Learning Japanese… the hard way

It’s been quite a while! I have been busy with extra-curriculars lately, that’s why. One thing I was working on was learning a new language: Nihonggo. And yes, I am an uber-beginner, like close to zero. Fortunately, there are tons of sites online for me to learn from. Honestly, I did have a hard time looking for the best, until my good friend recommended https://www.japanesepod101.comI checked it out, and found a lot of useful tools.

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I am currently done with at least 10 lessons out of 60 per season/module. And there are 9 modules each for absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. So imagine how long it would take to finish each. But after listening (or watching, if you prefer) to one audio lesson, I realized it’s not bad. Actually, it’s stuffed with all the relevant phrases one would need to survive daily activities. I am impressed. I continued and went along with the flow of the routine. I cannot say I am conversant yet (way too early for that) but I am definitely getting the hang of it. More practice, for sure, and I’d be better.

Is anyone else learning a new language now? Care to share handy tips & tricks? I’m all for it.

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IS IT ??!!??

 

Application Process: [4] Class Demonstration

Okay, first thing. Let’s breakdown the class demo in four parts: [1] Introduction [2] Passage Reading [3] Warm-up Activity, and [4] Mini Lesson.

The first two parts were easy for me. Although for the remaining two parts, I had to dig deeper and think carefully of how best to execute it. I searched and searched. Sure there are many options available, but I tried to find the easiest, cheapest (less materials needed) and one that is doable in one minute and 30 seconds. Impossible? At first, yes. But then as I was practicing, it became manageable. I started off with three minutes, then gradually decreased as  I kept on practicing. And then I reached my goal. Same thing I did for the mini-lesson. It took me longer to plan the lesson through and manage the time, as compared to the warm-up.

Anyhow, I have chosen Simon Says for my warm-up. I tweaked a little, and replaced Simon with Teacher. I focused on body parts, and used only 4-6 throughout the activity. Again, this is only for a minute and a half. I started with a genki (energetic) greeting and asked the students to stand up, sit down and stand up again. I asked several body parts including the most popular ones such as head, knees, nose, and ears. As for the shoulders, I added some movement and instructed the students to shake their shoulders, slowly and then faster. And that was it.

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For the mini-lesson, we had to select either of the two topics presented: shopping or directions. It didn’t took me long to choose shopping. I love it! And of course, it deemed easier to plan a lesson around it. I had to buy some paper materials and was required to bring at least one or two pieces of realia (real objects or pieces of writing, used to help teach students in a class). I knew the backdrop is all-white, so I decided to buy colorful materials, my favorites blue and pink. There was a dialogue to begin with, and I wrote it in the materials, along with vocabularies and other relevant phrases. I rehearsed for many, many times in front of a camera. I watched it, took notes of what needed to be changed, and recorded again. After the nth time, at least a few days before the demo, I believe I almost perfected it. And I was satisfied with the result.

I should also mention that the first two parts were a walk in the park. I just had to include some Nihonggo words/sentences in my introduction. And it goes something like this:

Hi, my name is …. And I am interviewing in  ….. Makati City, Philippines. Today is the 22nd of June, 2016. Part 1. Minna-san konnichiwa. Watashi wa …. desu. …to yonde kudasai. Hajimemashite.

It roughly translates to: Hello everyone, my name is.. You can call me … It’s nice to meet you. And then off to the English introduction. You just have to mention your educational  background, family (optional), age, hobbies, or anything interesting and relevant. And then another Nihonggo phrase, domo arigatou gozaimasu. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu. (Thank you very much. Let’s have good working relationship together.)

The second part was the reading passage. And if you’ve read my previous posts, you’d already know it. I just have to have eye contact with the camera, deliver with the correct projection, diction, voice modulation, etc. And it’s done.

After the recording, I was told to wait for the supervisor’s approval. After several minutes, I was called to the office once again. The boss congratulated me and told me that I did an excellent job. I was overfilled with joy. Thank God. I was told to wait for the call. We’ll just have to wait for the Board of Education’s approval.

Application Process: [3] The Interview

I thought it would never come. But it did… after three months!

I must admit I was really waiting during the month after my accent test. But as the days drag by, I lost interest and enthusiasm. I just thought that if it will come, it will come. Come what may. There were some instances I thought they may have forgotten me, or that they lost my resume or application forms. I even applied in two other eikaiwas my friends were currently working in. But heck, there was no response from them.

I forgot to mention  that I got a call two weeks after my accent test. The boss told me I passed mainly because of my accent. I told you it’s my saving grace. But there were some points for improvement that he mentioned: [1] I need to be more charming on screen. If you remember the part where we had to read a passage, that would be it. I wasn’t looking at the camera, and was focused intently on the paper in my hand. I only glanced at the camera during the first part where I had to introduce my name and interviewing city. And that was it. I could understand where he is coming from. He had the impression that I was nervous and shy. Nervous – a little, but shy? No. [2] My essay was too short. Now this I have to blame myself. I was looking at my seatmate’s write ups and I saw them doing the same thing, so I copied. Not their text, but the length. I thought, why make it long when I could it sum it up in just a few words. This ain’t an essay writing contest anyway. And yes, I admit I’m afraid I might make grammatical mistakes along the way. The less words, the safer. It’s a shame, considering I am a journalism major. (Yeah, I know, you might have spotted some errors in this blog as well.) My apologies for that. [3] Finally, my spelling and grammar test had really good results. I even got a perfect score in the spelling test. To this, I expected of course. My grammar test was 8/10, if I remember correctly. I was really happy with that outcome. [4] The personality thing wasn’t mentioned at all, so I didn’t bother asking. Or should I?

So there, I was told to wait for another call regarding the schedule of the interview. To which I waited for three months. No big deal.

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Fast forward to the day of interview. I arrived one hour earlier and took the chance to prepare. I jotted notes on my pad beforehand so I used my spare time to review. I was then asked to complete some form and that was it. I was called upon the interview room and it started.

I won’t dwell into every detail anymore, as it would be too long. The entire interview took more than an hour, as far as I can recall. I had a good view of the cars (and traffic!) outside as I was seated facing the window. I think it somehow helped me think easier. The expected questions were asked and of course, I used my rehearsed answers. I tried not to appear as if I memorized them. Well, I didn’t really. I simply got the gist and stated it in the most simple way possible. I kept the accent (my strongest point I believe) but didn’t overdo. There were several instances, however, that the interviewer would ask me to louder my voice. I was unconscious of this. My current job requires me to speak lowly, almost to a whisper, and so it didn’t occur to me that this job is different. I will be speaking in front of a class so my voice should be at its highest manageable tone. I was reprimanded more than twice about this. Goodness! I kept going down. And up. And down again.

Anyhow, time passed. And the interviewer offered his hand and congratulated me. He told me right then and there that I passed. Whew! Wasn’t that fast? Or were they making up for the three months that went away? I don’t know. But one thing is for sure: I am going to the next and LAST stage, the dreaded class demonstration.

I don’t know what to feel afterwards. The interviewer kept saying that he actually sees me going to Japan. He reminded me again of my voice and charm (especially in front of a camera). As you might not know, the demo would be recorded. He shook my hand once again and congratulated me for a job well done. He said I seemed to be really comfortable speaking in the English language. That felt good.

I was  told the demo is scheduled after a month, and so I have roughly 30 days to prepare. Boy, was that long! I mentally sketched a rough draft on what I should do. I will let you know the specifics on this on my next post. But let’s call it a day for now. Ganbatte!!! … And oh, thank you for reading this far. Cheers!

Application Process: [2] Personality Profiling, Accent & Grammar Tests

Towards the end of the seminar, we were approached by some staff and asked for our availability next week. This is regarding the personality profiling, accent & grammar tests. Lucky for me, I found another slot on a Wednesday. If I haven’t mentioned yet, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my rest days. I obviously signed my name on that day at 10 am. Yes, it was the same time as the seminar. I bid goodbye to my new found friends and we all wished ourselves the best of luck.

Come Wednesday. Just like last time, I prepared early and set off at quarter to seven in the morning. But this time is wayyyyy different from last. The traffic was at its worst. Imagine being stuck in one spot for roughly twenty-five minutes! It could have been more, not if I hadn’t made the decision to jump off and took the train instead. It took me quite a while to do that, considering that I know the trains are full as well and I know it is going to be tough. But hey, do I even have a choice? And to top all that, I need to pee! Huh, talk about worst-case scenario. For some reason, I can’t seem to find any fast food (where I usually frequent at times like this) that I can run to. Oh, gahd. I hated myself suddenly. I tried to recall if I drank too much water. I thought I didn’t. Or did I? Damn. Such a waste of time to look for the loo, so I kept it in for God knows how long. I finally (after what felt like eternity) found one in the train station, but it took me 10-20 minutes before going in because of the queue. Anyhow, to make this journey short, I arrived in the office at exactly 10:00:00 am. To say that I was short of breath would be an understatement. I felt like I was running for my life, and that a big, bad wolf was after me.

Good thing the exam hasn’t started yet. But of course, all participants were already there, relaxed and ready. Good for them. Me? I was still gasping for air and fanning myself. After a couple of minutes, I finally recovered and started chatting with the girl beside me. She said she was from this far-flung area and that she traveled almost five hours just to come there. Just to take the test. Okay. So am I complaining? No, absolutely not. She probably suffered some adrenaline-pumping action like me, for all I know. Then one girl asked all of us to practice the reading part of the test. She had the copy of passage and handed it to us. After heavy prodding, each one of us read the passage aloud. I instantly noticed who got the accent I preferred. Just one, actually. The rest sounded localized to me. Or maybe my standards are too high. Maybe.

Then one of the staff came in and handed out the test papers. This is it! The first stage of it all. Quick rundown:

[1] personality profile test – it’s more of an assessment of your overall attitude and personality, especially during different classroom scenarios [2] grammar- it is what you would expect but shorter, 10 items or so only [3] spelling-  although this wasn’t mentioned previously, it was okay. it’s one my favorites, so yeah it was easy for me, [4] accent test- this was the part where we had to read a passage aloud. This was one of the reasons why I passed the entirety, I think. The interviewer mentioned to me several times during the interview that I had a very good accent and that I sound so natural. I cannot even count it honestly.

So there, the test was done in almost an hour and we all went home. We all wished each other the best of luck and hope to see each other soon. In the airport perhaps? I don’t know. I sure hope to see one of them soon though. I fell asleep as soon as I boarded the bus. Yeah, I was so tired, and quite relieved. I finished the first stage. Off to the waiting part…

The big news!

I can never forget the date. It was July 11, 2016 at around 09:15 PM.

I am usually asleep at this time but since it is my rest day the following day, I was still awake. I remember sending a message to my friend that we cannot proceed with the next day’s activities as I am not feeling well. Right after sending it, my phone beeped. And I expected it was her reply. But alas! It was the call I’ve been waiting for!

YES! I got confirmation that my video demonstration passed the strict standards of the school’s Board of Education. I still can’t believe it. First thing that the boss mouthed was ‘Hey, congratulations! You made it. You are approved by the BOE and you are bound for Japan by 2017.’ Oh, and my mind was spinning and grasping the reality. Is this for real? Is my dream finally coming true? Indeed, it is.

I tried to regain my senses and focused on what he was saying. He asked me to start with the most important documents that takes awhile to process. He also told me to sign an agreement and to look for a driving school the soonest. My head was so full and I abruptly got confused on which one to do first. He then ended the call with a congratulatory remark and bid me goodbye.

I put the phone down and heaved a deep sigh. I can’t contain my excitement. I jumped and shrieked (minimally, since it is already late at night) and went right away to my mother who was waiting there. She heard everything. And she was happy and sad for me. But we both knew it is for the best.

And today is the start of a big journey. Something that I long wanted, and kept me striving harder. I sure know there are a lot of obstacles but I will persevere.

Let me take you along this adventure every step of the way.

Cheers!

 

Why ALT?

If you have read my first-ever post here, you’d already know that I got a job offer. And that is to become an ALT!

Yes, I will become a teacher. Honestly though, I did not dream of this. When my classmates in elementary would ask me to fill out their slum-book, I would write “astronaut” when asked what I want to be when I grow up. It is for real. I have always been fascinated with the wonders of the universe. I wanted to explore space, “walk” on the moon, or at the most, complete an orbit of our dear planet earth. Yeah yeah I know, it is IMPOSSIBLE to happen. Not in this lifetime. But hey, a girl can dream, right?

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So yes, I did NOT dream to be a teacher. In fact, I hated the thought of it. Maybe it has something to do with how I see my teachers way back in elementary. Most of them were not good (in my opinion) and were preoccupied with non-relevant issues. They mostly wouldn’t teach, and if they would, it wouldn’t seem enough. I could probably count less than five teachers who made an impression on me. I remember seeing some of them on my way home bringing stacks of papers and looking like they have all the problems this world can offer. They looked stressed. I don’t know how they survived that job, considering it is a daily eight-hour agony of their monotonous life. So I thought, I don’t want to be like them. I want a carefree and laid-back job. Call me lazy, that’s fine. I have long accepted the fact that I am not that type. I am not the type who would be willing to be a slave for money. I don’t want to endure more than eight hours of work, which means I don’t want to bring work back home. When work is done, it’s done. And yes, those are the reasons why I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Times are different now. I have started to love teaching and up to this day, I cannot believe that I’m doing what I’m doing. I am actually enjoying it, especially when I see the improvements in my students. It is indescribable joy. More than that, I am happy to hear their feedback and appreciation towards my effort. It means a lot to me.

According to our company’s website, there is a high social expectation placed on anyone who is a teacher in Japan. This includes ALTs. Teaching is considered a “sacred profession.”

The expectations placed on an ALT and regular teachers are exceedingly high. Social etiquette is very important in Japan, but more so for a teacher. All teachers, including ALTs, are expected to set a good example for students in and outside the school gate. This means upholding good character in your free time as well.

We are not just language instructors,  but also cultural and goodwill ambassadors. And I am very much willing to embrace that. I want to show them our rich and flavorful culture. I hope to impart a positive impact on the lives of the children.

The question is: Do I really want this job? The answer is a resounding YES.I must admit I am hesitant at first, but I realized there is no other way to go for me but here. I am not a licensed educator and so I can never become a teacher, like real teacher. This ALT job would be an opening for me to further opportunities out there. As A stands for, I will be an Assistant Language Teacher to elementary, junior high, and high schoolers. And mind you, this will be my first time to teach in a classroom. I have been teaching online my whole life and so this a breathe of fresh air. I want to see the faces of my learners in person. I want to see if they’re enjoying or bored. I want to know if they’re eager to learn more. I want to learn more. I want to go out of my comfort zone. I want to explore the unknown. And so I am taking this is as a challenge. Bring it on!!!

 

Application process: [1] Orientation Seminar

Most of you might be wondering of the process I went through to get this far. Let me give you a brief breakdown of the steps, and how long it usually takes it accomplish all of it. This is what I experienced, and it does not necessarily reflect everything as it is. It may be different from someone else’s experience.

I remember sending my CV early November of 2015, and receiving a response two days after. It was mentioned there that the first round of applicants were already being screened for the final stage which means I will be scheduled for the next batch by February of 2016. I then got an invitation to attend the orientation seminar at around the second week of January. I was so relieved it didn’t coincide with my scheduled trip to Singapore from 19-21. Thank God.

The day was Wednesday. It was February 3, and of course I don’t want to be late. It was clearly stressed out in the invite that latecomers will not be entertained. And since I lived quite far from the city where it will be held, I left three hours prior the schedule. I was supposed to be there by 10 am, I left at roughly 6:45. And traffic was not at its worst that day, guess I was lucky. I arrived half past nine, and to my surprise, there were already a lot of people. I even thought I misread the time and that I was already late for the 9 am call time. But it wasn’t. These people were just thinking like me, too. Better late than never, eh?

While I was signing up in the registration, I saw a familiar face. And oh, it was my former colleague! I quickly called her name, and good thing she recognized me. It was a few years ago since we met. Thank you, facebook. She immediately went up to me and chatted. She was also surprised to see me there. She also told me that two of her colleagues are also coming and she asked me to join their group. She introduced me to them and it was an easy connection. They seem to be friendly and nice. We seated beside each other, all four of us in the seminar. And woah, there were so many attendees. I didn’t quite expect it. If my math is correct, that would be more than a hundred people in that room. Some had to stand up at the back for a while, because no more chairs were available.

And then  the seminar started. At first, I can’t quite understand what the speaker was talking about. He was Irish and he talks real fast. His accent is okay, albeit unrecognizable. It took me a while to fully grasp his meaning. And then the slides of the presentation flashed before me. It made a whole lot of sense. It became easier for us to understand. I was assuming, of course, that most of us cannot fully understand what he said earlier. Anyhow, the information presented were very insightful and relevant. I found it easier to convince myself that I want this job. Apart from the financial burden, I think I can make it. I think I want to pursue this until the end. And I made a decision back then: I will do this.