Saturday, March 21, 2009

Of Frogs and Furoggus

Rather than spend the vorlesungsfreie Zeit* (seven weeks or so in all) lazing about at home, I signed up for some language courses at the Technische Universität. I originally signed up for four weeks of French and three weeks of Japanese, but some courses were cancelled due to inadequate class sizes. I ended up with two weeks of French followed by one week of Japanese, with three hours of instruction per weekday.

French: For French as for Japanese, I took a placement test before signing up. The French placement test went well, but when it came to speaking, I was appalled at the extent to which my French had deteriorated. In that respect, the French course was very helpful. There were only eight students in the class (and sometimes one or more were absent), so there were plenty of opportunities to speak and converse in French. As far as grammar is concerned, we reviewed such topics as "le subjonctif", "la concordance des temps", and "les conjonctions".
My main complaint about the course was that we were rather too timid and reserved. I think that a language class needs at least one or two outgoing students (or a charismatic teacher) to give it life -- that is, to set the tone and lend the more timid ones courage. As it was, there were more than a few awkward silences. :o)

Japanese: In the course I ended up taking, there were only four students, and (of those) one never came to class. An ideal arrangement, in short. Had there been one student less, we would have had to pay an extra 20€ or resign ourselves to another cancelled course.
The course itself was very worthwhile, perhaps more so than the French course. Apart from going over grammar, grammatical constructions, vocabulary, and the like, some time each day was allotted to practicing our pronunciation (that is, repeating after the instructor, as a group and individually). This portion of the lesson was particularly amusing the day we studied the "-nakereba narimasen" construction (a bit of a tongue twister, apparently).
After the first day, the instructor began assigning us a few kanji to learn every day. Here they are: 出入口外国家族彼年安高親切多少止休酒海絵花早映画手古新寺神社音楽電計紙

And here are some probably faulty sentences (along with probably faulty translations) to illustrate some of what we learned:

You can't drink large quantities of sake?
On the contrary, I've drunk large quantities (of sake) before.

There are many cars and few Moomins in Berlin.
Don't laugh, please.
I have to write a report every day.
It's all right if you don't speak English.
Did the room become darker?
Before going to sleep, I read a novel and wrote letters, among other things.

I would like to take a ten-week Japanese course during the semester (three hours of instruction per week), but it might be a bit much after all. Unless I can move one of my tutorials, my Wednesdays would look as follows:

8-10: Lineare Algebra II Lecture
10-12: ALP II Lecture
12-14: (nothing)
14-16: GdTI Tutorial
16-18: Lineare Algebra II Zentralübung (an optional tutorial that I'd prefer to attend)
18-21: Japanese course

All this will be even worse if assignments (one or more) are due on Wednesdays, since I usually need time to recover on such days. . . . Well, we'll see.

Note: "vorlesungsfreie Zeit" is literally the lecture-free time between semesters (I like to think of it as a holiday), "ALP II" is "Algorithmen und Programmieren II", and "GdTI" is "Grundlagen der Theoretischen Informatik"


At 9:53 a.m., March 22, 2009, Anonymous Sarah said...

(I must apologize in advance for using romaji in this comment, my computer never seems to want to let me type in Japanese anymore. :( )

Your sentences look pretty good to me. I just have one correction, regarding the second to last sentence. You can only use the "tai" form of a verb when you're speaking about yourself (eg. "I want to become a doctor"), or when you're asking a question about the person you're speaking to (eg. "Do you want to become a doctor?"). To say that a third person wants to do something, you should either put the "tai" verb inside a quote (eg. "I think he wants to become a doctor," "She said she wants to become a doctor"), or you should use the "tagatte iru" form, which means something along the lines of "seems to want."

I'm not having much success with Google tonight, but here's a couple pages that show these forms in use, at least a bit:


"tagatte iru":

At 11:47 a.m., March 22, 2009, Blogger tvhtoo said...

Ah, thank you for the correction and for the links.

あの子はいしゃになりたがっています。 (Yes?)

Well, since the "ni naritai" construction was only mentioned in passing anyway, I'll leave that sentence out of the post. :o)

At 5:19 a.m., March 26, 2009, Anonymous Sarah said...

Yep, that looks right to me. :)


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