Tokyo Damage Report

conundrums and parties at school

So at my school it’s test time again, and that means a fresh round of ABSURD CONUNDRUMS.


again they’re giving us test-prep material that’s like TEN TIMES as good as the material in the book. . . 3 days before the test. Instead of, say, when we were first learning the material and really needed it.

of course not all the prep material is that good. . . our only sheet of ‘particles’ is copied from the back of a textbook we used 2 semesters ago. Want to review anything you learned in the last 6 months? Out of luck.


Also, my best subject (kanji), which we study an hour a day, counts for exactly zero percent of the test score. I am not joking. My worst subject, (listening to incredibly hissy 6 th-generation-dubs of Japanese on an ancient tape recorder, which causes it to sound midway between Chinese and French), (anyway) my worst subject, which we study only one hour a WEEK, counts for 20 percent of the test. naturally they don’t tell us this until after i’ve spent like 10 hours reviewing all the kanji for the test . . . What’s next? 3 minutes before the test, they go, “oh, by the way, we’re not grading your handwriting. This whole test is to be conducted in semaphore.” Doubleyou tee eff??


Also hilarious last year i was hell of stressed in class all the time, and got good marks. but everyone has been telling me not to stress so much over school. Teachers, students, friends. Everyone seems to think the ideal solution is to just say, ‘daijoubu’ (it’s all right). So I listen to them. I don’t stress out in class anymore. Anytime something comes up that is irritating, I just change my mental radio dial. Anything that looks difficult or angry-making, I simply stop studying at ALL and picture myself on a beautiful beach on an island somewhere. So I didn’t stress over the test. Also I didn’t pass the test. Thanks everyone! Shit, Maybe I should of just written ‘daijoubu’ on all my test answers.

That’s right, I failed. Fucked up. totally got like 55%. my first f since 1988.

i think at least 25% of our (third semester) class flunked. which is a little weird, considering that the teacher was HELLA surprised at how well we all did on the midterms. after the midterms, she said, ‘you guys are testing at a 4th semester level’. then, in half a semester, we all start fucking up really bad, to the point where 25% of the students (and those are just the ones i know about) are failing? now if it were JUST ME failing i’d be like, ok, i can accept that. i don’t study, i am a jackass. but if EVERYONE gets hell of worse. . .is it more likely that the curriculum is poorly taught or is it more likely that everyone in class simultaneously decided to slack off? weird.

i asked the teacher exactly that. she said, ‘oh, but the finals are SUPPOSED to be way harder than the midterms. that’s because next semester’s class (level 4) is way harder than level 3. the difference between 1 and 2 or between 2 and 3 is dwarfed by the difference between 3 and 4. so we deliberately and suddenly make 3’s finals super hard to weed out people who aren’t fit for 4.’

i didn’t ask the obvious follow-up question: "wouldn’t it be simpler to just fuckin’ teach shit at a steady rate instead of speeding up and slowing down all the time?"


so now I can re-take the final exam. But, the re-take is like literally less than 24 hours after we get our test scores, giving us flunkers NO TIME to study. Had enough conundrums yet?

No? How about this one? :


I bugged my teachers and they’ll let me do the retake a week after the ‘official’ date. I’ve been so busy studying and partying and messing around with my website, I didn’t even realize I HAD a spring vacation. So not 4 days after I realize I have a vacation, then I lose it again, because of studying for the makeup test!


even if I DO pass the re-take, I’m too smart for 3d level, yet too dumb for 4 th level. Realistically, I DO need more 3d level practice, a little. but we are not dealing with reality here; we are dealing with a rigid schedule imposed by xenophobic unaccountable beuracrats at the Japanese immigration ministry. So either i can take 3 months of a class I only need 3 weeks of, or I can haul my cancelled-visa-having- ass back to America.

The geniuses at the visa ministry decided that it doesn’t matter at all if the foreigners are actually learning in class, so long as they are warming a plastic seat 20 hours a week with their hairy gaijin asses. If I only go to class 15 hours a week, I’ll have too much free time on my hands, and then boom!! Next thing you know I’m robbing old folks and smuggling heroin.


Put another way. . . if I go directly to 4, I’ll fail because I am not prepared. but if I DID repeat 3 and only showed up 2 days a week to study the stuff I need to know . . .I would be prepared for level 4, except I’d get an ‘f’ for poor attendance in 3, so I’d STILL be inelegible! Fuck!!!!

So therefore, basically my best shot is this: taking class 3 again, and spending 90% of the time telling the teacher, ‘SHUT UP. I’M TRYING TO STUDY CLASS 4 VOCABULARY HERE. QUIT DISTRACTING ME!’ . . .

Not like I am an expert on level 3 or anything. I’m not trying to say I’m too good for it. but just, I need help reading faster, particles, and pair drills. Class three has little on particles or drills, and instead is mostly grammar and new word definitions, which I already know. In other words, there’s ALMOST NO OVERLAP between my weak points and the content of the class. That’s a big reason why I failed the test, and also why taking it again isn’t going to help.


Another weird thing about the test: the questions . Hard questions, ok. Focusing mostly on odd exceptions rather than everyday speech? fucked, but necessary. on the other hand, the questions on THIS test bear ABSOLUTELY NO RESEMBLANCE to the kinds of problems you face in REAL LIFE translation.

instead, they spend most of the test on these totally brutal abstract things like, “shashin wo (XXXXXXXX) mou ee desuka?” where you have to somehow decide what the sentence means based on the fragments, and THEN try to guess which ONE SINGLE IDIOM your teachers want you to use to fill in the blank, and THEN try to answer.

I don’t care if you’re a Japanese studying English, or a tazmanian studying Japanese, or a Moon Man studying Martian, NO ONE starts with an idiom and then proceeds to construct a sentence around it, like snot accreting around a small dust particle in your nostril.

here’s what people do in real life: they start with a complete sentence in their own language, translate it, and then say it in (for instance) Japanese. Or else, they read a complete sentence in Japanese, and then translate it into (for instance) English.

so why are they using these ‘accreting-snot’ type questions? because, dummy,we are using the ‘direct method’ (i.e. Japanese only) so we can’t have test questions that involve translations. like the following question:

‘I got the monkey’ vs. ‘I should have gotten the monkey’ , translate both.

helpful for the student, and helpful for the teacher who wants to see if the student can understand the difference between ‘got’ and ‘should have’.. but of courseFORBIDDEN. Requires foreign language.

or the next question:

‘oosoku okita no de okuremashita’ vs. ‘oosoku okita dakara okuremashita’: translate into English, so the teacher can see if you understand the subtle differences in meaning…

(which, for the record, there IS no English way of translating the difference between these two sentences, because it’s so subtle. basically ‘I got up late so I was delayed’ said in an apologetic way vs. ‘I got up late so I was delayed’ said while looking the person straight in the eyes) (but the very subtlety is what makes it important that the students be tested to see if we understand it) (that sentence sucked, sorry, there’s just no good way to phrase that) (plus now i’m hideously off-topic) (sorry)

anyway, it’s a dandy question but it’s FORBIDDEN. Requires a foreign language.

Basic basic test stuff like ‘list all the different forms of this verb’


Plus they have one question I SWEAR where you have to know the exact verb for ‘a button falling off a shirt,’ and its equally useful counterpart ‘verb for putting a button back on.’ Dude, I have never even said this in ENGLISH. What the fuck??


oh, plus last weekend, the day before the test, i had not one but two parties at my house. and invited one of my teachers.




. . . so maybe that had something to do with it.

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