Japanese Proficiency Portfolio
Welcome to my portfolio page for my senior World Language and Culture Capstone! I have spent the past three years at Drake University studying Japanese language and culture, and I am excited to share with you how my work has progressed from my first semester of Japanese class to where I am now. For this project I will provide seven artifacts regarding reading, writing, and speaking proficiency, as well as competence in Intercultural communication and understanding. Most all of these elements were completed during my academic journey throughout all the course work I have taken here at Drake University regarding my minor in Japanese! I hope you enjoy my portfolio!
Being able to read fluently in Japanese takes many continuous years of studying kanji and their various respective meanings. This quiz provides a glimpse of some of the kanji studied in my Japanese 002 class, which is the second semester for the beginner level. When I studied for these quizzes, our instructor, Sazawa Sensei, provided a long list of all the kanji included in each unit from our textbooks, prioritizing the most important and frequently used characters with a certain amount of astroids [*]. When I would study for these quizzes, I would take all the characters deemed most important by our Sensei and practice the stroke order for each one multiple times until I had memorized it. After each completed character, I would write the English meaning underneath and speak the Japanese pronunciation. Utilizing this process helped me learn all the kanji that are taught at what would be the first grade level to Japanese children in school. I can surely say that I know enough beginner kanji due to my studies with Sazawa Sensei and the many resources she gave us students to learn as much as possible before we moved on to the next unit. In this quiz specifically, I demonstrated my knowledge for the following kanji readings:
- 下（さい）”Kuda[sai]” – A polite expression used after making a request.
- 山田 “Yamada” – A family surname that consists of the kanji for mountain (山) and for rice patty field (田).
- 人 “Jin” – Person in relation to their origin
- 日本 “Nihon” – The country of Japan
- 上 “Ue” – Above
- 本 “Hon” – Book
- 山 “Yama” – Mountain
- 川 “Kawa” – River
Within the duration of my learning experience in Drake’s Japanese department, I was given four writing assignments per semester, each of which became more and more complex in grammar and vocabulary usage as I continued deepening my understanding of Japanese. This short essay was written during the Fall of my junior year when I was enrolled in the course Japanese 051 (Intermediate). This essay focused on harnessing my ability to write freely about my family members and/or loved ones. I can confidently describe physical features of people and my family members, as well as the characteristic traits of their personalities and spirits. I can also talk about people I know, in this case family members, and provide information such as where they live, where and how they work, what they stand for ethically, how healthy they are, and what they excel at. I can give compliments and understand the cultural differences between American and Japanese behavioral and cultural work standards, and apply the appropriate adjustments when explaining things about my home and family over writing. Since I love to talk about my family and listen to my friends and peers talk about theirs, the set of vocabulary I learned and applied during this unit proves extremely helpful in achieving some of the conversations I most want to have in my second language!
The essay to the right was written by my for the second semester of my intermediate Japanese language learning course – JPN 052. This essay helped me learn how to express my hopes, desires, and dreams in Japanese. I had never bothered to think about how I would present myself and my goals to others in Japanese, which is exactly what this prompt enables me to do. I really only wrote about my plans for when I first visit Japan, and did not write much about my endgame plan in terms of my career. But, to talk about the places, activities, and people I want to meet and have fun with gave me insight to how I would explain what my career goals are through the same usage of the grammar we learned from the chapter we were studying at the time wrote this. Besides talking about my career, I can talk about foods I want to eat, and all the drink I would love to try. I a=can also express hypothetical situations. For example, when I explain that “If I go to Japan, I would want to do the following and I would want to see these people, ….” Being able to express potential situations is very important to me and my personal aspirations for after I graduate, which is why this essay was very helpful in preparing me to talk about such things in Japanese if I need do so!
Having good listening skills is one of the many aspects in learning a language that is crucial for developing fluency. I have been listening to Japanese and immersing myself aurally in the language since I was a senior in high school. Since then, I watched hundreds of anime and listened to what some would call too much Jpop and Jrock. Although watching an entertaining show or jamming out to Japanese hits is very fun, I make sure that I keep my conversational listening skills sharp even when there is no music or animation series to match what I’m hearing. I use a website called NHK World-Japan to listen to quick bits of conversation in real time. My Sensei would sometimes play these audio tracks in class, then have us listen and write down phrases we understood. I continued this practice personally until I no longer needed to write down tracks and could fully listen and comprehend each lesson. I have found this tool very useful in helping me understand the intonation differences one uses when talking to friends versus talking to strangers or authority figures. Using NHK World-Japan‘s online lessons has also taught me how to pick up context clues on what some words might mean if I am unfamiliar with them. This is a very handy skill that I know will be put to good use once I am able to travel to Japan, because as I continue learning and immersing myself in the culture and language, there are still many words I have yet to learn. This website has made me extremely comfortable listening to conversations regarding school life, outings with friends, discussions with teachers, and understanding explanations from peers and authority figures!
Interpersonal/Conversational Speaking Skills
My conversational speaking skills have come a long way since I started learning Japanese. My pronunciation is very good, but when it comes to fluidly speaking correct sentences, my ability to communicate almost whatever I need to express, even if I have to use the most basic of phrases, I can do it! From only being able to list a few vegetables and fruits as well as learning most of the standard greetings, I have come so far in my learning language progress that I can talk about one member of my family for almost two minutes at least! This is something I would not have been able to do four years ago. Being involved in a language course rather than studying on my own has served as a great resource for me to get actual speaking practice with my peers. We all would help each other grow in class and would spend at least 2 minutes at the beginning of each course just freely speaking about a topic. Although I get shy and nervous when I am being recorded, I am still relieved that even after a year’s worth of a pandemic, I can still manage to clearly engage in intermediate conversation in Japanese. I can talk about age, where someone works, personality attributes, physical characteristics, school status, and ask people how many members there are in their families. I can express frustrations and concerns to my friends about people I know, or give them advice or instructions. I can also describe how close I am with an individual and why our relationship is the way it is. I can do all these things, but it does take some time to put together complex sentences. I am a stronger writer in that area, but I intend to work on my speaking and understanding of grammar so that I can speak well enough to a point where I can freely construct complex sentences without long pauses or having to correct myself!
Presentational Speaking Skills
My Junior year of college I took a very insightful class about Japan’s role in World War II. It was titled ‘Japan and the World: Issues of War and Memories’. This class helped me understand how to peer into the other side of history to seek out the narrative that remains most untold in our natural environment. In this case, we watched a documentary about the Kamikaze pilots, read articles and publishings from many sources, and held meaningful discussions and debates about the intentions behind the main powerful figures during and after the war. I learned so much about the struggle of Japan, its citizens, its warriors, its government, and land. I learned the consequences of what happens when a large group of people [a nation] is cultured and taught to only understand historical narrative from just one half of a coined perspective. No matter which sides were victorious or surrendered, those who have been educated only off of a single sided narrative end up breeding unintentional and unnecessary hatred, lack of war responsibility, corruption, and a lack for compassion and the search for truth. I learned the importance of being sensitive to another’s experiences and trying to come to an understanding between parties before being forceful. I wrote numerous essays for this class which challenged me to think outside of the box about situations relating to the War. The essay to the right was my most eye-opening in terms of self-revelation, primarily because the whole prompt was to analyze the perspectives of every nation involved in World War II, not only Japan’s. This class deepened my understanding of why many Japanese citizens in my generation are fucused on Pacifism. It also helped me understand some of the reasons behind tensions between China, Korea, and Japan as well. I learned the importance of education and how detrimental it is to censor information. I feel that through this class I have built up a steady amount of knowledge relating to how countries distribute their own war narratives and how their mechanisms can affect relations around the globe. My experiences in this class have given me a means to be able understand where people come from, no matter what country, and how to go about understanding and possibly resolving deeper conflicts between nations that predate the current governing bodies and citizens.