Classroom Japanese: Yobou

予防 (よぼう/yobou) Prevention.

This one’s going around the school this month in the contexts of preventing catching the flu. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Sit far from each other at lunch. Gargle water like that has any effect at all. Prevention. You know, I think I wash my hands more than most doctors and yet I still catch the flu every year.

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Classroom Japanese: Kubaru

配る (くばる/kubaru) Distribute. Hand out.

When you’ve got some papers that need to be handed out or returned, this is the verb you use. To get a kid to pass out papers at the beginning of class you ask them to 配ってください (くばってください/kubattekudasai)。Here, kids in the front row. Here’s the worksheets from last time. Kubattekudasai.

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Classroom Japanese: Ayumi

歩み (あゆみ/ayumi) Progress. Walking.

This is a local one, kind of a cute quirk. In my other schools in other prefectures they called it something different, but here in Yokohama my elementary schools call the mid-year progress reports Ayumi. The grade cards all say “Ayumi” on the front. Simple and sort of positive way to say it, really. The semester grade cards came out in October around here, but I think some districts do quarter or trimester terms. What do they call it in your school?

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Classroom Japanese: Kasou suru

仮装する (かそうする/kasou suru) To disguise oneself, to wear a costume.

Should have put this one up two weeks ago when it was all over the school. What we do at Halloween, the wearing of a costume, is conveyed in Japanese as a disguise. Did you wear a costume this Halloween? 仮装しましたか? It gets a little more normal every year.

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Classroom Japanese: Tenkousei

転校生 (てんこうせい/tenkousei) Transfer student who is transferring out.

転入生 (てんにゅうせい/tennyusei) Transfer student who is transferring in. 

Summer happened and now there’s at least two new kids in every grade, it feels like. It’s cheaper to move in summer. So, it’s not just you. That unfamiliar kid you spotted last month really was new.

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Classroom Japanese: Myouji

名字 (みょうじ/myouji) Family name. Surname. Last name. 

下の名前 (したのなまえ/shitanonamae) First name. Given name. The bottom name when a name is written Japanese style top to bottom with surname on top and given name on bottom. 

サイン (さいん/sain) Sign or signature. 

フルネーム (ふるねえむ/furuneemu) Full name. 

In the Hi! Friends textbook series there is no writing. No spelling. No grammar. No tests. But, they do paradoxically require you to write your name or your friends’ names in various activities and to complete several textbook suggested projects. Every single time I tell a kid to write their name on something, someone has to get super pedantic about it. They ask if they have to write their full name, if they should just write their given name, or should they have their last name in there. It really doesn’t matter 99% of the time, kids. Usually this question becomes a disruptive issue when a class has a weirdo homeroom teacher that insists they switch it up for English class. Hey, kids. In America they do this weird thing where they call their friends by their given names. Odd right? Stop calling your peers by your surnames and ONLY USE GIVEN NAMES FOR THE NEXT HOUR. Nevermind that you’ve been chastised for using given names and skipping suffixes for years now. Do the exact opposite or I WILL END YOU. Oh, here’s the English teacher. Let’s begin. Thanks.

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Classroom Japanese: Ensoku vs Shuugaku Ryokou

遠足(えんそく/ensoku) Field trip. Excursion.
修学旅行 (しゅうがくりょこう/shuugaku ryokou)  Field trip. School Trip.

Did you know there’s actually more than one kind of field trip? Here’s the skinny: If the kids are going to stay somewhere together overnight, then it’s a shuugaku ryoko or a school trip. Sixth graders do this a lot to go see famous historical sights. They pack bags, get assigned rooms, do a campfire, spend the weekend. Whole nine yards.

But, the little ones? They don’t stay overnight when they go places. They walk to the park and catch bugs. Or they walk to the fire station and try on helmits. Or the bus brings them to the one factory and they take the tour. So, you see, that’s not a School Trip. It’s an ensoku. An excursion. Totally different. At least I’m pretty sure. This is one of those things that’s so basic to people who grew up with it that they don’t even think to articulate it. Meanwhile, here in English-land, we call everything a field trip. Hm.

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Classroom Japanese: Nicchoku

日直 (にっちょく/nicchoku) Day duty. 

Ok, the dictionary calls this Day Duty or Daily Duties but I have taken to calling them Class Leaders. One of my teachers became so fond of my interpretation of the term that he took to calling his own class’s Nicchoku “Class Leaders” on the chalk board. It’s the Nicchoku that usually comes to fetch you at the office and the Nicchoku that say the greetings to begin and end a class. Usually, one boy and girl are chosen each day for this responsibility. This is not the same as the elected Class Representative you see in TV shows depicting junior high school life as everyone takes a turn at it throughout the month.

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Classroom Japanese: Gekou

下校 (げこう/gekou) Going home from school. 

Yeah. There’s a special word for going home from school. This is how the dismissal bell is marked on most schedules and what some of my students answered was their favorite part of school during an activity last year. Honestly, I can’t blame them for that last one. I probably would have answered the same way when I was a kid.

Four years ago one of my schools turned gekou into a formal affair after a kid walking home from school got hit by a car and broke his leg. Kids had to organize into specific neighborhood groups and walk together with upperclassmen holding flags to guide underclassmen across the street. It was a strange sight, but no more kids got hit by cars so we couldn’t complain.

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Classroom Japanese: Shokuinshitsu

職員室 (しょくいんしつ/shokuinshitsu) noun. Staff room. 

It’s funny how I learned so many things in my Japanese classes in college, but never the names of rooms. I guess there’s no reason to teach college kids the rooms of a school, huh? Took me a while to figure some of them out. The shokuinshitsu is the Teacher’s Room aka the Staff Room aka the Teacher’s Lounge aka the place where all the desks are. Some others include:

保健室 (ほけんしつ/hokenshitsu) The health room or nurse’s office. 

会議室 (かいぎしつ/kaigishitsu) The conference room or meeting room.

放送室 (ほうそうしつ/housoushitsu) The broadcasting room. 

図書室 (としょしつ/toshoshitsu) The school library.

体育館 (たいいくかん/taiikukan) The school gym.

印刷室 (いんさつしつ/insatsushitsu) The copy room.

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