Saturday, October 15, 2005

Studying Beginning Japanese

This is my first post. It was hard to decided on what to write about first, but I decided to write about how I study beginning Japanese, and what my recommendations are.

I have been studying Japanese for a number of years now, and have tried all sorts of books, tapes, and courses and have finally found a set of material that works for me.

First off I don't recommend taking courses. I took 2 1/2 classes. The only good aspect of them is that they force you to study, and maybe you might find someone from the class to study and practice with. Otherwise I feel they are not worth the time and effort. For example, if you take a Japanese conversation class with 20 other people, and the teacher goes around asking each person to say a phase. How many phases will each person actually get to say in an hour class? Maybe once, and if you are lucky twice. If instead you used that time to read a book or listen audio and say the phrases to yourself, you will get a lot more practice.

Okay now on to what I recommend. The four methods I think you should study with are: listening to audio and video instructional CDs and tapes, use study books, learn writing, practice speaking, and reinforce what you have learned.

1. The instructional CD set I highly recommend is Pimsleur's Comprehensive Japanese. I transferred the CD to my MP3 player and listen and practice in the car while commuting. I do not recommended doing this for safety, but it definitely makes for very time efficient studying. Make sure your MP3 player can be easily paused and rewound. Pimsleur has now come out with their our MP3 player and audio on chips.

2. I am studying two books Japanese for Busy People I: Kana Version and Teach Yourself Beginner's Japanese. The books will give you a larger vocabulary and explanations of the grammar.

3. You should learn how to write hiragana, katakana and later kanji. Learning to write will vastly improve your ability to read. I used Japanese for Busy People - Kana Workbook

4. If at all possible practice speaking with other people. It is real quite different trying to come up with the right words to say on the spot, than it is to answers prompts from the audio tape, or questions from the books.

5. I also recommend that you keep a word list of all the words you study. Make flash cards from this list or at least go over the list often to reinforce the words you've learned.

Ganbattene (Good luck and work hard.)


  • I generally agree with your tips.

    Number 3 is of high importance. Since nothing in Japan is written in romaji, you're wasting your time memorizing it. The kana is simple to learn, it just takes a little memorization.

    I think a class may not be the best way to learn, but it is better than nothing. It at least gives you some exposure to hearing the language from a real person, and getting a chance to interact, albeit a minimal amount of interaction. If anything it should be a supplement to the books and tapes.

    However, I'm currently taking a week long course at Berlitz, and the size of the class is 1 person, me, and it lasts all day long. You can't get much more immersive than that besides moving to a Japanese community or to Japan itself. I've only spent one day in the class, so I can't say how well it will actually work, but my hopes are high. The only downsides I see so far are the price (paid for by my employer) and the high probability of information overload.

    By Blogger freshcoast, at 7:58 PM  

  • I'm curious: where did you take your class(es)?

    I tried this quite a while ago... took 3 semesters at UCLA extension... actually, for me, it was really good: since I didn't have a trip to take, or somebody close by to talk with, I needed face-to-face interaction and the pressure of being prepared twice a week for class. I think there are versions of the class that are more immersive...

    I totally agree about learning to write. One of my teachers was completely unforgiving about this: the 2nd semester assumed you were already very good and very quick at reading both hiragana and katakana. Although it was tough, it was worthwhile.

    Sadly, a lot of time has passed. And I've lost much of what I learned.

    By Blogger Craig, at 1:34 PM  

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