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Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

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Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Chikiya » Tue 10.21.2008 4:27 pm

What were your experiences of it and was it worthwhile? I'm applying this year!
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Dustin » Tue 10.21.2008 7:20 pm

In my Experience It was slow moving and I did not seem to make much progress.
A good friend of mine had similar feelings when he took the program at another University.

However, There are more resources available as far as TA's other students for study group etc.
It really depends on how much time you want to dedicate to the study of Japanese.
If you have difficulty self motivating, or just live a busy life, enjoy having a classroom environment it's great to take the courses at University, especially if it can count as credit toward your desired program.

If you are self motivated, able to learn on your own, have a few people to ask Questions and want to learn at a faster pace, then Self study is the way to go, which is what I have decided to do. ( Though at times not having the answer to a question can be quite frustrating! )
( We both can't wait to see our instructors and have Japanese above their own levels )

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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 10.21.2008 9:29 pm

I think everyone can benefit from taking classes. If you feel like they're moving too slowly you can always do extra work outside of class. But I think very, very few people can become truly proficient at a language purely through self-study, especially not living in a place where that language is spoken. Getting past the beginning stages by yourself is almost impossible (once you're past the beginning stages through classes, you can do a lot on your own.)

I only took 2 years of Japanese at university, and I can't say the classes were very good, but I would never have been able to get off the ground without them. Right now I'm taking university-level Chinese and I like the class a lot, but I'm doing some extra work outside of class as well (mostly reading).
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Dustin » Tue 10.21.2008 10:25 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I think everyone can benefit from taking classes. If you feel like they're moving too slowly you can always do extra work outside of class. But I think very, very few people can become truly proficient at a language purely through self-study, especially not living in a place where that language is spoken. Getting past the beginning stages by yourself is almost impossible (once you're past the beginning stages through classes, you can do a lot on your own.)


I do have to agree with a point here.
The beginning stages of the Language are the most difficult to get past, while I had already done this when I started to take the courses, and I knew it would at least start out as somewhat of a review since it had been a while since I had looked at material.

After 2 weeks of repeating a, i, u, e, o my head was ready to explode.
Once done the first course I felt like I had wasted my time, but at least my GPA was in good order. I saw some of my companions as well as myself decide to pursue the rest on our own with varying success.

I have also spoken with countless people that I have met online that want to learn the language, play around a little and then never make progress, either because they will buy one book, and then another, then another while making little to no progress in any of them and then getting overwhelmed, or go to long with no progress and give up.

I have only known 2 people personally that were able to get started on their own and keep up with the studies, one of which are myself, and another close friend. We both agreed that the course was too slow for us as I had mentioned, but everyone else that I've known personally try to start on their own has failed.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Dehitay » Wed 10.22.2008 12:12 pm

I studied Japanese on my own for over a year before I took a college course in it. Considering what was covered in the first class and what I had learned by myself. I would say self study definitely ended up being faster, though I'm not sure about easier. But if you combine self study and classes, you're pretty much garunteed the fastest route.

I do recommend taking classes as self study usually doesn't lead to much chance for speaking and listening practice. However, if you're like me, the high tuition fees don't really cover the merits of the class. Which is why I only took a single Japanese class to fulfill a requirement.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby furrykef » Wed 10.22.2008 3:07 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Getting past the beginning stages by yourself is almost impossible (once you're past the beginning stages through classes, you can do a lot on your own.)


The only reason I can see for this is motivation -- i.e., classes force you to get through it even if you don't want to. That might still be reason enough, though... I did muster the motivation to get through RTK1, but I still find myself having to push myself to take it further. Japanese is easily one of the most demotivating languages there is and I've realized for a long time now that anybody who doesn't love the hell out of Japanese isn't going to learn the language. (I think that goes for almost any language, but it goes for Japanese much more than, say, Spanish, which I have a decent level of proficiency at.)

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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 10.22.2008 3:58 pm

Well, let me explain a bit further. My experience with college classes is that I'm in my 4th year teaching Japanese at the college level, I took 2 years of (fairly bad) Japanese classes in college, and I am currently in my 2nd year of taking (very good) Chinese classes at the college level.

I think there are at least 4 things that a class can provide that are very hard to get on your own.

The first, as you mentioned, is just that it forces you to engage with Japanese every day. It's easy to have interest in learning Japanese, it's much harder to have the motivation to study every day for an hour for the years and years it takes to become good.

The second is that it provides organization. In my experience on this board, most people have no idea what they're doing when they start. They don't understand the difference between a textbook and a reference work, or they think that they can just jump straight into a native Japanese text and decode it, and when they're done, they'll know Japanese. Being in a class tells you what to study and in what order.

The third is repetition and practice. A lot of people seem to think that once you've read a grammar explanation and maybe seen a sentence or two of example, you've "learned" that grammatical pattern and are ready to move on. In truth, you should be drilling and practicing grammatical patterns and words over and over again until you're sick of them. That's the only way to internalize the structures, and internalization is absolutely necessary to have actual proficiency in a language rather than just knowing things about it.

The fourth is correction. Even if you have a native speaker friend, it's extremely unlikely that they will correct you every time you make a mistake. Most likely they will either be too polite, or they'll let errors slide as long as you are still understandable. But it's been demonstrated through experimentation that once you learn something wrong in a language, it is extremely hard to change your habits (this is known as "fossilization").

Sometimes people complain that classes move too slowly. I get this complaint all the time from students, and yet it seems that 99% of these students complaining about the slow pace do not perform all that well in class. In other words, they feel the class is too slow, but they can't handle the material we've introduced. So what they're really expressing is frustration at the length of time necessary to learn Japanese, not the pace of the class.

The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the vast majority of people who express an interest in Japanese will never, in their life, gain any functional proficiency in the language at all. This is clear from looking through the posts on a message board like this, but also seeing how (for instance) at OSU we have 120 1st year Japanese students and less than 10 5th year students. Anything you can do to increase your chances of success will help you, and I think it's almost inconceivable that taking a class will actually *hurt* your efforts to learn Japanese, even if it's not as good a class as you might like.

To me, it seems like if the class is so easy and moving so slowly that you barely have to work at all, then you can use your extra time to study additional material on your own, and you'll probably still gain *some* benefit from the class. If you're having to work hard for the class but just don't feel like you're making enough progress, it's probably not the class that's slow, it's just that you have unrealistic expectations for how fast a language can be learned.

Just my thoughts.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby furrykef » Wed 10.22.2008 5:06 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The second is that it provides organization. In my experience on this board, most people have no idea what they're doing when they start. They don't understand the difference between a textbook and a reference work, or they think that they can just jump straight into a native Japanese text and decode it, and when they're done, they'll know Japanese. Being in a class tells you what to study and in what order.


Structure is indeed valuable and to some extent necessary, and I think it ideally should be present well into the advanced stages. I don't think a classroom is really necessary for structure, though.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The third is repetition and practice. A lot of people seem to think that once you've read a grammar explanation and maybe seen a sentence or two of example, you've "learned" that grammatical pattern and are ready to move on. In truth, you should be drilling and practicing grammatical patterns and words over and over again until you're sick of them. That's the only way to internalize the structures, and internalization is absolutely necessary to have actual proficiency in a language rather than just knowing things about it.


I think this kind of takes care of itself the more you use a language. "Oh, there's that grammar structure again." I don't think drilling a grammar pattern should be necessary as long as you can understand it when you encounter it, because it will reinforce itself. If I don't think I'll be able to understand it on its own, or if I need to be able to produce and not just recognize the pattern, I make a flash card out of it.

Some drilling might be required with Japanese with things like counter words, since there's just so darn many, but other than counters and basic conjugations I can't think of anything I'd really drill by any means beyond my usual flash cards.

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The fourth is correction. Even if you have a native speaker friend, it's extremely unlikely that they will correct you every time you make a mistake. Most likely they will either be too polite, or they'll let errors slide as long as you are still understandable. But it's been demonstrated through experimentation that once you learn something wrong in a language, it is extremely hard to change your habits (this is known as "fossilization").


lang-8 is really good for this particular problem: you write in a journal and the site is specifically designed so that people will correct your mistakes. Of course, it does help if you have friends whom you can correct in return.

Other than that, though, you're right: native speakers of any language will tend to overlook mistakes. If I'm speaking to somebody who's learning English, I'll usually correct them if their mistakes are rare, but if they make a mistake almost every sentence then I won't bother because I wouldn't have time for anything but making corrections... >.> (I do tell them to check out lang-8, though.)

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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 10.22.2008 5:54 pm

furrykef wrote: as long as you can understand it when you encounter it,


Most people can't do this without drilling. The goal is to be able to use the language fluently, without needing to stop and consult reference works, and most people are going to have to see things over and over again to learn them. Generally I feel that it's more efficient to build slowly on a firm foundation, by drilling patterns and words, than to try to use native texts willy-nilly and jump from one grammatical pattern to the next, spending long periods of time agonizing over the meaning or one or two sentences. In the long run I think someone benefits more from 15 minutes of drilling a sentence pattern than spending 15 minutes painstakingly deciphering one sentence.

The problem is that it's more than just a conjugation, a particle, or a suffix. Everything works together. It's one thing to be able to go from "taberu" to "tabenai"; it's another thing entirely to be asked "Koko de yoku taberu?" and to respond "Iie, amari tabenai" fluently, with correct pronunciation, and without having to spend any time thinking about the structures involved. I don't think this can be done just by reading English explanations, or seeing a pattern used once or twice.

I've sometimes encountered people who claim to have a large knowledge of the language but can hardly use it functionally at all. That is, they have supposedly learned X-hundreds of kanji and finished X books, but they can't have a simple conversation, read a simple passage for comprehension, or write a simple note. The difference between knowing something about a language, and being able to use something functionally in a language, is a very important one that I think it's hard to see at first.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby furrykef » Thu 10.23.2008 2:09 am

Yudan Taiteki wrote:Most people can't do this without drilling. The goal is to be able to use the language fluently, without needing to stop and consult reference works, and most people are going to have to see things over and over again to learn them. Generally I feel that it's more efficient to build slowly on a firm foundation, by drilling patterns and words, than to try to use native texts willy-nilly and jump from one grammatical pattern to the next, spending long periods of time agonizing over the meaning or one or two sentences. In the long run I think someone benefits more from 15 minutes of drilling a sentence pattern than spending 15 minutes painstakingly deciphering one sentence.


I think flash cards using a program like Anki would usually be a better solution than doing drills. I still do drills for verb conjugations, though. (I've just started Italian and my first self-assigned task is to memorize the verb chart the same way I did for Spanish.)

Yudan Taiteki wrote:The problem is that it's more than just a conjugation, a particle, or a suffix. Everything works together. It's one thing to be able to go from "taberu" to "tabenai"; it's another thing entirely to be asked "Koko de yoku taberu?" and to respond "Iie, amari tabenai" fluently, with correct pronunciation, and without having to spend any time thinking about the structures involved.


I'm not sure. I studied Spanish for three years in high school in 1998-2001, then I left it behind until I picked it back up in 2006, which I started taking seriously toward the end of that year. In November 2006, I still was not really able to write anything in Spanish and I didn't even know any conjugations beyond the present, past, and periphrastic future (equivalent to "I'm going to..." in English instead of "I will"). A couple of months later I got those down and I could write in Spanish -- very slowly, very clumsily, not with anything close to real-time fluency. Writing a short letter to a penpal in Spanish took something like a couple of hours (and a lot of stress!) and I didn't even always get it right. But I kept practicing and now reading and writing Spanish is only slightly more awkward than doing it in English, at least if I can keep it in small enough doses that I can handle, and I once I got the most important conjugations down I've never felt the need to drill beyond my daily flash card routine.

Now, it's a given that Spanish is a lot more similar to English than Japanese is, but all that means is you'd just need to take more time, make more effort, and make more flash cards to get to the same level. I don't think it would require a fundamentally different approach, and obviously a different approach still wouldn't resolve the problem that it takes more time and effort to learn Japanese.

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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby JaySee » Thu 10.23.2008 6:45 am

furrykef wrote:But I kept practicing and now reading and writing Spanish is only slightly more awkward than doing it in English, at least if I can keep it in small enough doses that I can handle, and I once I got the most important conjugations down I've never felt the need to drill beyond my daily flash card routine.


But speaking is very different from reading and writing, because for the latter two you can usually take as much time as you want, while (as Yudan said) for speaking you need to be able to instantly create responses in your head without having to think about it. Being able to recognise a sentence pattern when reading, or even being able to use it when writing does not mean that you'll be able to instantly use it in a conversation too.

I did three years of Japanese at university before I went to Japan for one year. The first few weeks there my confidence more or less dropped to an all time low because I was stuttering even through relatively easy sentences that I would have been able to recognise and produce in writing without too many problems. After a couple of months my spoken Japanese improved quite a bit (through endless repetition by speaking to Japanese people), and now I don't have nearly as many problems.

The same goes for my English; my writing and reading are fine, but when speaking I sometimes come into this situation where I want to say something (i.e. I know how I'd say it in Dutch), but it somehow doesn't come out and I have to make a "detour" to get my point across. This always frustrates me to no end, and when I think about it later I'm usually able to come up with a good translation for what I had originally intended to say within 30 seconds or so. The problem is that you usually just don't have that much time when speaking.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 10.23.2008 8:18 am

JaySee wrote:But speaking is very different from reading and writing, because for the latter two you can usually take as much time as you want, while (as Yudan said) for speaking you need to be able to instantly create responses in your head without having to think about it.


And beyond that, I think the ideal for reading is to be able to read without having to take as much time as you want; that is, to just be able to read without having to stop and puzzle over things constantly.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby fielle » Thu 10.23.2008 8:48 am

I took 3.5ish years of Japanese in college, and I really do think it's a good idea to take classes and not just go for self-study.

Speaking and writing take practice and correction that you're just not likely to be able to manage on your own. I know that, since I've stopped taking Japanese classes, my writing abilities have significantly declined. I have managed to actually have more motivation recently than when I was taking class, but I think that's largely because I've just pushed myself past the point of "ugh schoolwork" into "this is actually a fun challenge." I might know/recognize more words than I did while in class, but I can't necessarily use them as well as I would like, and that's because I don't get the practice.

Being forced to speak in Japanese 3-5 times a week really helps. Now I only do it about once a week, and it's still better than nothing. Being required to write things in Japanese almost every day helped, as did getting the corrections back to review and internalize. Now I barely get a chance to write at all (perhaps I should try lang-8), and I can really feel that my writing has suffered from it. I know what I want to express, but I can't think of how to express it. However, when I see the phrasing that successfully does say what I want, I can understand it.

I think the understanding to production ability gap is the biggest when you are studying on your own and don't have a reason to need to express yourself in Japanese every day.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby becki_kanou » Thu 10.23.2008 9:50 am

I was a Japanese major at a Earlham College, a very small liberal arts college in the Midwest, and my experience was almost 100% positive. (Any alums on TJP by any chance?)

We had classes every day for an hour and then drill sessions once a week for another hour, and language lab (listening and repeating from tapes for listening and pronunciation practice) once a week as well. My college had 2 full-time Japanese professors, one visiting professor and one teaching assistant as well as about 20 Japanese exchange students. There was also Japanese festival every year, a Japan-America Society, and Japan House for students who wanted to live in an all Japanese environment.

I think that the opportunity to speak Japanese everyday and the small class sizes (about 10-15 students in lower level classes and 5-8 in upper level classes) were really motivating, and having many exchange students as well as upperclassmen who were involved in teaching the drill sessions was very helpful as well.

My school also had three exchange programs to Japan to choose from; one in Iwate, one at Tsukuba University, and one at Waseda. I went on the Iwate program which was 4 months homestay with a monolingual Japanese family, combined with an internship teaching English at a Japanese Middle School. That experience alone was priceless and my ability skyrocketed as I had a chance to speak all Japanese, all day, every day.

If you're still looking at colleges now I definitely suggest checking out what exchange programs they have going as that can really be an invaluable way to progress.
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Re: Has anyone here studied Japanese at university?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 10.23.2008 10:04 am

becki_kanou wrote:I was a Japanese major at a Earlham College, a very small liberal arts college in the Midwest, and my experience was almost 100% positive. (Any alums on TJP by any chance?)


My brother and father are both alums; I applied there and was accepted but went to Grinnell instead.
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