Well, the classes are over and only one final exam stands in our way. I'm feeling pretty good about myself. Not bad for someone who wasn't even in this class to begin with.

I still remember those first few days of trying desperately to find an open section of Japanese 101. It was trying, but that would be the least of my worries, as I was able to find a place in my 1:00 section quickly enough.

Things were pretty mellow for the first few weeks, but as soon as new material started appearing, I had to start adapting to what essentially became a strange and new experience for me. This Japanese class was nothing like the ones I had taken before - it was much more fast-paced, and Sato-sensei expected much more out of us.

For sure, I had my share of struggles. I forgot my homework, I didn't bother to memorize my skits, I never made enough time to study, and I even suffered through one week in which I was so incompetent that I even managed to concern Sato-sensei. Somehow, I managed to keep my class grade afloat, though. I could always count on Mallard for some easy, albeit inconveniencing, grades, and when it came time to take the chapter test, I managed to exceed my own expectations. Eventually, I started doing better on the skits, too.

But this week might have been the hardest of all. Between the brutal Chapter 6 test, the oral interview, and the prepared speech, I felt like my true abilities were being tested as often as possible. It was important to me to do well here - I was not planning to move on to Japanese 102 if I couldn't muster a respectable grade on those assignments, especially the interview - but apparently, I managed to do well. I might have even ended up enjoying parts of it a little bit - with the exception of the interview, which terrified me thoroughly from beginning to end. *laughs*

But I digress. This doesn't really feel like the end of anything, since in no time at all we'll all be back studying Japanese with Sato-sensei and some familiar faces again. A few less familiar faces for me, though - out of necessity, I'm forced to switch to the 11:00 section for next semester. So, I'm looking forward to meeting my new classmates, and I'm prepared to work harder to capture the one thing that has eluded me thus far - an "A" class grade.

I hope we'll continue this blog project at that time. I've ended up enjoying it when I've had the time to maintain it - it stands as a testament to all my struggles and triumphs thus far.



Compared to the terrifying oral interviews that we're facing next week, this rehearsed speech project doesn't seem too bad. Anyway, I though the peer editing that we were assigned to do was even more helpful in conjunction with Sato-sensei's usual input. Since we as a class are all going to have to listen to each other's speeches, working with our own classmates helped us to write pieces that will hopefully be more enjoyable for everyone. Also, it's much less intimidating to receive input from our own classmates - it's easier to ask why they thought a certain change ought to be made, or even to argue to that person why a certain sentence or phrase should be preserved. Not to mention, peer editing is another great way to continue to get to know our classmates - I rather honestly believe that Sato-sensei does a good job of bringing all of us together as a community of friends.

I learned a few things even while I was editing other papers on my own. Putting myself in that kind of position, and focusing on the errors others had made, helped me to spot and correct a few errors in my own paper. Also, the fact that even the most well-written speeches had a few mistakes in them helped me understand why the written pieces I submit in class so often come back with a bunch of red marks on them. *laughs*

The only concern is that perhaps a few mistakes may have still managed to escape the notice of my peer editing group members and myself, but they can't be serious mistakes if they're that hard to catch. Now, the only issue is making sure that Sato-sensei comes away feeling as good about our speeches after hearing them as we did after writing and editing them.



I'm posting this speech that I'm supposed to turn in for a big grade in class, but I don't feel like I know enough Japanese, nor do I know it well enough, to create a winning narrative. But here we go. Maybe over the break I'll put some more serious focus into this. What I worry about is if it's okay to say that in high school, I didn't study "the Japanese people's Japanese" - is that an acceptable idiom in Japanese?











As for me...





So ends my first clumsy attempts at a full post in Japanese. This was a big step forward - I'm happy about it.



Was anyone else scared to death when they saw Sato-sensei, Kawai-sensei, AND Wilson-sensei in the same classroom today? I was so nervous I could hardly speak. My Japanese already sounds timid as I speak it, but today I felt like it was even worse.

Somehow or another, I think I managed to hold my own in class today, but it gets harder and harder for me to say the right thing as Kawai-sensei or Sato-sensei ask me more and more questions. I like to think out my answer before I speak, so that I don't make any mistakes - so usually my first question or response sounds pretty good, but when I'm asked to expand or change beyond that, I have trouble thinking of the new sentence. Rarely do I think well "on my feet."

Today, I was so overwhelmed that I finally adopted a new strategy - passing the conversation to someone else. Let's watch Transformers at Lin-san's place! Yeah! Now she has to answer questions instead of me! All right!

リンさん、ごめんなさい。I owe you something after that.



After finishing today's Chapter 3 test, I've realized that the hardest part is finishing the dialogue section in time. In previous tests, I've blamed this on my lack of readiness. But I came mentally prepared for the test today, finishing the first three sections quickly (and correctly, hopefully... I didn't think it was that hard, but you never know). Despite having what felt like loads of time at the end to write a really great dialogue, however, I still fell short.

I already know that Kim-san and Sachdeva-san know what I'm talking about. After class, the three of us admitted to each other that we more or less knew what grammar to use, how to use it, and how to make it sound natural... but we all ran out of time. I don't think the three of us are alone, either.

I'm not really sure how to solve this problem, but if anyone's got a suggestion, I'll certainly try it.
On the other hand, the grade I received on that Economics midterm that so worried me last week was actually fairly good. I can borrow some positive energy from this as I head into what should be an exciting Homecoming weekend. I want to see the Cavaliers play a great football game against UConn. I would've liked to go to the concert, too - and there was even someone that I wanted to ask to come with me - but I seem to have missed my opportunity in both of those cases.

Oh well.



As if things weren't hard enough...

I'm pretty sure I just spectacularly failed my Economics midterm exam. I don't know how I managed to be that unprepared for such a big test. Did I somehow manage to convince myself that I'd studied more than I actually had? It looks like I need to add ECON to the list of subjects that require more of my attention.

Now my confidence is shot, and I have an Atlantic Revolutions midterm on Wednesday, right after break. What am I supposed to do about that?

I don't think things can get much lower than this.



I really appreciate the fact that さとうせんせい talked to me after class - I'm a student who likes to know that someone is worrying about him. But it makes me feel really horrible for lying to her.

"I'm not just relying on what I already know," I told her this afternoon. It's a promise I've made to myself and others numerous times this year - that I won't let my prior knowledge of Japanese undermine the importance of my studies in this class. But my study habits to this point in the year clearly prove I'm not taking responsibility for that promise - and yet, somehow, I always manage to convince myself of the opposite when I'm asked about it directly. I've been able to be honest only in this blog, where I've admitted the need to improve my study habits again and again. In real life, I'm repeating a lie, and acting hypocritically.

In my heart, I really do want to turn the lie into truth, and put some real effort into my Japanese class. I want to work hard for さとうせんせい if she's honestly concerned about me, so maybe I'll finally be able to create positive changes - as soon as I get my feet back on the ground. The heavy workloads of this midterm week have caused some real struggles for me. I feel like this was my first real test as a college student, and I'm not really certain that I made the grade.



I tried to go against it, but I'm back to my old habit of worrying furiously about everything.

That time of year that I've heard senior students refer to as "hell week" has finally arrived for me. In Japanese class alone, I'm managing four whole projects at once - the sakubun, a skit draft with Patrick, the cultural presentation with McCarty-san, and this blog (which will graciously cease to be a problem once this is published). Add an Economics 201 midterm exam at the end of the week, and two more tests coming by the middle of next week, and you can see how full my plate is with work and study responsibilities.

Perhaps all this work is the reason why I have developed a compulsive concern for my grades. I wonder how the tests will affect them, and how my daily work has already affected them. In some classes - Japanese in particular - I fear the worst. At my high school, I studied the language on my own - I had no one with which to compare my progress, but I was a biggish fish in a smallish pond at the time, so I naturally felt that I was above average. Doing drills in classes now, however, shows me how wrong I was in this perception. There are days where I feel like I am speaking well and thinking clearly - but more common are the days where I feel dissatisfied with both my fluency and clarity. For the first time ever, I have shadows of doubt that I will ever be able to realize my dream of speaking fluent Japanese...

I have to sort this out. I gotta keep it together.



I will begin this post with a confession - わたしはあまりにほんごをべんきょうしません。

That's right, I've studied Japanese little if at all this semester. It's not that I don't have the time, but when it comes to the most important things to memorize - the vocabulary, the hiragana and katakana - I generally have prior working knowledge. (Not to say I'm perfect, though. I missed some words on the quiz today, so I might have to re-evaluate my opinion of myself.)

What I really need to work on are the little things that can only come with repeated practice and experience - namely, correct particle usage and fluency. I hope that I'll eventually master this in class. Really, that's my only option, unless someone is willing to frequently meet and converse with me in casual Japanese.

That said, I have some secret study methods that served me well in high school, and are probably still useful here at UVA. I'll share them now for the first time!

The first strategy is to adopt a mantra to motivate your studies. I have two. The first is this: "Anyone who ever told me I couldn't learn Japanese was a narrow-minded idiot." I feel that studying in defiance of someone or something always brings about the best results. My second mantra is the "Pokemon rule," which goes like this: If I could remember the names and powers of 151 Pokemon when I was a kid, then I should definitely be able to remember 23 hiragana, or 100 kanji, or whatever. (The longer you played Pokemon, the more valid this rule is. So I herd u liek Mudkips...?)
Anyway, my second strategy is to watch subtitled Japanese-language anime, and try to read signs or pick out words I know from the dialogue. It keeps me focused, it feels like practical application, and it dovetails with something I already enjoy. The only trouble with this method is that not every anime character speaks the way a normal Japanese person would! *shock* But seriously, don't let that discourage you.

My third strategy is to keep a constant stream of Japanese music flowing through my ears. This not only serves as a window into Japanese culture (you'll inevitably have to consult Japanese sources to find the popular bands), but is another way to get used to hearing the language. Again, I try to pick out words I know and understand as much of the song as possible. If I'm no good at that, I can at least enjoy the music.

Also, I'd recommend checking out the "Mainichi Shimbun" link that I've posted somewhere. The Mainichi, as it's lovingly known as, is one of Japan's top newspapers and is provided online and translated by MSN. Reading it every now and then will give you an understanding of current events and trends in Japan - which might come in handy for a future project.

And those, my friends, are my secret strategies.


Last week, I was supposed to share how my semester's been going. I blogged about other stuff instead. Hopefully, it's not too late to add these two cents.

So, it's no secret that I'm in the middle of my very first semester as a college student - and despite the anxiety I felt before and during my move-in, a lot of the transition has gone very well. I'm getting used to living on my own - taking care of my own chores, getting my own meals, managing my own schedule, and making sure I get enough sleep. I feel like it's easy to adapt to dorm life as long as I have all the necessities. On top of that, Woody House is a really great place to live - the best, in my opinion.

Classes are really exciting, too. I never really imagined how much college professors would transcend my teachers in high school in terms of knowledge of and enthusiasm for their chosen subject. I'm prone to falling asleep during lectures, but Professor Griffin keeps me wide awake in HIST 338. I usually don't take detailed notes, but in PSYC 210, Professor Williams practically forces me to do so. College is forcing me to exceed my old academic limits - and that's exciting.

But while I can be happy about my semester in those two respects, other things didn't go so well. The days that I spent desperately searching ISIS for an available slot in a Japanese class left me continually frustrated and a bit depressed. It took me a really long time to make friends here, too - during the first few weeks of the semester, I constantly felt alone and miserable. I once counted my iPod as my only companion.

Thankfully, much of that is changing. I did, of course, eventually find a way into a Japanese class, and I feel lucky to work with such great people on a daily basis. I hold my classmates in high regard, and unavoidably I think of our class as a family of sorts (with Sato-sensei as the quirky matron, I suppose. *laughs*). After the Activities Fair, I became active in a lot of clubs, as well, which eventually ended my days as a lone wolf. I can usually count on finding someone from CAINE or the Go club or the Shotokan Karate club at lunch or out for a walk - and that means my iPod doesn't have to keep me company so much anymore. (Oh, and I'm in three more clubs as well - and I get the chance to do amazing things in all six of them.)

I guess I'll close with some random thoughts. I'm a really big fan of our football team right now, as they've really improved after bad games against Wyoming and Duke. Supporting the Cavaliers on the field has done a lot to boost my school spirit in general. On the other hand, I was really excited to meet people from other parts of the world, but I haven't gotten to know any りゅうがくせい as well as I would like. The cultural barriers are... more intimidating than I thought, especially in groups. (Case in point: I'm part of Japan Club, but I don't know a single Japanese person yet.) Also, in general, Charlottesville and UVA are much bigger and more diverse than my tiny little hometown, so my head is constantly spinning and I'm not always sure what to do or who to talk to or where to go next.

Oh, and now midterms are coming up. I hope I can study responsibly... I'm worried that I won't get anything done because I'll be distracted by manga or video games.



I've been wondering... what should I call you if I run into you in "the real world," a.k.a. anywhere outside of Japanese class? I suppose that some of you might prefer to be addressed as (surname)-さん as we've been doing in class, but I imagine that most of you have first names or nicknames that you'd prefer I use.

Technically, I should try to use my にほんご even when I'm not in class, but it just seems too weird to my Western mind to work and talk with people every day and not be on a first-name basis with them.

For the record, I will answer to Paul or Derek, whichever you prefer.


I had what you would a call a pretty interesting weekend.

As mentioned earlier, my friend Danny came to visit on Friday. While it was too bad that I couldn't drag him along to any of my favorite classes or clubs (he arrived somewhat late), we managed to have some fun watching "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" in Newcomb, and catching Bandazian performing practically next door. The latter is of special note, since that was my first opportunity to sample some of our local musical talent - and I thought Bandazian sounded good, reminiscent of The Killers but with a slightly different flavor. Danny and I spent the rest of the night playing some old favorites on the PS2, before he had to leave early the next morning.

I slept in, but I certainly wasn't late to catch our Cavaliers in action against Georgia Tech. The football team's been improving, and this game was a good example of that. While I don't, and perhaps never will, agree with Al Groh's playcalling, I think that Jameel Sewell and Cedric Peerman may yet be breakout stars, and Chris Long continues to prove his dominance. My loyalty to the Cavaliers earned me a bright red sunburnt stripe under my eyes, as well as bragging rights over my "friends" at Virginia Tech. 'Hoos numbah one in the ACC?

My dad e-mailed me later that night telling me he was in China on a business trip... in fact, I think he's in Shanghai right now. I told him to bring back something fun - preferably something I can eat or wear. My friends Alex and Olivia also called, marking the first time in several months that I've been in touch with either of them.

Then, I woke up this morning with a cold - probably the same one that's victimized so much of our Japanese class lately. I wasn't sick enough that I would miss my beloved Green Bay Packers defeat the San Diego Chargers, though. In addition to that, the constant stream of vitamin C that I've been consuming since this morning (orange juice, citrus fruits, dietary supplements, you name it) has done much to keep my cold in check, particularly this evening, and hopefully I'll be in good health in time for the Japanese skit on Tuesday.

Also, congratulations to my hero Brett Favre on breaking Dan Marino's career touchdowns record. If #4 isn't the greatest quarterback in NFL history, he's certainly one of the best.



Well, it's about time I got my required weekly blog post out of the way.

Our skit drafts are in, and I'm worried again. It seems like worrying about skits is going to be a recurring theme for me this semester. I guess I don't have a lot of faith in either my creativity or my Japanese speaking skills at this point. Working with Kan-san last night was a boon, though - he's quick to come up with good ideas.

I'm worried about many more things than just my Japanese homework, though. I'm worried that I don't have enough warm clothes to deal with the increasingly cool weather. I'm worried about the score I might have gotten on that test in PSYC 210 the other day. I'm worried about remembering the proper forms and movements for karate, Tai Chi, and the waltz and rumba all at the same time. I'm worried about eating right, and getting enough sleep, and managing my time correctly... and in my spare time, I worry about what my roommate's up to, as well. All that partying seems to have turned him into a nocturnal being.

My family came to visit me last weekend, though, which made me a little happier. My best friend Danny, currently こうこうよんねんせい, is also coming to visit on Friday to tour UVA. He's looking forward to being a Wahoo, and I very much hope he'll be accepted here in the fall.



Now that I've uploaded a proper picture, it's time to get down to business. This is my first serious blog here, so I better not mess it up.

The first thing that comes to mind is this: I'm glad the skits are done. I worried about this project constantly. I felt like I had to expect more out of myself than the other students in the class, because I've already had two years of instruction in basic Japanese (though I'm far from fluent even now). I was determined not to let Yingsha or Sato-sensei down. For the most part, I think that I was successful in that. Yingsha and I found lots of opportunities to work together outside of class, and we didn't make any mistakes during the actual performance. I have to give serious kudos to Shum-san and Kan-san, who upstaged the entire class. I'm not superior to anyone here - even with prior knowledge, I still have a lot to learn.

It's application, more than anything else, that is challenging me in Japanese 101. I understand basic phrases and hiragana very well, so I don't feel the need to study very much for quizzes yet. Speaking from memory in class, however, and writing dialogue both cause trouble for me - since I was the only Japanese student at my high school, I'm not completely used to using the language in conversation with others yet. I think that I might be able to speak with a more natural flow if I could use some of the additional Japanese that I know, but sensei told me not to do that. I miss being able to use "demo" and "soshite."

Still, I'm doing all right. I need to check my syllabus more often, and I probably should spend a little time in the Language Lab on my own. I have very good reasons for taking Japanese, though, and I'll survive this class for sure!

Now I just have to remember to finish the rest of my homework. I'll be able to make Ballroom Dancing tonight if I hurry. I have to get the next volumes of "Death Note" ready for Lin-san as well.

I wonder if anyone else in my class reads manga...


First things first. Before I start blogging, everyone needs to know what I look like. *laughs*

I took this picture at the Otakon anime convention in Baltimore this summer. It's a good way to preserve the memories.

The girls on either side of me are dressed as "Persocoms" from a manga called "Chobits."

I think this is my favorite picture of myself on record.