Language Barriers

12 06 2010

When you visit a new country and you don’t know a word of their language, you’d better take some lessons or have someone/thing to help you. We had all three of these:

  1. A phrase book
  2. Someone speaking Japanese
  3. And we took some lessons before going.

But at the end, from our part we did whatever we could. It’s Japanese that somehow are not that comfortable with English.

When we had a conversation, may times we would face just a smile, meaning that they did not understand what we had said. So we used indicate it with simpler words, in order to have a better chance of getting a response.

Generally speaking, their ability of language learning is not that good.

Many times we even saw wrong written statements. For instance, this one was on the bathroom door in our hotel:

This one was on a restaurant menu:

Though we had all these problems in communicating with Japanese, but they always used to come up with something to help us. If you ask a question from someone just on the street, they try their best to help.  Even if they can’t answer, either they do not know the answer or they don’t know English, they will find someone and together they’ll help you.


Waseda University Visit

10 06 2010

I start this post with a LOGO !

This bear is WASEDA University’s official Mascot ! Pretty clever ! Compare it with ours… a Spartan…

Tokyo Senmon Gakko’ was founded in 1882 in Tokyo, and renamed to Waseda in 1902. Ranked as 159 th university in the world, Waseda is also a well-known university in Japan. We visited their new building, which was lunched a couple of months ago. Design was pretty nice and modern.

As always, friendly people ! English barriers were more noticable in this universtiy than Keio. They all had a translator packet computer, and used it frequently while talking to us.

In Japanese ‘University Entrance System’, they all graduate from high school in the same age, and go on to freshman year in university together, and sophomore, and … Asking a freshman student “How old are you?” is similar to asking a Chinese person “How many siblings do you have?”; unless they wait/study one year to get accepted to the university they want, since the acceptance requires going through a tough examination.

According to their American professor, unlike U.S. universities that graduating is harder than getting into a college, in Japan somehow university is must graduate the students that has accepted. Therefore, being sleepy in class, coming late, or unorganized class attendance is normal.

Anyway, I’m willing to take a semester in this university as an international transit student.

Keio University Visit: Culture

10 06 2010

Keio University: Ranked 11th in the world in 2009 – According to a study by École des Mines de Paris.

It’s high ranking of education, and chance of getting most desired jobs in future, makes this university considered one of the most prestigious universities in Japan. According to École des Mines de Paris, Keio University has some alumni that is proud of: Keio University is ranked the 3rd in Japan for the number of alumni seated in CEO positions in fortune 500 companies.

Almost every feature in university shows the cultural theme and background of students, which are mostly from high-income families. They spoke better English, compared to other Japanese that we had seen. Although we found most Japanese pretty shy, but in this academic atmosphere, they were friendly, helpful, and easy to communicate with. I’m glad to say I made friends there, and I’m still in touch with them.

She was a U.S. born Japanese, and spoke very fluent English. Her Phone can read smart barcodes! (See Technology Post)

Tokyo Dome: My First Time Watching Baseball!

10 06 2010


Baseball: A game that is almost boring, unless you see then running ! This is Tokyo Dome, with capacity of 55,000 baseball fans. It’s the home of Yomiuri Giants baseball team. The team has orange as their color, as you see us cheering for them! I think that was why they won the game!!

The baseball game is Japan is judged by the same rules in US and other countries, but the way they trick each other to steal the base happens more often in Japanese baseball – according to Nicholas.

Another cultural experience: What do you guess these papers and bottles sticked to the ground mean ?

These papers are each representative of a person standing in this queue ! Yes, Japanese come here much earlier than the game, and leave this stuff behind with their name on it. How much people would care about a paper on the ground in other countries ?

Japanese Culture: Kindness !

3 06 2010

Culture, a collection of behaviors and thoughts, is sometimes more complicated than we assume. The way cultures go in different directions surprises many people! That’s when “cultural shock” happens.
As my first impress in Japan, I see their kindness. In Japanese culture helping someone is highly respected. When I arrived in Tokyo, I was waiting for my classmate to come, then we would go to hotel together. I had 3 hours to sit in Narita airport. A lady next to me started the conversation. Later on it turned out she was waiting for her daughter, who was coming with the same flight as I was waiting for. In 3 hours she told me all she knew, from historical attractions, to shopping malls. Though many of Japanese have language barriers, they never give up on helping you. They will find someone who knows English, and together they’ll help you. More wonderful, was the story of me and my friend trying to find our hotel. We asked a lady to give us the shortest direction from the subway station to hotel. She walked out the station with us, helped us in carrying our luggage, and walked half way to hotel, just to make sure we get to hotel. It was the best welcome for me; Welcome to Japan!
Story ends with a WOW…

Keio University Visit: Tech

3 06 2010

Keio University: Ranked 11th in the world in 2009 – According to a study by École des Mines de Paris.

A good day including an academic experience, on 15 th of May we visited the Keio University : An old university, with a good ranking among Japan and world universities. A student from japan presented her research about growth of use of twitter in Japan. Nicolas Henry and Fatima Abdelwahd from Michigan State University’s both campuses presented their research about E-publishing and Education. The friendly atmosphere in the university was adorable. By the end of the meeting, Dr. Coursari asked students in university to fill out a few surveys. I was wondering how they would write down complicated URLs correctly, from the screen. I almost didn’t notice a small barcode-like icon next to each link. Every student took a photo of the screen with their cellphones. I thought the phones would recognize the text links, and convert them to an internet link (that’s the state-of-art technology I had seen before in my cellphone). It turned out that cellphones in Japan are able to read barcodes. Since then I noticed the small barcodes all over the city. On a McDonald’s fries box, a Coke can, and vending machines, QR codes -quick respond codes- are taking over traditional linking styles. Wonderful, isn’t it ?

A sample of QR Codes: