Monday, November 27, 2006

When Babel Founded Babble: Test Tickles

The past week had me facing two tests: the final test for my Japanese intermediate module, and the basic driving theory test.

Basic Theory Test

The latter was quite a stupid mistake, to put it plainly. After surviving a skid on the winding road of a northern Thai mountain and a fleeting encounter with a local (female) road angel, my heart became enamored with the desire of riding a motorcycle. Once, it was for the guts and the glory, now simply to know if I could avoid a sophomore gory. So it went that I went to a driving center, with perhaps a misinformed idea that I had to pass the basic driving theory so that I'd understand, albeit legally, the rules of engagement on a Singapore road. That the theory test was a pre-requisite regardless of what lies under my ass. And quite amazingly, I plain forgot that I had to enrol in the driving school to take the bike lessons. No private instructors. My cash has got to go where my heart doesn't want it to.

In the not-so-distant past, when paper still patially ruled the earth, getting your test results took two weeks or so. Now, after 30 minutes worth of jabbing a monitor, your destiny appears in all of two seconds.

I passed.

Miracle #1.

Now a dilema remains. My heart and mind wants to go for a bike license. In Singapore terms, it means: cheaper to maintain and feed, easier to get parking, easier to get killed. But then again, I observed that in many a road accidents involving bikes, the fault of a good number of them actually laid with the riders instead of the drivers. That said, some do not even need the help of a second party to get themselves killed. I am one prime example of such candidates...


The intermediate module consisted of four levels, each taking two months to complete. It had to be toughest stage I had encountered so far. The load of grammar that were taught, I had discovered in the course of learning, oscillated confusingly and sporadically in translation between Chinese, English and sometimes Cantonese (no kidding) , that I wondered if simply approaching the whole education with an English brain would be sufficient. It was no longer as mechanical (and thus easier) as the stages prior to this, where all we had to do was learn to write in the Japanese script, and mimic their pronounciations. For good measure, we were even taught to exclaim the Japanese way. In simple English, there were lots of grammar to be memorized and internalized. Some things you'd just have to accept that there are no English equivalents.

History has it that in all my tests (mid-terms and finals) for the individual stages of the intermediate modules never saw anything above the 70 mark. So, what could be worse?

A final test that covers everything from intermediate one to four. The gateway to graduating from this stage to the next.

Does that help explain the period of silence in this blog?

Thank God, though, my results came back in an interesting pattern. I got 82 for my mid-term, and 82 for final. I passed.

Mystique #1

Have I improved at all? Sure, considering I never had any score better than 70-something, getting 82 was pretty woohoo-able. That showed that soething sinked in. The difference was, however, the mid-term test only covered the number of lessons up till the time of the test, which was somewhere around ten(?). As mentioned above, the final test covered EVERYTHING from intermediate one to four. Mathematically speaking, the odds were stacked against me as the number of things I had to memorize increased.

Therefore, I am right now in the middle of figuring out just how far have I gone since I started studying Japanese. I still have trouble understanding the Inuyasha and One Piece episodes without the help of the subtitles, still having trouble choosing the right words to use to string a slightly more complex sentence together because my brain had to oscillate between the three different translations to find something that made sense to me but not to my listener, bolstered by the fact that Japanese is such a situational language governed not only by the context and the circumstance, but also how much regard you have for the listener, and how chauvanistic you are/I am (if you are a male speaking to a female. Conversations between members of the same sex are much more relaxed). Trust me, it is a psychological and sociological microcosm of the Japanese.

Well, all said, I still have JLPT to contend with this coming Sunday.

To all JLPT candidates, ganbatte yo.


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