Name: Emily Campagna
Location of Study: Hokadote, Hokkaido
Program of Study: Japanese Language and Japanese Culture Program
Sponsors: Liu Family
A brief personal bio:
I am a rising sophomore double-majoring in Business (hopefully Finance) and Music Theory. I also plan to minor in Japanese, something I never imagined I would do before coming to Notre Dame. Although my first experience with Japanese was through anime, I am now more interested in the history and culture of Japan. In my free time, I like to write sci-fi/fantasy sagas, cook in the dorm kitchen, compose music, and, of course, study Japanese. After visiting Tokyo and Kyoto last spring, I am eager to return and apply what we have learned in class to the real world.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
Although most of my passion for Japanese comes from a love of the language and an interest in the culture, there is a practical advantage as well: since I come from the West Coast, there is a high possibility I will end up doing business in Asia. Yet, because of my double major, I cannot participate in the regular Study Abroad programs, and since I hope to have internships the next two summers, this year is the ideal time to go to Japan. Thanks to funding from the Liu Family Fund and the CSLC through the SLA grant program, I was able to seize the opportunity. From June 12 to August 9, I will be in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan, attending the Hokkaido International Foundation’s eight-week “Japanese Language and Japanese Culture Program”. I am thrilled to have this chance to live in Japan and truly experience the country from within.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
My main goal for the summer is to attain greater fluency. However, fluency is a two-part concept; complete fluency includes both facility with the language and cultural awareness. The HIF program works towards developing both aspects. Outside of language classes and the host family system, the HIF program provides many extracurricular learning opportunities, such as special classes on Japanese culture, movie nights, and conversation tables with people from Hakodate. I hope, over the course of those eight weeks, that I will form some long-lasting friendships with the Japanese people and other Japanese students. Through talking, I want to learn the things left out of a dictionary, things like the subtle differences among synonyms, how to understand context, and social cues. Without knowing these, no matter how grammatically perfect I become, I could never call myself fluent, and that is my primary goal.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1) I will research a topic about Japan and give an oral presentation on it, in Japanese.
2) I will learn approximately 240 new kanji, improving writing skills.
3) Upon return, I will test out of Notre Dame’s 2nd Year Japanese course.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
Aside from the many extracurricular activities, the Hokkaido program has built into its curriculum a component called “Independent Study”. Students choose topics on Japan or Japanese culture, do research, which usually involves interviewing the people of Hakodate, and as a final project, give a ten-minute presentation in Japanese to their peers. I have yet to choose a specific topic, but my initial thought is to study traditional Japanese instruments. Not only would it be of personal interest, because of my background in music and playing the violin, but it would also create a great opportunity to engage with local musicians. Hakodate is known for its music – in fact, each August it hosts the World Music and Dance Festival, one of Japan’s largest international music festivals. However, as I have found, with the HIF program, the difficulty will not be in finding opportunities to engage with culture, but rather, in choosing from the vast variety of options available.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
Today marks the start of my second week at the HIF Japanese language program in Hakodate, and if I had to choose three words to describe the first eleven days, it would be “The Foreign Native”. At Notre Dame, people would tell me that I look Japanese, but I never believed I would actually be mistaken for Japanese in Japan. Of course, I’m grateful for the extra opportunity to practice speaking, but the inevitable “Is this girl illiterate? Has she ever gone to school?!” expression has become quite familiar. Even so, I also think that my blunter, American mannerisms simultaneously label me as non-Japanese.
One of the greatest frustrations so far has been my inability to express myself politely. In Japan, it is very important to soften statements with phrases such as “I think” or “I would like”, and in conversations, to respond with fillers such as “I see” or “that sounds interesting”. We practiced these in class at ND, but from the first day here, I was amazed at how much more I needed to know. Even though I have learned more from being here, I know I still sound heavy-handed. Making polite requests is a particular challenge.
Fortunately, my host family has hosted HIF students before, and they are always patient when I struggle to tell them about my day. My host dad and I even have a running joke. Every weekday, as soon as I come home from HIF, we drink tea together in the living room with Grandma, and he always asks me with a mischievous grin, “What did you have for lunch? Sushi?” If I say I did, he leans back on his low stool, laughs uproariously, and bellows, “Oh, that’s good! That’s very good!” It’s simple and mindless, but even that little show of camaraderie makes me happy. I’m looking forward to the time when we can share in real conversations.
So far, the language classes haven’t been as challenging as I expected, but I’m glad I will have more time to take the culture classes, explore Hakodate, and work on my Independent Study project. After coming here, rather than focus on traditional music, I decided to research the morning fish market, called Asaichi. Being a port town, fishing plays a significant role in Hakodate’s economy. Within the next month, I will interview vendors at the market and ask them about where they get their fish, who they sell to, whether they have employees, and how they set their prices.
In the meantime, every night, dinner, homework, and a bit of reading or watching TV with my host family. It’s a good routine. I’m looking forward to the next seven weeks.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
Three weeks in, and I am starting to get the hang of this Japan thing. I can see myself becoming more confident speaking – necessity demands it – but memorizing kanji characters continues to be a challenge. Many of them use similar components, so it’s often easy to confuse them. But I was able to talk yesterday with my host father about the public opinion and future of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF), so that was my little accomplishment for the day. Surprisingly, although most of the people I talked to seemed to believe that the JSDF are no longer necessary thanks to the treaty with the U.S., according to my host father, that is not actually a common view.
Up until now, I haven’t had the time to work much on my Independent Study project, but this afternoon I met with the Director General of HIF, Yamazaki-sensei, and he took me on a tour of the Hakodate city-run wholesale market for marine goods. I had no idea what to expect, having never been to such a market before, so I was fascinated to learn about the multi-step process of buying and selling. Every morning before 5 AM, ships come in to the market’s docks and sell their cargo to the city government. The fish are then auctioned off to what is called the “middle market”. This is where entities such as restaurants, food processing plants, and individual vendors can buy the fish at the new market price. They, in turn, sell the fish to the final consumers.
I have to say, it’s great being a final consumer in Hakodate. I’d recommend anything with squid. It truly is delicious
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
July 15, 2014
We just started the second semester. I can’t believe we’re already halfway through!
Class is exactly the same, but while learning kanji has become easier, grammar has become slightly more complicated. Not only does Japanese have two types of passive sentences – direct (the same as English) and indirect (used when the speaker is inconvenienced by an external action) – it also has a special causative form for verbs that indicates making someone do something. I’ve been reading ahead just to keep on top of everything. In addition, I was one of two students chosen from our class to compete in a speech contest on August 1, and while I’m looking forward to it, it does mean extra work. Our Independent Study projects are due in two weeks as well, so I am definitely keeping busy.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
Language study continues to be a combination of inspiring success and bitterly amusing embarrassment. It’s more of the latter, really. Even after six weeks of study in Japan, I still make the most elementary mistakes. Numbers are particularly troublesome. Apparently, from what I have said in the past, I am eighty years old, and my dad is six. Oh, silly tens. However, to my surprise, since I am forced out of sheer necessity to use Japanese, I have lost all self-consciousness. It’s an empowering confidence, and one of the best things to come out of the homestay experience.
Last weekend, I went with my host mom to a nearby school festival. The school’s name is Iai High School, and if I understood my mom correctly, it is a private girls’ school that draws students from all over Hokkaido. This festival was special because it is the last, large school event third years (the Japanese equivalent of seniors) can attend before they tackle college entrance exams. It was incredible seeing how much work each class put into developing their theme and decorating their homeroom. One classroom we visited had a Disney villains theme. The girls wore costumes they sewed themselves. Every inch of the classroom was decorated with trees and excerpts from famous fairy tales, and out in the hall was a huge display with six, detailed, hand-painted cutouts of famous villains. Even the cakes and ice cream sundaes they were selling had creative, cryptic names. I tried a melon soda float and the “Crystal Parfait”, which was really just Oreo cookies and ice cream.
What never ceases to amaze me, though, is the amount of time Japanese students spend at school. Even on Sunday you can see them biking to school in their uniforms, not for class, but for club activities. The baseball practices at the school across from my house seem to run for over three hours at a time, from the end of class in mid-afternoon to dinnertime. With schedules like that, how much do they actually get to see their families? I wish I host siblings so I could see what their lives are like.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
Today we started learning two new types of Japanese speech: sonkeigo – そんけい語 – the honorific form used when talking about a superior’s actions, and kenjougo – けんじょう語 – the humble form used when talking about one’s own actions in relation to a social superior. It’s interesting to see how the Japanese sensitivity to differences in social status is heavily reflected in the language. The idea is that the honorific form elevates the status of your superior, while the humble form lowers your own. In Japanese, though, sometimes different verbs are used depending on the form. For example, the dictionary form (from which the polite and casual forms are derived) of “to eat” is taberu, but in honorific form, it is meshiagaru, and in humble form, itadaku. The result is that, for some verbs, there are three separate words for expressing the same action. In addition, it becomes possible to be very rude without saying a single swear word.
I didn’t know this before, but apparently bullying is a severe problem in Japan. We were talking about it in class the other day, and the amazing thing is, bullying here isn’t just limited to schools. It occurs in the workplace as well, to the point that sometimes whole groups of people will shun one coworker and slander them to get them fired. I was surprised that Japanese society, which otherwise seems oriented towards cooperating with one’s neighbors, tolerates such behavior. Perhaps, though, in this situation, the Japanese tendency to keep one’s problems to oneself works against encouraging those who are being bullied to seek outside help. In the case of school bullying, the Japanese teacher my group interviewed said that the root of the problem was in family instability, and that solving problems in the household could help solve bullying.
Tomorrow is the HIF speech contest at the Kokusai Hotel. While I’m regretting the simplicity of my speech’s content, I hope that my work with the teacher on pronunciation will pay off. It’s a little nerve-racking knowing I’ll be giving a speech in front of so many people – in Japanese, no less! – but at least I can chalk it up to good experience. On the fun side, the famous Hakodate Port Festival is this weekend. I’m looking forward to dancing the ika-odori (squid dance) in the parade with local schoolchildren and some other HIF students.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
August 6, 2014
It’s the day before our second semester final. Reviewing for the exam, it’s incredible how much we covered in class over the past two months – a whole year’s worth of curriculum! Yet, just yesterday, I was reminded again how much I still have to learn.
For the experience, I took another thirty-minute Oral Proficiency Interview conducted by one of the teachers at HIF – the first ones were in June. I came prepared to talk about anime, cooking, and my experience in Hakodate, since those were the topics the teacher used before, but instead, our conversation went like this:
1. The recent hot weather
2. Recycling and the environment
3. The economy, including a discussion of the 2008 recession
4. Politics – what sort of country will the US become after the 2016 election?
5. My favorite memory of Hakodate
In the end, I received the same OPI score as I did in June. It was a good score, for an A-class student, but I was disappointed in the lack of improvement. I realized, too, that although we study a lot of grammar and kanji in class and I feel like we have made a lot of progress in those areas, we still have only a very basic, working vocabulary. While we can manage everyday conversation, we don’t have the foundations to articulately express ideas and philosophies. Something for me to work on in the future.
On a more cheerful note, it has been a great last week, and I’m looking forward to the end of finals so I can hang out with friends for the last time. Also, according to my host parents, a typhoon is heading towards the south of Japan. It’s expected to hit this weekend, so I’m praying there won’t be flight delays.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
My specific goals for the summer were to give an oral presentation in Japanese, learn 240 new kanji, and test out of Notre Dame’s 2nd Year Japanese course. I won’t know for sure if I’ve accomplished the last goal until I take the ND placement exam, but through class at HIF and my Independent Study project (“The Economics of Squid”), I definitely achieved the first two goals. And, from living with my wonderful host family and taking the special cultural classes offered by HIF, I got to experience both modern and traditional Japanese culture in a way unique to the homestay setting. Whereas before I had only been to Japan one time as a tourist, now I can truly say I have lived there and observed a bit more of what it’s like to be Japanese.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
HIF’s slogan this year was “Egao to Tasseikan”, which translates as “Smile and a Sense of Accomplishment”. There is a definite sense of accomplishment, looking back at all we have learned over the past two months. There is also a sense of accomplishment in the fact that we completed the program. Sometimes it was a real struggle to get out of bed every morning and fight through the language, but the effort I put in to communicate with the Japanese, they returned (this was especially true for the current, younger generation of Japanese). It was a great experience, and I would like to encourage anyone who is studying a language or interested in a culture to go abroad and live in that country for at least a month. A homestay, while more of a challenge, is even more valuable.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
My double major doesn’t allow time for a semester abroad, but I plan to continue studying Japanese at ND. If possible, I would be interested in tutoring at the CSLC, perhaps after I’ve finished 3rd Year. And – this idea came out of nowhere, but it seems doable – I think it would be fun to establish a pen-pal relationship with one of the classes at the elementary school we visited a few weeks ago. I could practice Japanese, the kids could practice English, and all of us could learn more about each other’s countries and customs. Just a thought. I’ll have to consider it more in depth.