Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Chapter one (segment eight), 2016, December, Yukio

With final exams looming closer Yukio firmly pushed the scandal aside. Besides, apart from their English teacher most of the school staff had been surprisingly quiet about Urufu's and Kuri's rumoured night-time activities.

Now he sat in the inner room of the Stockholm Haven café which had been fully converted into their new club-room just in time for the cessation of all club activities in preparation of their exams.

Noriko sat together with Kuri going through math problems with the famous model turned slut. By their side Sango-chan and Kyoko ran through the same problems but at a distinctly higher pace and without Noriko's help.

And this one?” Ryu asked from Yukio's right.

Same. Look, if you replace the numbers with letters it's a lot easier to detect the pattern,” Urufu said.

Pattern?” That was Nori-kun, and Yukio noted how another two club-members congregated around them to follow Urufu's explanation.

Now this is just hysterically funny, Yukio thought. Urufu the flunkie teaching math. But he's not really a flunkie is he? Didn't he have a college exam from engineering?

Yes, by token substitution you'll be able to immediately identify equalities on both sides and remove them. Clears the real problem from excess data. See the pattern now?” Urufu said and crossed out almost a third of the information on the whiteboard.

Yukio watched him leave the white-board and walk over to the one where another group were struggling with English. Despite bombing that topic on his midterms virtually every club-member knew his English knowledge was superior to what any teacher at school could muster.

And I think you have a better grasp of Japanese history than I do by now. What kind of study monster are you?

Truth be told the only thing that kept Urufu from popping up on the wall was his written Japanese. By now Yukio recognised the difference when Urufu spoke about or listened to the material they had to study compared to when he was forced to rely on his reading skills.

And you're closing that gap as well. It's scary how much better you are at reading and writing now.

Kuri was the same. Even though she paled in comparison to Urufu her Japanese had improved by huge strides since summer. That realisation made Yukio a bit uncomfortable. He hadn't known how important the preferred language was for grading other subjects.

Would I look like an idiot if I had to go to school abroad? Or even Noriko? Yukio pushed the last thought away. Noriko failing exams was ludicrous. She was one of the best freshmen at Himekaizen after all with results that probably placed Todai within reach of her aspirations.

In the background he heard Urufu's strangely melodic explanation when he gave examples in Japanese for the English text they were analysing. Whenever he read a sentence aloud for the group to hear the correct pronunciation Kuri interrupted him with a laugh and read it twice. As far as Yukio understood she delivered one version in some kind of British English and then in American English.

Urufu grimaced but never protested. Instead he told his group they should listen to Kuri because her spoken English far surpassed his.

How good is she?” Yukio shouted when he tired of Urufu belittling himself.

Everyone by the whiteboard turned, and Yukio saw Kuri glance at Urufu rather than the one to blame for the interruption.

Depends,” Urufu said. “As for pronunciation she bulldozes right over me. There's no comparison.”

Depends?” Kuri said to test the waters.

Well, I'd guess your vocabulary is between half to two thirds of mine. What's your take?”

Spoken, close to ten thousand words,” Kuri suggested and grinned.

Damn! You're just as good as I suspected.”

And you? Native level is around fifteen thousand.”

Native college level, yeah. I'm above that average.”

Kuri's eyebrows shot up. “What kind of vocabulary do you have?”

The tests couldn't measure above sixteen thousand, so I don't really know.”

Kuri palmed her face. “He killed the test. Why am I not surprised?”

What tests?” Sango-chan asked.

Both Kuri and Yukio shot Urufu warning glares.

There were some… ah...” Then Urufu must have caught up with the looks he got from the friends who knew about his first life. “Ah, there are proficiency tests, and I took a few before moving here,” he finished.

You took a few before moving here. Well that's one way of expressing it.

You took a few tests at college level?”

You're not out of the woods yet. Think, think!

It was painfully visible how Urufu tried to come up with a plausible explanation, but in the end he lit up in a bright grin. “I like programming, and most of the literature is in English, so I needed to learn it to read the books.”

That had to suffice, and from what Urufu had said earlier it partially explained his knowledge of math.

But you failed your midterms,” came a less than helpful comment from Nori-kun.

Urufu's face clouded over. “I didn't in Sweden,” he said in a subdued voice.

Huh?” That was Nori-kun again.

Guys,” Kuri said. “Here in Japan we're graded on how well we can express our English knowledge in Japanese, but neither Ulf nor I are Japanese. When we translate we usually translate from English to Swedish in our heads.”

And that's a lie, Yukio thought. You both told me you don't translate at all any longer. Then it struck him why Urufu had lived through such problems with his Japanese, and a moment later Yukio understood how Urufu's spoken Japanese had developed so insanely fast the last months. You've stopped translating Japanese as well!

With that line of thought something clicked inside his head. Suddenly Urufu's explanation of learning models made sense. 'Learn the rules, break the rules, write the rules' Urufu used to say when he tried to describe what he called analytic-synthetic learning or reverse triple loop learning.

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