Mollee’s First Real Life Japanese Test
Last week I took my first “real life” Japanese test. In college, I minored in Japanese, so I am no stranger to language tests; however, this was very different. I had a goal and my life would be significantly impacted by my success or failure. I needed to get my hair cut.
Written tests are fantastic because there is a finite amount of material that can be covered. Professors usually provide vocabulary and grammar lists and even examples of what to expect. Studying involves note cards, note cards, and more note cards. Also, note cards – can’t forget those. Even speech topics have a “theme” so you can figure out what questions and responses are probable (Why would you like to go to Japan? I want to climb Mt. Fuji again. I also want to eat sushi) and which are not (Should the alien overlords locate planet Earth and find our natural resources desirable, do you think Obama or Romney would be better prepared to negotiate a treaty and avoid an intergalactic war? We’re screwed either way if they want oil.)
Most people also develop a study routine. For me, the first step involved creating color-categorized note cards. White note cards were used for English to Japanese vocabulary, yellow for English to Kanji and hiragana, and pink for grammar rules. Green was used for sample sentences. Note cards rule. I would also make humorous practice speeches that I would memorize. These contained new grammar and/or vocabulary. For example, the following emphasizes counting, only, and too:
I only have one friend. It’s a cat. His name is Felix. Felix has three bowls. He also has two beds. When I go to the post office, I send Felix letters. I send presents too. Sometimes I send pictures. Felix has six friends (and that’s a lot).
I tried to use a similar technique to practice explaining how I wanted my hair. I was nervous, because unlike a bad test grade which you can hide, a failure on my part would be obvious. Imagine if failing grades were handed back in Howlers (the screaming letters in Harry Potter. I’m a cool kid – I know) rather than in their discreetly folded fashion. Also instead of embarrassing you once they’d follow you around for a couple months until you were forced to try again. That’s what failing this would be like. Knowing that, I still found a local, seemingly English-free place to get my hair cut.
Fortunately, I was able to mostly explain what I wanted in Japanese. I also found out that Mr. Stylist (I give creative nicknames, I know!) also spoke English. With our combined efforts, I was able to leave with the best haircut that I’ve had in years. BOOYA.
In conclusion, note cards are awesome and my haircut is too. If you ever find yourself in Hitoyoshi, check out the Saso Salon. Also stay tuned, because I am sure I will have to brave the Japanese doctor’s office soon – it’s flu season! Since the gap between my current doctor’s office vocabulary (my head hurts.) and my desired abilities (I feel like I was beaten over the back of my head with a hammer and run over by a truck. I’m pretty sure there is lava in my lungs and a little green man kicking the back of my eyeballs.) I have some note cards to make and color code. Until next time!
PS: Something to keep in mind during flu season: if your nose is running and your feet smell, you might be put together backwards.