanessa is a seamstress.

    クリステさんは しんがくせい です。
    Kurisute-san wa shingakusei desu.
    Kristi is a student at theological school.

    カリちゃんは グラフィックデザイナー です。
    Kari-chan wa gurafuikkudazainaa desu.
    Katrina is a graphic designer.

    (Notice that the word for graphic designer is clearly borrowed from English.)

    ジャちゃんも グラフィックデザイナー です。
    Jya-chan mo gurafuikkudazainaa desu.
    Janet is also a graphic designer.

    (Yay, I can practice using the particle for “also”!)

    アンアちゃんは しゃしんか です。
    Ana-chan wa shashinka desu.
    Anna is a photographer.

    クリチャンは さくしゃ です。
    Kuri-chan wa sakusha desu.
    Christie is a writer.

    ジョーイは かきょう です。
    Joh-i wa kakyou desu.
    Joie is a tutor.

    きょねん わたしは せんせい でした。
    Kyonen watashi wa sensei deshita.
    Last year I was a teacher.

    Well, that was fun!


But can she do the job, Harry?

Well, it’s almost April, which means I will soon find out whether or not I am going to Japan this summer with the JET program.

There’s a scene at the opening of the film Joe vs. the Volcano in which Joe’s grumpy manager, arguing with an un-seen associate on the phone, keeps repeating the phrase, “I KNOW HE CAN GET THE JOB, HARRY, BUT CAN HE DO THE JOB?” (Skip to 4:30 below and watch for about 30 seconds.)

My primary worry is actually that I can DO the job, but not GET the job. As an introvert, I often don’t come off well in job interviews. I’m not good at speaking extemporaneously, especially in front of people whose purpose is to judge me, so I often walk out of a job interview feeling like I wasn’t able to show them how competent I really am. Still, as I said before, I think my overall application (resume, essay, etc.) was probably strong enough that a so-so interview might not prevent me from getting in to the program.

But there’s also a significant amount of worry that I can, as Mr. Waturi says, GET the job, but not DO the job. I’ve taught ESL before and…it’s hard. It’s probably some of the hardest teaching I’ve ever done. I depend on verbal communication so much. Teaching across a language barrier seriously depletes the tools I have available to me, not just for imparting knowledge to my students, but also for forming a rapport with them and taking care of basic classroom management and discipline. In my previous ESL job I was working with adults who were eager to learn, didn’t need any behavior guidance, and most of whom had at least a fair amount of English knowledge already. In some ways JET will be harder, because I will be working with younger students who may or may not be as disciplined and motivated as my adult students were, and who will almost certainly know less English. In some ways, it may be easier, as I will probably have a lot of support from the Japanese English teachers that I work with. In fact, from what I understand, most ALTs are basically like assistant teachers to the JTEs (Japanese teachers of English).

Anyway, I know it’s natural to have some worries about the future at this point, as it draws near to the moment when I will find out what my status is with JET. In a lot of ways, finding out that I got in to the program would be even more nerve-wracking than finding out I didn’t get in. If I don’t get in, I put my plans for Japan on the back burner for now, and start graduate school for my Master of Teaching with Western Governor’s University–also challenging, but much more familiar. If I do get in, then I double down on my language learning, and prepare to make one of the biggest changes of my life.

Speaking of language learning, here’s what I’ve been working on since my last update:

I’ve studied and made flash cards for Human Japanese chapter 24, covering topics like hobbies and travel–as I mentioned in my post about karaoke–and chapter 25, covering positional phrases like れいぞうこの うえに (reizouko no ue ni, meaning “on top of the refrigerator”).

In TextFugu, I’ve also reviewed the so-called K-S-A-D pattern, which occurs in several sets of words. For example: これ (kore) means “this one”, それ (sore) means “that one” (near the listener), あれ (are) means “that one [over there]” (not near the listener), and どれ (dore) means “which one”. ここ (koko) means “here”, そこ (soko) means “there”, あそこ (asoko) means “over there”, and どこ (doko) means “where”. And there are other sets of words that follow a similar pattern.

I also continue to study my flash cards for what I’ve covered so far, including the few kanji I’ve learned.

What I really need to do is figure out a way to start getting more auditory practice. That was one of the advantages to using JapanesePod101. Right now the only audio I get is the audio provided on TextFugu’s flashcards, and the free word of the day emails from JapanesePod101.

At some point, I want to start going to the conversation club at the Japanese Cultural Center downtown, but so far, it’s been hard to fit it in with the way my work schedule is. I’ve also heard that there are ways to get a conversation partner online, but I haven’t looked into this yet.


EDIT: Actually…I haven’t covered the demonstratives (K-S-A-D) on TextFugu yet. It’s coming up soon on the TextFugu table of contents, and I’ve done it pretty recently in Human Japanese, so I got confused on when and where I’d covered it–Oops!

The etymology of “karaoke”

カラオケが すき です。(Karaoke ga suki desu.)

I’ve always liked karaoke, and of course, I know the word is Japanese in origin. But I was surprised to find tonight, as I was studying a new set of vocabulary with the theme of leisure (hobbies, vacations, and the like), that it is spelled in katakana.

Now, if you missed my previous post about the Japanese syllabaries (or if you don’t already know), katakana is the set of characters primarily used to spell foreign loan words. So I thought it strange that Human Japanese gave me this vocab word in katakana, since I know it’s a Japanese word. The vast majority of vocab words I’ve come across so far in katakana have been loan words from English. Every once in a while there’s a loan word from another language, but most of the time, if I come across a word spelled in katakana, it’s a recognizable approximation of an English word. So I had to use my Google Fu to find out why karaoke is treated like a borrowed word in Japanese, even though, ironically, it’s a word that we have borrowed from them. Here’s the answer:

カラオケ (karaoke) is a portmanteau of から (kara), meaning “empty”, and オケ (oke), meaning “orchestra”. (Makes sense, right? You have music backing you up, but no one’s in the orchestra pit, because it’s all automated.) But the Japanese word for orchestra, オーケストラ (ōkesutora) is a loan word from English. Hence, the loan word syllabary is used to spell カラオケ as well. I thought that was pretty neat.

And now back to studying…


Particles, verbs, and time words (with a little help from the Furuba and Naruto casts)

I finally finished reviewing the Human Japanese chapters I had previously covered and making Anki flash cards for the vocabulary in them. I also did one new chapter tonight. So I now have chapter 24-40 left to work through, meaning I’m just over halfway done with the program. Yay!

In addition to the vocab, I’ve also made flash cards of sentences that demonstrate the grammar concepts I’ve covered. Sometimes I copy example sentences directly from Human Japanese; sometimes I tweak them a bit and use slightly different vocabulary–maybe adding a word that I need to practice a bit, or one that makes more sense to me. I also usually replace the generic names in the text with anime/manga character names. Here are a few examples:

きょねん さすけくんは きませんでした。
Kyonen Sasuke-kun kimasen deshita.
Sasuke didn’t come last year.

Sakura wonders if Sasuke will ever come home.

きょうくんは やまを みました。
Kyou-kun wa yama o mimashita.
Kyo saw a mountain.

But did he fight a bear while he was there?

うおちゃんは はなちゃんと コンビニに いきました。
Uo-chan wa Hana-chan to konbini ni ikimashita.
Uo went with Hana to the convenience store.

Bring me back some onigiri, okay?

Since my last learning log, I’ve reviewed several verbs and how to conjugate them, and have worked on using the particles は (wa, subject or topic marker), の (no, for possessives and categorization) に (ni, for direction, location, and time references), を (o or wo, for direct objects), と and や (to and ya, for listing things that go together, used in a similar way to “and” in English).

Lately I’ve been focusing more on Human Japanese than Text Fugu, but I have done a little bit of work on the latter since my last update. The main thing I’ve learned in that program is the remainder of the two-stroke kanji.

Here are a few more examples of words and phrases I’m working on that I relate to anime and manga:

てんじょう (tenjou) – ceiling: I think of a character from Naruto who once went by the codename Tenzou and imagine him walking on the ceiling, like any good ninja should be able to do.

Tenzou could easily walk on the “tenjou”.

きょう (kyou) – today: I remember from way back in the heyday of Fruits Basket fandom someone saying that Kyo’s name is a homophone for “today” (although apparently not spelled with the same kanji), and analyzing the possible implications of that, especially in light of the fact that many of the other Sohmas have names that relate to specific seasons (e.g. Haru). So this is a very easy word for me to remember. It also helps that some similar words, such as the words for “this week”, “this month” and “this year” begin with the prefix こ (ko), so they sound similar and also give a sense of the present time period.

Kyo strikes me as the kind of person who lives in the present, maybe because he’s spent most of his life not having much future to look forward to.

One confusing word, though, is きょねん (kyonen), which means “last year.” I’m not really sure what’s going on there linguistically, but it helps me to remember that the word for “yesterday” (きのう, or kinou) also starts with a “k” sound. I’ve also been having difficulty with some other related time words, because I tend to mix up the prefixes せん (sen, meaning “last”) and らい (rai, meaning “next”).

With that, I bid you おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai, or “good night”).