Last term, I finished Japanese 101. Yes, it was level 1, super n00b, Kindergarten hiragana, basics of Japanese class. And holy crap, it was the most stressful experience of my college life. Seeing the sketch I posted yesterday, the one about the DOOR TO HELL, made me want to rant.
The system that they used to teach us was called “Baptism by Fire” by one of the instructors. He was joking, but I will forever remember that that is exactly what he said about it. Also, we had five instructors, and two professors. It was zero tolerance English, instructors feigning to not understand Engish, completely clear desks except for name plates with our last names, no note-taking. The instructors, whom all except one were Japanese, taught these classes. But there was one day a week where the American professor explained grammar, structure, and the “whys” and “whens” of words in the culture IN ENGLISH. Those days were like HEAVEN. The no-English thing started halfway into the first day of class, after the T.A. told us how the class would work and what our instructors expected from us. We had class every single weekday from noon to 1 o’clock, and had to memorize a list of vocab and some sentence exchanges before every class. Some days we also had to memorize 10 hiragana or kanji in addition to words and sentences, and had to be able to recognize all learned characters, write them down in a Japanese sentence, and read sentences out loud from the overhead projector. Sometimes we simply had to answer the question in Japanese, and that was somehow harder to process. In class, the instructors would simply speak to us. They would hold up signs and objects, ask questions, have us ask each other questions, and put on little performances of everyday situations (like ordering food or having to talk to your boss at work) and the instructor would call on us randomly and frequently to do all these. Every day, we got graded on a score of 1 to 10. I got about 8.5 everyday, because my brain commutes everything super slow (autism!!). The only times I got lower than 8.5 was when our only male Japanese instructor taught the class. Fellow students also noticed this tendency to score lower on days where he was teaching and the theory was because he is just harsher because in Japan (according to fellow student) teachers grade lower on everything to push students to get higher grades. Not sure how accurate that is, or if our instructors followed it. For some reason, I was intimidated by this instructor (Because he was male? Because he was a semi-serious very-Japanese person who only spoke to me in a language I barely understood in the naturally fast way he would speak it to any other Japanese person??). For the one-on-one end of term interview, I kept thinking “please not him, please not him…” Sure enough, it was friggin’ him. CURSE YOU ASHLEY FOR NEEDING TO SWITCH PLACES WITH ME!
This class may not sound that rough for some people, and yes, there were a bunch of very successful people in our class who thought it was a breeze. They didn’t stutter, hesitate or cop-out (at least, most of the time they didn’t), and even though I respected their ambition and (probable) no time left in their days for a social life in addition to their other classes and other whatnot throughout their days, I also kind of hated them and wished they would move up to the higher level class so that the rest of us struggling fools wouldn’t feel so stupid. Luckily I was among the people who were getting it all down, but just by BARELY. It all advanced so fast that if I slacked off even a little I would be horribly behind.
I guess it was a good lesson in discipline at least…
I have Asperger Syndrome, and as much as I hate using that as an excuse for anything, my brain works different! People with Asperger’s, or any kind of autism, take longer to understand the stimuli around them, or just don’t take some of it in at all. First, I have to hear what the instructor said in Japanese clearly in my mind (which usually takes more than one try, mou ichi do, onegai shimas became my catch-phrase), and then I had to translate it in my head to English, then I had to figure out the normal-person response in English, then translate it to Japanese, and then say it correctly, all while fully aware of the spear-like gazes of my classmates and instructor on me and the knowledge that my ability and speed affects my grade. If I had a processor in my brain it would have been on fire. I had to sit there in silence for a moment to organize everything in my head. Sometimes I would stumble a bit trying to figure something out, and the instructor would just skip over me and onto the next person. It was extremely frustrating. Instead of having a legitimate brain issue, they just think I’m stupid.
At the end of each class our instructor would bow and say arigato gozaimas, to indicate our class being dismissed, and when that happened everyday it was like a splash of water washing away all of the overheating electrodes in my brain, and I simply felt relieved and exhausted. Arigato gozaimas is now a very calming phrase for me haha. This class was just grueling. I mentioned my little brain issue with the professor, and she told me that I should find a way to cope. COPE?! Bleeesh! I, at least, did not entirely beef the class miserably. I did…decently…
But I don’t regret taking it. I learned a lot and I will definitely continue studying Japanese…just not at PSU…I will try Rosetta Stone or something, to learn in my freetime where I won’t feel so overburdened and rushed and feeling like my GPA is on the line simply because I cannot TALK or think right. The thought of ‘giving up’ really does not sit well with me, so I try to think of it more like ‘accommodate’ even though that kind of sounds worse…BUT either way, I will still keep learning. I feel very pleased with myself when I can read things that are in Japanese in anime and manga, and not have to read the subtitles. WOOT! So I DO enjoy knowing it, at least!
It feels good to get that off my chest. I have been trying very hard to not complain about this class the WHOLE term long…