Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing in Japanese

At the start of every class this year, I have introduced myself while writing my name in Katakana. Most classes have said nothing about my writing, a few kids and teachers have made remarks about it, along the lines of being surprised that I could write in Japanese.

Now I haven't told these kids that started studying Japanese ten years ago. In fact, in my farewell speech to my last two schools, that was the first time I had ever mentioned it.

But whether it's ten years or ten's really not hard to write in Japanese. It takes practice, like with any other writing system.

But, for some reason, some Japanese people have it in their minds that foreigners can't write Hiragana or Katakana, and Kanji is just simply impossible for anyone who isn't Asian.

Kanji isn't easy, that's for sure. But when I write the days of the week in Kanji, it's really not deserving of a "Wow."

As with other things, Japanese people probably aren't used to it. Maybe a previous ALT couldn't write, or something. Maybe it's because I have really neat handwriting.

Yesterday I wrote my name in Katakana for a 3rd grade class. I got an applause.


I just smiled, but on the inside I was facepalming. I almost mentioned that I had been studying for 10 years, but decided to just move on.

[caption id="attachment_998" align="aligncenter" width="516"] An outline for the curriculum I'm planning this semester, 99.9% in Japanese. I generally write my lesson plans in Japanese, even though I'm the only one who looks at them.[/caption]

EDIT 9/14/2013: Yesterday I had a 6th grader give me the "Wow she can write Katakana" comment, and that's when I told them that I've been studying for a long time and learned it when I was in high school. He had made a mention about the previous teacher's Katakana, which implicated that it was more of a comparison to the last foreigner's writing skills, and not a, "Wow, non-Japanese people can write in Japanese" way of thinking. Nonetheless, just as some Americans treat immigrants as if they're incapable of speaking English, there are some Japanese people (mostly older ones) who think that non-Japanese people have little to no Japanese language skills.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Called by the Wrong Name...again

I imagine that some ALTs who have the same schools throughout their entire JET career may not have this problem, but as a JET who lives in a city where the ALTs rotate schools every year, being called by the wrong name is something I've gone through since my first year here.

My first year, I occasionally was called by the previous year's ALT's name by accident. She was also a female, but looked nothing like me. I didn't really care so much since it was within my first few weeks there; they were probably used to calling a certain name all the time for a year and had to get used to it. I never really had the problem by the end of that year.

My second year, the ALT I was replacing--a guy--warned me that my predecessor had been at that school just before him. My predecessor, like me, is female and somewhat dark-skinned, so I was absolutely prepared for wrong names left and right.

Not only did I have teachers accidentally calling me by her name, I had students calling me by her name as well. It dwindled down after a few months, but by the end of the year it still happened every once in a while.

It wouldn't bother me so much if it weren't for the fact that my predecessor was allegedly a horrible person. (The fact that she NEVER contacted me before I came to Japan already gave me a sign.) She was very self-centered, promiscuous, and irresponsible. I don't think the kids ever knew that, but some teachers (and some mothers at my previous school) knew. So it goes without saying that I never want to be associated with her in any way.

Nonetheless, simply because we have a similar skin tone and possibly similar height, it's inevitable for mistakes to happen here in Japan.

I don't know if it's a "Japan" thing or what. Do all foreigners look the same to Japanese people? I've heard stories about white males being told by Japanese people that they look like Tom Cruise, even when they look NOTHING like the guy. I myself have once been told that I look like Beyonce. LOLWUT.

But here's the thing. A lot of Americans who have never been to Asia have said that "All Chinese/Japanese/Korean people look the same."

Actually, that's pretty true when not taken literally. Especially in Japan, a small island of people who share common names and--well, you get the idea. I have seen Japanese people that have a lot of the same facial features as a co-worker or a friend.

But guess what? I've never called any of my co-workers by the wrong name.

(I'll admit though, I've called a kid or two by the wrong name before, only because their name sounded similar to another kid's or because they had a sibling in another grade.)

I thought that, for my third year, I wouldn't have this problem at my new school. Horrible-sensei was--not one, not two, not three--but FOUR TEACHERS AGO. You would think that she was long forgotten here. And yet I've been called by her name by two teachers already.

It would be one thing if I was called by the name of the ALT who was here two years ago. I wouldn't mind that, because she's a friend and was a very good teacher while she was here.

I can only hope that this passes as the months go by. Fortunately, since it's been four years, many of the kids here don't know her. And I've yet to be called the wrong name by a 5th or 6th grader.

I've already gotten some kids to call me 美人先生 (Bijin-sensei, or Beautiful Teacher, hehehe), so that works out. ;)