‘An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese’ Can Burn In Literary Hell

Well my knee support did help a lot and now I’m not hobbling anymore … well, not as much anyway.

On Friday night there was a party hosted by the University’s IEC (International Exchange … Committee?), a student run society, as another way of introducing the year abroad students to Japanese students. It was more like a variety show with games, the batsu games (punnishment games) were real fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Afterwards myself and six others (Japanese and exchange students) went into Umeda at a favourite dining place of ours; the (name forgotton) everything 280yen place. The night got even better as we ate and drank a variety of foods and drinks and conversed in both English and Japanese, with Japanese being the dominant language. This in itself was a very good achievement because as far as our University Japanese level groups go, the foreign students were from the A & B classes (5 classes in total with E class being almost if not fluent).

On the train back I started feeling a bit worse for wear. I wasn’t drunk, far from it (well, maybe just a tad), in fact I’ve noticed Japanese beer being a lot weaker than what I’m used to back home. It was that I realised just how tired I actually was. I still hadn’t had a proper rest since my 7 hour stroll through the back streets of Kansai, and was still having to use my brolly as a makeshift walking stick. I slept for most of the trip back, then walked from my station to home, which seemed to take a good few hours (despite it actually only taking about 25 minutes).

Yesterday I once again went to Nishinomiya Kitaguchi with a friend for some kanji practice. It had been raining during the night so the seat I wanted to work at was soaked. We went into one of the shopping centres and eventually found a space. Up until this time we had been using ‘Minna No Nihongo‘ (MNN), a book which I’d heavilly recommend to beginners of the Japanese Language, but due to completing the book we have moved onto ‘An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese‘ (AIAIJ). Something I hadn’t counted on was how different the format for kanji was in AIAIJ, so much so that Konan had given us a second book just for the kanji … unfortunately I’d forgot to bring this one.

Regardless, we tried to work on some of the kanji we knew, but in reality it was a failed situation before we had even started.

I came home and started doing some homework. To go with the new book the homework is in a different layout also, with less furigana (hiragana/katakana readings) above the kanji that we should know. This is good because it means that we’ll (well me anyway) will have to actively try to read them properly instead of letting my eyes glance above the kanji letters. Well after doing the homework I thought I’d read up on the culture notes in the new textbook.

I hate AIAIJ.

The grammar points, vocab, kanji etc all seem to be pretty great in AIAIJ. It gives plenty of example sentances and reading excercises and is generally what I’d consider to be an awesome book for studying with … if you fit into it’s own expectations of what it’s student should be, that is. I personally came to Japan (from Britain) to learn about Japan and Japanese culture, but due to the overwhelming number of Americans on my course (I didn’t really want to go down this tangent again, but oh well) I found myself unwillingly learning about the states. Don’t get me wrong I have very little against America, it’s just not somewhere I plan on going to or getting accustomed to, and right from the start I made a point of agreeing to myself that I was going to hang on to whatever Britishness I had (including but not limited to how to spell the word colour).

AIAIJ must have heard my arrangement and thought “Ha! We’ll see about that”. The cultural notes section for the vast, VAST majority of the book basically compares Japanese customs and culture with American customs and culture. MNN avoided this by having characters from different countries, including non-English speaking countries (like Santos-san from Brazil and Karina-san from Indonesia) and this meant that readers throughout the world could emote with and more importantly learn with all the characters throughout the book.

“…when Americans talk about their family members, they often “brag” about them,…”

First of all, it generalises an entire nation by ignoring the fact that not all Americans are up their own arse. Second, I don’t really give a toss about how Americans talk about their family members. Thirdly, this could easilly be avoided with a change of wording. For example:

“…when some people talk about their family members, they often “brag” about them,…”

In fact the first time that non-American foreigners are actually refferred to in the Culture Notes section comes in chapter 14 (the book itself being only 15 chapters long). But it isn’t until the final chapter that another country (Korea, though it doesn’t specify north or south) is specifically referred to.

The other assumption that is made of it’s students is that everyone who comes to Japan after studying it will be doing a homestay, as it says at the top of page 70 (first page of chapter four – Homestay):

“When you are doing a homestay,…”

“When”? What is this “when”? I’m in a dorm, where did you get this notion I would be reading this from the comfort of an actual house? Why not use “if”? “If” gives you plenty of leeway incase some of us couldn’t get that privalege. In fact I was going to let this slide as this is actually the first year that Konan have actually had to have a dorm option as not enough homestays were available (though recent rumours around the Ajisai room would have you believe otherwise), and those students who are part of the Illinois Consortium of something or other (most of which have used this book) were guaranteed a homestay. However it isn’t just one chapter that deals with homestays, it’s two! Two chapters of irrelevant information (bar the grammar etc) that I can’t use. At least this year anyway. I still read them though and found myself becoming increasingly angrier with those students who complained about their homestays (see previous entry), as most of the things they were complaining about were discussed in the book and how to basically accept the cultural differences of the fact that you’re not in your precious America any more.

In short, I recommend any universities who have dorms and non-American students to avoid AIAIJ. 3A (the company behind MNN) do a range of books aimed at Lower Intermediate, Upper Intermediate and Advanced students, as well as the Beginner books.

I went to bed at about 5 o’clock, after finally letting my feelings of segregation and isolation soothe; I didn’t really fancy taking a walk.

Waking up late today, I partook in some instant ramen. Heading to the washroom after (to wash my chopsticks), I soon discovered the method to get hot water from the sink! Hoorah! Too bad it’s taken two months to sodding get it. Still, I guess if I’d have asked the dorm manager I would have found out sooner.

We don’t have a test tomorrow, but I’m going to start writing up my vocab flash cards for the week.

One thought on “‘An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese’ Can Burn In Literary Hell”

  1. We’re using IJ too, I’ve found it pretty useful, but then almost our entire program is American. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed that the book is constantly referring to America except that the one and only non-American in our program is in my class. If he’s as outraged as you were, he doesn’t show it, but our sensei is constantly adding “and/or Macau” to prompts and questions that originally referred to America.

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