Archive for December, 2006

I Think I’m Learning Japanese, I Think I’m Learning Japanese, I Really Think So

In : El Japan, Posted by on Dec.12, 2006

Since we accepted jobs that don't begin for another eight months, I've been casting about for something tangibly Japanese. I've settled on the Japanese language. For someone trying to "get their Japan on," learning the language has a number of advantages.

For one, it's cheaper than regular consumption of sushi. So far I've spent $40 on books, which barely covers dinner for one, if you factor in the exorbitant markup on Japanese beer (Four bucks for 330mL of Sapporo!? It's like we already live in Kobe!).

Thanks to Peru's cheap and plentiful market in bootlegs, I could amass a large collection of anime films and manga. There are two downsides there, however: A) it's embarrasing, and B) everything here is localized in Spanish. How many languages am I supposed to learn?

The last obvious option (and let's be honest, it's not like I'm going to do any research) would be taking up a martial art. Non-starter, of course, on grounds of overwhelming laziness.

So, I've picked the language, which has only one negative aspect: it's freaking hard.

And let me be clear, I haven't even started learning the language. I'm just learning how to spell. Japanese comes complete with a 46-character syllabary (think of it as an alphabet) called the hiragana. The good news is, unlike the Roman alphabet, the hiragana actually makes some sense. The "letters" are arranged in a logical order and everything has only one sound. The bad news is that the "letters" look like they were "drawn" by a "crazy person."

But wait, it gets better. Now that I've got a handle on the hiragana, I have to learn another set of characters. You see, Japanese comes complete with a 46-character syllabary (think of it as an alphabet), called the katakana. Sound familiar? It should. It's the same 46 sounds with different characters. Why? Well, the hiragana are only used for Japanese words (and loan-words from Chinese). All other loan words are written in the katakana.

Sort of like if I said, "yeah it's pronounced 'burrito,' but it's spelled '&^3+-|:@'.

But don't despair, because none of this really matters. In practice, the bulk of a Japanese sentence will be taken up with kanji, which are ideographs borrowed from Chinese. In this case, you just have to know that the a given symbol stands for a given idea. It's all brute force memorization. No sweat, since the Japanese government officially limits the country to the everyday use of a mere 2,000-odd symbols.

Of course, I've read that 6,000 or so are necessary to be truly literate, but that's way too far down the road for me to worry about. I've been pretty diligent for the last week, but I suspect that my motivation might drop off once my grades are in, and I'm not staring at a stack of essays I don't want to mark.

Speaking of which… better run.



Sayonara Peru, Buenos Dias Japan

In : El Japan, Posted by on Dec.12, 2006

For those of our readers who are not overseas teachers let me take a few moment to explain job hunting in the overseas circuit.

Most teachers at international schools get hired by attending job fairs in January and February. Schools that need teachers and teachers that need jobs come to the job fair and then interview each other over a frantic 72 hours. Everyone desperately hopes to find their perfect match. Rob and Rachel had the unfortunate luck to attend our first job fair with us in February of 2002 in Washington, DC. It was stressful to say the least. [Well, the fair was. Rob and Rachel are pretty laid back. -Todd]

A lucky few can actually avoid this torture by finding jobs before the fair. Teachers talk about those who find these jobs before the fairs with a hint of a fairy tale.

However, as luck would have it, our former superintendent, Fred Wesson, now heads the Canadian Academy in Kobe, Japan. He happens to remember us fondly, and, after a Skype interview with his High School and Middle School Principals, we were offered jobs there starting in August 2007.

Todd will be teaching middle school tech and yearbook in the high school. I will be teaching 7th and 8th grade Humanities and a 7th grade math course (EEEK).

We will be moving to Rokko Island, just off the coast of Kobe. This island is supposed to be a toddler's paradise.

We will have a miniature apartment, but there are a couple of hotels on Rokko Island. We would love to start planning for visitors now.