Monday, June 10, 2013

Reading Japanese Is Easier Than English

"Japanese is easier to read," says my five-year-old daughter reading her Nontan ノンタン library book. And it is!

English has crazy spelling rules that can be broken (ex: sight, site, cite, psyte, seit ... ok, i made up the last two), hundreds of sight words to memorize, and lots of frustration for beginning readers before they can read a book on their own. The Japanese language has a hiragana alphabet chart to memorize. Once you do that, you can read a children's book. By yourself! Yes, it gets more complicated than that afterwards, but for beginners learning to read in Japanese is straightfoward. If you take the letter "su" す and add the letter "shi" し, you get sushi すし. The names of the letters are the same as their sounds. Spelling is a breeze. None of this "H says hhhhh. T says tttt. S says sss" nonsense. In fact, there are no such things as spelling bees in Japan because it would sound like this: Spell the word "sushi." "Hmm, SU, SHI ... sushi." Boring.

If you don't yet have a hiragana chart, here are some cute ones from hiragana mama's blog. Start memorizing!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sports Day (運動会) with 98% parent attendance!

Parents outnumbered the students for our recent Sports Day, which is called Undokai (運動会) in Japanese. In Japan, this is a huge event, so of course at our school it is as well. All but two students in our school of nearly 100 students had their parents there to watch them participate in different sporting events. Many kids had both parents and there were a few grandparents in attendance as well. Our elementary school is a dual-immersion bilingual Japanese-English school with roughly half Japanese families and half American families. Thus, the Undokai events included competitions from both cultures.

Here are pictures of the three-legged race, a typical American game, as well as the たまいれ (tamaire), a Japanese beanbag toss game in which two teachers hold laundry baskets or something on their heads and two teams (white and red teams) try to get as many beanbags of their team's color as possible into the baskets before the time is up. The whole crowd joins together to count the beanbags at the end (""). The school had us parents do several tug of war games against the other parents and a crazy balloon pop race in which we raced to sit on balloons and pop them. We were exhausted by the end, but it was lots of fun.