09 10

11 August 2017

Bilingual Calendering Update

I realized tonight that it's been almost exactly three years since we started to do a calendar "circle time" in Japanese. I was pretty frightened to even try, but my friend Mrs. C. was right: it's been much more do-able than I thought, back then. And all of us have grown as a result. We started pretty straight forward: just a calendar for "Today is the 11th of July." Actually, we often just count our way through the calendar, since there is some specific jargon for counting days of the month in Japanese. I need to work on helping the kids learn to say, "Yesterday was the 10th. Today is the 11th. Tomorrow is the 12th."

We've learned several songs in the process of doing this calendar stuff. Our toothbrushing song is in Japanese, and the kids know the Wise Man and the Foolish Man, among a few others. We're reinforcing place value -- and Japanese doesn't have the irregular and confusing "teen" numbers: numbers to 100 are completely regular in every way and make place value simple, which is nice. We can count to 1000, and sort of tell time. It's tough teaching and learning time on an analog clock in a new language, but they're getting there!

After starting to work with Latin Christiana, I decided to adopt some of their methods in our Japanese -- specifically, we're practicing some of our verb conjugations by chanting them. It's working so well for the Latin, that I thought I'd try it here, and it seems to be working here as well. It's a nice easy introduction to grammar, which I've been feeling the need to do. I plan to continue to introduce new grammar and vocabulary in this way, starting with the most common and most regular verbs.

For three years of work, it doesn't sound like much. But then I realize that we've done that much in spite of the fact that calendar time is one of the things that we miss as much as we hit. And my own ability to deal with these parts of the language has been greatly enhanced by working on them these past three years. And that's all to the good, because where I improve, I can help my kids more effectively.

We still don't have anybody but each other to speak to, and I'm still not fluent. But I do see marked improvement in all of our skills. Showing the kids what I have learned, in spite of not being fluent, doesn't freak me out anymore. We know more words, we use them more frequently in our daily lives. We just started watching the Netflix cartoon "Troll Hunters" -- in Japanese. And we have several regular channels for watching Minecraft videos in Japanese. It's amazing how much my kids have learned -- and use naturally and fluently -- from watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. I wish that I was able to sit down and watch it with them more often; we all learn more when I can come and do some dictionary work to help expand our vocabulary.

I really can't say enough good about the HiNative app. It lets me ask natives how to say the various things we want to say, so that we're learning real Japanese, checked over by real native speakers, and not a pseudo-Japanese imposter that we make up thinking that we're speaking Japanese. That's a real lifesaver, because I have yet to locate a book that will teach us household Japanese. But we keep asking for the sentences that we want to learn, and it's slowly adding up.

Progress, including slow progress, is success.

I'm glad that I didn't let not knowing scare me off. This is fun.

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