Well my friend here we are in the brand new year of 2009. Many of us have great expectations for 2009. President Obama takes center stage. God has great things in store for us because we are His children. As I write this blog, I’m aware of much of the chaos that plagues our world(famine, war, hatred, selfishness and list goes on). Although I don’t know what the future holds, I trust the one who holds the future. I believe our mandate for 2009 is the continue trusting God while walking in our assignment. Do you know what your assignment is during this season of your life? If you don’t know, I encourage you to spend some time with God getting your assignment. Through prayer and communion with God, He reveals the assignments for us. When we get our assignment from Him, it helps you and I stay on track to reach our destiny and fulfill our purpose in life. Maybe your assignment is to finish school, raise your children, sharpen your craft, or complete a project. Whatever it is, stay on course, don’t let the distractions of the devil keep you from your assignment. Every time I have sinned since my salvation, I have learned that while I was sinning, I was not completing my God given assignment. The sin would always keep me from finishing what God called me to do. Sin has a way of delaying our destiny, blocking our blessings, impeding our progress, and holding up our help. We must resist sin with the power of God in us. Complete the assignment that God has given you for this season of your life. No matter how hard it may seem, never quit your assignment, complete it. When we complete an assignment there is always a reward waiting for us. I’m encouraging my self while writing this. Don’t quit it, complete it.

I am not talking about a medical textbook, or a complicated study in an academic journal, just the everyday stuff. We expect that we can write informal letters to friends as well as business correspondence, and fill out forms, again everyday stuff. Japanese literacy involves four different scripts. Hiragana is a phonetic script used for original Japanese words. Katakana is another phonetic script used for words that originated in other languages besides Japanese. Kanji, or Chinese characters, is a pictographic script. It is perfectly possible to read and comprehend Kanji without knowing the pronunciation. All three scripts are used together in the same document, even the same sentence. If I wrote a simple sentence like, “I went to McDonalds” in Japanese, the word for “went” is “ikimashita.” the “iki-” part is where the meaning resides and is written in Kanji. The “-mashita” part is the past tense conjugation and is written in hiragana. Of course McDonalds is written in katakana.

In fourth grade, students learn a fourth script, called Romaji, which means Roman letters. If a students writes the word “ikimashita” in Romaji (as I just did), the word is still Japanese, not English. The sounds are pretty close but do not precisely correspond to their English sounds. Even literate Japanese people cannot compose a simple note to a friend without consulting the dictionary. A medical student whom everyone would agree is quite literate in Japanese might not be able to go to the grocery store and buy fish. The student knows the name of the fish but cannot recognize the written name on the label. It would be like an American going to the grocery and being unable to read the label to determine which package is a porterhouse steak and which is a T-bone steak. Literacy is very situational and the literacy of a Japanese housewife might be qualitatively different than the literacy of a Japanese banker.

Japanese people define literacy differently than the US does. The 99 percent literacy rate cannot be used as evidence that Japanese education is superior because it is not measuring the level of functional literacy Americans assume. Even well-educated Japanese are not literate in the sense most Americans recognize. The 99 percent literacy rate is referring to hiragana which is mastered by the second grade. The functional literacy of adult Japanese is far lower than 99 percent, at least by American standards. With four scripts to learn, the incredible complexity of Japanese literacy can be a hindrance to the functionality. Having to learn four different alphabets just to function does not make one more literate. We all have a tendency to subconsciously read through the lens of our own experience. We read “literacy” and think of literacy as we know it. We read “pass an entrance exam” and think passing in Japan is the same as passing in America. So it goes with almost everything we read about Japanese education.

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