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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Classes!

Well, the Harajuku trip was pure fail. It started pouring outside so I bailed. I'll just go on my own or find another shop some other time. It's still raining pretty hard, and it's definitely not fun to walk home in the rain :( That little $1 umbrella I bough the other day at the dollar store thing has been my best purchase yet. I definitely got my dollar's worth out of it today for sure.

The orientation went well, if long. Let me break down some stuff about KCP and its classes for people who might be looking into the program.

There are 7 levels of classes: 1-6 and the advanced class. Roughly, each level will be equivalent to two semesters of college study in the US (depending on your instructor, the textbook etc). The classes are based around the textbook "Minna no Nihongo" for the core course, and they have their own kanji book they created. The classes are broken down into a morning block and afternoon block. Typically levels 1 and 2 (and occasionally 3) will be in the afternoon block from 1:30 PM - 4:45. All the rest are morning classes that start at about 9 AM and go to just after noon. For the US program students, you're required to take a co-curricular class that is related to some aspect of Japanese history/culture/interests. They have things like tea ceremony, yosakoi dance, calligraphy, Japanese cooking classes, and a whole bunch of other nifty stuff. All the teachers seem really nice and more than willing to help, and the administrators who work on the US program stuff are really helpful. They all seem to know their stuff.

We also had a useful orientation to "Life in Japan" as it was titled. Tanaka-san went over a few things that pertain to students here: Always carry your passport or Alien Registration Card because it's required by law and you can be questioned and detained if you don't have it. You're required to register for national insurance and the Alien Registration Card if you're here on a long term Visa (more than 90 days for US students). What to do during an earthquake. How to replace lost important documents. Things like that :D

He also pointed out a few very useful things: Stay the hell away from Kabuki-cho at night (The redlight district in the area, just north of the prefecture the school is located in) and told us about the "Roppongi Incident" fairly recently where apparently the bars in Roppongi were spiking the drinks of foreigners and then taking their money, charging up their cards, taking their passports, and dropping them in an alley somewhere to wake up. Roppongi isn't strictly a redlight district, but it IS a touristy area/tourist trap, and the people there know it. It's an expensive area, and tourists can be targeted if you look and act like a dumb tourist. Don't let all that scare you though; Japan is incredibly safe overall, but like every big city in the world it has a seedy location or two.

Back to the classes! They seem like they'll be very intense. The instructor who was telling us about our class spoke rapidly in Japanese for that, and we were expected to be able to understand and keep up. Luckily he speaks very clearly, so even though it's fast I can keep up and have pretty high comprehension of what was said. The real issue for me is going to be the production skills of speaking and writing. Writing won't be as bad a speaking, but they'll be the more difficult of the skills taught for me. Each level emphasizes a set of skills which are:
  • Grammar
  • Conversation
  • Listening
  • Pronunciation
  • Kanji
  • Composition/writing
Each level is broken down into these core parts, and different teacher will specialize and teach each section. From what I understand there will be 3 teachers to a class of about 20. Now, there's something important anyone who's looking at this program needs to know: The grading scale. It's fairly generous overall for the final grade (a 70% would be reported as a "B" and there is no "D"--it just goes A-B-C-F) but the individual test grades are set to a pass % of 60% or 70% depending on the topic/skill tested. For example, a grammar test is considered to be "passed" if you get a 70% or above. Composition and Kanji are set to 60%. This means it's much easier to fail a given section of the ones listed above in the bullet points, and there are consequences to follow if you're here for multiple semesters. If you get below 70% in the grammar subcategory then you've failed it as far as KCP is concerned. For levels 1,2,3 this then means that you can't progress to the next level because you have to pass the grammar section to move on. Also, if you get two "F"s in those subcategories then you can't progress on to the next level regardless of if your composite final grade is a pass. Now, this grading setup isn't exclusive to KCP. In fact, KCP is more generous in it than some of the other language schools I've heard of. There are some where less than an 80% is a fail in that section. Language schools in general will be set up like this, so don't expect to just slide by--it requires a bit more attention to do well than classes in the states.

It's a bit overwhelming, but being able to understand Saito-sensei as he explained the class gave me some confidence that I'm roughly in the correct level and will have a reasonable challenge but progress. Classes officially begin on Tuesday (Because Monday is a national holiday. Not sure which one it is though) and then the US students will be tossed into the class with all the Korean and Chinese students. Honestly, we've hardly seen them at all. They've kept us separate for special orientation and explanation. The US program is apparently an entirely different beast than the setup the other students have since the US people are typically here for college credit whereas the others are here long term--on the order of 2+ years each--for mastery of the language. And truthfully, most of us probably need the babying; we're not from Asia and have minimal experience or understanding of stuff here in general. It's way different from the US. We got the "sex talk" from one of the administrators about how in the US casual sex is more accepted but not here in Japan, watch out for STDs etc. Was kinda funny. She also admonished us not to wear low-cut shirts because "it's not common to show the crevice and it's 'new to the boys here.'" Some laughter ensued after that comment from her :)


Now on to me specifically :D I've been place in level 2. I might have been able to talk my way into 3 if I were convincing, but I know I don't know everything in level 2 well enough to move up without being completely overwhelmed. I'll probably be familiar with some of the stuff we'll do in 2, but for the most part it should work out perfectly. The first week of classes will be hardcore review and exams of the stuff that would have been gone over in level 1 to make sure we're prepared to begin 2. They gave me 4 textbooks for level 2! 4! Plus a booklet that has homework in it. Level 2 apparently starts at the tail-end of Minna no Nihongo 1 book and then continues into most of the Minna no Nihongo 2 book, so level 2 ends up having the most textbooks passed out :P This meant I had to drag home like 10 pounds of books in my purse on the train (which I didn't get lost on today, by the way). Totally should have brought my backpack to the school today, lol.

3 comments:

  1. Very good. Do you have anew Email address? Do we need to send you coffee? What else.....
    Love your Blog...Frank/Mary

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  2. I think I'll be good on coffee for a while. I haven't been here long enough to be craving anything in particular yet, and I don't know what I'll want that I can't get here. I do kind of want some Haribo gummy bears though :P I haven't seen a lot of gummy candy here.

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  3. Oh, my email address is still the same: I don't get one from the school here.

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