15 June 2017 @ 09:50 am
I'm getting a 3-year degree (Bachelor's degree) in Japanese here in Sweden (the school's name is Högskolan Dalarna), and since I couldn't really find any info on what a university degree in Japanese is like I wrote this up for anyone else who might be interested. I also took 2 courses of Japanese in the USA almost 10 years ago so I'll write about that experience too. If you've taken courses yourself, please comment with in what country you live in and how they were!

First off, the American courses: We had 1 class per semester, taught by a single teacher. 1st semester used Genki 1 chapters 1-5, 2nd was 6 to the end of Genki 1. We had class time 5 hours a week and could easily pass by only studying like 2-3 hours a week, homework was weekly hand-outs we had to fill out, and class was focused on playing games and talking in order to learn/practice. The teacher was really against the anime/manga fans and didn't teach ANYTHING outside of the textbook but did focus on having us "recognize" Japanese in real contexts, ex. for learning katakana she gave us pieces of posterboard with katakana words inside phrases that she'd cut out from magazines, so we saw stuff like celebrity names. Starting in second semester she did stuff like play a song and give us the lyrics, and tell us to find all the words we recognized and see if we could translate anything. For the final exams she had done stuff like brought literal items to class and ask us questions on them, so ex. she'd point at a bag with a price-tag on it and say "what is that? how much does that cost?".
The Swedish degree. We have 5 teachers in general and we just rotate through them depending on which class we're taking (1 teacher per class). Starting in 3rd semester you take 2-3 classes per semester which equals to 3-5 hours of class time a week, and you're expected to study about 7 hours a day outside of class (= 45 hours of self-study a week). A big difference from the American classes is all the teachers are REALLY trying to make us read manga and watch anime; one of the teachers (that I haven't had) apparently talks about R18 manga and yaoi a lot, another actually learned English due to being in a fandom for a certain singer etc. so they all know the value of fandom it seems. Other than that they're actually assuming you have Japanese friends and are going to visit Japan (or live there already; it's an online class) so they teach a lot of "outside the textbook" stuff too.
1st semester: Japanese I (Basic Proficiency + Language Proficiency). I took this autumn 2015.

• Genki 1: 1 chapter per week. First half-semester ends at chapter 6; by the end of the semester we've finished the book.
• Audio/reading quizzes, forum & handwriting tasks once a week. Occasional recording tasks. "Forum tasks" are just writing 1-2 sentences.
• Class is doing a bunch of talking & listening & going over the grammar in Genki.
• Final essay is about 500 characters; I wrote about dog cafés.
• We had bonus sessions where we gave PowerPoint presentations in Japanese about ourselves/our countries to fellow students of Japanese in Spain.
• Final exams are about verb conjugations, single kanji writing, single kanji reading, and oral questions (asked in Japanese) about what we wrote in our essays, ex. "Have you ever been to a dog café? Do you own a dog?"
2nd semester: (Japanese II: Oral Proficiency + Written Proficiency). Autumn 2016.

• Genki 2: 1 chapter per week; by the end of the semester we've finished the book.
• Forum posts, handwriting, grammar & recording tasks usually once a week. Occasional reading quizzes. Forum posts slowly graduate to paragraphs.
• Final essay, about 1000 characters; I wrote about family/marriage relationships.
• Last class day is optional and a review of all the grammar from Genki 1 and 2.
• Final exams are reading paragraphs aloud (not translating); reading and translating full sentences with kanji. Questions on what we wrote in our final essays are asked in English (ex. "I didn't understand what you meant here, why did you write that?") and were just for checking to see if we could explain why we used certain bits of grammar. The final exam instructions, during the actual exam itself, are given in Japanese.
3rd semester: (Japanese III). Spring 2017.

• Tobira chapters 1-7: 1 chapter every 2 weeks.
• This is the first semester we really start learning "casual/impolite" speech. Class is taught 90% in Japanese, likewise you're expected to speak 90% in Japanese. There were still a few people who usually spoke in English when answering the teacher.
• NO kanji writing homework. Kanji reading quizzes & grammar worksheets every 2 weeks. We had (5 minutes and under) recordings & powerpoint presentations, (1500-1700 characters) essays and (1-2 paragraphs) forum posts but only 2-3 times in the semester.
• Class has a huge focus on reading aloud, discussing, summarizing & finding info in nonfiction paragraphs.
• The final essay is around 1500 characters, a research paper on a topic within the first 7 chapters of Tobira, mine was "Do Japanese people think about their religion on a daily basis", which you then do a 5-minute-and-under powerpoint presentation of for your final spoken exam.
• For the final kanji exam you just write the pronunciations of the underlined kanji down, or choose which kanji has the same sounds or opposite meanings as each other etc. We could use notes on the final grammar exam. The passing grade was only 70% for both.

3rd semester, 1st 10 weeks: (Short Stories class)

• Class is about 70% in Japanese.
• Book reports (written in English, 1 page long) & reading comprehension questions (written/answered in Japanese) every few weeks. Book reports are just "what happened in the story, and what are your thoughts about it?". The comprehension questions are really easy.
• We take turns reading aloud very short stories from Aozora Bunko (Japan's out-of-copyright story website); translate short bits & the teacher points out words and sentences (dialectal stuff, difference between 木 and 樹; 聞 and 訊 etc).
• Final essay was a 1000-1500 character book report on any of the stories we read in class.
• Before class you read the story and memorize any previously-unknown words; listen to a sound recording; try reading aloud to yourself. Book reports for a story are due before we've finished that story in class.

The stories:
1. 海 by 太宰治
2. 絵本 by 林芙美子 (difficult to understand)
3. トロッコ by 芥川龍之介 (difficult)
4. 蛙 by 林芙美子
5. 愛よ愛 by 岡本かの子 (too difficult; the teacher walked us through the whole thing)

3rd semester, 2nd 10 weeks: (Reading Manga class). Autumn 2017.

• Reading 70-100 pages of manga a week. The final week was 160 pages.
• Each week before class we have a reading comprehension worksheet to do; it has "match the words/phrases to the meaning" practice and then questions about the very basic contents of the chapter ("why did he get mad here") etc. Sometimes with a 300-character long answer about ex. "describe this character's personality", "What did they do for New Year's". The questions are in general extremely easy.
• No reading aloud in class; instead the teacher asks questions about the chapter contents andabout if people know certain phrases or bits of cultural info. Some in-class questions are the same as in the homework and others aren't. You're actually supposed to have your homework open in class and read directly from your answers.
• In the last few weeks of class we start "really" learning casual/spoken language.
• Once during the class everyone does a 5-10 minute PPT presentation on a topic the teacher chooses (mine was on "school events in Japan", ex. cultural festivals and sports days).
• The final paper was 1200 characters and about "How is manga good for learning Japanese?". I wrote about how you really learn shortened forms of words and phrases from it, ex. ちなみに is shortened to ちな, はずかしい to はずい, どうぞ よろしく お ねがい します to just よろしく.

Here's the list of manga. I found some incomplete scanlations of Rantaro and Maruko-chan but they had really big translation errors in them:

1. Doraemon 1 by Fujiko. F. Fujio
2. Rakudai Ninja Rantaro 1 by Amako Sobee
3. Chibi Maruko-chan 1 by Sakura Momoko
4. Gegege no Kitaro 1 by Mizuki Shigeru
4th sem: (Japanese IV)
• Tobira gets finished.

Other than that I don't know anything because I haven't taken 4th semester yet and I'm going to be studying abroad in Sendai for 4th and 5th semesters anyway, but I hope to ask my classmates about how the classes were later on.

...I figure that someone somewhere wants samples of some of the homework I was given each semester / of my final essays, so I'll go see what I have left and ZIP them up and put them here eventually.
My general advice for all classes:
1. If you own a physical book, write in the pronunciations/meanings of words you forget in the margins of the text using an erasable pen. So say you don't know 犬, once you look it up write "dog イヌ" or something. It's not cheating, it's smart studying and saves a ton of time in the end.

2. Always translate the reading exercises/dialogues (and in the case of short story class, the stories) before they're brought up in class as best you can. This way you remember their contents way better. You'll likely translate stuff wrong but a half-wrong translation is still super helpful.

3. If you're reading a manga, watch the anime and/or read the scanlations beforehand, and listen to the drama CD. If it's a short story, hunt around for someone else's translation.

4. For memorizing individual kanji meanings, replace words in sentences, stories and paragraphs with them. Ex. "I like eating dogs" becomes "私 好 食ing 犬s". I've done this with fanfics for example. For handwriting kanji, convert everything to a handwriting font and write down the kanji once each time it comes up in reading.
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