Spencer's Japanese Adventures - Part One

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 I have begun week two of my venture into the world of Japanese teaching/assisting, and it's been fun, but strenuous. I think everyone thinks my Japanese is way better than it actually is, because they speak super fast to me and while I'm still trying to figure out the first sentence they threw at me, they're looking at me with an expectant look on their face, and waiting for me to answer like 3 questions that I've just been asked. It's been excellent practice, but I'm soooooooooo tired at the end of the day, and I keep talking to my family in Japanese and they think I'm going crazy. It's very possible that I am.

I've got what is essentially 3 different jobs set up right now, and I leap frog back and forth between a couple locations. Firstly, I am working at a little school in the back of Uwajimaya called "Taisei Juku" Typically my job runs down to: Transfer varioius study resources and references into flashcards made on powerpoint, and assist teaching class when need be. It's lots of tedious copy and pasting, and I have made frequent use of the "Make duplicate slide" shortcut, but it's not difficult at all and it's mainly to fill time that I may not necessarily use otherwise. Kaneko sensei, the teacher at the school, has students that come in at various assigned times throughout the day, and she gives them private lessons, ranging from about an hour to an hour and a half-ish. Depending on the day, I'm there from about 10:30 to 5:30/6:00-ish, so I'll typically be present for about 3 or 4 lessons throughout the day. I help with translation every once in a while, and I get a bunch of free tea, which is definitely a perk. I'm working at this location on Tuesdays, and Fridays.

Except Saturday. Saturday, everything goes out the window. With all her other lessons, there will typically be like one or two kids at a time, just calmly going through workbooks and studying Kanji (complicated Japanese characters). Easy enough, I answer questions and enjoy the relative silence. On Saturdays, there's like 6-8 kids in there at a time, and it gets pretty hectic. I've only been present for one Saturday class so far, but I think once was enough to get the feel of things. It was a change of pace from the powerpoint work though, she had so many students that it was impossible for her to work with them all at once, so I had to help some students practice writing characters, I helped some read some Japanese books, etc. It was pretty fun, but I was super tired after all the classes were over, and I'm in awe at Kaneko sensei's ability to go in every day of the week and teach. I mean, I still get the free tea, so it's totally worth it, but I basically arrive home and pass out on my bed, then awake to eat dinner, then pass out on the bed again.

Wednesdays and Thursdays I'm at PSU, Wednesdays with Yoko sensei, and Thursdays with Murakami sensei. Yoko sensei has a small class of two adult students, and they are beginner Japanese students, so I can pretend like I know a lot of stuff and feel really important, especially since they're older than me. Murakami's class is a large group of Chinese students, who don't actually speak English as a first language, and while I sat in on their class, and Murakami sensei had me actually read their verbal recognition test, which was a bit surprising considering I thought she thought I was awful at Japanese given how nervous I was at our first meeting, I didn't do much else. Until after class. She had me grade their homework, which was a series of questions asked about an audio tape they listened to in Japanese, to see if they understood the basic Japanese sentences that were read to them. Since it was translated from Japanese to English, through non-English speaking students, it was a little difficult to understand, and then I had to determine whether or not they had the correct answers to questions in English, about Japanese, giving them proper leeway for their answers, considering that they were typing in English. From what I've heard though, I'm really glad they didn't handwrite the assignment. Like, really, really glad.

I'm super tired and Japanese'd out, but it's been a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to the next two weeks. It's been really good Japanese practice, and I learned that most people are understanding of that skinny white boy speaking broken Japanese and looking confused. I'm not really sure what I can take pictures of, considering my photography skills are awful and the only camera I own is a cell-phone, but I'll see if I can't get some photos of the classrooms and maybe some of the students.

Also Alan, if you make me a knife, I'll make you a Japanese flashcard. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, you do not want to pass this up. Do not disappoint me.

Spencer Immel


Sounds pretty amazing

Hi, Spencer.

Don't you wonder how exchange students cope with a 2nd (or in the case of your Chinese students taking Japanese) 3rd language all day, every day? It is incredibly tiring and exciting, as you know from your trips to Japan. I'm impressed by the work that you're doing, even when sometimes it feels a little bit repetitive. Being worn out at the end of the day is something that everybody who's new on a job experiences. I bet it'll become less exhausting by the end of the 4 weeks. Great work! I'm proud of you.

Hey from your C and C

What kind of food are you eating? -Lewis
Bring cream puffs? -Isabelle
I hope you have fun learning stuff? -Liv
We are so proud of your teaching prowess!!!-Kenny (sick)
Solomon wanted to say something but he didn't.
By the way we are missing you.
You're impressing us, dear Spencer! --Sue P

Lewis: The good kind. I

Lewis: The good kind. I haven't actually bought anything at Uwajimaya yet, and I'm not sure you'll be impressed if I say I just walk across the street and go to subway because the store intimidates me with all the different colorful packages.

Isabelle: I'll think about it. No promises.

Liv: Yep, I am. Thanks!

Kenny: Thank you!


Ian: Exactly.

Sue: Tell everybody to have fun! :D

Cool project

No promises about the knife, but I can give you a little steel leaf, or a stick with a swirly thing on the end (clearly equal in value). I could also give you a four or five inch long nail to dramatically nail a flashcard to the wall with.

Teaching Chinese students Japanese, as a native English speaker definitely sounds confusing. Can they understand the meaning of any Japanese sentences by looking at the kanji, or are the kanji meanings different enough that it's still mostly meaningless to them? Obviously the particles in the sentence, the context, and other stuff like hiragana and katakana wouldn't make sense, but I've always wondered how much a Chinese speaker could figure out about written Japanese.

OK so I had a chance to ask

OK so I had a chance to ask the Chinese student how much transferred over, but apparently, though they use the exact same kanji, for most the meanings are actually different across the languages. He said that any given Chinese speaker could figure out about 20% of a given sentence, unless it was super easy, where they might get 50/70%. Also, in Chinese the particles are also kanji, and the particles typically go before their given subject, so I don't think it's likely that they would be able to understand much.

Well it's a bit different

Well it's a bit different because none of them, bar the ones I'm working with at Uwajimaya, can read anything other than Romaji. Apparently most of the kanji is similar though, because this week I had a chance to sit in on Yoko's advanced class, and she had a Chinese student as well who spoke really good Japanese, completely fluently from what I could tell, and he said that on tests and whatever the Kanji was always the easiest part. I'll have to ask next time I sit in on her class though.

How about a nail gun instead? I'll forgive you.


Spencer, sounds like a great opportunity for both you and your new students! :)

WOW!!! ほんとうに、いそがしいですね~~~!