outou: (silent view)
Outou ([personal profile] outou) wrote2010-09-25 12:36 pm

Personal Entry No. 58

And now for a genuine personal post! There's even a new icon post over at [livejournal.com profile] momoizumu, too, like old times.

Middlebury itself is a beautiful school, and appears to be well-managed in all areas except for its absolutely pathetic computer labs. (The library had a magnificent collection of Russian texts alone, and yet they somehow couldn't provide enough computers to print from during the school day.) I'm easily impressed, but Middlebury has separate buildings for its language and science departments! With a 24-inch DFM Engineering telescope and four others! And a greenhouse with cacti, lotuses, a lithops, cacao, vanilla, and coffee plants, and a popular mimosa! And multiple theaters! And food prepared by actual chefs instead of a dining services corporation! (The food really was restaurant-quality. I can see why Middlebury charges so much for admission for its yearly students.)

Unfortunately, while the town of Middlebury itself is beautiful, I only got to walk around it twice -- once before I moved into my dorm, and once after I moved out. The campus -- which is much larger than it seems at first -- was the full range of my movement for nine weeks, so I got used to it very quickly. That's not necessarily a bad thing: the architecture of the buildings is both varied yet well-thought-out, there are some well-shaded nature trails, and the campus is covered with trees, art installations, and even (tastefully-placed) patches of wild growth. I do have photographs, and ought to finish the translation on my last Middlebury post so as to make it public...

While the classwork was heavily intensive, and we had almost no free time during the week, the professors and School administrators at least let us have the weekends to explore the campus and enjoy ourselves. The first weekend in particular seemed to stretch on forever: instead of having us take the Language Pledge immediately after receiving our ID cards and filling out all of the necessary paperwork (as some schools did, apparently), the heads...bossmen...general figures in charge gave us roughly three days to get acquainted with each other (and the campus) in English. I appreciated it at the time, but in retrospect it generated a very ominous air of doom and inevitability to the Pledge -- almost as if we knew that the moon was going to fall down in three days, and none of us knew how to play the Song of Time on the balalaika. It definitely didn't help that the school heads were unclear on how often we could contact our parents, spouses, and other loved ones.

As for actually living under the Pledge, it damaged my social abilities significantly in the beginning (something which I can talk more about later), but was otherwise not too constricting or oppressive. Our professors were very clear and simple in their grammatical explanations, and were also patient with our stumbling attempts at questions; likewise, higher-level students did their best to bear with the lower levels. Ultimately I grew so used to speaking Russian every day, it was startling and uncomfortable whenever I actually had to use English (talking to the staff at the post office or at the College Store, for example). The last few days of the program were nothing short of surreal, as I had forgotten what my classmates sounded like when they spoke English!

I would be lying if I wrote that I made new friends without any trouble. I've improved a lot from my freshman year, during which I spent most of my time holed up in my room and slowly developing a kidney stone from eating Spicy Kimchi Noodles1, but the restrictions of the Language Pledge strongly cloud over one's true personality: at level 4 out of 7, it's difficult to even talk about one's hobbies, let alone things like politics or philosophy or literature. (Most of the students were too afraid to talk, period, at the beginning of the program, and during the middle our conversations were mostly along the lines of "Did you like our last test? What hot weather! Did you finish your homework? When is Russian Choir?")2

The student body was remarkably varied, though. We didn't have a plethora of "scholars and artists, entrepreneurs and political leaders" this year, as the Schools' website and our information booklet claimed: the attendees were mostly university students with some teachers and assorted professionals mixed in, ranging from 18 to roughly 30 years old. (I noticed a priest and several nuns in the German School, as well, but can't say anything else about the other Schools' student makeup.) We all got along cordially, if not famously as the program wore on: I was lucky to be attending with two other students from my own university, but most of the students didn't know anyone else at all, so we were pretty much thrust together under the banner of unfamiliarity and illiteracy. Moreover, we were all united by the fact that we wanted to learn. Everyone was there not because they thought it would be cool to learn Russian, or because they were interested in the sports teams, or because they were unsure of what to do with their lives -- they were there because they knew they wanted to study Russian language and culture.

I, for one, got along best with my comrades in the Русский смелый хор, or the "Dashing/Daring/Bold Russian Choir." You can see our performance here -- if you only have time to watch one video, just watch the last one!

Strangely, while all but one of the professors in the undergraduate program were Russian women, both the Director (Jason Merrill, whom we saw often at mealtimes and even got to be the Tsarina for five minutes during the Choir's performance) and the Coordinator (John Stokes, who appeared briefly during the beginning and the end of the program, but never in between) were Americans. That's not to discredit their study of the Russian language, but it did make for a humorous contrast with the other Directors of the Schools during official ceremonies: "For the School of Chinese, Jianhua Bai...for the school of French, Aline Germain-Rutherford...for the School of German, Doris Kirchner...for the School of Hebrew, Vardit Ringvald...for the School of Italian, Antonio Vitti...for the School of Japanese, Kazumi Hatasa...for the School of Russian, Jason Merrill...for the School of Spanish, Jacobo Sefamí..." (On that note, the Japanese Director was hilarious. I have no idea what he said to his students during the opening ceremony for the Schools, but he started out by walking calmly up to the podium, putting on a pair of sunglasses, pausing, and...taking a drag on what appeared to be a cigarette.)

These are very disjointed thoughts on my "Middlebury experience:" I could have written more about the carillon concerts, or the sight the mountains from my window every morning, or time when I watched my friend's football match for the first time under the blazing sun. There was also my brief wandering through the school's art museum and its back fields, the sweet smell of the greenhouse, and the empty feeling I got when I realized that I had missed the official end of the Pledge and everyone could speak English again. I seriously considered abandoning the program and going home at the beginning. I didn't. And now, like many of the students who went on to provide quote fodder for the Language Schools' website, I think I can say that it was the single most rewarding academic experience I have ever had the honor of attending.

Finally, I should apologize for not doing as I promised and writing in Russian as well as English. My grammar, listening, and reading comprehension jumped -- the program is roughly equivalent to a year's worth of study -- and my writing skills have definitely improved. But while I feel more comfortable writing compositions for my Russian class right now, I'm still very much afraid of exposing my mistakes to people other than my professors. Likewise, I worry that my Russian is too stiff-sounding: my English alone is a lot more casual on the Internet than in my normal writing or even my normal speech, and I feel that I should do the same with Russian. Let's hope that this year brings more opportunities for me to practice.

It's hard to believe that it's the fifth week of school already! My classes are going fine: I'm taking a course on Japanese history from the end of the Tokugawa period to the present, Russian 301/401, Japanese 102, and...Introduction to International Relations, which I should have taken in my freshman year and couldn't have taken in my sophomore year due to scheduling problems. The Russian class in unusual in that the level 300 and level 400 students use the same curriculum, but are graded by different standards, as the 300 students have literally jumped from Chapter 5 of "Гололса: A Basic Course in Russian" to "Russian in Use: An Interactive Approach to Advanced Communicative Competence." It's not particularly difficult: memorizing the new vocabulary has thus far been more of a problem than the grammar, which for now is just an overview of verbal aspect, conjunctions, and spacial prepositions -- a step back from Middlebury, where we were studying gerunds, passive and active participles, and the subjunctive.

As I wrote in the icon post over at [livejournal.com profile] momoizumu, I've also joined more clubs this semester. On top of Peer Ministry and the Community Chorus, I'm taking fencing lessons for the first time (and am technically on the team, since this is a "club sport"); both my father and his father fenced during their college years, so it's a tradition in the family. Unfortunately, it's going to be a very, very long time before I can even think of winning a bout -- I still have trouble keeping my feet in line! For now we've gone over the basic footwork, parries (and counter-parries) 4,6,7,8, the lunge, the riposte, the beat, the disengage, and the feint, which are all very basic. We only had our first bouts (against each other, but also briefly against our instructor) this week, so let's see how things go from here.

I also tried out for and was able to get in to the College Chorale, which is incredibly exciting! I tried out last year but failed to get in due to my weak voice and awful sense of rhythm, so I've been taking voice lessons ever since in an effort to improve. We're singing Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, a collection of songs based on a larger and older collection of songs of the same name which includes the overused famous "O Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi." I bet you can guess why I'm upset that I was bumped up to Alto I from Alto II -- I have to sing Soprano II at points, which in Blanziflor et Helena involves sustained high notes that I can't sustain all that well. It's an incredibly awe-inspiring, beautiful, and even at points comedic work, though -- I'm honored that I'm allowed to participate in it!

I've been trying to stay connected to the Anime/Science Fiction/Korean Drama/CYBORGS Club as well, but...my brother is giving me so much grief over it. He doesn't mean anything serious by it, though...I hope.

Comment on this entry and I will give you a letter. Name 5 songs you love starting with that letter.

[livejournal.com profile] lavender88 gave me the letter "F" for "Fandom." That can't be too hard, right?

...It was. D:

01 // Suite in F Major (G. F. Handel)
My favorite part starts at roughly 3:00 in the third video.

02 // Frame of Mind (Aurora, destructo, SGX)

03 // Fairy (May'n)

04 // Forest of Fireflies (Kobato. soundtrack)

05// Floret silva (Carl Orff)

Fortunately, I've gotten myself a Pixiv account! Unfortunately, I've also started uploading things to it, which clearly means that I am going to lose sleep for the next few months over whether or not the (mostly) Japanese fandom likes my digital scribbles. I shall consider myself successful when someone on LJ finds my fanart on Danbooru, crops them, and posts them as artsy icons.

More seriously, though, I'm beginning to regret it, as I now feel obligated to post captions in Japanese...when I still can barely write in Japanese. Our classes are centered around Professor Eleanor Jorden's Japanese: The Spoken Language, which -- as the title suggests -- doesn't focus on the written language at all; as such, while conversationally we're ahead of students studying at the same level with different texts, we're very definitely illiterate.3 That said, I feel that the textbook's grammar explanations are remarkably clear and illustrative based on what I've heard about other people's problems with Japanese. At least everybody seems to fully understand the difference between "wa" and "ga!"

1 No, seriously, Spicy Kimchi Noodles and Spicy Kimchi Noodles alone gave me my first kidney stone. They contain the average human being's daily allowance of sodium, and possibly the average horse's, too. Do not eat these noodles.

2 What's ironic about this is that the weather is not a good subject for small talk in Russia. It's too boring and pointless.

3 Thus far we only know a chunk of the katakana syllabary, which Professor Jorden started off with in JWL (Japanese: The Written Language) on the basis that it would provide us with many more words to read and write off the bat. (I myself was pretty dubious about it at first, but if you think about it, what can we do with hiragana at this point? Write out particles and the copula over and over again? We need kanji to make it work!)

[identity profile] kencana-kencana.livejournal.com 2010-09-25 04:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Wow, you got pixiv account. It's really difficult to write in Japanese. But, with those course, don't you get tired? It seems that you pretty busy.

Ok, then. Meme.

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-25 08:45 pm (UTC)(link)
I do get tired, but that's mostly because of my messed-up sleep cycle -- I have a hard time getting to sleep until late at night, and can't get up very early in the morning. Otherwise, I don't think I'm that busy, especially since all of our free time was taken up at Middlebury. :`D

Um..."C" for "CLAMP!"
pleonasm: (Default)

[personal profile] pleonasm 2010-09-25 07:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, good thing you said something about the Pixiv account! Sometimes I look around on Pixiv and I would have been like, "Someone stole Outou's stuff! D:"

Congrats on your success in Russian. I think that would have been really hard to do! My second-language skills are way too laughably poor to do it.

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-25 08:48 pm (UTC)(link)
I have a hard time imagining someone stealing my stuff on Pixiv, since my artwork isn't that cute. Isn't Pixiv ruled by the law of cute?

Thank you! The good thing about Middlebury is that it accepts students at all fluency levels, including people who have never studied their target language before, so just about anyone can succeed there. I just wish they were more generous with their financial aid.
pleonasm: (Default)

[personal profile] pleonasm 2010-09-25 11:43 pm (UTC)(link)
Cute, or porn. There's little in-between.

That's pretty cool! I'd never heard of a just-for-languages college.

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-26 09:03 pm (UTC)(link)
The Middlebury Language Schools are actually a summer program -- Middlebury itself is a normal (if highly-rated) college during the school year. : D

[identity profile] lavender88.livejournal.com 2010-09-26 03:31 am (UTC)(link)
As always, your school sounds absolutely gorgeous. I'd love to hear more about your college life -- might as well take down some notes for my future college experience! Lmfao a lot of my flist are starting uni this year but since I have almost nothing to add, I'll just keep quiet. But keep it up and enjoy yourself?

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-26 09:13 pm (UTC)(link)
College Tip 1: Bring noodles and vegetables. They're easy to cook and will always taste better than what the school provides. (nods sagely)

Anyway, thank you! It never occurred to me to write that much about college life in general, especially since I don't think I have that much new insight to offer, but I'll try to write more on the subject in the future.

[identity profile] mairenn-k.livejournal.com 2010-09-26 08:20 am (UTC)(link)
Middlebury indeed sounds like a very interesting experience, I'm glad that you were able to go there and that you found the program useful. That Russian choir performance is amazing, you must have had lots of fun doing that! I can relate to what you say about worrying that your Russian sounds stiff, I used to feel the same about my English when I first started to hang out on international sites on the net. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to expressing myself in my native tongue (at least in writing), so using a language that I don't fully control is a little awkward sometimes.

Haha, if there's one thing I envy you American students, then it's having all those school clubs to choose between. I would have loved taking fencing lessons back when I was a student.

Hm, I think it was the same with the Japanese courses I took (ages ago); they were focusing on spoken Japanese too. The book we used didn't bring up kanji at all, but our teacher gave us extra working sheets so we could at least learn some of the most basic ones. Good luck for your studies!

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-26 09:23 pm (UTC)(link)
I understand what you mean about being a language perfectionist. It seems that a lot of it has to do with the way other people perceive language deficiencies, too -- it's all too often that someone will be shamed for not following proper grammar and spelling rules, even though learning a language is a long and ongoing process even for native speakers.

This really is the best time for American students to pick up new hobbies (since most colleges and universities offer far more than our high schools!), and the clubs are a great resource for that. Unfortunately, it comes with a heavy expectation that everyone will join something, which means that those students who just want to focus on their schoolwork can be looked down upon in graduate school, internship, and job applications in the future.

Thank you! Good luck with work, and enjoy the autumn foliage while it lasts! It comes and goes so quickly here.

[identity profile] arha-chan.livejournal.com 2010-09-27 01:54 am (UTC)(link)

Glad to hear the intesive course went well (=

I've seen the new icons, haven't comment in the entry but they're GORGEOUS *o* Congrats for the Pixiv account! I can't read japanese at all so i'can't even make an account to watch artist or saving favs ;_; I understad that is for protecting the works but... i've seen a lot of stolen art from there. Be careful! >.<

Also, yay Wishper of the Heart icon! =D

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-27 08:28 pm (UTC)(link)
Thanks! :'D A lot of the Pixiv registration tutorials are outdated now, since the layout of the website changed entirely, but I can give you some screencaps myself if you want to sign up. I personally wish that art thieves would stop targeting the site, as that's most likely the major reason why the Pixiv administrators haven't allowed registration in any language other than Japanese. (As I mentioned to [livejournal.com profile] rhap_chan, at least my artwork isn't cute enough to steal!)

It's one of my favorite Ghibli films. :D

[identity profile] mina-akira.livejournal.com 2010-09-27 02:28 am (UTC)(link)
I didn't have time to comment before ;,; ~ ♥ But now I do ~

Woah! ~~~ Your experience sounds amazing!! I'm pretty sure that with such intensive classwork your Russian has definitely improved 'w' and I'm glad for you ♥
I'm also glad that you got in to the Collage Corale...and I hope you'll have tons of fun participating there! ♥

Pixiv ♥ I immediately went to your account when you mentioned it ♥ =w=b
You know I love your work and I hope you'll keep submitting it there ♥ 'w'

and...omg, fencing lessons ~~~~ so cool!!

I wish you the best with everything going on in your life! It seems rather busy! ♥
Keep it up!!

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-27 08:39 pm (UTC)(link)
I certainly hope my Russian's improved, since I had to get up at 7:00 every morning for nine weeks! (./is not a morning person at all) I'm really happy about Chorale, at least -- it's definitely going to be a good semester.

I didn't know that you had a Pixiv, so seeing you there was a pleasant surprise! I'm still figuring out the comment and image bookmark functions, so you'll get some things from me, too. (`・ω・´)b

Fencing is cool until you realize that it leaves bruises even when you're wearing all of the protective equipment. D: That aside, it really is a lot of fun, and it's good exercise, too!

Thank you! And good luck with everything over there, too (including the weather, if it climbs back up into the thirties).
(deleted comment)

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-27 08:49 pm (UTC)(link)
I'll do my best! Thank you.

The Director's speech kind of went like this:

Director: (takes drag on cigarette, says something like Norio Wakamoto)
Japanese School students: (laugh hysterically)
Director: (says something else)
Japanese School students: (laugh hysterically, stomp feet on floor)

Needless to say, I began to wish that I had enrolled in the Japanese School. :D

The kidney stone was horrible, but thankfully that was well over a year ago. Everything should be fine now!

[identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com 2010-09-28 05:35 am (UTC)(link)
My friends who used JSL were very, very good at spoken Japanese (though tbh, they all also lived in Kyoto for a year)--I'm very jealous of its grammar explanations. The written language is always the neglected child in undergrad language programs, I think (lord knows I'm having my own problems with the consequences of that at the moment--hooray for grammar dictionaries), and I imagine that by the end it may well even out.

MIddlebury sounds interesting. It remains an outside possibility that I'll wind up there for German or French one of these years, but I'd rather find a language program in Europe. Good luck with classes and such!

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-09-30 01:42 am (UTC)(link)
I don't think I'm going to be able to study abroad during my undergraduate career (unless I apply for and am accepted into the Critical Language Scholarship Program for this summer), but I'm glad to hear that JSL worked out well for your friends! Weirdly enough, our Russian program focuses a lot on reading and grammar, but not a lot on speaking -- it makes me wonder what the other language programs here focus on.

The Middlebury program really is excellent, but I can see why you would want to go to Europe instead. For all of the school directors' talk of "total immersion," it's really a lot more "artificial" than the normal immersion of living in a target country: it was always very obvious that we were still in the middle of Vermont due to the English-speaking staff and the campus's signs and maps, and as such cultural immersion was greatly limited. Not to mention the fact that, since we were living with other Russian-impaired students rather than host families, we could easily hole ourselves up in our rooms between classes, do our homework, and not interact with anyone!

[identity profile] starlady38.livejournal.com 2010-09-30 01:58 am (UTC)(link)
You should do the CLS, the Kyoto site for it is the same as the program I'm hoping to do this summer. ^_^

*late comment is late*

[identity profile] grass-angel.livejournal.com 2010-10-11 07:25 am (UTC)(link)
I really haven't paid much attention to the first part of your post aside from a skim so in regards to the latter portion:
I have a pixiv too. Mostly so I can track down rare fanarts. I hope you don't mind that I've sent you a bookmark request thing. Very tempted to, in regards to your comments about Danbooru, to keep an eye on the respective tags you've drawn for and see if they do eventually get uploaded there.

There are about five different tags for HOLiC on pixiv. I know because I've looked at every single one.

All of the texts I've ever had the joy of learning Japanese from have put a very strong emphasis on hiragana, katakana and very basic kanji. It kind of put me off, as I'd much rather have the vocab and learn the kana by writing familar words. //reason why I switched to learning Mandarin for a period.
You get to learn that little thing on top of this character means it's plant related!

Re: *late comment is late*

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-10-11 08:04 pm (UTC)(link)
This layout makes even short posts seem like teal deers, so I don't blame you for skimming.

I got the bookmark request this morning -- thank you again! I still think it would be hilarious if my fanart turned out to be "good" enough to end up in the Pixiv - Danbooru - LJ icon loop.

I'm surprised that xxxHOLiC doesn't get that much fanart (especially compared to the massive glut of works for Vocaloids and the new Pokemon games), but there's even less art for things like Holitsuba, minor CLAMP characters, and so on. There's a whopping one Clow/Yuuko drawing on the entire site -- woe!

Learning kana by components sounds a lot better than rote memorization. Hopefully we'll learn it that way when it finally comes time for it.

Re: *late comment is late*

[identity profile] grass-angel.livejournal.com 2010-10-13 10:49 am (UTC)(link)
The tiny font makes it even worse, as does the fact that you've turned on custom comment pages.

Eeeh, I'm always surprised at how popular Vocaloid is. That and I seem to employ a Sturgeon's law filter to whatever I listen too/see when I stick my toe into the fandom (which is seriously lacking on the fiction side of things, despite doing fairly well everywhere else) so I only see the top ten percent anyway.
I'm fairly sure though, that even Ponyo has more fanart for it than HOLiC, at least on Pixiv.

It'd be a lot better than doing the same thing but backwards (learnning a word because its first kana is the one you're studying, like some weird variant of shiritori) which is how almost all the books I've come across teach it. So I hope you learn it that way too.
And remember, strokes are usually top to bottom, left to right.
<random tangent> My first Japanese teacher, when I was six, did not teach out of a book. Mostly because she was a native Japanese speaker and we were only six. So we didn't learn kana, just colours, animals, counting and how to sit in seiza. </tangent>

Re: *late comment is late*

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-10-13 06:11 pm (UTC)(link)
The tiny text is one thing, but the custom comment pages are staying! (Honestly, though, I'm going to shop around for layouts with bigger text when it comes time to change. I can barely see the comment entry form as it is.)

One could write essays, maybe even doctoral theses, on the reasons behind Vocaloid's popularity in Japan. As for me, I just see badly-dressed computer programs that warble too much.

...Actually, we're learning colors and counting right now along with our normal "office/shopping" scenarios, ahaha. I really enjoy the small cultural things that come with studying the language.

Re: *late comment is late*

[identity profile] grass-angel.livejournal.com 2010-10-13 11:00 am (UTC)(link)
Also, you don't have mezzo in your choral group? Even though vocal classifications are terribly blurry and thus lead to hilarious 'wait, whats' when a tenor realises that a mezzo can sing some of the same (low) notes as he can.

Re: *late comment is late*

[identity profile] outou.livejournal.com 2010-10-13 06:06 pm (UTC)(link)
We have all voice types in our group, but the "Carmina Burana" is split up as such: Soprano I, Soprano II, Alto I, Alto II, Tenor I, and so on. I'm technically a mezzo-soprano (both my choral director and my voice teacher said it was obvious from my speaking voice), but as I've only been taking lessons for a little over a year, I'm still very underdeveloped -- hence my problems with the "high parts." (I honestly wish I could sing the tenor part sometimes, but that's the easy way out!)

That later part reminds me of this story I heard about a choir near my hometown. It consisted mostly of older people, including one woman who insisted that she was a bass. XD

Re: *late comment is late*

[identity profile] grass-angel.livejournal.com 2010-10-15 08:12 am (UTC)(link)
But women can sing bass!

If they sing barbershop.