In January I started weekly one-to-one Japanese conversation classes. My teacher comes to the house on Saturday or Sunday morning and we sit at the kitchen table and discuss various topics in Japanese. Sensei has a “light-touch” tutoring style, allowing me to speak mainly without interruption, and only correcting my most egregious or repeated errors. My spoken Japanese is absolutely terrible and full of errors, and I often wonder how she puts up with it!
It is a rare situation for me to have to speak Japanese for one hour without being able to “fall back” on English if necessary. This forces me to (and teaches me the confidence to) find ways to express what I want to say even if I don’t have the right words. When my work-arounds become too laboured, sensei will teach me some key vocabulary (such as 肋骨 rokkotsu—ribs, which is painfully topical for me at the moment).
In addition to “free conversation” I prepare for each class by studying an article or essay on some current or news-related topic. This means an hour or two per week of reading practice in addition to the one hour of conversation practice.
The idea of getting private lessons was recommended to me by an Irish friend, Claire, who lived in Japan for years and said that private lessons had been the most effective way for her to learn Japanese. It has turned out to be a very effective way of learning for me too (surprisingly so, since it is only one hour a week), and my only regret is not having started earlier.
Today was my second-last class, and next Saturday (just a few days before we leave Japan) will be my last.
One of sensei‘s former students is a Turkish man, Aiten, who runs a restaurant called アルピーノ ”Alpino” in Nishitanabe.
Last weekend, sensei asked us to join her and her family there for a meal.
sensei, otto-san and musume-san
musume-san loves to pose for photos
Aiten-san has apprenticed as an Italian chef, and in addition to Turkish dishes his restaurant’s specialty is pizza (both Turkish and Italian style).
We ordered 4 different types and shared them between us. The food was freshly prepared with top-quality ingredients and was absolutely delicious. The bill came to around 2000 yen each including drinks and coffee. I recommend it very highly.
On an unrelated (okay, food-related) topic, I spotted this “Boy’s Day” fish made out of bread in a local bakery (Nakamura’s bakery in Shinkanaoka shopping centre). I thought it was a work of art!