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Today I've been going through "take off in Japanese" - it's a book/CD… - John C. Kirk — LiveJournal

Jan. 29th, 2006

11:08 pm

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Today I've been going through "take off in Japanese" - it's a book/CD pack from Oxford University Press which I bought last year before I started classes, and this is the first time I've really tried using it. It's proving quite useful as a revision aid for the things we did last term (e.g. times of day), and the teaching style is growing on me. This is a situation where it's useful to play the CDs through a computer, so that I can easily replay sections; in iTunes I can just click back to 57 seconds (or whatever) on the progress bar, whereas on a CD player I'd have to repeat the entire track.

When I was at school I briefly tried out "accelerated learning", following my housemaster's suggestion. The idea was that I could learn a foreign language in the same way that I originally learnt English, i.e. by hearing a big stream of words and gradually picking up the meaning rather than taking a formal list of vocab/grammar. So, they'd play a tape of some people speaking French, and say "Don't worry about trying to recognise the individual words, just try to get a feel for what they're saying". I soon gave up on this as a waste of time, since:
a) I don't think it's the most efficient way to learn, when the teacher and student already have a way to communicate.
b) I think that the accelerated language skills fade away after the first few years; mine certainly seem to be long gone.

Anyway, these CDs take a similar approach, which I was a bit dubious about at first. However, I can now see the benefit, since there are a lot of words which have been borrowed from English, e.g. "Nyu Yoku" means "New York". So, I think I benefit from guessing at what they mean, as that's likely to be a useful long-term skill.

Anyway, I'm feeling a bit more confident about my abilities now, since I was laughing at the Japanese dialogue before I'd read the transcript or looked up the vocab list. I didn't understand all of it, but I got the gist of it.

The scenario is that someone has just received a phone call, and the conversation goes like this:
Ogawa: Hello!
Takahashi: It's a bit early, isn't it?
Ogawa: It's afternoon in New York; 3:15pm. What time is it in Tokyo?
Takahashi: It's morning.
Ogawa: Good morning! (I was amused by the lack of apology, since she hasn't taken the hint.)
Takahashi: It's 6:15am.
Ogawa: Sorry! But I suppose you have to get up for work anyway?
Takashai: No, it's my day off today.

My next class is tomorrow evening, so hopefully that will go well. What I have noticed is the old "elite" syndrome that I found at university. I wasn't quite at the top of the class last term (mainly because it was a challenge to find time for homework mid-week), but I think I did reasonably well relative to the rest of the class. As I mentioned before, there were only three of us (out of about ten) who turned up for the final test. Since I've now changed from Saturday to Monday, I don't know how many of the old group carried on, but I'm guessing that lots of the people who found it hard (or just "more work than they'd anticipated") have decided not to pay for a second term. That means that the people who have carried on are either keen or talented, so I don't want to slow everyone else down by stumbling along at the bottom of the class.

More generally, this reminds me of something I've noticed in my pre-exam revision in the past; I sometimes wind up reading new stuff in the textbooks (rather than just recapping what I've done before), and thinking "Wow, this makes so much more sense now - I should have done this ages ago". The snag is that there's never enough hours in the day to do everything that I'd like to. That's why I haven't submitted my name for the Lego beta testing trial that I mentioned recently - it would be fun, but realistically I have enough commitments already. Still, I like to think that I'm gradually learning from experience, and getting the right balance.



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Date:January 30th, 2006 01:36 pm (UTC)
I don't think "accelerated learning" works until you have a basic grounding in the language already. The reason why I learned English fairly quickly as a second language was because I was immersed in it all day, every day, and had teachers who probably made an extra effort to speak slowly and clearly to me. Unless you're going to be getting the same sort of immersion with Japanese, you're probably better off with a more structured course like the one you're doing, rather than just listening to lots of people yammering on in what could be gibberish, for all you know.

Once you've got a basic grasp of vocabulary and grammar, though, you can probably start learning quite a bit by reading children's books, watching anime, that sort of thing. I'm not joking when I say half my Finnish vocabulary has come from listening to Apulanta songs. ;)
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