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Japanese Language and Culture II

Japanese Language and Culture II
syllabus | Tues/Thurs schedule for Lessons 13-18 | Mon/Wed/Friday schedule for Lessons 19-23

Lesson 16 (see presentation for 15 below for reviewing for test)
Fall in Japan





New material (class presentations) from Fall 2016






Material from 2015/16






Instructor Advice for 
Student Notebook Response
(respond to the questions in detail)

    When I was an undergraduate student at North Georgia College in 1989, I had a foreign language requirement for my History major. I was in my junior year and I had put off taking any language because of bad experiences in my high school Spanish class and I dreaded having to memorizable vocabulary lists every week for another year or two again. It was getting near the end of my junior year so I searched on the foreign language department bulletin board for postings of study abroad programs where I found a Japanese language summer program offered through Georgia Southwestern University and the Hokkaido International Foundation. Now there are many opportunities for other languages that you need to check out at UNG. (Since Japanese is just taking off UNG, you'll still need to do some more searching on your own!)


    Thanks to the Hokkaido International Foundation, my dreaded foreign language requirement suddenly became a launch pad for an adventure that every foreign language study program should aim to be. I soon wished that I had had some basic training in the language before going, but I developed some research interests that got me into the program, and I found a book in the library on Hokkaido and discovered more things that made me curious enough to commit to going away for six months even though I could probably only pronounce the informal word for good morning, "OHAIYO!" when I arrived, and none of my host families spoke English, but we found ways to communicate with pictures and dictionaries and I soon began to find answers to many of my questions, and came up with ever more questions that continued to drive my studies there. You all will have more advantages if you work hard, but cultivating a few sincere research interests as well will take you further in this course and on your personal journey.

   What sort of research interests, or potential interests, do you have in the Japanese language or culture (or any other language/culture) that you could use to justify a study trip there? (Do some secondary research and explain using couple of topics from this list: Art, Film, Music, Science, Engineering, Economics, Business, and Education.  Respond to these questions in your language notebook for further discussion in class. Throughout the rest of the semester, you will research this and/or other topic(s) further and I'll help you develop a specialized vocabulary to help you introduce your interests in Japanese. Being able to introduce yourself and your research interests is very useful regardless of your level of language proficiency. Remember that learning a language should be a tool to pursue your interests and discover the world at large rather than merely a means to an end in the classroom or degree program.

    When I was an undergraduate student in the 1980s, Japanese-style factory production management was a media "buzz-feed" that focused on how to get failing American companies more competitive in the world economy. Of course Japanese companies like Toyota, Subaru, Honda, Nissan, Makita, Kubota, to name a few, were causing more than a few Americans to ask the question, "If Japan Can Do It, Why Can't We?," which was a also the name of a famous NBC documentary in 1980. In my application for the summer study program, I wrote that the cooperative nature of Japanese management and labor relations was intriguing in how the Japanese "blue collar" workers (labor) and "white collar" workers (management) seemed to to trust each other and cooperate more than in America. The book I found on Hokkaido also sparked an interest in the aboriginal people of Hokkaido, the Ainu, who were said to be a "hairy people" (compared to the southern Japanese) with Caucasian origins. At the time, I thought it was ironic that in Japan, people with Asian origins were displacing Caucasian peoples from their land, while in America, Caucasian peoples were displacing people with Asian origins from their land. Take a look at the positions of Hokkaido, and Japan's other island groups -- Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu, and Okinawa--relative to other countries of the Asian continent. Draw your own map of Japan and surrounding countries, showing the relationship between the Altaic language family and probable migration routes into Japan from the continent.

 
    Studying foreign languages and families of languages provide clues to the mysteries of human migrations, like the migrations that link Japanese, Korean, and Mongolian in the Altaic language family. Linguists study the relationships between words and languages like genetic biologists study the relationships between different peoples in the world, and there are markers within and between languages that are comparable to genetic markers that show how people have traveled and from one environment into another adapting to new conditions and coming-up with or borrowing new words to describe things -- from plants and animals to ways of making a living. New words and stories are born, as are new approaches to social relations, the economy, government, religion, art and music. Every language and its relationship to other languages represents unique conditions that may tell us something about ourselves on multiple scales: local, regional, and global. We may have to study other languages and travel to those places to see those languages in action, to see how many of our assumptions about reality can be tied-up in the parameters of one language. Studying other languages, but especially travelling and studying in those places, makes one more able to the possibilities and potential for other meanings. Epistemology is a field of study concerned with what extent particular language systems determine our way knowing things and constructing reality. Etymology is the study of how languages change over time as people come into contact with other languages and cultures, learning from and influencing one another.


    My initial six month study abroad program led me back to a small town in Hokkaido after my college graduation in 1990 for a year teaching in a small town called Kembuch-cho, about an hour north of Asahikawa. The following year, I taught in a mid-sized city an hour south east of Tokyo called Kimitsu-shi. Then I went to graduate school at the University of Hawaii for three years, and returned for three more years in Yamanashi-ken through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (J.E.T.) program. After living in Japan for five and a half years raising three bicultural kids with their Japanese mother, I know that there are some things that can be more easily articulated in the Japanese language. I have heard Japanese engineers say that English is a better language for scientific investigation while Japanese has unique strengths in describing sounds and movement, among other things. The Japanese language is also unique in very adaptable in it's ability, through a special phonetic alphabet called KANA (KATAKANA) dedicated to writing words from foreign languages. Over time, the foreign word may begin to be given a Kanji character, like some Ainu words that entered the Japanese language, including Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, but there are thousands of word that, thanks to KATAKANA, allow the Japanese language to be one of the world's most adaptable languages in it's ability to quickly incorporate useful words from any other language. There thousands of interesting hybrid Japanese/English words in the KATAKANA Japanese language.

    KATAKANA is a variation of the main phonetic alphabet, HIRAGANA, which children learn in the first grade. The nice thing about these alphabets is that they are phonetically based, so no matter what the combination of symbols, they are always read the same way. (So spell-checks aren't as necessary as they are in English, if you know the pronunciation.) One could write all Japanese words using the Katakana and Hiragana, but there is another layer of writing called KANJI that is kind of like a shorthand method using traditional Chinese symbols for the words. The pronunciation remains the same as the Hiragana, but you've got to infer more based on the order and context in which the Kanji is written. Becoming even functionally fluent in reading and writing requires more dedication to study at least once a day to train your eyes and hand muscle memory to learn to write the symbols fluently. You can also use a word processor to enter Katakana and Hiragana using an English keyboard, but there are enough times that you'll need to be able to hand-write something in Katakana or Hiragana when you are in Japan, that it is worth your time to learn it. Warning: not establishing a regular routine of studying at home and in the lab (two hours per week required in the lab) many of you will fall behind and do poorly in the class. Foreign languages and especially Japanese, are not the kind of studies that you can cram for. Every individual is different and you'll have to be honest with yourself about what it really takes to learn it and "own it" for yourself. We will review these symbols in class, but you'll still have to put in the time to become functionally fluent, and the same is true for KANJI when we get there. By the end of the course, if you can write an improved self-introduction including where you are from and how you are interested in Japan in varying levels of proficiency -- from beginner to intermediate -- you will have succeeded at the most basic level in this class. Keep your writing practice in your notebook as you will be given credit for your diligence and attention to detail. (The link below is a secondary reading/writing study aid that may give you another layer of usage to help you remember more. It will open in a PDF reader, but you may have to download it to use it more effectively off-line.)