Last Day at JaLS and Summer Fireworks

Friday is grad day at JaLS

We couldn’t have picked a better day to end our 4 weeks of classes at Hokkaido Japanese Language School. It was our last day and we would be going to see fireworks in the evening. However, along with fireworks, comes yukataYukata are traditional Japanese clothing similar to kimono, but they are much lighter and less complex to put on. However, to us, the uninitiated, we needed help to put on these wonderful traditional pieces of clothing.

backside of a woman’s yukata

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Japanese Sweets Creation

Disclaimer: I hate cooking and I’m really bad at cooking. Perhaps I was emotionally scarred as a child against cooking or maybe I’m lazy or maybe I’m incompetent. I don’t know. Cooking is one of the most stressful things in my life. It makes me extremely anxious and grumpy whenever I cook.

Given my disclaimer, it’s amazing that I actually enjoyed our afternoon workshop on making Japanese sweets, or wagashi. This was yet another cultural experience workshop put on by the Hokkaido Japanese Language School, or JaLS. A whole gaggle of us students walked over to the Susukino area and to the Chuo Ward Office all the way at one end of Tanukikoji.

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Kimono Experience

What a way to start my third week at Hokkaido Japanese Language School, or JaLS. We had done taiko drumming the week before. Now on this Monday in July, we were heading off to our next cultural activity of the summer program – the kimono experience.

We headed out as a group to Tanukikoji, a busy covered shopping arcade in Sapporo. It was only a 15 minute walk from our school to a little kimono business, Mitsuki Sakura (美月桜), on the 5th floor of an office building just along the shopping arcade.

walking down Tanukikoji in kimonos

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Taiko Drumming

I am so happy that I signed up for the Summer Program at Japanese Language School Hokkaido, or JaLS. All the cultural activities included in the fee are really worthwhile. One afternoon, we were taken out of Sapporo’s centre to an area called Shin Kotoni (新琴似), which is accessible on one of the JR lines out of Sapporo Station.

We ended up in a very residential area of town. There were not many stores around and the station was relatively quiet. It certainly wasn’t a busy transport hub. We walked for about 15-20 minutes from the JR station to a tiny little building on a tiny little residential street.

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Musings of a Multilingual 5 | Learning ASL

ASL, or American Sign Language is the sign language commonly used in Vancouver and across most of North America (the notable exception would be Quebec where they use Langue Signe du Quebec).  Because of my line of work with the Deaf community, I was required to learn sign language.  My first job in Toronto actually held ASL classes onsite.  So I was lucky enough to … Continue reading Musings of a Multilingual 5 | Learning ASL

Musings of a Multilingual 4 | Learning Mandarin

Onto my fourth language – Mandarin. Mandarin is the dominant dialect of Chinese. It is referred to as the common language in Chinese. However, I grew up with Cantonese in my home. So you’d think learning one Chinese dialect when you know another would be easy. Not for me. I didn’t really learn Mandarin until I had finished my university degree and went overseas to … Continue reading Musings of a Multilingual 4 | Learning Mandarin

Musings of a Multilingual – 3 | Learning French

Growing up in Canada, there are two official languages – English and French.  Growing up in English Canada, you almost always exclusively use English and French is just a language that you find on your cereal box or bag of potato chips and on road signs in national parks. I went to an elementary school that did not have a single French class. That’s really … Continue reading Musings of a Multilingual – 3 | Learning French

Musings of a Multilingual | Learning Cantonese – 1

[muhl-tee-ling-gwuhl, muhl-tahy- or, Can., -ling-gyoo-uhl]
1. using or able to speak several or many languages with some facility.
2. spoken or written in several or many languages: a multilingual broadcast.
3. dealing with or involving several or many languages: a multilingual dictionary of business terms.
4. a multilingual person.

During my recent road trip, I got to thinking about my own multilingualism.  Many Canadians are bilingual in education, but for many Western Canadians, we are primarily anglophones in practice.  However, growing up Chinese-Canadian benefited me linguistically.  I’ve been looking at my own language abilities and wonder how it all works in my brain.

Let’s look at my first language, chronologically, but not my best language.


Born into a Chinese family that immigrated in the mid-70’s from Hong Kong, I was exposed to Cantonese right from the beginning.  It may be my first language chronologically, but it is not my strongest.  I speak and understand it fairly fluently, but I often mess up the tones.  For example, I can never separate the words for buy and sell in Cantonese (Both words are pronounced “mai”, but with different tones). I may apply English word order rules to Cantonese much to the amusement of those listening.  I often have word recollection problems in Cantonese where I know the word, but I cannot recall it at that particular moment.

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Re-post: The Chinese Language Series

Back in 2008, I wrote up a short series of posts about the Chinese language.  Because I had recently posted about Chinese Village Kinship, I had a tangential question regarding classification of Cantonese as a language or as a dialect.  I think my previous posts will help to answer that question.  So I’ve linked to all my previous posts below. Chinese Language Written Chinese The … Continue reading Re-post: The Chinese Language Series