Friday, July 31, 2009

It’s summer!

DSC00021 I’ve been on my summer vacation since July 18 a couple weeks ago. My first semester at my new schools went by kind of fast and much better than I originally thought it would. I enjoy working at both schools and the kids are much more interested and open to me and my classes. I suppose that has a lot to do with their age, kids seem to be more receptive to new things compared to teens. The only thing I’m still working on at my schools are my relations with teachers. I barely know any of them, and whenever I am inside the office I rarely get to talk to anybody since they are usually in their classrooms all day. Oh well at least I’ll save money on staff parties.
DSC00014 The pictures that are on this post are pictures from earlier this month. I took the pictures during July 7th’s Tanabata star festival near Kofu Station. The pictures don’t deserve their own post so I might as well litter this post with them. You know it’s summer once Tanabata rolls around. So you’ll probably see a few more posts with pictures like the ones you see today in them.
This summer has brought a lot of humidity and rain. The average temperatures in my area hit the low 100s in the afternoon and high 70s in the evening. It’s hot and the humidity doesn’t help any.
DSC00003  It’s been the rainiest year on record for this season in Japan. A lot of floods and mudslides have wreaked havoc on the countryside of Japan for a good couple of weeks. We even got a tornado in Gunma-ken that knocked around a few cars in a parking lot. Tons of freakish weather for this region. From what I understand from what I see on Japanese TV, it may be that Japan’s experiencing “el nino” style weather patterns. I think this winter’s going to be an equally cold one to this record hot one.
DSC00022 Speaking of hot weather, I bought a brand new 1,100 yen fan for my upstairs bed area. I decided I’d try my hardest to pinch some more pennies and use my AC sparingly. So far it’s worked fairly well and my electric bill has been relatively fair this month.
DSC00010 For the next few weekends to come, I’ll be traveling within Japan with Yuko. We plan on visiting Osaka for two days, Nagoya for two days, and maybe Chiba for a day. I’ll be doing a lot of driving this month! At least I don’t need to use that stupid beginner sticker on my car anymore! It’s been just over one year since I got my Japanese license. Time sure does fly!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Japanese 2nd level Proficiency Exam

1186692268986 I majored in Japanese language when I was an undergraduate at SDSU. I even managed to spend a year as an exchange student but I never really challenged myself when it came to how much I actually know let alone even used it for any real practical purpose. So Yuko pushed me to take the Japanese 2nd level proficiency test.
The 2nd level test is 1 level away from the highest, “mastery” level 1 test. There are 4 levels in all; 4 being lowest and 1 being the most advanced/highest level test. I feel I am somewhere between levels 2 and 3 but closer to 2. My listening comprehension has grown by leaps and bounds but my reading literacy has completely suffered and my test scores will probably really hurt because of it.
I’ve been “studying” for the 2nd level Japanese test since mid-March. I really didn’t give myself enough time or took it seriously enough because I am so easily caught up in distractions of my daily life (VIDEOGAMES and internet.) I regret not taking more time to really focus on my studies but that time has passed and now all I have to look forward to are my results that should come in sometime mid September.
While my family and friends were barbecuing and celebrating America’s Independence Day, I was stuck in a stuffy college lecture hall. I took the test at the sciences campus of Tokyo University. It was weird going back to college, even if I was only there for most of one day. Sitting in a tiny cramped lecture hall surrounded by other foreigners mostly from other Asian countries. I barely saw any western looking foreigners that may have come from English speaking countries so I really didn’t get a chance to talk with anybody. I was so nervous anyway, I doubt I would have even tried if the opportunity revealed its self to me.
The test is made up of 3 sections, Chinese characters and vocabulary, listening, and reading. Of all the three sections I think I did really good on the listening portion although I tripped myself up on two questions over thinking. I may have bubbled in the wrong answers on accident. My weakest of all three subjects would have to be the reading section which is also the biggest section with the most time and points possible.
The reading section is made up mostly of page long excerpts from essays and books that you are required to analyze and answer questions about their contents. I have a horrible attention span when it comes to reading in any language so I really suffer there. I found myself guessing a lot just to get through the reading section so I could get to the other half of reading which was more fill in the blanks which I do better at.
If I remember correctly, the lowest possible score you can get for a passing grade is 60 percent (although it may be 70 I have to recheck this later.) Either way, a passing grade for this test is incredibly low compared to most other standardized test. Its low for good reason too, IT’S HARD. I may or may not have reached this grade but if I did it will save me another trip to the testing center in December to try it all over again. In the meantime, I’ll be focusing more on beefing up my vocabulary for my own personal benefit and for future tests I will probably end up taking in order to find a better job.