Feb 18, 2007

Extroversion Subroutine: ACTIVATE!

I have no idea whether or not I'm an introvert or an extrovert. I've taken all matter of tests (most of which are probably of dubious scientic value) that purport to tell you that sort of thing, and it seems that I've got an equal chance of ending up one or the other. One the various tests that offer some sort of gradiation or continuum, I'm ususally square in the middle.
But, there is defintiely a segment of my personality that 's defnitely extroverted, and lately I've had to let him out quite a bit.
This personality of mine does not, usually come out often. At the dysfunctional (but charming!) bookstore where I used to work, he'd only come out if I was in an exceptionally good mood. At parties, this guy usually only comes out if I'm having a good time, and occasionally I become exeptionally extroverted simply because of caprice or chance.
But, since I've moved here, and since I've started to learn a new language and work as a Hired Tongue, things have changed. I'm more extroverted now then I ever have been.
Being a teacher, I've found, one has to be extroverted. It seems that this is especially true for being an English teacher in Japan. My company likes to stress being "genki," a Japanese word that technically means "healthy" but has all manner of connotations regarding being vigorously alive and such.
In other words, I have to be enthusiastic about my classes- I have to make my students interested in the subject matter. In other words, I have to be fun.
I didn't really grasp this when i first got here. I assumed that because I had to wear a suit and adhere to the principals of kihondosa, that it meant that I had to be all stern and colorless. In fact, the suit is almost completely at odds with my persona as a teacher. While I'm called "-sensei" and such, and wear a tie, the fact of the matter is that I do my damndest to make things weird and funny. Doing stuff like roleplays or having students read "Jabberwocky." Stuff like that.
A while ago I got observed for a day by some enforcer guy from the head office, and I asked him if my jokes were unprofessional. "No," he said, "I think people laughing is great kihondosa?" "Really?" I said, somewhat surprised. "Really. That's what we want."
I've found though, that I've had to be extroverted not only to teach a language, but also to learn one.
I'm having lots and lots of fun with Japanese right now. I try to study for at least an hour a day, and speak it as much as I can with people around me. It's going great, actually- I can't believe that I counted myself as a bad language learner for so long. Anyway, the little Japanese that I can speak is pretty rudimentary. I imagine that I sort of speak like Bizzaro when I talk. For instance, this is what I said when I was buying a ticket to Osaka and couldn't remember the word for "ticket." (Which, I remebered later, is kippu.)
"Summimasen," I said, "Nihongo ga muzukashi dessu. Ashta, Okayama kare Osaka. Ashta ashta Osaka kare Okayama o kudasai." Also, there were hand gestures.
Which translates to: "Excuse me, Japanese is very difficult. Tomorrow, Okayama through Osaka. Tommorrow tommorow Osaka through Okayama please give me."
(You can laugh, Kori. It's okay.)
Anyway, I sounded like a total monkey while doing this, and the guy was probably thinking something like "bakka gaijin" or whatnot while I butchered his language in front of him. But, this does not bother me! I'm serious- I am enjoying speaking another language badly, and I'm improving it all the time.
But, to improve it, to speak Japanese well, I need to speak it badly first. For every time that I do something correctly, there are a dozen or so times when I sound nonsensical or bizzare. This is important to the learning process, though. I have a few students who are very reluctant to speak in class because they doubt their own abilities, or know that their English has some holes in it. They want to sound perfect on the first try. But, they will never sound perfect, or even good, unless they sound terrible first. I've told them that, and a few have listened, and profited from it.
Extroversion has also been a necessity for having any sort of life over here- When I came to Okayama, I had no friends here, knew no one, and had no idea how to go about remedying that. I've got something that is more or less like a social network now, but only because I've been willing to put myself out there with people in ways that I would never have done back home.
I still have my introverted side, of course. At this moment, for instance, I quite enjoy the fact that I'm by myself, writing, and drinking tea alone. If I don't have time like this, I go nuts. But, being in Japan both as a language teacher and language learner has grown my more social side considerably.
Now, I wonder how obnoxious I'll seem when I get back to the States.

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