Some time last year it hit me that living in Japan as a limited language foreigner is a lot like being a small child. I can't read. I can't write. I don't have a high vocabulary. I may even be worse off than a small child; even they know the cultural expectations and processes like lining up their shoes, something I ALWAYS forget to do.
I guess it's fitting that I just started attending an after school tutoring program geared towards young Japanese children to improve my Japanese.
Kumon is pretty much standard around here. I'm willing to bet there are more Kumons in Japan than there are Starbucks in California.
Like I said, it's an after-school tutoring program. Kids go there to practice reading, writing, math, and English. Often, foreigners, like me, will go to learn kokugo (the country's language) Japanese, rather than Japanese geared towards foreigners. The benefit is you can learn Japanese how Japanese do. You have the vocab; the idioms and sayings; the common children's stories; and other things that make language what it is.
My first day was last Thursday. What a humbling experience, let me tell you! There is nothing like reading a kindergarten reading passage out loud while a room full of 7 and 8 year olds watch you in amusement as you, a grown adult, stumble through.
People, so you understand, although I've never been the best student, I'm grade-level at the very least. Being semi-illiterate is a bit of a blow to my self-esteem. Having that fact highlighted by 1st and 2nd graders turns the whole thing into a comedy show. I'm choosing to be glad I can bring laughter to the otherwise quiet classroom. ;)
Then, I had to fill in some worksheets to have the teacher grade. When she took her red pen to my work and started circling EVERYTHING I nearly died.
Until I remembered circles mean correct. It's "X"s that mean wrong. Blargh, even how they grade is different!
Turns out I did well on my first worksheet, and only had one error in my handwriting (Yes, handwriting is graded, too).
I go back today with a stack of homework for them to grade. This time, I'm hoping for lots of red pen circles!