David Chart's Japan Diary

March 13th 2004

I've been quite tired this week, largely, I think, due to not having a weekend off for two weeks. So, naturally, I'm trying to make that up this weekend. It doesn't help that I woke at seven this morning anyway; I'll probably sleep longer tomorrow, as I usually do.

We got our test results back this week, which is pretty fast. They were my best results yet, and I think I actually came top of the class in listening. (I was still below average on the written test, but less far below average than I have been previously.) I can therefore confirm that petitioning Sugawara Michizane for help in tests works even if you don't believe in it.

More seriously, this continues the trend of a complete lack of correlation between the amount of study I do for a test, and the mark I get on the test. The one exception is kanji tests, where I tend to do better if I study properly. (Not always: I got my worst mark after studying properly -- for some reason, those kanji just didn't 'take'.) This suggests that, in general, studying specifically for tests is not a good use of my (limited) time, so I shall bravely struggle to overcome years of conditioning and stop doing it.

I'm still slightly depressed about my current Japanese ability. I still make far too many mistakes, and far too often they aren't silly mistakes; they're things I really didn't understand. I'm not too worried about conversation; there's less time to think, the context is fairly tolerant, and it will get better with time. However, there are still more mistakes in my writing than I would like, and I don't seem to be learning as fast as would be ideal. I think my brain has decayed in the last ten years. I'm sure I used to be good at languages. (Depressingly, this is probably true. There is extensive evidence that mental powers decline from the age of around twenty, albeit not very quickly. On the bright side, doing things like studying languages tends to slow the decline.)

I think that part of the problem is that I studied too much on my own. I think I might have done better to study and consolidate the basic stuff, and start Yamasa at the beginning of intermediate. I don't really have time now to go back and fill in the gaps, but they still cause me to make mistakes in my work now.

Nevertheless, I am clearly getting better. Just not as quickly as I would like.


Everyone in the Izakaya A large portion of my class, in the izakaya. From the left: Mua-san, Sakai-sensei (above), Che-san (below), Hang-san, Kou-san, Rachel-san (in front), Yamada-sensei, and Belinda-san.

On Thursday, we had a party for our class. This started with a karaoke trip, which not everyone could attend. I went along, though, at least in part because I've never been to karaoke before, and it's something that you really ought to do in Japan. And I like singing along to certain songs.

However, everyone else was cycling there, so I had to borrow a bike. It's been at least six years since I rode a bike. Fortunately, it turns out that it really is like riding a bike; I think it took me about twenty seconds to get the hang of it again.

At karaoke I discovered a couple of things. First, certain other people in the class (Che-san), as well as getting 98% on the written test and being distinctly good looking, are very good at karaoke. Second, trying to karaoke something written for Freddie Mercury is A Mistake. I don't have that range. This is a shame, as I like Queen and lots of people know it. On the other hand, female singers work fine; I just sing an octave down. I'm not very good at it, and I don't know enough Japanese songs (must learn some), but it was a lot of fun. I suspect I'll do it again at some point.

From there, we went to an izakaya (pub with food, sort of -- there isn't really an English equivalent) for a class meal. Sakai-sensei had turned up towards the end of karaoke, and Umemura-sensei and Yamada-sensei came to the meal, along with almost the entire class. The meal was nice, the conversation was fun, and the games of 'ten questions' (the Japanese version is harder) were entertaining. In all, it was a good evening.