Triddy wrote:Hmm. When I first took Japanese 11 Intro in High School, we used Romaji for about the first month. It may seem easier at first, but I truly believe that it hampered my progress for quite some time. Whenever there was romaji available, my eyes would always drift up to it.
If there's romaji available, that's natural -- the key is not to have romaji available once you've made the switch to hiragana. As I said earlier, sometimes what happens to people who use romaji for a while is that they overuse romaji as a crutch when they start to learn kana/kanji.
Or I would unconciously try and associate the kana to roman letters, which really slows things down and inhibits seperation of the languages.
Japanese represented in romaji is still Japanese, not English, so there shouldn't be any issue with language confusion. If you learn the hiragana first, before anything else, you automatically have to associate kana to roman letters because you have nothing else to relate them to.
I missed a lot of practice for kana, and it took me much, much longer to be able to read them fluidly than people who started with them.
I used romaji for the first four *months* of my Japanese study and I never thought that it hampered me in any way. When I studied Chinese we used exclusively pinyin for 7 weeks, and continued to use pinyin quite a bit after that while learning characters as well, and I never found that hurt my ability to learn to read Chinese either.
If someone wants to start out with kana I think that's perfectly fine (with the warning that you still need to do pronunciation practice), but saying that you absolutely must start out by learning hiragana is going too far.
In my opinion the best case is a classroom environment that starts out with a focus on speaking ability, using romaji for reference (but no books or notes -- and thus no romaji -- are allowed during class). Once the students have some grammatical and spoken background, they can learn the kana and connect sentences written in kana to what they already know how to say, which is the same way that native speakers learn to read their own language.