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02 May 2018

Trying Foreign Language Narration

I got this cute little book a while back at a very cool Japanese mall that I occasionally get to visit. It's a fun little book of "Why do things work like they do" kind of questions, with little 4 page essays (big type) about things like why stoplights are red, yellow, and green (did you know that's standard all over the whole world?), and why train stations and railroad crossings have rocks under them. Big "First Grade" on the front of the cover... I'm slowly growing into first grade, lol. Those kids would talk circles around me, for sure. But I am reading their book, little by little. It's small and simple things that get the job done; baby steps, right? It's gradually working and adding up in an exciting way.

Quite a while before I got the book, I remember hearing about Charlotte Mason recommending that students do narrations of their foreign language readings... in the foreign language. At the time, I thought that was crazy talk. It sounded so far off. But it occurred to me tonight that my little Japanese "Why Book" is perfect for attempting that, now that I'm growing into it. So I took the essay that I've been reading and rereading this week, and I tried it out.

When I start doing narrations with the little kids, it's not a very demanding activity: I just ask them to tell me the story, or if that's too hard, I'll ask them to tell me 3 important things from the reading. I thought I could probably do that with my train essay, particularly since the kids are absolutely allowed to take phrases right from the reading and use them as they tell it. So I did. I read about why there are little rocks under train crossings and at the stations. And I wrote this, borrowing heavily from the text, but also rearranging it to suit what I wanted to say:


Under the tracks there are rocks. At the train crossing and the station you can see lots of rocks. Because trains are very heavy vehicles, there are strong forces between the tracks and the ground. The rocks share the weight and soften the impact.

Then I "turned it in" at HiNative to see how I'd done, and other than a little conjugation error in one verb, really just a misspelling... they gave me no corrections!!

I'm feeling pretty pleased -- and it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be, though it's going to be a while yet before I can do this kind of thing on a single reading, but that doesn't bother me at all at this point; I'm still working with the dictionary to read these little essays at all. But it's pretty cool to be trying this new narration thing out: I think this is going to be really good for my ability to talk about the things that I read, and there are lots of these little essays for me to practice on.

How fun!! I'll definitely be trying this narrating in Japanese thing again.

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