I got to sit in on another class today - this time I visited a different high school and sat in on a Japanese class. I never got to take Japanese in high school, as I didn't have any particular interest in the language or the country until it was thrust on me all of a sudden four years ago. Everything seemed like it was run like any other foreign language class at that level would be. Everyone introduced themselves with the standard cookie-cutter introduction (Hello, nice to meet you. My name is [name]. I am [number] years old. In my free time, I [verb].), and I responded by smiling politely and nodding my head. The teacher then asked if the class had any questions for either myself or the other visitor to the class, a college freshman who evidently had taken the class the year before and was back to see all his friends. One student raised his hand and asked me, "Nan doshi desu ka?"
I didn't bother to include a translation for you because I myself had no idea what this guy was asking me. All sorts of words and phrases ran through my head, but none of them made any sense to me. The kid next to me leaned over and asked, "Do you know what he's asking you?" in what seemed like a fairly condescending manner to me. After all, the extent of his Japanese was limited to two years in high school, whereas I lived there for two years and took another year and a half of classes at the college level. The nerve!
Evidently the questioner was asking me in which year I was born. Not only did I not know, but even if I did, I wouldn't have the slightest idea how to say it in Japanese. Apparently that's one of the cookie-cutter questions that they learn in class, but as I had never been in a situation that would have required me to know how to say which year I was born in, I had no idea what to do. I looked like an idiot in front of a bunch of fifteen-year olds, but what was even worse is that the freshman next to me did his best to translate everything for me from then on. Wonderful.
The class was pretty cool, though. It was helpful for me to see what sorts of things I'll potentially have to do as a language instructor, as well as the sort of kids I'll be dealing with. There was a kid at the table I was sitting at who was wearing all black and refused to speak to anyone for half the class. However, when we started doing calligraphy, we connected when I found he had really good form. It was pretty cool. Now I remember why I want to be a teacher.