Righty I thought I'd bump this because I'm massively procrastinating and thought that it'd be interesting to do an up to date version of this ^^
I'm a BA Japanese single honours student and because I did A-level I'm in AJ - we're just about at the right pace in AJ for people who have a good AS or full A-level - so if you've got prior knowledge it's accomodated. There's still two levels - Elementary Japanese (EJ) and Accelerated Japanese (AJ). I don't think we've got anyone with just a GCSE in our class this year unlike previous years where people have said they struggled to keep up which seems like a better way round of doing things - we've already covered pretty much the entire GCSE spec and we've gone at a very fast past so if you have a GCSE my advice would be to ask to be put in EJ. You get more contact hours and more time in your exam if you're EJ too.
It is possible to skip the first year entirely and although I know 600 Kanji (just over what you need for first year) and my grammar's fairly good, I've actually learned new Kanji, new grammar and VASTLY improved my speaking and grammatical accuracy (I've never had a speaking exam to prepare for so my spoken Japanese was atrocious). Unless you've very closely followed both volumes of the Minna no Nihongo texts (our textbooks) until completion or you've got significant experience of living in Japan I'd advise against going second year.
As I'm single honours so I get one open option a year (essentially anything I want to do not necessarily in the Japanese department but you can if you want) - you cannot take a language as an open option in your first year (like I was hoping, grr) so that's something to bear in mind. Dual honours do 2 units of Japanese language (or 1.5 if AJ plus one 'half unit' ie something that lasts only one term), single honours do that plus a unit of culture.
11am-12pm: Weekly test with Kawabata sensei. Covers all grammar, kanji, translation etc. up to and including what you've learned. Lots of horrible bits of colloquial and idiosyncratic Japanese sneak in that nobody can remember so you have to actually revise for this to do well.
12pm-1pm: Grammar 1. Covers a chapter of Minna (occasionally two), including grammar, vocab and things like correct particle usage. Also we usually practice what we've learned. Kawabata also takes us for this and she's honestly one of the nicest people I've ever met - if you get her you'll love her very quickly!
Usually afternoon is spent working on Japanese homework and I get some reading done in the evening.
I try and get up and do some work/reading/washing in the morning. Usually I just cook myself a mahoosive breakky and go back to sleep though >.>
1-2pm: Intro to Southeast Asian history lecture with Mandy. This is my open option and although the reading is VERY heavy for history courses it's so interesting - Mandy is a really, really good lecturer and such a nice person and is really really knowledgable, as well as approachable. Definitely take this if you're stuck for open options and you don't fancy 4 units of Japanese!
2-3pm: Tutorial for ^. Usually we just criticise the readings we (didn't always) do and talk about how to prepare for essays and presentations.
I do an evening class in French to keep it up so I don't get home until 9:30pm usually, so I spend the afternoon catching up on reading.
Wednesday (aka day of death)
10am-11am: Writing class. Normally only goes for half an hour - usually we talk about 'how' to set things out, spaces, paragraphs, numbers, contexts...not a lot to do really. We have a new teacher this year (Hori) who is always so full of energy and enthusiastic, she's so lovely!
11am-12pm: Kanji with the very famous Kashiwagi sensei. Go through new Katakana words and 20 Kanji/25 Kanji after 7 or so weeks per week. Usually involves her pretending to be a horse, telling us about her husband being her prisoner or her making jokes about mothers and nipples. Hilarious class, and surprisingly productive. You may find her a bit difficult at first, especially if you've got prior knowledge as you have to go to her Hiragana class at the start of the year (trust me it won't be considered neat enough :L) but if you keep on top of her work she'll quickly become one of your favourite teachers ever.
12pm-1pm: Grammar 2: same as the Monday class, just the next chapter of Minna. Ocasionally two.
1pm-2pm: Speaking class - I've always lost concentration by this point after 3 hours with no break so can NEVER concentrate >_<. Involves role plays, scripted scenarios and an emphasis on colloquial Japanese, also with Hori sensei.
4pm-5pm: Clinic class - essentially this is an hour where you can go to ask questions to teachers, do your homework with people etc. I really recommend going to this even if you're not struggling because it's an extra hour of time in which you can pick your teachers' brains and if nobody really turns up (which is usually the case) you can make the most of it - yesterday I had a conversation with Kawabata for about 45 minutes purely in plain form in Japanese and I felt so much improved after it, it really is worth going!
The majority of our homework is due Thursday, so I don't normally leave until 6:30pm and work with some friends in the library/bar and go to the clinic half way through.
3-5pm: Issues in the Study of Language Learning with Dr Pizziconi. A lot of people really find this class dull and unless you're massively into linguistics I wouldn't take this - I find it really interesting though. I finish this at the end of term though - it's my half unit option. Covers theoretical and practical issues as to why people can/cannot learn languages. I love Barbs (don't call her that though, she doesn't know that's her nickname, you'll see what I mean if you take this in your first lecture :P) as she's one of these really chill people who's quite happy to have a bit of banter with you over a fag at the end of the lecture :P.
9am-10am: Reading class (so hard to get up for D: ) with Takahashi sensei. There's a vocab test every week (thankfully Japanese to English), dictations and passages of text, song lyrics, articles etc. with follow up true/false/short answer questions. Feels a bit like a gameshow because every time we get something right she goes BINGBONG which is quite amusing.
10am-11am: Translation class with Kawabats. Usually the English we get given to translate is very poor so this class ends up being very unintentionally funny ("I'm just going to Masako's house to enjoy ourselves this weekend, please won't you join us?"). Every week we have to prepare sentences beforehand and half of us have to go write them on the board - to make up the next hour we translate stuff with particularly difficult grammar that we make up on the spot. One time she asked us to "fetch her a chihuahua" which was in the most bizarre location...a really relaxed class which is a nice end to the Japanese language week.
1pm-4pm: Aspects of Japanese Culture. Oh god this is hard to get through, 3 hours and on a Friday afternoon >.> Alan's a lovely bloke bless him but he makes so many unintentional (but sometimes very intentional) innuendos, and I have no ability to laugh quietly so my friends make it their objective to make me laugh the WHOLE WAY THROUGH this. It's interesting though when I do pay attention (unless it's about religion as someone else does that and she says 'mm?' at the end of all of her sentences - 278 times in the last lecture...we got bored haha) and he's good at explaining things if you can pay attention so try not to laugh at the way he says "European" or "power" (or the one time he said "powerful poetry about powdery clouds" - "pahhrful pohhtry abohhht pohhhdrie clohhhds") and you'll be fine.
Weekends are spent doing homework and the remaining readings that I didn't get the chance to do in the week. Every week you can expect 2 hours of Minna questions, 2 hours of Kanji, an hour of grammar/speaking prep, an hour of translation, an hour of reading, an hour of writing and half an hour to correct your quiz - so 8 or 9 hours of formal homework plus another 2-3 hours to make your own notes and learn stuff. This isn't a joke - this is quite intense so be prepared to work hard every week! Sadly this means you probably won't be able to go out every weekend 3 nights in a row haha but it's important to set some aside to just blow off some steam otherwise the stress can very quickly overwhelm you. On top of Japanese you can expect anywhere between 50-200 pages a week of academic reading for your non language modules, the amount depending on what you take and how well written about your subject is.
If anyone's got any questions about SOAS, Dinwiddy, Japanese or London please either quote me for a reply or PM me ^_^.
I thought I’d write one of these for single subject Chinese as I wanted to read one before I applied.
9-11am Grammar lecture. Basically 101 and 102 are the same course, but due to some bureaucratic rule they have to pretend they’re separate classes. Anyway, this is the first grammar lecture of the week and in the first term it mainly involves going over the vocabulary for the week. The text books are T’ung and Pollard’s Colloquial Chinese, full form and pinyin versions (don’t buy the audio, it’s online for free. Also, make sure you get T’ung and Pollard’s version, not the other one). They’ve used these books for years and probably will do if/when you take Chinese, so buy them before you start and learn the characters asap. We usually do one lesson of the textbook per week. Everyone who isn’t in the advanced group takes this class.
4-5pm Language lab. Notice the huge gap of nothing. Not everyone’s language lab is so late, but mine is. You’ll either have Pang laoshi or Cui laoshi. I have Pang and she’s very laid back and sweet. I’ve heard Cui is more intense. This class is meant to improve your listening skills, but I don’t get much from it, tbh. Pang’s listening exercises are often good, though.
9-11am Classical Chinese. This takes place in Vernon Square. In the first term you won’t do much Classical Chinese. Instead the focus is on learning the 214 Kangxi radicals and on romanisations of Chinese like pinyin and Wade-Giles. The lecture tends also to jump around a lot and touches on history, literature, linguistics and so on. Unfortunately you are expected to learn all 214 Kangxi radicals, their meanings, alternate forms, pinyin, and even radical number (that is, the number that they appear on the list of radicals, not the tone marker). This is, of course, absurd. Don’t worry though, I didn’t bother much with the numbers and managed to get over 70% on both tests. Just wait until the end of year test to learn the order as you’ll have forgotten it by then anyway. We’re also tested on Wade-Giles to pinyin conversion, which is quite easy once you’ve learnt it.
3-5pm Tutorial. Another huge gap. These tutorials are probably the hardest classes you’ll have, as you’ll be put on the spot quite often. The aim is to go more in depth to the weeks T’ung and Pollard lesson, but you’re also likely to be given extra vocabulary. This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s quite useful and there’s no pressure to learn the extra stuff. You’ll probably look stupid if everyone else knows it and you don’t, however. Mainly the tutorial involves a lot of reading aloud and responding to questions in Chinese. Quite challenging, but necessary.
9-11am (notice a pattern emerging?) 2nd Grammar lecture. More in-depth and more focused on grammar patterns. Xuan laoshi often peppers the lecture with interesting (and often bizarre) anecdotes, which helps things from getting too mind-numbing. Sometimes you’ll have to translate an English phrase into Chinese, but more often than not you’ll be taking notes (do take notes!).
2-3pm Activity. This class is also taken by Pang laoshi and is usually very useful. Kind of a mix between the tutorial and language lab, but with the focus on students working things out. If you can, pick up a copy of Pang’s book (which is required for this class) from the SOAS book shop during Freshers. It’ll be £3 rather than £5 if you can find one from the year before and the text doesn’t change much year by year. It’s called Integrated Study Pack: Elementary Chinese Speaking Texts.
3-4pm Language lab. Oh look, a day where I finish before 5pm. How nice. Same as previous language lab. Basically you can do what you want as long as it’s studying, but the main idea is to go through Cui’s book and listen to the audio online. Cui will try to convince you to buy the book, but unless you work better on paper, you can just access the text online. Up to you.
11-1pm History and culture lecture. If you’re doing joint honours you don’t have this lecture and you might have a day off (lucky you). Very basic introduction to Chinese history. Has a strong focus on culture, so prepare to be mildly bored by pottery, gowns, calligraphy, etc (unless you like that sort of thing). If you read one general introduction to Chinese history then you will find this lecture easy. There’s only one essay in the first term that isn’t due till after Christmas. It’s very easy, but try and grab the recommended books from the library early on, as there’s probably only about 4 copies of each.
Friday – aka Worst Day of the Week
11-1pm Tutorial. Usually a more intense version of Tuesday’s tutorial, as now there really is no excuse for you not to know the vocab. Expect to get back the homework you handed in on Tuesday today (HW is usually the exercises from the pinyin book). I understand that Cui sets more homework, but I have Gao laoshi and she doesn’t tend to. She does however ask that you try and learn the presentation – a short paragraph using that week’s vocab – by heart. This can help apparently, but I never do it.
1-2pm History and culture tutorial. Oh look, no time for lunch. This usually involves a brief lecture by your tutor, but can also include presentations by students (you have to do this) and class discussion. Like the history and culture lecture, this tutorial includes student who aren't taking Chinese language, like China Studies students and some Development Studies people, so the perspectives will hopefully be more mixed and the discussions can be interesting. However, try not to be the one person who talks incessantly and takes up everyone’s time (there is always one, and they are always loathed).
2-3pm Language lab. Still not had lunch yet…Same old language lab, except it usually involves frantic revision as it takes place almost immediately before…
4-5pm Weekly test. Oh God… Actually it’s not that scary (yes it is) especially if you’ve learnt all the vocab and grammar (you haven’t). Like all your homework it counts towards the final mark at the end of the year, but it’s only a small percent, so don’t worry too much. It’s mainly there to force you to keep up and to check your progress. It’s also only about 20 minutes and one side of A4. If you are lucky/unlucky, Pang laoshi might make everyone sing a song before you start.
I recommend trying to learn as much as you can of the next lesson and going over any mistakes you might have made on homework/other tests. I may recommend it, but whether I do it or not is another matter... Seriously though, you'll save yourself a lot of stress during the week if you work hard at the weekends. What else? Oh, flash cards are a must. Can't think of anything else...
Last edited by grass mud horse; 06-12-2012 at 20:15.