Stefanie, wh….where do you go flower hunting?

We are safely past the Spring Equinox, folks! I guess that means that I can no longer be annoyed when people say it’s “already spring” (as some have been saying since about mid-February). While we’re still having cold nights here in Kyoto, we are getting warmer day by day, and that means things are a’blooming.

I’ve spent my free time in the past few weeks checking out flowers all over town, and I thought I would share a couple of good spots for you to check out, either now or the next time spring rolls around.

Continue reading “Stefanie, wh….where do you go flower hunting?”


Student Loans and Teaching in Japan: Compatible?

Hi, guys! It’s still cold here in Kyoto, but we’re finally starting to see signs of life in the plum trees as they, one by one, start budding and blooming. Before we know it, we’ll be in full flower season again, going from plum to cherry blossoms and then to the countless other types of flora you can find in Japan.

Meanwhile, though, I’m still buried under the kotatsu, clutching at my hot tea. However, there is one big, important change:

As of this month, I am officially student loan free.

Continue reading “Student Loans and Teaching in Japan: Compatible?”

Update from the kotatsu

Hello and welcome to the last day of January, 2018! Stefanie here, reporting from her kotatsu. It’s a whopping 1 degree Celsius outside, and despite having run out of water within arms’ reach I am reluctant to get up to refill my glass due to it being chilly.

There isn’t a ton happening this January, which is why not much has been written since my Takamatsu post. But I’ll run you through a couple of general life updates since we’re all here.

  • I totally failed the N1.

    This comes as no surprise to me; I basically let myself get pushed into taking it far before I was mentally ready to go for it. I did surprisingly well in the listening given how little I studied for it, but everything else was pretty bad. I’ll try it again, but won’t do so until December 2018. I’m not disappointed; if anything, my reaction was to shrug my shoulders and go やっぱりね.

  • I read a Japanese novel this month!

    Today I finished volume one of 文学少女, or “Book Girl”. It’s a light novel that’s been translated into English, and funnily enough I found it on a website recommending the English version! The first story, “The Suicidal Mime”, was dark (as you can imagine), but the writing style was enjoyable and the premise of the demon girl who eats books for sustenance was entertaining. I’d recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of anime– a lot of the reactions in the novel are overblown like you would see on the screen, which made them easy to imagine!

    Haven’t decided what I’ll read next– maybe I’ll finally read volume 2 of 寺町三条のホームズ. It’s only been sitting on my shelf for, what, two years? Regardless, I want to see if I can keep up reading 1 Japanese novel a month, on top of my other reading goals.

  • I’ve signed up for a special taiko class!

    I’ll post more information about this as the time gets closer, but I’ll be doing a 1 week intensive deal later this year. I’m extremely excited about this because I’ve wanted to do so for yeeeeeaaaaars but haven’t had the funds, time, or holidays from work for it. This year I’ll have all three, and since I’ll be done with student loans as of next month (whoa), I decided to treat myself.

  • I’m getting back into Japanese podcasts.

    I’ve really gotten into some English podcasts, which is great fun to listen to but not so great for the Nihongo practice. I’m a fan of folklore, history, and modern culture/society, so if you have any recommendations, lay ’em on me! In return, here’s my recommendation: ジンキとポテコの話せばわかる。Imagine overhearing a casual conversation between friends over a beer– that’s what you’ll get from this podcast. The speaking style is conversational, and they’ll bring up lots of little topics, whether it’s “who ought to bring what to a picnic” or “how does Anpanman work, anyway?”

    なぜなにコミュニケーション is another one I enjoy. While it’s more formal, it discusses what’s best to do in given situations. The very first episode title translates to, “What do you do if someone you’re talking to has prominent nose hair sticking out?”

That’s about it from this corner of Japan. I’ll have more to post as the weather gets warmer and plum blossoms–then cherry blossoms– start blooming. Or when I can nag a friend into hitting up one of the many new, interesting cafes in town.

In the meantime, stay warm, stay healthy, and see you next post!

Language learning: Mistakes are so important

I have favorite age groups and levels of ability when it comes to teaching people English. One of them is the ages between 7-9. These are kids who are old enough to know better, but young enough to happily do dumb things with you in class so long as you show actual enthusiasm for it. As students get into the preteen age, you see them slowly and inevitably start to withdraw as they try to figure out what on earth is happening to them. Understandable, we’ve all been there. (Unless you’re five, in which case, I’m amazed at your reading skills.)

But unfortunately, it can cut into their language learning in some ways, especially when a few get hit particularly hard with the need to Play It Cool.

I was this kid; in German class I learned how to say “I don’t understand”, “I don’t know”, and “I don’t speak German” early on so I could deflect any questions the teacher asked me. My teacher at the time was gracious enough not to press the issue. But looking on it, I regret it because of what else I might have been able to learn if I had tried.

I find myself facing the situation as an instructor, and don’t think I’m nearly as gracious.

Teachers appreciate the student who speaks up every time, even if there are mistakes, because then we can help you say what you want to say. If you say nothing, we have no means to help you, and so your skills just… become stagnant.

So, with that in mind, I want to give a shout-out to all the people out there who attend language classes but, for whatever reason, find themselves unable or unwilling to speak up in front of classmates. I’d also like to give a little reassurance/advice:

Mistakes are actually a really important part of learning a language. Think back on when you were a kid. The plural for cat was cats, and for dog was dogs, but for mouse wasn’t mouses, so an adult in your life likely had to correct you on this once or twice before you got it down. It’s normal, and nobody will make fun of you for saying something goofy in a language class.

Saying something, anything, will help you and your teacher more than hiding away. If you don’t get the grammar point, ask for help. If you don’t know the vocabulary, do your best to say a word similar to it, or ask if you can peek at a dictionary. Gesturing, drawing a picture or, at the very end of it all, asking if you can say the word in your native language are all other techniques. Don’t give up until you have the word you’re looking for.

I’d like to share a story from when I was learning Japanese.

We had started with a warm-up question about rules for the road. Don’t drive too fast, wear a seatbelt, etc. I was following along okay with it, or so I thought, as someone described what you shouldn’t do on a sidewalk. Suddenly, the teacher turned to me and asked me a question. Thinking we were still discussing sidewalks, I said something like, “My neighborhood in the States doesn’t have sidewalks, so we had to walk on the road and it was dangerous.”

Everyone started giggling.

I was confused until a friend pulled up her dictionary on her phone and showed me the word I’d used for sidewalk: it was actually the word for sunburn. The teacher had changed the subject earlier and been asking if people in the class easily get sunburn.


I tell you what, though, I’m never forgetting either the word for sunburn (日焼け) or sidewalk (歩道)!

What’s your language learning mistake story? What do you wish you’d done more of when you were learning a foreign language? If you’re a teacher, how do you help coax students out of “playing cool”?

Radio Silence: NaNo, JLPT, and the 100th post

Sticking to things is hard. Stuff can be super interesting when you first begin with them but it’s so easy to lose steam. Whether you’re studying for a test, setting a new personal record at the gym, or just trying to roll out of bed at a reasonable hour, everyone has their one thing they wished they were better at.

For me, blogging has always been one of those things.

Which is why I’m very excited to announce that this is my 100th post on WordPress!

Continue reading “Radio Silence: NaNo, JLPT, and the 100th post”

Why I’m taking the N1 even though I won’t pass

Hey, guys! Two weeks sure passed by fast. It’s that time of year when work picks up, the weather cools down, and absolutely everyone wants to get together and Do Things. I’ve been going on adventures in my area and struggling with a big Will I or Won’t I question–will I take the JLPT this December?

Continue reading “Why I’m taking the N1 even though I won’t pass”