Japanese and Me

29 Mar

What Got Me Interested

Just wanted to tell a little bit about how I got interested in Japanese and how I’ve gone about learning the language thus far. When I was at the end of my college career I was dating a guy that played a lot of video games, including RPG games from Japan. I was never a fan of the games but loved the artwork. So… he bought me an anime dvd to try. Offhand I can’t recall which one that was but I loved it and wanted to see more. I became obsessed with then and also started buying manga to read as well.  After watching anime after anime with subtitles (because the dubbed versions are more often than not painful to the ears) I decided I wanted to learn Japanese to lessen how much reading of subtitles I had to do.  Also, I really wanted to go to Japan to visit (and still do) so I wanted to be able to speak fluently enough to get by without having to point at pictures and such all the time in order for people to understand what I am saying.

What I Did About It

So… after graduating college I went back and took two years of the language at the same college.  Our class text was Yookoso! (books 1 & 2).  I also managed to pick up the Nakama textbook from the college bookstore at one point, though it wasn’t used in my classes.  Unfortunately, the class I was in didn’t pick up very quickly and I was working a full-time job & teaching a dance group so I didn’t really have time to focus on the subject as much as I’d like.  I learned how to write hiragana, katakana, some vocabulary, and a little bit of grammar, but I honestly didn’t feel like I knew much after coming out of those classes.  I tried continuing on my own at the time, but life was just too hectic so after a few months, I gave it up. 

For several years after that I really didn’t watch anime or anything and got more involved with other hobbies and such.  Then this past year I got a sudden interest in anime again and with that, the interest of wanting to learn the language came back.  I already had a ton of books to work with at home and without having to teach the dance group of an evening I figured I might actually have a bit more time to do it.  So a couple of months ago, I threw myself head first into it.  I had to basically start from scratch as I had forgotten most everything I had previously learned.  Hiragana came back pretty easily, but I’m still struggling with the katakana.  I honestly think I may have not had a good grasp on that before either since it’s really not used all that often. 

Note:  If you’ve made it this far into this blog post I congratulate you as I’ve got a habit of rambling…

What I’m Doing Now

My biggest struggling starting out this time was deciding what book(s) and such to start with as I had collected numerous ones over the years.  I initially had decided on Japanese For Busy People 1, but then when I was at the local Half-Price Books one day I lucked into finding the first Genki textbook and workbook really cheap.  I read that it was the series of choice by most people so I was quite excited about my lucky find.  I’ve gone 6 lessons into the book so far and have started to get overwhelmed so I’m backtracking and focusing on memorizing more of the vocabulary that I had skimmed over and re-doing the workbook sections thus far to get a better grasp on the grammar.  I figure I’m in no hurry since I’m not in a classroom so I’d rather get a strong foundation of the material before moving any further.

I’ve also added more resources into my study schedule to learn other things and also to see some of the same things taught in other manners.  Here is a list of other materials I am using.  Once I’ve completed some of these I will start to write up reviews to hopefully better help future self-teachers in determining what are the best “tools” to use (though I’m sure everyone learns differently).

  • Random House Jap/Eng & Eng/Jap Dictionary – I’ve had this book since I was taking the college classes and love it.  I do have other dictionaries as well, such as this larger size Random House one and this Kodansha Furigana one, but I use the one more than anything.
  • Anki – This is freeware for your computer that you can make flashcards with.  This program rocks!  I also have the free AnkiDroid app on my cellphone that I can import my flashcard files onto so that I can study wherever I am at.  There are some glitches with it, but overall it’s a great app!  Hopefully there will be some updates in the near future that will fix these.
  • Pimsleur Japanese 1, 2, and 3 – This audio series is really good for listening and practicing in the car.  I have been listening to it driving back and forth from work since I have a 20-30 minute drive each way and each lesson is approximately 30 minutes long.  I have currently stopped around lesson 18 of the first set as I was getting a little overwhelmed, but am about ready to dig back in, though I’ll be backtracking a few lessons to review what I last learned. 
  • Basic Kanji Vol. 1 – I chose this series over Remembering the Kanji series since it actually teaches the readings, compounds, and stroke order rather than just how to recognize the meaning of the Kanji.  I may look at the other series eventually as a refresher and/or to help soak in the kanji a bit more.
  • Tuttle Kanji Cards Vol. 1 & 2 – I love these flashcards!  I can pull out just the ones I need to study with and carry them around with me wherever I go.  Unfortunately, Tuttle has re-released the cards (Vol. 1 I linked is NOT the one I have… see picture below for the original) and didn’t put the same amount of cards in the first two volumes so when I go to buy sets 3-5 I’m going to probably have some duplicates.  😦
  • Kanji Learner’s Dictionary – I’m currently waiting on this dictionary to deliver, but have heard nothing but good things about it.  Looking forward to trying it out!
  • Japanese Demystified – I’m using this one to learn the grammar I’m learning in Genki in a different manner as it kind of goes along in the same order as the Genki 1 book.  I figured the extra practice sections would help.
  • Japanese In Mangaland & Workbook – I’m kind of going through these book as I have time, but not really absorbing it fully as it’s not my main focus.  I plan on going back through it again at a latter date once I have learned more grammer/vocab/kanji.  I’m taking in more of the culture tips and seeing some examples of informal Japanese as I read through it as I’m not learning those things within Genki.  This book is probably better for Intermediate students.  Also, there is a set of Kanji In Mangaland books that goes along with this series.  They are really cool books as well, BUT the manga examples are overwhelming since I don’t know a lot of grammar/vocab yet.  After I’ve gotten further along in the Kanji series I’m working with and have learned more grammar/vocab I will definitely be going through this series.
  • Japanese From Zero! 1 – I’ve yet to decide if I like this series.  It goes along with the online website YesJapan which is a pay site that has all the lessons online.  However, the workbook contains extra exercises to help students practice what they learn in each lesson.  I’m still debating how I want to use this site/book.  I haven’t paid for a subscription yet as I’m still reading the first few lessons which are free online, though the same in the book.  The only difference online is that there are extra games/quizzes to go with each lesson.  I’m not sure how helpful these things will be so I may try out the site for a couple of months and then cancel.  To access these features it’s $10/month.  Paying for a premium account it is $20/month.  This might be more worthwhile in the end as it gives access to all of the videos that the site uploads where they explain cultural facts, answer questions, and point out common problems and such.  I will provide more feedback on this book/site once I’ve played around with it more.  As of now I’m undecided how long I will stick out using it, but I’ll at least go through the first course since I already have the book.


Other Notes

So… that is how I’m going about things at this point.  I additionally browse numerous websites/blogs/etc… but will post some examples/recommendations of these in future blogs.

I think that’s enough rambling for now.  Hopefully this will help someone and I will follow up in the future with more details on how these tools are working for me as well as the reviews I’ve promised. 


2 Responses to “Japanese and Me”

  1. cheesygiraffe March 31, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Wow! You really got yourself into it now. 🙂

  2. sanddanz March 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Just a wee bit. *grin*

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