Monday, September 19, 2011

Reading and Writing

"Why do I need to read and write in this class?"

First of all, if a student ever asked me that question in my class, then I would not be doing my job correctly. A major part of learning a new language is learning to read it and write it correctly. This is even more important to Japanese students, as Japanese students have three new writing systems to learn: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. The first two systems are phonetic and relatively easy to learn, but the last consists of over a thousand symbols. Learning to recognize, read, and write in Japanese is a time consuming process. It is easy for speech to suffer if one focuses too much on the reading and writing aspect of Japanese. A balance must be struck for a successful education in Japanese.

Let's just say, for arguments sake, that I was having my students read and write about various aspects of Japanese culture, which is definitely going to happen. I could then see one of my students complaining about the extra work. Not only is it important to learn the tools of the language itself, it is also important to learn about the environment they are to be used in. You can be as fluent as you want in Japanese, but if you do not know how to act in certain situations, you are in trouble. Formality is so important in Japanese, not only are there longer forms of words that are more polite, there are even longer forms of those long words to make them even more polite. It is important to know when to use what words in any given situation. By reading and writing about Japanese culture, students are given the building blocks to succeed in a potentially hazardous situation. 

~A Future Japanese (日本語) Teacher

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