Yamasa Quarter Three Complete

With winter approaching and a long holiday ahead of us, our third term at Yamasa comes to an end. The third quarter had a few changes in store for us, including new textbooks! As with the previous two quarters, the “academic intensive” part of the program held true. Student life, as it turns out, is a never-ending cycle of lessons, study, homework, tests, more lessons, more studying, more homework, more tests, and repeat. But it’s all for the sake of learning, so we march on.

Class 103 began with finishing up the remainder of the second volume of Minna no Nihongo. This meant continuing the previous learning routine from classes 101 and 102: memorize the vocabulary, learn the grammar, practice concepts, and advance to the next lesson. Lined up for the term were three listening and writing exams, two conversation exams, and two essays. Daily quizzes made a return too. All was well for a while, and then we started the New Approach – Intermediate Japanese textbook. The new textbook brought a number of changes to the classroom.

First, the book itself consists of chapters that focus around a grammatical theme, like how to compare things. Each chapter starts with a short essay that highlights key points. The chapter goes on to present vocabulary and various grammar concepts. My biggest issue is with the grammar “explanations.” The grammar points simply list the generalized form of a concept with a few example sentences and maybe a quick note about usage. Did I mention the book is entirely in Japanese? No English this time. That’s fine; I understand the training wheels needed to come off. But instead of simply erasing all traces of English, the book also loses some fidelity as well. Acceptable verb conjugations for a particular sentence structure are notably missing, so it is up to the teachers to relay this information. Best keep your notes and printouts, because I wouldn’t consider the book reference-level material.

The second set of changes dealt with the timing of lessons and after-school responsibilities, a.k.a. homework. Vocabulary comprehension required research and translation at the start of each chapter, and homework consisted of practice sentences from within the New Approach book. Kanji lessons came built into the vocabulary packet, with a subset of words marked for reading and writing memorization. The lesson schedule for each chapter added a day for essay reading comprehension. All in all, there was more preparation required outside of class, and lecture periods became all the more important.

The final listening and writing test used a different format to compliment the new book. Longer than previous tests, it included a reading comprehension section. The listening portion contained more free-form, question-and-answer style problems. Personally, I didn’t have enough time to finish the written portion, but managed to do well enough to earn a passing grade.

In addition, at the start of this quarter, we found a new administrative structure in place for the beginner levels of AIJP. A head teacher was now in charge of all three 100 series classes, responsible for things like final grades and student absences. The teachers also seemed to work more independently, following some predefined schedule, rather than as a class unit as before. The flow between lectures suffered sometimes and you got the feeling the new setup was a top-down order to try to increase teacher efficiency. But learning isn’t a very efficient process to begin with, so we will see if this experiment continues next quarter.

On a brighter note, Madelynn and I chose to take a cultural elective course this term. We tried our hand at flower arranging, taiko drums, kanji calligraphy, and the Japanese tea ceremony; easily more fun than the standard electives.

So once again, we made it successfully to the end of another quarter and another three months of hard work. We are starting to feel some drag on our sail. On-the-spot conversations still leave me stumbling for words, but it’s becoming more about lack of vocabulary at this point. Finishing out class 103 also means we transition from beginner-level to intermediate-level courses. Looks like next quarter will be quite the challenge.

Interested in our class breakdown?

Class 103

5 core teachers; 1 head teacher; 2 elective teachers (1 Japanese man, 7 Japanese woman)
14 students
6 women (1 American, 1 Filipino, 1 French, 1 Mexican, 1 Chinese, 1 Vietnamese)
8 men (1 American, 1 Chinese, 1 Dutch, 1 Lithuanian, 2 Portuguese, 1 German)