So far, the work of the internship itself is going pretty much exactly as I thought it would. I spend the working hours repeating questions like “What do you like to do on the weekend?” and correcting grammar. It gets pretty monotonous after a while – especially with the freshman – but there are plenty of interesting things to break the monotony in my day as well. The students themselves are incredibly talented and interesting people. They have amazing ideas and hobbies, it’s just difficult for them to get over the initial shyness of speaking with a native English speaker for the first time, and to articulate all of the complex stuff that they like in English.
*I should clarify that the more monotonous days are only twice per week, the rest of the week is rather eventful. Conversation tables are much more open and entertaining. I also get to practice calligraphy and ceramics with the other students on Fridays.
My initial suspicion was correct – some of the students are very happy to have us as study partners, while others just want to get the class over with. Some take notes and ask questions, while others just sit silently until called on. But since my arrival, I have noticed an increase in some students interest – especially those with overlapping interests. For example, those with an interest in guitar or freerunning are very eager to communicate with me about them, so they have a sort of heightened initiative. My internship coordinator has mentioned that since speaking with me in other classes, some of her students have started participating significantly more in English.
Outside of class they really loosen up – and luckily I’m allowed to have friendly relationships with the students. I really enjoy eating lunch with them. It gives me a chance to practice my awful Japanese while they practice English on me. I like to sit with new people eat day at lunch – the guys usually teach me some local slang and make jokes, while the girls tend to talk more about class and music and things – but I’ll talk more about my involvement with the local community in a later post.
One thing I did not anticipate is working outside of class. At the end of each session, students are given a sheet of paper like this
Because I am the only intern who can read Japanese, I offered to take all of them. Each class probably takes about 45 minutes to reply to, and I have 7 classes. I thought that this would become a rather tedious task to add to my schedule and considered bringing it up to my coordinator, but fortunately, she solved the issue before it even became tiring
She decided to create a new form that is supposed to be answered entirely in English so that my partner can split the load with me. Everything worked itself out I suppose.
Side note: Kyoto is in the Kansai area, which means that they speak a different dialect than the one taught in school. Luckily, the polite speech seems to be identical, but there is a lot of differences in casual speech that I wasn’t prepared for. I’m kind of happy to be learning a “non-standard” dialect though – I feel like it will add character to my Japanese – kind of like when ESL students learn British English and live in America.
Check out http://www.kansaiben.com if you speak Japanese and are interested in seeing some of the differences.