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Friday, August 08, 2008

Merhaba! Nasılsın?

In this morning's first class we were treated to the most extraordinary experience. It was absolutely captivating, and made me forget all about the scary half-naked man at the bus stop 30 minutes earlier who had thrown bricks at a carpet-delivery van containing three men, one of whom had briefly emerged with a long iron bar and said some rather rude words to the half-naked man.

We arrived in class, only to be greeted by a woman we'd never met before who immediately started to talk to us in a made-up language. It was complete nonsense, a few of us couldn't help but laugh.

Then someone remembered - we were time-tabled to have an 'unknown language lesson', to give us a sense of what it might be like if we go to teach English in a foreign country where the students have absolutely no prior knowledge of English.

And we had none whatsoever of this 'language'. During our interviews we had been asked to list all the languages that we spoke - even if it was just a tiny bit. Our course directors then found a teacher of a language that appeared on none of the resulting 16 lists.

Having gathered from her gestures that she wanted us to go into a different classroom, we moved next door and sat in the chairs that had been arranged in a semicircle. She then started repeating strange-sounding phrases to us. We gathered that this was a drilling exercise, and so played along.

She'd say a sentence several times, we'd repeat several times. This went on for some time, gradually building up to about 7 phrases. Nothing was written on the board, and we were banned from writing anything down ourselves. It was all just these sounds in our ears that we copied, not knowing what they meant.

We were then shown a short video of two people saying these phrases. At certain points the people indicated towards a picture of a shop, then a house.

Slowly, the sounds started to mean something. "Merhaba!" must be 'Hello' in whatever this language was." Sen" appeared to mean "you". Ah... and "Nasılsın" must be "How are you?"

After thirty minutes of watching, listening and repeating (and nothing else), the meaning started to become clear.
Hello!
Hello!
How are you?
I'm fine, how are you?
Fine thank you. Where are you going?
I'm going to the shop (or was it an office?!) Where are you going?
I'm going home.
Good bye!
Good Bye!

We were paired off, and practised this new strange language.

(We later found out that it was Turkish that we were speaking).

This exercise struck me as being absolutely remarkable, and afterwards I felt positively elated.

Why?

It had given us the chance to do something we could never normally do. We were allowed to return to babyhood and experience the first year or two of language development within the space of one hour!

It really felt like that. We had no other 'language' that we could fall back on, all there was was these new strange sounds that we tried to emulate with no concrete idea of what we were saying. It was only through use over time that we figured out the meaning - although not all of us did, with some only finding out in the feedback session afterwards.

It was so exciting to be learning to communicate all over again, from scratch.

A brilliant exercise. Thank you ELTC.




We had our second teaching practice today. I really enjoyed it. After I'd finished my bit, one of the the students passed me a note "You're going to become a great teacher" - this was was very encouraging, and much appreciated. Still a long long way to go though.

Of course I'm absolutely shattered again. I've made my packed lunch for tomorrow and will go to bed shortly. I know I really should do my teaching plan for tomorrow's course - I'l start it, and see how far I get before falling alseep!

night night

p.s. coursemates really are bloomin wonderful.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Japanese stage debut

I've never been one for over-dramatisation...



(an extract from a mini-drama staged in our Japanese speaking class today. Sorry about the poor camerawork. That's the problem when one is on the wrong side of the camera - unless one has a psychic link with the camera and tripod it's difficult to get it to zoom in etc.)

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Results Day

Just remembered, it's results day!



So, overall I got 67%. Add that to my previous results and I'm on 68%, so I think it's fairly safe to say that I'm heading for a high 2:1, as in order to get a first (70%) I'd have to be get something in the mid-70s this semester, and whilst I am prepared to work very hard on my studies, I am not prepared to make the sacrifices that would be necessary to get such a result. The benefits of those things I would have to give up would be sorely missed.

Well done me. And well done course-mates too! We made it through our penultimate semester with no casualties!

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Japanese Language Proficiency Test: Decision made



I have a friend in Bristol with a Japanese wife and a child, who keeps a blog on which he posts updates about his progress in learning Japanese. This week, just like thousands of others around the world, he received the results of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, held every December.

This time he didn't pass, but he's already looking forward to his next attempt. Reading his blog (which for some reason I can't find now, I've lost it in my jungle of RSS feeds!) has inspired me to make the decision to take the test myself this year.

I don't value JLPT so much for what it certifies, but rather, I value the motivation I believe it will give me to continue to work on my Japanese when I return there in the summer. I know from experience how easy it is to get by in Japan without using Japanese - and this is not necessarily a bad thing, who ever said one should have to speak the language? ...But for me personally, I really want to have good communication skills, as I feel it will have a great impact upon my relations with my immediate family-to-be, and also my in-laws. Additionally, I believe it will give me more opportunities to explore my passions whilst in Japan. Oh, and it keeps my brain ticking over too!

I can imagine that after I leave uni the last thing I will want to do is enroll upon yet another language course, but I think that if I don't set myself some specific goal (such as taking JLPT in December) then as has been the case this year, I will forget much of what I have learnt thus far.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate my classmates who did take it this year, Charlotte, Chris and Jon. I think Jon deserves particular recognition - 76% at Level 1! Amazing stuff, I don't know how they managed it what with everything else they had going on.

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