Yuan, Ziming

Name: Ziming Yuan
E-mail: zyuan1@nd.edu
Location of Study: Ishikawa, Japan
Program of Study: Princeton in Ishikawa 2012
Sponsor(s): Justin Liu


A brief personal bio:

I am Ziming Yuan from Shanghai, China. I am now a freshman at University of Notre Dame. Although I major in Psychology and English, I have already taken two semesters of First Year Japanese, and I am looking forward to study further about the language in the country.

Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:

This not only allows me to learn more about the language, it also allows me to get closer to my dream. I have always wanted to become a writer and to translate my novels into different languages. So, studying Japanese will definitely provide me with the necessary skills to achieve my dream. On the other hand, the grant I received allows me to travel around the town of Kanazawa and can thus broaden my view. I can see things I have never seen, and I can also find many possibilities. For example, I may find research of internship opportunities, or the fact that Japan is the country where I want to work or live in the future, etc.

What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:

I want to be able to speak the language fluently and correctly, and want to be able to translate some of my short stories. I would also like to gain more knowledge about the country’s culture and history.

My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:

  1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to learn most of the grammars in Japanese and will be ready to begin writing simple essays in Japanese.
  2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to finish a short creative story, and will begin translating it into Japanese.
  3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to have an overall knowledge about the culture and history of Japan.

My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:

I hope to learn Second Year Japanese very well, yet that is just the very basic thing. I am also going to try to write a short story and get help from the professor to translate it into Japanese. I will try to experience Japanese people’s daily life to the greatest extent by communicating with my host families and travelling around the town at weekends. What’s more, I am also going discover research or intership opportunities and explore more possibilities for myself.

Reflective Journal Entry 1: 

During my stay in Japan, I learned several slang words.
1. nekojita 猫舌(ねこじた)
This is used to describe people who cannot eat hot food, or people who do not like to eat hot food.The word literally means “cat’s tongue”. It is said that cats can only eat things which are about 35℃, so probably that’s where the slang word came from.
I asked four people of different ages, and they all responded that the word was neural and could be used under all circumstances. Whenever you see a person who cannot eat hot food, you just say “Oh, that person is Nekojita”.

2. お弁当がありますよ。
Bento is the word for the food Japanese people bring to work or school to eat for lunch. Although the sentence literally means “You have bento”, it actually means that “You have rice on your cheek”.
However, this cannot be used under all circumstances. My Host mother taught me this word, however, my friends in Kanazawa Univeristy,who are 20 and 19 years old, told me that they did not know such saying. Then, when I asked my Japanese teachers, they told me that this word is mostly known by elderly people, and is usually said by mothers to young children only. If I say this to a young person who happens to know it, he will see me as nerdy or as someone who has lost relevance to the modern world. So I guess unless I have a child who speaks Japanese, I will never have the chance to use this sland word.

Reflective Journal Entry 2:

Japanese people are very worried about the high suicide rate in the country. Even in Kanazawa University, the school I once visited, there were students who jumped off from the bridge on campus. Considering this problem, I interviewed three native speakers about it.

Mr Imai, member of the IFIE staff, says that the suicide rate is partly due to Japanese people’s sense of responsibility. Japanese people treat everything seriously and always shift the burden on their shoulders. This is usually good, however, sometimes they will think that everything is their fault. This kind of thought will lead them to have too much pressure, and thus become reason for suicide. For example, a typical phenomenon in Japan is that jobless people will refuse aid from the country and will even starve to death. They do so because they think that it is their fault that they could not find jobs. According to Mr. Imai, Japanese people’s strong sense of responsibility, of which they are always proud, has also become one of the main causes of the high suicide rate problem.

Ms. Tokumasu, who is our Japanese teacher, told me that bullying is also one of the main causes to suicide of teenagers and even young children. Teacher Tokumasu says that children who are bullied usually tend not to go to teachers for help because they either think that they will be bullied more, or that the teachers can not help under such circumstances. Then, pressure accumulates gradually in these children’s hearts, and they finally commit suicide to escape from being bullied. Whether this kind of thinking is particular to Japanese culture is not known.

When I discuss this problem with my host mother Urata, she says that sometimes people commite suicide simply because they cannot find reasons to live. Not only so, they even kill other people simply “because they do not want to die alone”. Several years ago, in Akihabara, a young man drove his truck onto the pedestrian road, killing several people and leaving more hurt. When captured by the police, he did not resist because being captured and killed was what he wanted. Worried about this problem, a government official once said, “Please commit suicide quietly with bringing trouble to others”. Yet that seemed to draw much criticism, and how this problem should be solved is still a mystery.

Reflective Journal Entry 3:

According to a tourist guide in Kanazawa station, Japanese people celebrate Tanabata on Jul. 7th. On that day, people decorate bamboo using paper with their wishes written on just as people in the US decorate Christmas tree. Japanese people believe that by doing so, they could make those wishes come true. It is also a day on which they could unite with family and friends.

The traditions of Tanabata come from an old Tale in China. Once upon a time, there was a yound man called Hitoboshi who took care of cows. One day, Hitoboshi was taking the cows out for a walk, while he accidentally saw seven beautiful young ladies taking bath in a spring nearby. He immediately fell in love with the youngest one and stole her clothes in order to prevent her from leaving. However, the young ladies actually were fairies living in the heaven. Without her clothes, the youngest fairy, whose name was Orihime, could not go home with her sisters, but could only stay on earth with Hitoboshi. After some time, she fell in love with Hitoboshi as well and married him. But Orihime’s mother, who was the empress in the heaven, knew about this issue from Orihime’s sisters and became very angry, so she came to the earth and took Orihime away. Although Hitoboshi’s strong will allowed him to fly into the sky, he could not cross the galaxy to meet his wife. Therefore, Hitoboshi and Orihime were forever parted. Only on Jul 7th could they cross a bridge composed of birds and meet each other. From then on, people celebrate Hitoboshi and Orihime’s reunion on Jul. 7th.

This is the story the tourist guide told me. But Kanazawa residents seem to have their own traditions and superstitions while celebrating Tanabata. For example, my classmate’s host mother, Saida San, believes that if one’s paper with one’s wishes written on is blown away, then the wish could not come true. Also, if it is rainy on Jul. 7th, it means that Orihime and Hitoboshi could not meet and that they are crying.

In addition, though Chinese people also celebrate Tanabata on Jul. 7th, we never write wishes, nor do we decorate bamboo. Tanabata in China is simply another Valentines’ Day. I find this difference also interesting.

Postcard(s) from Abroad:

Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:

Through learning Japanese, I feel that their language also reflect their culture of being humble and reserved. Japanese people tend to leave words of refusal unfinished and use alternative ways to criticize people. It also involves a lot of body language as bowing. In addition, It contains many confusing rules and grammar which varies depending on the context: For example, there are a lot of words that mean “if” in Japanese, but they all differ slightly from each other, and Japanese people choose different “if”s to use under different circumstances.I have greatly exceeded my expectation before I started the program.I was a first-year student before I went to Japan, but I skipped right into fourth year when I came back. I can also write 1-page essays in Japanese as well as communicate with Japanese people fluently. I feel very satisfied with myself.

Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:

I would strongly advice people to apply for summer programs abroad. Studying abroad would have you exposed to the foreign language greatly and as you will never be in the US. It also forces you to speak and to hear the language all day, which you will not get from the classes and study at Notre Dame.I would also advice homestay programs over living in an apartment by oneself. Hose families are said to be the best language teachers. Not only could you practice the language with your host family, living with them also enables you to experience the country’s culture thoroughly.

How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:

I have benefited a lot from my study abroad. Not only has my Japanese improved a lot, Working in Japan has also become one of my choices after graduation. As is known to all, Japan has a very high suicidal rate, much pressure from work and study, and very quick life pace. Majoring in Psychology, I feel that I could help a lot in this field, and that a lot of opportunities are waiting for me. Doing research in Japan also sounds a good plan to me. The program I participated also provides me with internship opportunities, which is very beneficial. Although it is said to accept only two out of 50 participants in the program, I still want to give it a try, and, if possible, I would like to try jobs relevant or irrelevant to my major so that I could discover more interests and more possibilities about myself.