Testing out our Japanese skills with native speakers
Last Wednesday, we had a very unique Japanese LSA+ (study abroad) orientation: we had a Skype conference with a group of Japanese students from Kanda University, the university that will host us this summer.
The Japanese students are all students in Professor Sekiya's American culture class at Kanda, and they all have been studying English for four to six years. The conference lasted for about an hour and a half, and it was Thursday morning on their end while it was Wednesday night at Dartmouth. The conference split into two halves - the Japanese half and the English half. In the first half, we asked them questions about their lives in Japan in Japanese. It was our first time talking to native Japanese speakers using Japanese (except with our Japanese professors) so everyone was nervous. Professor Dorsey (our LSA+ faculty director) set the agenda for the Japanese half of the conference, so we were divided into groups of three or two to ask them questions in Japanese. The questions were quite simple because of our limited Japanese ability; we asked about the weather in Japan, the surroundings of Kanda university, the students' everyday life, and their time studying English. Some of us were scared that the conversation would be awkward because the questions were "silly" and "random," but it was completely not so! The Japanese students were very kind and thoughtful; they patiently waited when one of us struggled to form a question, explained the meanings of words we didn't know, and answered our questions slowly so we could catch their words. Professor Dorsey and Professor Sekiya also helped us explaining new words and coming up with next questions, so the conversation was actually very fun. Many of us share similar hobbies with the Japanese students, like K-pop, anime, or working out, so we all felt that it will be very easy for us to become friends when we're in Japan.
The second half was similar to the first half, except that Professor Sekiya set the agenda and the Japanese students asked us questions in English. We told them a lot of things about Dartmouth student life, our hobbies and pastimes, and why we're interested in Japanese and Japanese culture. We were more comfortable with each other in this half, so the conversation was much more fun and we even started making jokes with each other! Professor Dorsey told us that he's been doing this skype conference for LSA+ students every year, and it is very helpful for Dartmouth students to start getting used to speaking Japanese in Japan and make friends with Japanese students. After the skype conference, I was much more excited to go to Japan and getting to know these students!