Monday, April 20, 2015

Learning Japanese: Enhance Classes With A Listening and Reading Routine

Learning Japanese? Go for 'total immersion' even if not in Japan. Via.

Of all the ways to start studying Japanese, many find taking classes to be one of the most effective. But making the most of class means more than studying. Of course, memorizing vocabulary, reviewing class materials, and participating in lessons are vital, but there are other things you can do to be prepared. It starts with developing a routine that exposes you to Japanese beyond class and textbooks.

Unless you’re living in Japan, you probably won't experience Japanese involuntarily, so you have to seek it out for yourself. This means making Japanese a part of your daily life, such as watching Japanese television shows on sites like Crunchyroll. From hit dramas such as I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper to classic anime such as Bakemonogatari, Crunchyroll gives access to videos more than a week old for free, or you can pay a monthly fee to access videos as soon as they are released, as well as HD video and streaming to almost any device.

As for reading, NHK offers a variety of simplified news articles in Japanese, and you can also buy manga from sites such as YesAsia or in person at stores such as Kinokuniya. There are lists upon lists of recommended manga for beginners out there, but perhaps the most compelling recommendation comes from Khatzumoto of All Japanese All The Time: “Don’t read according to your level, read according to your interest.”

Having Skype conversations with native Japanese speakers is one of the best ways to utilize your Japanese. If you make mistakes, you can simply ask your friend where you went wrong, all while helping them work on their English. Lang-8 is a great place to make friends for tlanguage exchange.

Discussing the Japanese language classroom experience, Tomoyo Kamimura, head of Japan Society’s Language Center tells students “if you can arrange a language exchange with a Japanese student—I have paired up several people here—it works very well. You spend one or one and a half hours speaking only Japanese, then one hour speaking English. You have to get exposure to real Japanese, not just what’s on a screen or in a book.”

Podcasts can be a great way to expose yourself to Japanese even while doing something else. Japan's esteemed news outlet Nikkei offers hours of Japanese podcast programs available online for free. TBS Radio also offers tons of content, and for news on the latest technology and trends, Hotcast is a great choice. In addition to podcasts, there is a decent amount of free audiobooks available for download, some with transcripts in Japanese, and others with translations.

Listening is great practice without having to “do” anything (besides focus, of course). This is especially useful for commuters and anyone who doesn’t have the time to sit in front of their computer watching J-dramas for an hour at a time. And you can still listen to things you enjoy – music, news, sports, reviews of books, video games or movies – only now, you’re getting accustomed to the language you’re learning at the same time.

It’s all a matter of input preceding output – input being reading and listening, and output being writing and speaking. These are the main components of a language, and it’s important as a beginner to prioritize them depending on how you’re primarily using Japanese. Many Japanese learners choose to focus on speaking and listening in order to have conversations in Japanese, while focusing less on writing and reading kanji.

To help with both, it’s a good idea to add every single word you’re interested in that you hear or read to your Anki decks, so that you can review them until you’ve got them memorized. Once you’ve done that, you can try them out in class or when talking to friends to make sure you’re using them correctly. Even just five to ten words a day can make a big difference in improving your vocabulary.

Whatever you choose to focus on, keeping a steady schedule is important. Anki reviews pile up if ignored for a day, so keeping your review count at a relatively low level and adding each day is a good way to stay on top of them. As a general rule, expect to be reviewing for at least an hour if you have more than a hundred reviews due for the day. This is easily managed by setting review limits in the program itself, and it’s also important to note that there are both iPhone and Android apps available, which can help you finish those reviews even when you are not home.

With a daily routine, learning a language becomes much less daunting and much more doable. Even a typical routine, such as listening to an interesting podcast on the train, watching your favorite show at home, and reviewing words you’ve learned before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning will help your Japanese improve outside of class, so you can spend more of your class time learning instead of trying to catch up.

–Mark Gallucci

Gallucci is a Communications intern at Japan Society. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University at Albany and completed a study-abroad program in Kansai Gaidai University, Japan. He has worked as an English-Japanese tutor and is currently enrolled at Japan Society’s Language Center.


Unknown said...

I like this post thoroughly, because it is worth and driven towards the actual method to know How to read Japanese using the most appropriate method, reading and listening.

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