Friday, May 26, 2006

Return to Japan: T-2 Months

Prayers for Peace

You may all be wondering why I haven't updated recently. The truth is I've been busy getting ready. As some of you know I have been hired by JET PROGRAM (Japanese Exchange Teaching) and I once again return to Japan!


I'm very excited. This week I received my prefecture and city of placement. I will be teaching in Hiroshima Prefecture in the conglomerate city of Sera-cho.

On a side note the origami paper cranes represent prayers for peace. Both Nagasaki and Hiroshima have many thousands of colorful paper birds strung together to from prayers of peace for a future where atrocities like the atomic bombings will never have to happen again. The belief is that for every thousandth paper bird a wish will come true. This type of honorific and highly visual prayer method can be seen at any genbaku (atomic bomb) memorial or museum.

It's a beautiful tradition of reminding us that peace should always be the first answer to any ethical difficulty or dilemma. For me this shows the high moral rationalization which the Japanese have always used in their regards to nature and life. These things are precious, and that's a message you get when visiting Japan which other countries seldom provide; or what I mean to say, the way the Japanese express it is an art of subtle reflection which I believe would benefit many more people. It's a way of thinking along the lines of serenity -to be at peace in the world. And this is something we desperately need more of. The paper cranes remind us of the reasons why.

Hiroshima here I come!

English is the second language of Japan -one of the most affluent and bilingual cultures on the planet. Everyone in Japan is "language happy" and enjoys conversational language. They use 'conversation' as their primary form of learning English (and other languages); however, I think this is where the system has gone wrong.

You can learn how to speak decently by conversation, but the whole point of conversation is to get to a point and finish talking about the subject. English, and especially American English, in my opinion is very abrupt in its design. Plus American English has the most complicated slang of almost any language in existence.

American slang talk, including colloquialisms, includes and spread or smattering of various languages and language trends mix-matched from a myriad of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual blends. You end up getting Spanish, French, Irish, Japanese, African American combinations (depending on region -it various quite substantially) causing a very bizarre form of street "lingo." This should scare anyone into learning slang, but it shouldn't be a crutch. If you can learn the difficult hip-hop "rap" talk and other common forms of slang used in everyday English, then, your English skills are already pretty high.

Some Japanese, however, think that speaking in English is entirely separate from the written form, much like Japanese conversation is separate from the book form of the language, but for English this rule hardly applies. For example, many Japanese will listen to rap music all day long desperately trying to get a firm "grasp" on the cool rhythms and sounds of the words, but at the end of the day their over-all English comprehension remains really quite low.

In English the two forms of written and spoken are closer intertwined than you would first think, and the only real way to become a "better" English speaker is to read more. Many Japanese neglect this part of the language learning process when studying English; not because it's harder but because it's more time consuming. It's easier to get to a point and have a simple conversation. Afterwards you feel like you really progressed, but the real key to learning English, especially the proper American English, is to read books.


Jen said...

Congrats on Hiroshima! So you must be teaching junior high and elementary school? Sometimes I wish I had elementary school students, but at least I don't have to fear the kancho. : ) You and Sayaka should come up to Hokkaido sometime.

Tristan Vick said...

We'd be glad to visit. Once I get situated we can make a plan.