What I do in My Free Time

With the school year approaching its end, I thought I would write about what it is that I like to do in my spare time when I don’t have any classes.  First, I will talk about what I do when there is no school and I am just a desk warmer, then I will talk about what I do normally during the week, when they are classes.


I hate the days when I literally have nothing to do.  It is basically just me getting paid to sit there.  My mere presence is charge worthy I guess.  Many teachers internet shop and have their items delivered to the school during breaks.  It is kind of entertaining.  I don’t internet shop, in case you were wondering.  Some other teachers will sleep and snore quite loudly.  I also do not do this, in case you were wondering that as well.


What I do is actually productive (at least I think it is).  I spend the first 4 hours studying Japanese.  At first I had to take a break every half hour to an hour, but now I can work a full 4 hours without needing a break.  I rarely study beyond 4 hours.  I will do vocab review or listening comprehension, but I don’t consider those to be studying Japanese as it does not involve a brain exercise.  Studying a foreign language is exactly the same as going to the gym.  The brain is a muscle, and when you study a foreign language, you are doing work outs.  You are using parts of your brain that were never exercised before.


(Prepare for a lesson on your brain and language learning)  When you know only one language, your brain is split in half.  You have half your brain doing the active (speaking and writing) and the other half doing the passive (listening and reading).  You can actually feel your brain working if you concentrate.  Try speaking and reading, your brain will work in either the front or the back.  When you start to learn a new language, you brain needs to reorganize.  Up until then, your English language files were spread all over the place and you only had one little man pulling up files as you needed them.  When a second language comes into play, the poor little man has to now reorganize your entire brain to create an English side, and a foreign side, in this case Japanese.  Using Japanese requires your brain to work in ways it never has before.  First filtering everything it hears and reads through English, then regurgitating everything it wants to express with writing or speaking through English.  After a short period of time, your brain will literally get sore.  You will get headaches, and many people experience severe migraines.  There are also days where the little man just needs a break from running back and forth between the two languages and will just refuse to work.  Those are the times that I like to call a brain shut down.  You just run on auto piolet.  And no matter what you do, your brain will just not let you retain or recall anything in the foreign language. 


After a while, the poor little man realizes that he cannot keep running back and forth and filtering everything Japanese through English and vice versa, and then he will eventually hire new people to assist him.   This is when you start to dream in the new language, because the new people are going through training.  Then one day, you literally wake up and think, “Oh! I can think in Japanese now.”  I am not joking!  This has happened to me 3 times (Spanish, Korean, and Japanese).  Also, other people have claimed the same thing.  You just wake up, and happen to have the magical ability to think in the new language.


Now that you have new hires for your brain, your brain then splits again.  You still have the passive and active parts working separately only this time, each of those parts are split into two.  You have one section for each skill (reading, writing, listening, speaking).  Some scholars will argue and insist that nothing has changed, but you are going to have a hard time convincing me that reading and listening are the same exact skill.  It’s not.  I can read and understand much in Japanese, but hearing that same passage I just read is difficult for me to comprehend.  Same with writing.  I can write long cohesive sentences in Japanese, but ask me to formulate them with my mouth and you get a dying cat on Valentine’s Day. 


When using the second language, you can more easily feel your brain working in different sections.  When I speak Japanese, the front, right of my brain is working hard, when I read Japanese, the back, left of my brain is working.  Pretty cool.


Much like working out, eventually, if you keep it up, you will become very fit and in shape.  It is the same with your brain.  You will be able to do more and more with your language abilities and studying becomes more fun than it does painful.  When I speak Japanese, it is really exciting for me.  Almost euphoric.  Especially when others understand what I say and we have a conversation.  It really lets me know how far I have come.


(Back to the original post)I am trying to get to the point where I can spend the full 8 hours studying Japanese.  I am wanting to improve my Korean, so if I extend my language learning abilities, then my mind will be stretched enough to handle the 3rd language.  I have reviewed bits and pieces of Korean here and there to test my brain so to speak, but I have not gone into grammar focus just yet.


I spend the first hour doing Kanji review.  I have a separate book for that.  Then I spend the next 90 minutes reading Japanese (45 minutes without the dictionary 45 with the dictionary), then the next 90 minutes is spent on reading comprehension and grammar learning/practice.  Then I have lunch, and after that is listening comprehension/practice.  I use resources from my text book I am using as well as a fun site I was introduced to.  Occasionally throwing in some vocab learning too. 


On days where I just cannot be bothered to keep learning Japanese, I will write or read.  I feel kind of nerdy and too adult to be saying this, but I read text books about ESL and SLA.  Even though I have already read them, there are still things I forget so I read them again.  I will also read articles online (scholarly ones I might add) about the same topics.  Language learning is an innovative topic so it is ever changing.  When I write, I mostly focus on writing for my story.  I would say book, but I have finally decided against getting it published.  I was seriously considering it for a while, but I feel that it is more of just a recreational hobby than a vocation.  On rare occasions, I will read an actual book.


During the time when I have classes, I lesson plan, or read my text book.  This past year, I would prepare for my lessons by making copies and such, then teach classes, then start planning for the next lesson.  I have two schools so I have to make a total of 5-7 different lessons a week.  I also have to fax my lesson plans with all the materials to my visit school by Monday afternoon of each week.  Mon-Wed free time was usually spent preparing for lessons, and gathering lesson notes/ideas from all my JTEs (Japanese teachers of English) then I used Thursday and Friday as my lesson planning day because I only had morning lessons on Thursday, and afternoon classes on Friday.  The planning typically took the full 2 days.  Sometimes even until Monday. 


At the end of terms, I like to play games with the students, but that requires me to make all the materials required for said games.  Once, I decided to play Apples to Apples with my 3rd grade students, however, the game is not sold in Japan, nor would it have arrived in time before the term ended if I ordered it.  So I had to make, each and every card by hand.  I found a template online, and printed it out.  Then I glued all the papers onto thick card and cut them out.  I then colored all the backs of them in either red or green.  I went through 3 red markers, a green marker, and a green colored pencil. After they were colored, I then laminated each and every one. Because the guy had me put them too close together in the machine, when I cute them out the sides were pealing.  I needed them for class the next day so I took them all home, along with a huge roll of tape, and for the next 3-4 hours JD and I taped each and every side on all the cards.  I made sure that these students would enjoy this game, and they did.  So much so, that on another day, they asked to borrow the cards so they could play the game during lunch.


Anyway, now you know what I do during my free time.  I do get on Facebook during the day, but usually to chat with my family or because I am on lunch and just need a break.


Until next time, sayonara!