About learning Japanese in China

So pretty much my next favorite country besides China, Belgium and France is Japan (probably should keep a spot for a Scandinavian country too since the chance of me finding a partner there is very high). Because I have been slacking with my Japanese studies since about 2013, mainly keeping it up through watching anime and reading manga at about one page per 15 minutes, I found a buddy to start doing Japanese again with. In China.

If I could say anything about the Chinese education system without really participating in it, I would sum it up as being: rigid, not very interactive and faithful to the textbook. This would actually turn out to be true more or less once I started. I could start a separate career as diviner!

For a Dutch person, this is of course quite the opposite of what we like to have. We tend to focus more on interaction (even if it is students saying a lot ‘I do not know the answer’), flexibility (ooh the ‘Leids Kwartiertje‘) and being creative with content (‘Yes teacher, I feel watching a movie would be very helpful in the learning process.’). So how does it feel to experience a wholly different system?

Rigid: Well this is mainly manifested in the way that each class is pretty much the same structure. 20 minutes discussing the new words, 10 minutes of reading the standard text, 1 hour of grammar and 30 minutes exercise. The fact that I know this structure already after only 2 lessons is in itself kind of amazing.

Not very interactive: Yup, this matches. I just described that we had only 10 minutes of reading and 30 minutes of practice. This is still divided by about 5-7 people. Furthermore, it is very easy to just not participate. The fact that we have teenagers (yes, 15-year olds. Nostalgic.) means that they are readily using this. One of two has clearly been sent here by his parents as extracurricular activity and is consequently one of the least motivated persons I have ever experienced studying a language. The girl obviously has watched (quite) some anime since she insterts a ‘Nani?’ (Japanese for what) between everything and is just in general sassy in a way that is not really constructive (‘Congrats teacher on writing the wrong character.’).

Faithful to the textbook: We have a bingo! Incidentally, even the short test (which is really not worthy of being called a test) uses the exact same sentences as the textbook examples. Like, word for word. And then the teacher advises us that we should really not look in our books. It is quite cute, if it was not about something as relatively serious as teaching a language.

So I might sound quite negative here. The fact that we are cramped in a small rectangular room which is about 15 square meters (does remind you of Japan in a certain sense I guess) and an atmosphere that is lethargic does not help either. However, there are also bright spots:

  1. I follow the class with a Dutch-Turkish friend, so we are the foreign stars of the class.
  2. My level is easily the highest in the class (which does not say a lot, this is the second-to-lowest level we are following) so I can act smug and be a know-it-all legitimately.
  3. It is effective to at least be actively engaged with this language for 4 hours a week. Those are 4 more hours than before!

So that also consitutes a bingo. Guess it is a tie for now.

 

 

Guidelines for working in a Chinese Japanese restaurant

Welcome, glad to have you with us!

Please view below steps for proper conduct at our Chinese Japanese restaurant.

Terms: Chinese Japanese restaurant, a.k.a. a Japanese restaurant in China, not a Chinese-Japanese restaurant. You know right?

Positions these guidelines apply to: Waiter/waitress

Please follow the rules mentioned below. It is of utmost importance to follow these guidelines exactly as they are written!

  1. When a customer (but honestly anyone) enters, be sure to say ‘WELCOME’ in Japanese (Irasshaimase (いらっしゃいませ) ). However, to not let customers be confused that they are in Japan, two important rules must be followed.
    a. Be sure to pronounce Welcome unclearly and incorrect. ‘WECO’, ‘WLCM’, ‘WLECMOE’ are all acceptable. In (Chinese) Japanese it should sound something like ‘Ilashaima’, ‘Irashamse’, ‘Irashase’.
    b. Volume is more important than looks. So be sure to say it in a loud voice (scream if necessary), then you can have any expression on your face that you would like.
  2. Once a customer has entered, be sure that at least two of you talk to her/him.
  3. Guide the customer to a seat first. If the customer is hesitant to sit down on the spot, mention that any of the available seats can actually be taken. If necessary, walk around for a few minutes.
  4. When the customer is seated, be sure to look at her/him for a period of time until it gets awkward. Wait with going away anyway until the customer says you can do so.
  5. If the customer wants to order, be sure to avoid her/his gaze for a while. You might want to chat with your colleagues (of whom at least two should be free at the same time), look at your phone, clean a specific spot with a dirty cloth etc. to make sure you are not looking at her/him immediately. When you are ready, go to the customer for her/his order.
  6. While food is being prepared for the customer, feel free to loiter around, chat with colleagues, look at your phone or pick your nose. For the last activity, try to make sure as much as possible that nobody sees you. If they do, wipe it on your clothes.
  7. Once food is there, be sure to help the customer eat it (mix food, turn food, cut food, put on a stove etc.) so that you do not have nothing to do all the time.
  8. When the customer wants to pay, make sure there is another colleague at the cash desk, so she/he has something to do as well.
  9. As the customer is leaving, scream/shout something like ‘TNAK YO’ or ‘ALIAGTO GOSAIMA’.

If you follow all of these rules, you should be able to deliver service perfectly compliant with our standards. And remember the most important rule of all:

We are a Japanese restaurant in China. We do not solely copy, but add our own Chinese flavor to the service. That is what makes us special.