Here are my thoughts about living in Japan. Mind you, this could be any country.
Since I'm learning Japanese, I've gotten a lot of ignorant questions/comments from various people.
Main question: "why are you learning kanji?"
My answer: "I'm living in Japan now."
Same question again: "but why are you learning kanji?"
Seeing as this woman will not give it a rest with my original answer, I showed her a tea bottle I was drinking from and asked her to find the English. It quickly dawned on her that oh, we are in Japan and there's no English here.
Main comment: "it must be very difficult for you to learn Japanese."
Answer: "no, the only difficulty I find is finding people to speak with in Japanese that won't keep switching to English when I hit a rough spot in the conversation." To date, I've not found any type of conversation partner to strengthen my speaking skills. The other three though, are improving immensely because of being here, and watching TV, listening to Jpod, and reading on a daily basis. I didn't pass JLPT level 3, but next December I plan to pass with flying colors! My main problem was the listening part, so now I don't have any excuse.
To be fair, if I wasn't learning Japanese, I doubt I'd have any issues such as the above. But since I am, I find them even more motivation to learn the language. I guess the government needs to actively promote programs for foreigners to learn Japanese. After all, Japanese is the official language here, not English.
I actually like living here. It's challenging, beautiful, and there's something new to experience every day. I've started enjoying seeing the cherry blossoms when I'm on the train or out walking around. I also enjoy seeing Mt. Fuji on a clear day.
I've grown accustomed to taking the train, and walking everywhere, that I can't imagine having to live somewhere where I need a car. Oh, the thought of having that ball and chain again, and getting fat. I haven't felt this good since I was in high school. I never want to go back to getting fat, and driving everywhere. That sounds sooo depressing!!!!
My thoughts on teaching English: don't ever work at a high school. Either the students could care less, or the teachers don't encourage you to talk to the students. Numerous times I've been told to "take a rest" in the teacher's room. Was even told by one teacher to speak more Japanese to the students. I've been hired to teach at an elementary school or jr high. Hopefully, they'll be more encouraging for me to interact with the students.
I think since I've gotten all the crap out of the way, and have learned to interact with Japanese people that the next three years should be better. Most people I've met that came over when I did, have been treated better, and have not experienced any "bad" things. I guess they'll be in for a rude awakening when they do, and they not know how to handle the situation.
I'm coming up on four years in Japan now. It seems like such a long time! I'm teaching in elementary schools, and interaction with the students is definitely encouraged at my schools. They even tell me to sit in on classes if I'm bored, and I go out and play sports with the kids at lunch time too.
Elementary kids are great for speaking Japanese too, they're actually quite patient and (generally) not fussed if you have bad pronunciation. But I love it when they speak to me in English. That's why I'm there, and to see them try just warms my heart.
I can't say I've ever encountered this question But most people are definitely surprised when you can read it, and especially if you can write it (this even goes for simple hiragana/katakana). I think to a lot of people the skills of speaking and reading/writing are viewed as two very separate things - and what I mean by that is that I don't think they realize that when you study Japanese in any kind of classroom setting, you're going to learn both. I had a co-worker who, when she first sent me an email, used only hiragana and no kanji. We had already been having full-on conversations in Japanese, but she just kind of assumed that maybe I couldn't read it well or something.
I think that's interesting that one of the teachers asked you to use more Japanese with the students. Consider that a good chance to practice (and get to know the kids better)! At most teaching jobs (usually private conversation schools), you're not allowed to use any Japanese at all.
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Jessi wrote: I had a co-worker who, when she first sent me an email, used only hiragana and no kanji. We had already been having full-on conversations in Japanese, but she just kind of assumed that maybe I couldn't read it well or something.
hahahaha, at least you got hiragana out of the email. I've had people who'd type romaji then immediately type the same sentence in English. I wrote the guy back asking him to fix his computer so he can type normal Japanese, and not to use any English translations whatsoever since my English translations would be a lot better than his. He replied saying that he was shocked at the request. I said that I cannot read romaji, and if I come across a kanji I don't know, my Mac is capable of looking the kanji up either in the dictionary or online.
He basically ignored my request, and continued with the romaji. I finally put a block on his email. I don't have time for such arrogance and/or ignorance.
I'm glad to hear that the elementary schools are a lot better at accepting native English speakers. I was walking past one on my way to the high school one day, and one of the boys kept staring at me. I have very blue eyes. I finally said こんにちは to the boy, and he ran off. I died laughing it was so funny! It will be wonderful to have teachers that encourage me to be with the students and talk to them. When I did get to in the high schools, the other teachers would wonder why I never corrected the students' English while they're were talking. I said that it took a great deal to get the student to talk, so why ruin it by correcting them all the time? If they can get the point across, then they are communicating. I believe the teachers were always corrected to the point where they can't ever speak normally, and they're passing it on to their students. That's unfortunate since they speak bad English to begin with. I've heard many times the word "next" be pronounced with three syllables instead of two (or is it one and half?).
As for the rest of the people and their surprised looks, I just ignore it, and go on like nothing has happened. That quickly got old the first month I was here. Same goes for people speaking Japanese to my friends, and English to me when all of us are speaking Japanese to the person.
I wonder if all countries are like this? I'd say the USA isn't because most people there could care less about learning a new language, and assume you can speak English.