Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Breeaaaaaaak!

Today is the second official day of spring break, and I have to admit to loving it. Although being in the office while there are no classes is bound to get old eventually, I personally am too good at inventing things for myself to do to be much bothered by it yet. I still want to (1) finish sewing that bag, (2) do a line of each of the first 15 kanji, (3) plan the first lesson of the school year for 5th and 6th graders, and (4) gather the necessary Japanese vocab I’ll want at tonight’s enkai. I’m also embroiled in (5) details of getting a Japanese driver’s license (although at the moment I have misplaced my Georgia license…?), (6) finding out what I should do about taxes, then there is always my blogroll (7) on which I am eternally behind, and of course writing here (8) about Kyoto and Tokyo and goodness knows what else. Beyond that of course there are letters and e-mails (9, 10), the state of my inbox (11), and researching Okinawa (12!).

I’ve been attentive to my Japanese studies since the break started, which just makes me feel like I’m very very in college. It wasn’t so long ago I was juggling reading dense volumes, pdf articles, translating Latin poetry, and completing thematically easy but linguistically difficult Japanese homework assignments. Here I am at my desk (which happens to be in an office instead of in my dorm room.. but it makes little difference except that there is a a tea dispenser in the office), bent over my own scribbled imitations of unfamiliar characters which represent words and ideas in some language not my native. Then it was Greek (well and Japanese, too), now it’s kanji.

I’m amazed in retrospect at the rapid rate at which we were learning kanji back at Vandy. We had quizzes fairly often and lots of new kanji per quiz. I remember drilling that crap into the ground; I retained a bit of it and I like to think it makes learning it easier the second time around. People here have asked me occasionally “how many kanji do you know?” because you learn them to levels, sort of. These people just wanted a ballpark of how much kanji I’d crammed into my poor collegiate brain over the years (a hundred? two thousand?), but I never could answer them with anything less vague than “Not enough..”

So far my kanji function has been mostly this:
1. I see a word in kanji.
2. I don’t quite know how to pronounce it, but I know the meaning of one of the characters in the set.
3. Of the other characters in the word, one looks vaguely familiar, like I must have learned it before, but I can’t remember anything about it.
4. One of the characters is completely foreign.
5. Result: I can’t read the word.

I kind of like this post on it, actually.. this is how I feel. And I decided at some point in the recent past that, gosh darnit, I so can learn thousands of kanji, because all that will take is hours and hours of me making random imaginative connections and writing them a billion times, followed by continued use of them in daily reading or writing activities. Or, to return us to the point of this digression, all that will take is me resuming my college state of mind.

Which I find is not so far from me after all.

There is a method I’m going to take on called the Heisig method, which asserts that learning kanji is pretty easy (though time-consuming) if you go about it the right way. And I am all about working steadily through a process to which the endgame is promised proficiency. Basically, before now I didn’t know how to begin, and now I do. I am also going to simultaneously be using the Clair kanji book because it’s here, and it’s another good review of the kanji I allegedly should know from my schoolin’ days. So basically, this might not be as easy to juggle once school starts again, but for now I am feeling pretty psyched.

I wasn’t the only one studying kanji today, as well. Two teachers brought their daughters to the office and they were adorably set up at desks with their own kanji practice booklets.

It's so cute because they each look a lot like the mothers who brought them in today. Other awesome things about this photo include the mug I like to use, "WE ARE PENGUIN" when it is available. And Mikan-sensei is featured, left, with Ou-sensei at right.

Anyway, with that I better get on one of my 12 items of business…

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