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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

If you study at GenkiJACS long enough, you will have to take take a big test. This test comes after finishing the first textbook, Genki 1. The test consists of a grammar, listening, interview and vocabulary part.

The grammar test is very similar to the tests the school gives you every few lessons. Most of the questions ask you to fill in a particle or write a sentence using a correct form. This part is scored with points and 70% is needed to pass.

The listening was pretty hard. It sounded easy and we all laughed at the beginning because the voice was speaking slowly and monotonously, but everybody had troubles with it. Scoring was the same as grammar.

Interview was probably the easiest part. It is performed by the examining teacher and the questions don't require any special grammar, just a very basic conversation skills. It is also scored leniently using A - F marks (I think).

Vocabulary test contains kanji as well. Multiple choice questions, pretty easy. Scored by points and same requirement as the grammar and listening.

If you don't pass the test, not much happens, but the school can put you in lower class again to go through the lessons again... I did not study for the test, but I did all my homeworks and never skipped a lesson. The only problem was the listening which I knew will be my weakness.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

While living in Japan I had a chance to visit a birthday party and a concert of a Japanese musician playing on a set of rather uncommon instruments. I had a chance to try three of them and discovered a hidden talent: playing a simple wooden nose flute :)

It took me just a few seconds and I could perform simple tunes. The flute uses mount as a resonating chamber and it is somewhat similar to whistling. If you are like me not playing any instruments, give this one a try. It's really simple!

The flute I own now comes from Vietnam, but you can get it anywhere. Here's a video of me playing Happy Birthday song.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Genki 1 by The Japan Times is a textbook that my language school GenkiJACS uses to teach Japanese to beginners. The book expects you to know hiragana while katana and kanji are not required. Genki contains a hiragana table, but you won't be able to learn anything without being proficient in hiragana. You will gradually learn katakana by using Japanese words that originated from English and the book teaches Kanji with extra vocabulary.

The book si very well organized and the school doesn't deviate much from the course set by the book. It teaches basic grammar first, but each chapter contain listening and reading parts, too. At school, the speaking excercises are done as well. There are a few things I don't like about the book, but they are just really minor nitpicks. For example once a special case of a rule was added as new grammar and later explained fully. However this style is good for people who want to learn only some parts of the language.

The intensive course covers about 1 chapter per week which feels like an ideal pace. The first book contains 12 chapters. While studying with Genki I had a feeling for very long time that I can't use any Japanese. However around chapter 8, I suddenly started to feel that I can communicate with the Japanese people. It all somehow clicked together at that time.

Genki at GenkiJACS

The school is using both Genki books, Genki 1 and Genki 2. There are also workbooks available for both the first and the second book, but we don't have them and we are using photocopies and other excercises created by the teachers. The answer key is of course available as well, if you want to spoil your study...

If you are planning to study at GenkiJACS I can highly recommend getting at least the first book and study the first 3 chapters yourself. They are very easy and it will save you 3 weeks of relatively easy topics.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

While studying Japanese, one needs a nice place to rest, recharge and do homework. GenkiJACS provides accommodation as well. It is optional, but it made everything much easier for me. I picked a private apartment, because for six months study it was only 53,000 JPY per month and I needed my own space for work.

There are of course other options available and you can read about them on GenkiJACS website. From other schoolmates experience, I can say that homestay can be both good and bad. The website claims 40 mins from school on average, but you can end up an hour bus ride far as well. But of course you have the option to speak Japanese every day with the family. Note that host family is sometimes just one person.

Dorm is good for people who like to hangout with other foreigners and I would definitely pick it for shorter stay. I only know one person who stayed in shared apartment. The upside was that it was in the same building as the school. The downside - it was noisy, small and of course you have no say in who will live with you.

My apartment is quite small, but it has everything I need. It came with everything including TV, wi-fi, table, chair, bed, fridge, fully equipped kitchenette and also washing machine, hair dryer, iron and vacuum cleaner. It is a wooden floor type apartment with a bed and a tiny Japanese style bathroom. You can see the main room on the picture.

It is however not 5-10 mins walk from the school as the website claims, but rather a 40 mins brisk walk. There's also no direct bus nor subway and I ended up buying a bike. It takes me about 15 minutes to reach the school with it. At first it looked like a nuisance, but in the end I am glad I was forced to buy the bike. Fukuoka is very bicycle friendly.

The location itself is very nice though. Quiet at night but has plenty of bars, restaurants and services nearby. It's only about 2 mins from subway and bus station. There's a konbini (7/11) at the bus stop and a post office and a big gym are also nearby. A bit further, but still just 10 mins walk is a 24h supermarket with better prices than the konbini.

Because I like running, I am quite happy with the 2km distance to the great runners friendly park Ohori koen.

I met the agent who takes are of the apartment when I came to Fukuoka and in about 10 minutes I was already living in my new home. He also takes care of all the bills and I must say I am very happy in this place now.
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