Unique Way of Teaching Japanese Language to Foreigners

It seems as if the thermometers in Japan recently are reluctant to rise more than 10deg C. Yesterday the iGoogle weather gadget was showing -1 deg C at midnight and as per the reports on Sunday a cold air wave is supposed to hit Japan that will lead to low temperatures. It has been snowing at the surrounding prefectures of Tokyo. Tokyo remained at low temperatures with cold wind at times.
Recently, I used to watch the weather reports in NHK after I learned the basic words and phrases being used in a weather report from Mana Suzuki-Sensei. Ever since there were reports of cold air wave thwarted the life in Europe and Northern America , Japan was also expecting similar climatic pattern this year. Japan Meteorological Agency had warned of strong winds and heavy snow and high waves, specially along the coast of the Sea of Japan that will continue through Monday. As per the weather reports a strong cold air mass and freezing cold pattern continues to stay around Japan.
From the third week of December and after the Japanese language proficiency test, Mana Suzuki-Sensei changed the style of teaching Japanese language from the conventional way of following a book. I experience her way of teaching Japanese very useful when students get many chances to hear and practice daily life conversations. It is almost impossible for fresh foreigners to follow announcements at public places and also words used at public places in day to day life in Japan.

Sensei brings 4 to 5 pages of a topic that she selects from a recent television program. Today was the third session of that peculiar way of teaching Japanese. The first lesson was to practice hearing and reading the weather report that comes in the NHK television. Sensei separates the lesson note to two parts where the first part is the written form of the television program and the second part is the words or idioms (語彙 or ごい). The語彙 or ごい section is the most important as Sensei explains the usage, conditions and situations where similar words can be used. This helps to build a rich vocabulary that in turn can be retrieved when similar situations are met with in the daily life. It may be a tough job for foreigners to remember these words and idioms at first hearing, but practicing with Sensei reinforces the newly learned vocabulary in mind.
Sensei writes the idioms both in Kanji and Kana characters, which helps effectively to learn the traditionally difficult Kanji characters. To mention as an example from the first lesson, fubuki is one of the words I could recall easily when I watched the weather report. Fubuki means snow wind and it is written in hiragana as ふぶき and in Kanji as 吹雪.
This week’s subject was about the National center test for university admissions that held at 706 test centers throughout Japan. The entrance test is being held on 15th and 16th January and the number of candidates this year had increased to 520396. Compared to the last year there is an increase of 7145 candidates this year. National center test for university admissions is written in romaji as Daigaku nyushi centa shiken and in hiragana as だいがくにゅうしセンターしけん(大学入試センター試験). The news announcer says there was a long queue (ちょうだのれつ) of candidates near Fukui JR station to buy the Omamoriお守り (おまもり). Omamori is the Japanese amulet that is believed to protect a person from trouble and bring good luck. I think, these kind of customs might have come to Japan through Buddhism. In Indian culture, these kind of sacred protection and ‘bring good luck’ devices are part of daily life.
The female announcer says it was freezing cold outside the Tokyo University at morning 7:30 and when asked about the counter measures taken to resist the cold, a girl student replied that she had pasted Cairo at her stomach and back. When Sensei asked about the Cairo I could not reply as I was not aware of Cairo. Sensei told Cairo is a body warming adhesive tape and if we paste it on the inner wears it will make the body hot. Care should be taken not to paste it directly on the skin. This body warmer helps in the chilling coldness and it is widely used in Japan. It is available in pharmacies. If we put one on the stomach (not directly on the skin, but on the inner wear) and one back, it is enough to go out in the freezing cold.
Sensei gave one sample, the photo of which is shown above. One or two tapes can keep us warm for up to 12 to 14 hours. The body warmer that Sensei gave is manufactured by a Japanese company Kiribai Chemical Co.Ltd. Reaching back home, I did a google search to know more about Cairo brand of body warmers from Kiribai Chemical Co.Ltd.
Kiribai Company produces and markets this warmer bag, which is made of natural bamboo charcoal. History of body warmers used in Japan dates back to the Edo period. Technically, the bamboo charcoal gives off negative ions and far-IR radiation. Average temperature can go up to 53 degree Celsius and the highest temperature the product claims is 63 degree Celsius. The body will be warm for around 14 hours, which is well enough when we go out during winter. As for any other products, there are dos and do-nots for Cairo as well. Remove the Cairo body warmer before going to the bed. Also it is not advisable to use near hot places such as fire place, stove, burners and electric blanket.

I hope I have not deviated much from the talk of this post. In fact the inspiration to write this post was the Cairo received from Sensei. Her unique way of teaching Japanese language not only helps foreigners to learn the language but also gives them a distinctive way to know Japanese culture and life style. Here the teaching and learning process does not finish at the class room, the teacher inspires to pursue more….

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives” Clay P. Bedford

Author: Jayaprakash

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