Sporadic Happiness (in Japan!)

(formerly) updated every Wednesday

#27 NHK “Euro 24” Educational Language Show

on June 6, 2012

Back in October I became a vegetarian.

I first did it out of a reaction to the book: The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health.

There’s also a DVD that’s been made based on the book’s contents. I’ve watched it, and I think it is worth checking out, if only for the scene that explains why we eat all the sugary things that we do.

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health

Since then I have learned that the science in that book isn’t necessarily sound, in that, it’s not necessarily the meat, or dairy products that are causing cancer, but more likely it’s the highly refined sugars and processed foods that we’re consuming that is making us fat and sick. Part of the success of people that are put on these special whole-foods diets can be easily understood if you realize that people are switching from donuts and subway meatball sandwiches to having a ton of vegetables and fruits and whole grains in their diet. Instead of pigging out on chocolates, they’re getting full on peaches. That sort of thing.

Anyway, I still realized that in attempting to be a vegetarian, you’re forcing yourself to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables than you would otherwise, and I wanted to make a switch towards healthier food (though food in Japan is already 10 times healthier and fuller of vegetables than American food). Plus, it’s better for the environment to eat plant products than animals.

To make a long story short, in March I decided to stop eating Kyuushoku, or the provided school lunches at my Japanese schools because I was tired of secretly picking out the meat bits before eating and taking them home to throw out, or if the occasion called for it, forcing myself to eat the meat I was provided (I was eating in front of students and had to set a good example).

So since March I’ve been going home for my lunch breaks on Tuesdays (elementary day) and Wednesdays (preschool day) to make and eat my own food.

The first few months I basically just ate my lunch and took a much needed nap. For the first time since being on JET I was able to get away from the hectic school environment in the middle of the day and I sure needed that nap to refresh myself.

Starting in May I had more energy I would occasionally turn on the TV and watch something while eating or just to relax a little bit before returning to school.

Well, in so doing I made a FANTASTIC find for a life-long language learner like me, who is also someone who studies for fun.

A lot of people complain that Japanese TV is no good – that it’s all mindless game shows and celebrities chatting. Well, it is a lot of that, especially if you try and watch TV during prime-time evening hours.

One thing that Japan does really well though, is its educational TV shows, which mainly seem to be put on by NHK. There seem to be an awful lot of different themed shows out there that mostly air in the mornings or during the day I believe – times when full time students or full time employees don’t usually have the luxury of watching TV.

The show I happened upon is called “Euro 24” and is provided by NHK, aka the Japan Broadcasting Corportation (Nippon Housou Kyoukai in Japanese). It airs every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 12:00 to 12:30pm. Each day of the week is a different language that they teach; Monday is Italian, Tuesday is German, Wednesday is French, and Thursday is Spanish. It just so happens that I’ve both studied and enjoy German and French, and I get to watch those two days! Hooray!

I recently started a notebook to use when watching the show. It doesn’t teach that many words in an episode (the Japanese have a complex that learning languages is too hard, because they’ve spent most of their lives studying English which is a devil of a language in the first place, and light-years different from Japanese. As a result, language learning needs to feel light-hearted and easy-breezy for a Japanese person to even give it a try). That’s not much of a problem though – even one or two new words is new words leaned!

Each show has a formulaic structure used each week, and includes elements such as introducing new vocab and talking about it, doing a listening exercise, and seeing words visually represented (a person sitting and the German word “sitzen” for example). At the very end they do a culture piece which I find incredibly interesting. It’s usually done entirely in the language being studied, with Japanese subtitles, so it increases language exposure (to both the target language and to Japanese for me!). Last week the German show had a piece on a German musician who sings chill music. Once on the French show they talked about a particular French movie director. It’s all interesting topics that opens your eye a bit to what is going on in the world.

Each show has, as their core members, some Japanese members and some foreign members, that sit in the studio and introduce words and talk about things. There’s usually a Japanese person who is fluent in the language being studied and can explain things well (and seem to have lived in the foreign country before), and a Japanese person playing the “learner” role and repeating words and asking questions. They are sure to have at least one person whose native language is that being studied, but who is fluent in Japanese so he/she can talk about the language/culture directly in Japanese with the other two. That person is usually supplemented with one or two other native speakers of the language, who often make their comments in their native language (subtitled in Japanese) which I think is great exposure to the language. In my opinion, it’s a very good mix of Japanese and the language being studied.

I’m incredibly grateful that I ran into this series, and will be watching it religiously each Tuesday and Wednesday until I leave Japan. I’ll be very sad when I no longer have access to it though; I wish the US had these same sort of free, incredibly educational, awesome language learning shows!

Does your country have educational TV shows? Do they teach foreign languages? Tell me about it!

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