Report on Internet Classes for Students Abroad
Program Members: Machi Senjuro, Yamabe Susumu
As was reported in issue no. 8 of this newsletter, earlier this year (30 April to 4 May) the two of us conducted a course in kanbun kundoku and Japanese kanbun for master's students in the Department of East Asian Languages, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature, at Ca' Foscari University in Venice. While there, we visited the information-processing facilities in another building and had explained to us by staff members how conferences and classes were conducted over the Internet. According to their explanation, Internet conferences and classes made use of NetMeeting for Windows and, in addition to Web cameras and microphones, all they required were ADSL network speeds. Thinking these conditions would be no problem in Japan's Internet environment, we felt that it would be comparatively easy to conduct Internet conferences and classes. After our return to Japan, we set about making preparations with the full cooperation of COE research assistant Kamichi Koichi. One or two problems arose in the course of these preparations, but these were resolved by Kamichi, and after two experimental meetings, we conducted the first Internet study meeting on 27 September. The following is a report on these study meetings and classes.
On 27 September a study group (reading circle) for kanbun studies was launched by Associate Professor Aldo Tollini and fulltime lecturer Laura Moretti of Ca' Foscari University and research assistant Kawabe Yutai, Machi, and Yamabe of the COE Program. Since then, it has been held on the fourth Thursday of each month (Italian time: 12.00~13.30, Italian summertime: 13.00~14.30, Japanese time: 20.00~21.30).
We decided to use as our text the Xiaofu, a Chinese collection of amusing stories compiled by Feng Menglong of the Ming. Among the several editions of this work with kunten, we selected suitable stories principally from the San shofu compiled by Furai Sanjin (published 1776), with reference also being made to other editions. This work is written largely in vernacular Chinese, and making use of the numerous kana readings added alongside the Chinese text, we are jointly preparing an accurate kundoku text with a modern Japanese translation and word glosses, as well as adding information on the stories' origins and their influence on Edo literature (rakugo, kobanashi, etc.). Sometimes astute questions about points that have escaped our notice are raised by the Italians, and a worthwhile study group is being established.
On 11 October we began a kanbun course for first- and second-year students of the Department of East Asian Languages, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literature, at Ca' Foscari University.
The aim of this course is to have foreign students of Japanese and Japanese literature master the kundoku method of reading Chinese by actually reading kanbun texts so that they may broaden their horizons to include kanbun studies, which plays an important part in Japanese classical studies, and deepen their understanding of it. It is also intended that they will learn how the ability of Chinese characters to form new words and create new meanings has nurtured the Japanese language over a long period of time and how to use this as a new approach to studying Chinese characters as used in Japanese.
This course was started in October so as to suit the Italian academic year, and it is planned to make it a full-year course. It is held on the second Thursday of each month (Italian time: 12.00~13.30, Italian summertime: 13.00~14.30, Japanese time: 20.00~21.30), with the five classes until February 2008 corresponding to the first term. As for plans beyond that, we are currently considering various possibilities, including the sending of instructors to Italy.
Seventeen students have enrolled for this year's course, and the classes are also attended by Tollini and Moretti, who have been asked to help the students out in Japanese both during and after the classes. Among the seventeen students, two had attended the intensive course held in April and May. Since it is difficult to convey facial expressions and other subtle responses over the Internet, the presence of assistants is indispensable, and so we are hoping that past attendees will take up the role of assisting Tollini and Moretti.
In the course of conducting the Internet classes and study group, we were made aware of their secondary significance in addition to the main objective of kanbun education, that is, the importance of holding regular meetings with overseas centres. While we are in constant contact by e-mail with staff at Ca' Foscari University, it is also not such a bad idea to have the opportunity to see each other every other week. It goes without saying that there are some matters that are better handled in writing and others that can be better discussed face to face. The value of a short exchange of information after the conclusion of a class or study meeting is not something to be lightly dismissed.
We are therefore considering developing our infrastructure so as to be able to further expand the scope of Internet meetings in the future and have a similar relationship with other overseas centres.
It should be added that these classes are counted as part of the classes taught by the two faculty members.Back to the list
Department of Japanese Kanbun Instruction and Research Program, Nishogakusha University