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Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

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Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby TJack » Wed 09.08.2010 1:36 pm

Hello everyone,

I want to ask for your opinion on this situation. Two weeks ago I started university level Japanese II. Last year, we used a standard textbook, and covered grammar, vocabulary, kanji, etc. However, this year, my teacher decided we should start diving into real Japanese (literally too: we are using the Read Real Japanese textbooks). But, personally I don't believe we should start with this level of Japanese, because I feel that our class is at a upper beginner level at most, and Read Real Japanese is touted as being useful for intermediate students. We haven't covered a lot of upper grammar points like passive, volitianal, higher honorifics, potential, conditional, etc.

Now, he is going over some of the grammar points when we reach it, but it's a lot to take in. The other day, he wrote all the grammar points, that we haven't went covered, from the first three sentences of the first essay we are reading: a whole board's worth. Even another story we are reading, kaguyahime, we are struggling to read it. It took us almost one whole class period, about an hour, to read roughly 12 pages of this short story.

And I really don't know how is he going to incorporate the new stuff into an exam. He doesn't seem to be planning on giving us a list of the new words/grammar to study, so I have no idea how is exams will be. It's like when he does give us new stuff, it is just for us to be able to read the passage, but not something that we need to study on our own.

Now, my question is, should I say something, or just hold my tongue? I don't know how other students feel, but I can't imagine that some aren't thinking something similar. If I was close with my teacher, I might have already said something over the summer, but I can't shake the feeling that he doesn't like me, or at the very least doesn't particually care for me. I know he isn't going to ask "write a detailed essay, in Japanese, over the theme and symbolism of this essay", but probably ask exam questions like "Who is the main character, and what is the main plot?" So I'm thinking, even if I don't say anything, he isn't going to give us something extremely hard. I just wish we would cover more traditional ways of learning before we dive into something this advance, but I don't want to be seen like trying to teach him how to teach his class...

Thanks in advance!

(And I apolgize if this isn't the right section to have this in; I kept switching between having this post here or in the off topic section. Since this related to Japanese, I thought this section might be the best one)
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Re: Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby Ongakuka » Wed 09.08.2010 2:10 pm

My advice would be to say directly how you feel to your teacher. At this point they will probably explain to you in a detailed way why they think it is appropriate that you study from those materials you mentioned. Even if they have already said to some extent why they want you to study from literature (or whatever it may be) I think it is very important to have an out-of-class discussion if you feel so strongly about it. There's no need to take a petition to their office or anything like that.

I think any qualified teacher would agree with your teacher though. Even if you are faced with kanji riddled passages with exhaustively long sentences which you barely understand, this is what you need to progress. You have enough knowledge of the basics of Japanese to benefit. Also, remember the goal isn't to understand everything completely and naturally; you just need to be exposed with this stuff, in the same way that learning to swim in a pool, you suddenly find yourself in the deep end after spending so long in the shallow. The earlier you face real Japanese, the better.
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Re: Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby TJack » Wed 09.08.2010 5:26 pm

Ongakuka wrote:I think any qualified teacher would agree with your teacher though. Even if you are faced with kanji riddled passages with exhaustively long sentences which you barely understand, this is what you need to progress. You have enough knowledge of the basics of Japanese to benefit. Also, remember the goal isn't to understand everything completely and naturally; you just need to be exposed with this stuff, in the same way that learning to swim in a pool, you suddenly find yourself in the deep end after spending so long in the shallow. The earlier you face real Japanese, the better.


I do see what you are saying, and that makes a lot of sense. I guess I do agree with your suggestion: the faster one reads real Japanese, the faster one progresses in their studies. I guess I'm just comparing my Japanese II class with Spanish II, which I'm also taking. We are still using a traditional textbook, even though we covered a lot last year. I'll have to see what this year brings with my Japanese class. :colonthree:
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Re: Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby ss » Thu 09.09.2010 4:38 am

I agreed with Ongakuku, the earlier you face real Japanese, the better.

I think it's also important that you have faith with your teacher, I think s/he must have all the good reasons or experiences to do so. Also, since you mention that you are doing university level Japanese II, at least it sounded to me you're no longer a beginner student.

In my personal opinion, I've always thought that Japanese language can be very different from other languages, in the sense that, the grammar rule itself can be very flexible, they involve a mixture of dialects (as well), very casual or colloquial speech, very contextual and situational. At the end, learners of Japanese really have to expose to all kinds of aspects to make progress. Real real Japanese is what we need to excel. It's the same as our own mother-tongue language, you can turn it up-side down whatever way you like, be it slang, colloquial, polite or standard, so long as it makes sense and people are interacting with you in a very natural way. If you have the desire to master the language, it's essential to expand on Japanese vocabulary and learn to use them correctly, it's not easy, but it's not impossible.
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Re: Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby CajunCoder » Sat 09.11.2010 9:24 pm

Most people will disagree with me saying this, but I wholly agree with your teacher, provided he effectively gives you the means of studying these things.

Textbooks are, quite frankly, horrible learning materials. It is much more effective to learn grammar on your own time, and practice "real Japanese," if you will. The method I used to study in the beginning stages was quite unique; I used a number of good online resources and grammar guides, and read through them all at the very beginning, regardless of how over-my-head all of the concepts were. The point was to get an idea of what is out there, and what I needed to know. Then, in my reading practice, as I read and struggled through sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, I could recognize grammar constructions that I had glimpsed at before, and I knew where to look them up.

This was much more effective for a number of reasons.
1) I learned quickly the most useful and important words and grammar constructions, because they appeared the most often.
2) I had a more complete understanding of the scope of the language, and fewer holes, because I did not progress so slowly that I forgot earlier concepts, and took forever to reach later concepts. Tackling it all at once, while daunting and tricky, allows you to start comprehending the language in its entirety much sooner, and this in turn allows you to build experience much sooner.
3) Because you are learning the language in context, you will get a grasp of concepts much, much more easily, and accurately than any written explanation could convey. I cannot tell you the number of times I read an explanation of a grammar concept, and a few example sentences, and still didn't get a sense of how it was used until I came across it in my reading, and a light-bulb went off and I finally got it. In understanding language, context is essential. If it weren't, translation software would actually be more than the prospective joke that it is, and we wouldn't have to be studying languages ourselves in the first place :wink:
4) Most students rely far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far too much on text-books, and being spoon-fed all of the knowledge they need before attempting to use the language themselves. This is, from what I have seen, the number one reason people do not make progress in language learning, and find themselves still "studying a foreign language" 5 years later. Languages are far too vast to be learned in the confines of a textbook, or even classroom. Anything that encourages students to go beyond those two confines is excellent.
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Re: Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby TJack » Sat 09.11.2010 10:40 pm

Thanks for all your replies everyone, this is definitely a lesson for not giving something a chance :sweatdrop: After Ongakuka's reply, I decided to start the first essay (before we started to read it in class) and to write all the vocabulary I did not know and make a list with the translation (+30 words for the first page, heh). I realized a couple of things after working on it for a couple of days. First, I realized it wasn't all that bad after I had translated just the vocabulary itself. A lot of the grammar was straight forward, and, besides some grammar points that I did not know, I understood about 70% of the material with my list of defined words. I also realized that I seemed to learn new words faster this way, because I'm actually seeing them used instead of seeing all the vocab in one, external, list. Out of the 30+, I can recall 7 from memory, and recognize almost all the new words on the first page.

And, I realized I am having more fun with the essay, even if it was harder to work with than a textbook. I love to read, and it is very interesting to read about Japanese authors, and be able to read works that other Japanese people read.

Thanks for all your insight, Ongakuka, SS and CajunCoder :)
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Re: Should I say something to my Japanese teacher?

Postby maboroshi638 » Fri 11.04.2011 10:37 am

I was once in a similar situation when I was in secondary school, however, with a maths teacher. The teacher was moving forward to quickly for our level of maths and our whole class was unable to keep up with her.
We spoke about the situation within our class and then spoke to the teacher. It actually turned out that she was not aware that her teaching pace was too quick and inappropriate for our class level and she was able to change. She was actually gratefull that we had the courage to say something as it allowed her to also learn more about herself and her students.

I think it always depends on how you present the problem to a teacher. It is a very delecate topic as you are criticizing the teacher's teaching methods which he has probably been teaching for decades. And remember nobody likes criticism! Just put yourself in your teacher's shoes and think about how you would feel in his place.

My suggestion is to talk to your classmates and find out how they feel about the situation. And if they feel the same way you do, then talk to them about talking to the teacher together. Choose a spokes person for the class who can present the problem. The important thing is to stick together as a class and try to talk in a diplomatic and respectful way.
The gods envy us. They envy us because we are mortal. Because every moment could be our last. Everything is so much more beautiful because we will someday die. (From "Troja")
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