Yudan Taiteki wrote:The program I'm learning Chinese from does not start characters until about week 7 of the first quarter and we're still using pinyin in the speaking portion of the course now (in second year).
Well, 7 weeks isn't that long. At that point you're still learning the basic words for life- eat, sleep, drink, welcome, thanks, etc. And pronunciation which is in my experience the hardest thing about Chinese for Westerners. It's not easy in Japanese, but if you have a funny accent in Japanese you'll still probably be pretty comprehensible. I've met people who had studied a couple of years of Chinese who really had a hard time being understood by Chinese people, so if holding off on kanji for 7 weeks helps with that, it doesn't seem to me that it would be bad thing. If I were in that program I think I would study characters on my own art least a bit though- at 20 characters a week you'd have 140 in 7 weeks, and you can learn to write 20 characters a week in 10-15 minutes a day. Unless you really have very little time I don't see the harm in that (as long as you're careful to get stroke order, etc., right)- but I can understand not wanting to use class time on it.
In fact I wish I had done a lot more "shadowing" at the beginning in Chinese when I studied it, and I'm making an effort to do more of it in Japanese. I find it pretty boring though, and I don't tolerate boredom well.
But I do think that there's a point where it can be really helpful to start reading, and that a lot of Japanese students aren't able to read characters when they get to that point, and are too intimidated to just jump in and learn to read them on the fly. I'd say that if you can't read a reasonable amount by the time you can understand most day to day conversation you have a bit of a problem- but unless you're like that guy got brain damage and as a result never forgets anything, that's going to take a lot longer than 7 weeks.
Yudan Taiteki wrote:Not when the best learning resources are still paper textbooks.
Ah, well I meant paper that you get blank and _use_. I have a lot of books about Japanese (and Japan), and written in Japanese- well over 100 pounds worth, I think. What I'm really getting at though is that computers can be really useful in learning a language, and I think it's wise to make the best use of them you can. I actually think it would be really nice if textbooks came with a CD that had the electronic text for the book on it. I've been moving pretty big chunks of text from some reference books into my computer by hand, and while typing it out has some value, I think it's not enough to justify the time spent on it compared to just copying and pasting.
In particular I think Heisig's method could be greatly improved if it used the system I suggested, where you could just ask a program to "target" a particular character you wanted to learn, and it would introduce the correct intermediate characters for you, and handle reviewing them like an SRS.That would let you use Heisig as just a tool for remembering how to write characters while studying in a more traditional way.