I have a dream to learn Japanese. Originally, I thought I would have time to study Japanese this year at school. In hopes of achieving this dream, I attended one of the Japanese classes on campus yesterday. The Junior and Senior English majors at our University have to study two years of Japanese so it’s very convenient to sit in on one of their classes. However, I had no idea that Japanese was so difficult. The teacher in this classroom is Japanese, Masato. He and his wife live directly above me. While Masato and I can speak pretty easily using Chinese, his wife can’t speak Chinese or English. Every time I see her, I feel so helpless as to how to communicate. So, I figured the best way to overcome this language barrier was to “pick up” some Japanese. Hmm, it appears Japanese is not easily “picked up.” One look at their textbook and the three alphabets that they use and I knew that I simply won’t have enough time to learn Japanese this semester.
Today, the Japanese teacher knocked on the door of my apartment. “Portia, I have some questions to ask you about yesterday’s class,” he said in Chinese. In fact, his Chinese is pretty amazing especially for having taught himself Chinese after arriving in Hengyang three years ago. Furthermore, he uses Chinese to teach Japanese to the Chinese students. But, teaching has not been without its struggles, and I wonder if sometimes they are confused by the switching of languages. “Could you understand my class?” he asks me. Hmm, ”Yes, I could understand the meaning of the three sentences you wrote on the board.” However, I explained that my Japanese level was 0 and that I didn’t even know the Japanese alphabet so it was a little difficult for me to reproduce the sentences he wrote on the board.
Some of his lower level students say they don’t understand what he’s saying when he reads out a simple sentence even though they understand the individual words that make up that sentence. When he asks them what they don’t understand, they simply say, “I don’t know.” After he asked me for suggestions, I pointed out that he was doing a great job and if the students couldn’t explain (even in Chinese) what they didn’t understand, then how was he supposed to help them. I also suggested he make seating charts in his classes and place the higher level students beside the lower level students. He politely thanked me for the idea. I begrudgingly told him that I wouldn’t be able to study Japanese this semester, but that I still wanted to befriend his wife. He understood and told me that his wife was always at home (right upstairs) and I could stop in anytime. I think I’ll invite her to play badminton and we’ll just have to resort to body language to communicate.