Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mid-term Exams

This last week has been quite a busy one, with a lot of tests, and then mid-term exams on Thursday and Friday.

Mid-term exams are a bit of an alien concept to me, as they aren't as common in Britain as in other countries. Last year at Leeds Uni the Beginner class had some mid-term exams, but the Intermediate class only had end of term tests.

The tests were only worth about 18% of the overall grade for this term (all our homework, essays, speaking classes, mini-tests, worksheets and bigger exams count), but every little makes a difference. The one on Thursday consisted of three parts, kanji (Chinese character reading and writing), grammar, and reading comprehension, and then the one yesterday (Friday) was speaking.

I'd had one of the kanji, grammar and reading tests before, for lessons 1 and 2, and then this one was for lessons 3 and 4. On the first test I got a C, which doesn't sound very good in my books, but I got 79%, which is 1% off a B. The grading system is similar to the American one, so 90%+ is an A, 80% is B, 70% is C, 60% is a pass, and anything below 60% is a fail.

So, whereas in Britain 40% is a pass (although not a very good pass), I need to pass at least 60% of the module to continue to Level 6 next term. I was wondering why Britain's grade boundaries are lower, but apparently British exams are harder than American ones, so it balanced out in the end. If it didn't, everyone would be coming to Britain for easy degrees, which they're not!

But anyway, the first test went okay. Just like last time, kanji was the easiest section, and then grammar was okay, and reading comprehension was quite challenging. In the first test on lessons 1 and 2, I only got 2 kanji wrong out of 50, so I doubt I can do that well again!

And then, speaking... Speaking is my downfall. The test only lasted 7 minutes, but we had to read a section that the teacher randomly chose from one of the first four lessons of our textbook, J-501, and then answer questions about what we'd just read. We were tested on our fluency and how natural we sounded with intonation and pauses etc, and then knowledge, understanding and fluency in our answers. Fluency and I don't really mix, so I don't think I did very well at all! But we'll see. We get feedback from the speaking test in the middle of this coming week, and then the other results later on.

I was really tired last night after the test, and then Soul Run practice in the afternoon, but I went to Shibuya with Rob, Katy, and three other people from Leeds who go to Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, which is very near ICU. We had dinner in my favourite cheap restaurant in Shibuya, Kourakuen (幸楽園), and then went to karaoke. We always seem to go to the same restaurant and karaoke place! But they're cheap and we know they're good, so it's not a problem.

We did two hours of karaoke but I burned out about half an hour before the end. We walked back to the station, and then the others decided to stay out all night and go to a club or an izakaya (Japanese-style pub). But I knew I wouldn't last much longer, so I headed home. It seemed to take forever with no one to talk to! But I got back at about midnight and when I got into bed, I spent 12 hours there! I think I must have really needed a long rest.

So I've spent today just doing laundry, cleaning and vacuuming my room and organising my school folders. It's been so nice! Just to not have any plans and be able to relax. I did some food shopping, but because most of my clothes were in the wash I had to go in shorts and a T-shirt. I was worried it would be too cold, but it was just about right. The weather has cooled down now, vending machines are stocking hot drinks as well as cold now. There was a big storm two nights ago, which didn't help the speaking revision, but it was interesting that there was suddenly thunder, hail and rain for just a few minutes, and then it was gone. Quickest storm ever!

Tomorrow I'm going to continue with the relaxing and go and meet one of my Chinese housemates from last year who's studying at University near here. It'll be the first time I've seen him in over a year so I'm really looking forward to that!

Then on Monday it's back to the normal routine of classes. Better start learning the kanji for next week's test!


Jess said...

hi ^__^

i stumbled across your blog just now and i tell you, it has already been such a big help to me!!

i am applying to do japanese and south east asian studies at leeds for 2010 entry. the department of east asian studies was AMAZING there and i love the city of leeds so im really hoping i get in.

i was just wondering, did you do a language at A level? like french, spanish, etc. because some people are saying that it would be easier for me if i had taken a language at A level because it gives you linguistic skills, so im really scared that i might suck massivly at japanese or something.

ive learnt a bit but i havent had time to fully get in to it because of exams etc, but in the summer im going to try my hardest to learn as much as i can before uni.

is it a really really hard language to learn like everyone says? and how hard are the classes at leeds?

sorry for all the questions, im just kinda worried >.<


Miles said...

Hi Jess!

I'm so glad my blog has helped you! :D

I really do recommend Leeds, so it's great that you want to go there!

I didn't do any languages at GCSE or A-level, but I did take GCSE Japanese in Year 13 off my own back, but the school paid for the paper. I think it would have helped me to have taken a language, but it's by no means compulsory. Just self-study of Japanese is enough I think, and not even a huge amount of that! You can start from the very beginning in Leeds, so you're not expected to know much beforehand.

Japanese is difficult, it's not like European languages where you can just slot the vocab into the sentence and the grammar still makes sense, it really is backwards in comparison to English sentence structure. But it's a great language because things make sense, there are only two irregular verbs and all the rules are generally followed in all cases. It doesn't sneak up and surprise you!

The writing is also a challenge, but katakana and hiragana, once you've learned them, are really easy, and lots of kanji are very simple too. But at the Intermediate level and above, kanji is definitely tricky! But they're beautiful and logical, and that's the lifesaver in my opinion!

I've been told that the Beginner classes in Leeds are very intensive, because there's a lot to learn in the year before you go to Japan in the second year. But, the people who had a bit of knowledge of kanji and grammar before starting say that it's not that difficult and they found the exams quite simple and stress-free.

Intermediate was quite difficult in terms of content, and the background knowledge everyone was meant to have, but it was only four hours a week, so there was plenty of time to do self-study.

Overall, Japanese is a challenge, but so is any language, and I've found it really rewarding so far. I love it!

Does that answer your questions? Please let me know if you have any others!

Good luck! :)