Daigaku Z: Levels

Daigaku Z: Levels

Daigaku Z is a weekly column describing Z’s journey to learn the Japanese language while at the University of Pittsburgh. She passed the first year with flying colors, but the East Asian Language and Literature department decided to give her a new challenge– the Accelerated Program. The entirety of second year in just ten weeks. Will she manage to stay the course? Read on to find out.

今日は!久しぶりですねえ。では、授業がはじめましたんので大学Zがもう一度きてますよ。じゃ、英語で言って:”Let’s Daigaku Z!”

I don’t expect many of you to be able to read that, and I also have my doubts as to the grammar within it. Nevertheless, as Sega would say: welcome to the next level.

The accelerated program for Japanese Year 2 was hyped up to me as being unattainably difficult: instead of learning 5 kanji a week, we were now learning 5 a day; lessons would be blasted through in the span of a week rather than more or less at a leisurely pace; the emphasis on the student’s effort was greatly increased; and so on and so on. This first week, though, has not been quite as bad as advertised (aside from coming down with a horrible cold on Thursday and Friday). Truth be told, the accelerated pace has done wonders for my ability to stay focused and concentrate on what needs to be improved upon, and as it turns out my grades for the week have maintained more or less the same levels that they did at the end of first year. That said, I harbor no doubt in my mind that everyone was going easy on us this week, and that things are going to very rapidly become difficult very quickly.

The differences between the standard program and the accelerated program couldn’t be more stark. Class sizes are dramatically reduced; whereas in first year we had 40-50 students in lecture and roughly 10 students in each recital, there are only six of us in the summer semester (counting myself). This means each of us have a lot more focus time in recitation, and consequently a lot more time under the gun. The seven hours on-campus are staggered into three hours of recitation, one hour of lecture, two hours of on-our-own practice, and a one-hour lunch somewhere in there; we never have two hours “on stage” in a row. The overall effect becomes a 30-hour a week meat grinder that is proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated, but not more difficult than I prepared for.

Even with the rather grueling pace, morale is still high. We quickly became acclimated to each others’ presence– relaxing and interacting much more than the first few weeks of recitation in the standard program– and we’re able to more quickly understand each others’ quirks and foibles, such that communication amongst ourselves has become a rather amusing mishmash of English and Japanese. I am definitely bringing up the middle of the class ranks, mostly due to being sick, but even with that I feel strongly that I can put in the extra effort needed to bring myself up to code quickly enough (assuming I stay healthy, which is in fact looking more likely this morning than it was last night). Probably the most important thing, though, is that we’re finally moving out of what the rest of the class considers boring and uninteresting material (phone conversation discussions) and into something that everyone can enjoy: food. To say we’ve been looking forward to this is a bit of an understatement.

From this perspective, having just dipped our toes into the maelstrom, we all feel reasonably confident about our abilities and capabilities. We’re not overestimating ourselves, but neither are we selling ourselves short. All in all it’s probably the best possible outcome for the first week. But, like baseball, football, and the League of Legends professional splits, trying to judge season performance based solely on the first week’s showing is a recipe for unmitigated disaster (just ask Team Coast). Time will tell if I’m headed for the Big Dance, or if I’m about to be busted back to the minors.

Don’t tell anyone this, but I’m betting big on myself to go all the way.