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 Post subject: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:16 pm 
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Seagull of the PPK
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This info is aimed at beginners, people who may or may not have some exposure.

I approach this from two different angles: one, as an native English speaker who learned Japanese when I moved to Japan; two, as a high school Japanese teacher. I do believe that every learner is different, and everyone has different talents and challenges, so not every suggestion will be ideal for everyone, and I encourage you to try various approaches to see what works for you.

Since this may be a tome, here is installment one:

1) First things first: LEARNING TO READ AND WRITE.
The good news about Japanese, we're always told, is that there are no plurals and the verbs don't conjugate, only go into times and positive/negative. The bad news, we hear next, is that there are three alphabets, and one of them has THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND CHARACTERS!!!
Well, take a breath. I urge you to not panic about the written language, and instead turn the language aspect to your advantage. Here are some things to remember:
-two of these alphabets (hiragana and katakana) are phonetic, meaning they the letters have no intrinsic meaning; they are used to express foreign words or onomotopoeias (katakana) or as connectors/verb changers, etc (hiragana). You can memorize them easily. They are always pronounced the same way. Also, they are quite limited: 46 characters, and come in rhyming groups so they're easy to grasp. Even better, many hiragana and katakana resemble each other.
-A Japanese high school senior is required to know 1,945 kanji (chinese characters) to graduate. Newspapers typically do not use many more than these unless they are commonly used in names or current events. Also consider the fact that the first hundred, more or less, are numbers, or extremely simple characters (by which I mean drawn with five or fewer strokes)- easy to write, easy to read. Easily found. So chill!

Different books approach the reading and writing issue differently. Several series have a version written in hiragana and a version written in romaji (roman alphabet). Many books insist on not introducing Japanese script to beginners, with which I don't agree. The sooner you learn hiragana and katakana, the more practice you can get with it, the more comfortable you can get with it, the sooner you can read authentic materials with it, even if you don't even speak any Japanese.

My first year class's summer assignment was to memorize the two alphabets. As tools they were given a chart, to keep everything organized, flash cards with the characters, maps for how to write them (remember, in Japanese stroke order and direction are important, they can't be written any old way, see http://www.umich.edu/~umichjlp/Katakanapro/), and sites on which to play with them.
Some examples:
http://www.realkana.com/
http://genkienglish.net/genkijapan/katakana.htm
http://yosida.com/en/katakana.html
http://www.learn-hiragana-katakana.com/ ... -reviewer/
There are dozens more, but these are just some examples.

Throughout the first weeks of class, students were assigned paper and pen writing practice as well, with sheets like
http://japanese-lesson.com/resources/pd ... sheets.pdf . We also took the classes outside to write BIG with chalk on the ground, and practiced writing katakana with fat graffiti markers, which are conducive to the jagged forms of kana.

Yeah, so, yada yada.
My suggestion is to learn katakana first, so you can look at fun sites of Japanesified English like:
http://www.strawberrycones.com/menu/sidemenu.html (if this is hard the first time, try http://strawberrycones.ca/ and click through to the different menu areas, where you will see the JP and English side by side)
http://www.31ice.co.jp/contents/product ... index.html (this was on my kids` final exam!)
Upside of reading English words in Japanese? No need to learn any vocabulary just yet. Almost instant comprehension, and help in understanding the sound of the language. Also, the pleasant feeling of being able to decipher things, when you can see "honteddo ko-ra" and say, oh yeah, "haunted cola". Which will later help you with your pronunciation.
(sorry about the non-veganness of examples. you could certainly find others like lists of artists' names, minerals, nations, etc. Here you go: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9B%BD% ... 0%E8%A6%A7 )

Once you are able to do the katakana, and able to read some words, you will realize it is not impossible. You'll be able to see when someone's wearing a hipster shirt with an upside down katakana. Then the hiragana will be easier to learn, as some of them are similar to the katakana. And you'll be well on your way.

Surprised? People love to panic about Japanese and the writing system, but I think if you don't get it well in hand from the beginning, you totally stunt your growth in the language in the future. YOU CAN DO IT!

Stay tuned for part two.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:29 pm 
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Thank you


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 3:54 pm 
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You're ace. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 4:26 pm 
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How cool!

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 6:02 am 
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This is awesome. Thanks so much Torque!


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Fri Oct 14, 2011 9:12 am 
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Yay, thank you for typing all that down! I actually took some Japanese in evening school for 2,5 years. I learned hiragana, katakana and some kanji. Sad to say it slipped out of my mind quite easily, though learning it went better than I had expected. I'm shiitake at grammar in any language though. Maybe I can pick it up again!

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:43 pm 
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Thanks! I'm planning on applying to study Japanese at uni next year but they say it's a good idea to at least learn Haragana before you start.


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Sat Oct 15, 2011 2:36 pm 
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Thank you. I am starting to learn Japanese but I struggle because I find it hard to integrate grammar, lexicon and the written aspect. (That's how my mind works). So I'll focus on kana and see were it takes me.


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:47 pm 
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I am stuck on this. Thank you so much.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:49 pm 
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How did I never see this? Thank you so much torque!


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 1:56 pm 
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awesome. i'm in the middle of teaching myself some italian, but japanese was next on my list! i'm definitely coming back to this.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:28 pm 
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Hey torque, I just took a couple of lessons (1 and 2 respectively, ha!) from the Pimsleur CDs, and I'm curious how you feel about them with your language expertise! I figured it would be good to work through the first ten or so before I start with reading and writing, but I'm just guessing on how to properly approach this. I like the focus on pronunciation since I feel like that was my biggest debilitation in becoming semi-fluent in French.


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:55 pm 
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This is my reminder to come and do part II, eh? point taken.

I used pimsleur for portuguese (rather, someone gave me pimsleur, i did a bit and i think it is languishing in my i-tunes somewhere), and i have to say i didn't enjoy it much. HOWEVER, your mileage may vary, and whatever you are doing is 100% better than doing nothing. Also, different people have different preferences (aural, visual, speaking, etc) and if you like listening and speaking, then why the hell not!! I am a super-visual person, and right after that i am a kinesthetic learner, so i learned by writing. But if you are an aural learner, or memorize things better by recitation or listening, then by all means go for it.
it is important, also, to hear good-sounding Japanese to know how to "pronounce" the sounds when you are reading and writing them (or reading them in your head). So listening and repeating or just listening will help you get the sounds (understanding them as well as replicating them with your mouth). I was lucky that I was surrounded by the sounds of Japanese, living there, but not everyone has that luxury. So take it wherever you can get it!!
I should also say i have a few gringo friends here who SWEAR by Pimsleur, they love it love it.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2012 5:30 pm 
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I think I'm more visual too, actually. I'll keep up with the Pimsleur mainly because it's easy to fit into my day, and hopefully have more opportunities if/when I go to Japan! I aced French writing, reading, and grammar, but my speaking isn't strong, so I think it might be good for me to check out the French upper levels.

Thanks! And no rush on part II! I just re-read your post after my first couple of lessons because it is so helpful!


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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:05 am 
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This is excellent! My dad used to travel to Japan for work and I grew up taking occasional Japanese lessons and with Japanese books and toys and such, but I've completely let it go, to the point where I can barely read hiragana. I want to get back in the swing of it. Thank you!

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2012 3:07 am 
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vijita wrote:
Hey torque, I just took a couple of lessons (1 and 2 respectively, ha!) from the Pimsleur CDs, and I'm curious how you feel about them with your language expertise! I figured it would be good to work through the first ten or so before I start with reading and writing, but I'm just guessing on how to properly approach this. I like the focus on pronunciation since I feel like that was my biggest debilitation in becoming semi-fluent in French.

Japanese pronunciation is waaayyy easier than French. That was my biggest downfall with learning French - I could read, listen and understand (and still can), but I could not speak to save my asparagus.

I did Pimsleur for Japanese for awhile and it might be ok in the beginning, but I sort of gave up on it. Learning memorized phrases only takes you so far, and I found that many of the phrases used were not what you actually hear here (in a restaurant etc). I gave up for good when I used a phrase I'd learned with a friend who laughed at me and was like "where'd you learn that? That is way overly formal and no one actually speaks like that". So yeah, I guess it't not natural Japanese.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:23 am 
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Seagull of the PPK
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Pistachio, i never saw this post!! I remember the first time i had the balls to answer the phone at someone else's house (always a disaster) and responded with "留守でごさいます、どちら様でしょうか" , which is great for robot answering machines but totally ridiculous on the phone, unless you`re expecting the emperor to ring..... and feeling like an idiot.

I got this off my translation list today, and it`s really cute with some nice resources:
http://digitalculturesandtranslation.co ... _140763561

my kid is now learning Japanese, using the Genki book series, which I recommend super highly, they have lots of resources on their site as well, and it's nice to be teaching Japanese again. As we move through i will come back in and add some more tips. Sorry I've been neglectful here.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2012 7:26 am 
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Seagull of the PPK
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Some highlights from the link above:
Tofugu's 100 best resources for learning Japanese
http://www.tofugu.com/2010/04/06/tofugu ... resources/

and the Slime Forest adventure (i kid you not), an online game for practicing kana and kanji.
http://lrnj.com/

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 6:27 pm 
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an update-- sorry, i'm taking things really slow here, but at least it's not forgotten.....

assuming you get the basic hiragana/katakana figured out, it's time for a text. i've used a bunch, but the best one hands down that i've used (and is used in lots of universities) is the Genki series (two levels, extremely comprehensive). see review at http://www.tofugu.com/japanese-resources/genki/
I got a copy last year in New York in Kinokuniya (I think?), I used to order them from the Japanese bookstore in Boston, and they're available online pretty easily.
If you use the book, there is a PLETHORA of online resources to accompany it. Definitely get the workbook to go along with the text. I used to teach each level in one school year (in a high school with 7 hours of class time per week) so it's not going to take you forever!!
comprehensive self-study site list http://genki.japantimes.co.jp/self_en
The ones we like the best:
the text's audio files online http://www.ncsu.edu/project/japaneseonline/JpOnline.htm (the books now are coming with CDroms with audio, but my version came without one so this was a welcome resource!)
movies illustrating the dialogues in each chapter. native speakers so pronunciation is good!! also good for making things super clear, the illustrations in the books are line drawings so it's a great accompaniment.
http://genki.japantimes.co.jp/self/genki-movie
listening practice for volume 1 with quizzes http://mykikitori.com/index.html

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:05 am 
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Thanks for updating, torque! My partner is really interested in Japanese, and learned all the hiragana and katakana. I'm going to get him to read through this. Thank you!

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 8:11 pm 
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There are a lot of free lessons up at http://www.memrise.com ! Very helpful in memorizing hiragana, katakana, etc.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 9:01 am 
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so, a year later, look what came across my desk!
http://www.tofugu.com/2014/05/12/mining ... minecraft/

There are some links in there. There are plenty of online learning things, and i've even downloaded some apps lately, but this might be fun for anyone who might be spending time on minecraft anyway. my kid learned her hiragana from playing some online game.

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 Post subject: Re: Skill share: learning Japanese
PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2014 2:14 am 
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Pimsleur courses are tedious, but they get your foot in the door and their repetitive nature is backed by research. I recommend them, especially if you drive a lot as you can use that time in your car to talk loudly to yourself in the target language.

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