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Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Duality » Sat 06.14.2008 2:09 am

Hi all. I've had mixed experiences with learning Japanese, I won't go into too much detail about it, it's easiest to just say I know nothing about the language. Despite this I still have some demented urge to learn the language no matter what.

I'm a uni student though, I'm currently looking for part-time work.... Fairly typical stuff, so I'm fairly busy. As much as I would like to go to classes or something they're hard to find, expensive and use time I don't have.

How can I go about learning alone? Is it even possible or what? Where should I start - I was thinking with hiragana and katakana and then some kanji (reading and writing). Are programs like Skype any good for finding people to speak with in the language?

Any help would be wonderful! Thanks. :D
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Sairana » Sat 06.14.2008 2:49 am

Have you ever learned a second language before? If not, allow me to recommend these essays before you start doing anything. They're not specific to Japanese, but I think they do a great job of putting you in the proper mindset for studying any language.

Vocabulary (part 1)
Vocabulary (part 2)


Learning hiragana and katakana are both easy enough. No reason not to start them early, at least to a point where you can recognize a majority of them. Don't worry about being able to read them as fluently as you can read the alphabet. Exposure will take care of that over time.

An organized approach is recommended. Many people have many different "favorite" methods, but consistency is the real key here. Whatever you choose, whether it's a textbook, audio lessons, or a computer program. My personal recommendation goes to a decent textbook, and Rosetta Stone** (see note).

Regarding Skype: It's awesome for finding a language partner. The problem is, having a language partner while you're a beginner is actually of no benefit to you. You both need to have a decent understanding of each other's native tongues to render sufficient help to each other. Skype and language exchange in general of that nature are something to remember for when you're further down the road.

**Note on Rosetta Stone: I always recommend this with a healthy warning. It's an expensive program, and is NOT for everyone. It has a philosophy behind it that many people just don't like. In particular, it uses no English, and gives no grammar explanations. You are expected to do a little reasoning, a little logic, and a bit of guesswork. It's too fuzzy for most people to really use it effectively.
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Duality » Sat 06.14.2008 3:30 am

Sairana wrote:Have you ever learned a second language before? If not, allow me to recommend these essays before you start doing anything. They're not specific to Japanese, but I think they do a great job of putting you in the proper mindset for studying any language.

Vocabulary (part 1)
Vocabulary (part 2)


Whoa, that's a lot of reading! Thanks though, I've just glanced at it but it looks very interesting and I'll go through it tonight.

I appreciate the tips, I haven't heard of Rosetta Stone but I'll google it and take a look, thanks for the warning though. I think perhaps I'll have to just try and work through a textbook or something.

I just find it difficult getting started because I can't really set a goal for 'what to do. For example, I'd like to be able to read some manga, but it's not something you can do early on, I've heard it's hard. So... I don't know. I guess I'm saying it's hard to have short term motivation. Long term is noooooo problem for me at all with this, but the starting stuff is slow and unmotivating.
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Sairana » Sat 06.14.2008 3:39 am

Duality wrote:I just find it difficult getting started because I can't really set a goal for 'what to do. For example, I'd like to be able to read some manga, but it's not something you can do early on, I've heard it's hard. So... I don't know. I guess I'm saying it's hard to have short term motivation. Long term is noooooo problem for me at all with this, but the starting stuff is slow and unmotivating.


Well, a textbook would provide you with some short term goals, even if they are as mundane as "get at least 80% right in each lesson". There's very little you can do in the way of short-term goals. It's not like you can break languages into neat categories like, "I need this much vocabulary for a manga, and this much for a video game, and this much for a song."

Just think about your reasons for starting in the first place. If they're not enough to keep you going, then I'm not sure it can be helped. You could just try drowning yourself in Japanese material. Watch dramas and movies, listen to music, read about history and culture. If the spark just isn't there, though..... I hate to say that it might be a really rough road for you.
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Duality » Sat 06.14.2008 5:03 am

The spark is there! :P It's just sort of lame not feeling a sense of progress about it, that's all.

I'm a sucker for feeling a sense of progress, I guess that's why I like things like RPG's and MMORPG's. :shock:
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Wakannai » Sat 06.14.2008 5:27 am

textbooks give you a sense of progress :)
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Duality » Sat 06.14.2008 9:15 am

Wow, I just have to say thanks for that page on language differences! It's extremely eye opening and has made it fairly clear why people speaking a foreign language make some really unusual mistakes often. Eg. With the preposition use.

I'm only halfway through but I'll keep going with it, it's so intriguing. :D
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 06.14.2008 10:12 am

That's an interesting article; I agree with a lot of what he says although at times he's talking about an ideal that can't always be completely realized. But I definitely support his viewpoints on the danger of using dictionaries, particularly "native language"->"target language" dictionaries, and his emphasis on the importance of not trying to make up your own sentences through translation from your native language.
-Chris Kern
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Re: Independent Learning - Getting Started?

Postby spin13 » Sat 06.14.2008 12:15 pm

I've always enjoyed the work of Amorey Gethin and Erik V. Gunnemark and while they don't provide a comprehensive plan for learning a language, I think that website has a number of additional articles of interest, by these linguists and others. Though there is quite a lot here as well, I also think that Greg Thompson at Language Impact has a number of articles that provide both theory and practical ideas for learning languages along with a number of interesting anecdotes.

-Eric
You're probably not as smart as you think.
Unskilled and Unaware
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