I sat in on the last 20 minutes of 2nd grade, Japanese elementary school kanji class today and it was amazing! I feel like such an idiot for not going sooner. I honestly don’t know why I’ve avoided attending class, but I haven’t been going. Maybe I thought I would feel a bit stupid being this big guy sitting in a class of 2nd graders who know so much more Japanese than I do. Today was just one of those days where everything lined up. I got to school a lot earlier than normal, had more the enough time to make sure all of the day’s lessons were ready to go. The day was incredibly smooth, despite being a Thursday (my busiest day). After lunch, after cleaning with the kids, I had time to spare. I told myself that I am getting back on the study horse…TODAY!
I grabbed my books from the teacher’s lounge, and marched upstairs…a man on a mission. I was going to study Japanese today, no matter what. I walked by one of the neighboring second grade classes and saw one of the teachers writing the shiru kanji (知) on the board (I actually recognized it). I paused at the door, and watched her write the next kanji, ya (矢)on the board. A few of the students caught a glimpse of me looking and smiled. The teacher also saw me, and gave me a kind bow and nod. On a whim, I decided to go in and try learning kanji with the second graders (I think my kanji level falls somewhere in this range, so it was perfect).
I watched the teacher walk the kids through the stroke order of a total of five kanji. The teacher would then practice doing the strokes in the air without their pencils. After that, the kids did kanji drill practice in their brightly-colored, kanji workbooks. I didn’t have a workbook, but I didn’t let that stop me from practicing with them. Remember how I talked about popcorn tears before? Well this time it was popcorn head-turning. Kids were turning, smiling, and looking. “Donarudo Sensei da!” Yes, my Japanese level was the lowest in the class, but not a single kid made me feel uncomfortable. It was quite the opposite actually. The kids were asking me if I wanted to learn Japanese and telling me that I could do it. It was all high fives and smiles.
In the final exercise, the teacher wrote phrases on the board corresponding to kanji that she was teaching. She was writing in the, 縦書き (たてがき), style (which is the vertical style of Japanese writing) starting on the right side of the board (which I thought was kinda neat for some reason). These short phrases gave me a chance to see the basic application of today’s kanji. Here are the kanji I learned today and the corresponding sentences:
岩 (いわ, ガン)
1. 大きな岩 (Okinaiwa) A big rock, a big boulder
2. 岩山よう岩 (Iwayamayogan) rocky mountain lava? (see I’m still learning, too)
1. 矢をいる (Yawoiru) There is an arrow (?)
2. 矢じるし (Yajirushi) Arrow (mark or symbol)
1. 本で知る (Hondeshiru)- Book of knowlege (?)/Learn from a book (?)
2. お知らせ (Oshirase)- Notice or notification
1. 弓の名人 (Yuminomeijin)-Archery Expert/Archery Master
2. 弓をひく (Yumiwohiku)-Draw back a bow
I really enjoyed sitting in on this class because, it gave me an incentive to stay focused. I can’t nod off in front of the kids, or stop paying attention as it would set a bad example. In addition (as you can probably see above) translating these kanji into their English meanings isn’t easy…I can only imagine how tough a translator’s job must be. I’ll keep at it though.
I truly enjoyed learning some new kanji today, and I will DEFINITELY be attending this class more often.
Happy to get started again.
P.S.-If any Japan Guy readers are kanji masters, please feel free to correct/help me with the translations in this article. I’m sorry if I’ve screwed any of them up, but it’s good fun trying.