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No books yet ...

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

No books yet ...

Postby grwn » Wed 11.05.2008 4:23 pm

Hi guys,

I think I ran into a little situation here. I've been using this site and iKnow to learn hiragana and katakana and have learned most of them already, so I'm around the point of going to the grammar and vocab. I intend to buy the Genki I series (textbook, workbook, answer key) as soon as my pay check comes in, but that won't be until next month. So basically I'm kind of done learning at the moment, but I seriously want to continue so I don't forget everything again.

What would you guys recommend? Studying through the netz (Tae Kim for example), waiting 'till my books arrive or something entirely different?

Thanks for your time,
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby Sairana » Wed 11.05.2008 4:35 pm

I really believe Tae Kim is the best "if you absolutely can't use a textbook" alternative. Not saying he's sub par, but that a textbook will usually be more in depth and have more practice.

Go ahead and dabble, as long as you're sure it won't confuse you (or bore you) when you do get your texts. It's tempting to look at Chapter 1 and say, "Well, I already know this much" and go looking for a chapter that has new stuff. Simply put, it's a bad idea. Often, there are nuances, tangents, or cultural information that you -didn't- know, and chances are a later chapter will expect you to know these things.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby arbalest71 » Wed 11.05.2008 7:16 pm

Tae Kim is good. Another thing you could try is just listening to some Japanese. I think that hearing a lot of Japanese is probably the most important thing at the beginning. Unfortunately, it's most helpful when you can almost understand the Japanese. If you speak no Japanese at all that's sort of tricky. But even listening to Japanese you really don't understand at all will start to get your ear used to it. Watching things with subtitles can also be useful at the beginning, as long as you are careful to pay a lot of attention to what you're hearing. You'll begin to pick up certain common morphemes pretty fast- you don't have to listen too long to figure out that "-nai" is somehow related to negation. For me, at least, it took a long time to get comfortable with people speaking Japanese quickly, even in cases where I knew the grammar and the vocabulary (not that I'm completely comfortable with that now). So it might not be a bad idea to get a jump on that.

Another thing that can help with listening is to pick things where you have a lot of non-auditory cues as to the meaning of what is said. I'm not a big fan of English movies dubbed in Japanese, 'cause the Japanese sometimes winds up being a bit odd, and you're less likely to pick up "cultural" language from them, but if you can get your hands on a Japanese dub of a movie you have seen a lot of times in English (some DVDs might have a Japanese language track) it might be really helpful. You'll "understand" what they're saying without having to understand any Japanese.

Watching Japanese TV can be very helpful, particularly if you can substitute J-TV for TV you already watch- it's basically extra time that you get almost for free (or truly for free if you enjoy the Japanese TV as much as you would have enjoyed the English TV you're not watching). Dramas are nice, and they can be found subbed in various places- I won't link to them as the fansubs aren't legal, but I'll say that I have no qualms about downloading a show that is not marketed at all to the R1 market. Anyway, you can find them easily enough if you want.

You could also take the opportunity to learn to read and write kana. There are plenty of charts out there on the net for that.

It's not ideal to have a month without a textbook, but I think you can probably find enough stuff to keep you profitably occupied for a month.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby chikara » Wed 11.05.2008 7:38 pm

If you can absorb all of the grammar points from Tae Kim's grammar guide in a month while waiting for your pay cheque then you will be doing OK. I would also recommend Tim R. Matheson's Japanese Verbs. Unfortunately it is in romaji but it will give you a good grounding in verb conjugation.

Listening practice as arbalest71-san has suggested certainly wont hurt but without much knowledge of grammar and a reasonable vocab it may be of limited benefit at this stage.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby Sairana » Wed 11.05.2008 7:42 pm

arbalest71 wrote:Dramas are nice, and they can be found subbed in various places- I won't link to them as the fansubs aren't legal,

Just a note on that bit:

You can always link to JDorama. All that site has is peer reviews and a wealth of database information on past and current Japanese dramas. It's even cross referenced by actor (neat!). It's like the IMDB of J-dramas.... and purely legal. :) Makes a good place to start your hunt for dramas, anyway.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby chikara » Wed 11.05.2008 7:57 pm

I would have to question the benefit someone who is only just starting to learn grammar and vocab is going to get out of watching J-drama.
grwn wrote:..... I'm around the point of going to the grammar and vocab. .....
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby Infidel » Wed 11.05.2008 8:05 pm

Sairana wrote:I really believe Tae Kim is the best "if you absolutely can't use a textbook" alternative. Not saying he's sub par, but that a textbook will usually be more in depth and have more practice.

Go ahead and dabble, as long as you're sure it won't confuse you (or bore you) when you do get your texts. It's tempting to look at Chapter 1 and say, "Well, I already know this much" and go looking for a chapter that has new stuff. Simply put, it's a bad idea. Often, there are nuances, tangents, or cultural information that you -didn't- know, and chances are a later chapter will expect you to know these things.


I'd call Tae Kim's site a Grammar book substitute, not a Textbook Substitute.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby Sairana » Wed 11.05.2008 8:51 pm

Infidel wrote:I'd call Tae Kim's site a Grammar book substitute, not a Textbook Substitute.


I guess that's a matter of perspective. Considering that his site is ordered to only assume knowledge from previous lessons on his own site and not from outside sources, it's pretty text-ish, IMHO.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby arbalest71 » Wed 11.05.2008 11:55 pm

chikara wrote:I would have to question the benefit someone who is only just starting to learn grammar and vocab is going to get out of watching J-drama.


Well, there are a variety of viewpoints on this issue. There are a number of linguists who specialize in second language acquisition who would disagree with you, and I happen to agree with them.

My personal experience might unduly influence me here. I started learning Japanese by accident. I watched a few Japanese movies, with English subs, and wound up paying more attention to the Japanese than to the movies. So I watched them again... and again... by the time I got a textbook I didn't need it to introduce constructs. I just needed it to answer some questions about constructs I had heard many times. I already understood a lot of the more common bound morphemes in Japanese, even when I couldn't recognize the morphemes they were bound to.

Knowledge of grammar correlates poorly with ability to speak and understand a language. There are people who have detailed knowledge of Japanese grammar who don't speak it very well. There are also a lot of people who lack detailed (explicit) knowledge of Japanese grammar who speak it perfectly- we call them native speakers.

You're right that dramas might be too much for a new learner, if un-subbed. But this has little to do with grammar, and everything to do with whether or not they can understand enough to profit from watching. The ideal input is input that is just a bit beyond what you understand. Subs offer an imperfect solution, if you can manage to concentrate on the language while reading the subs and watching the action. You "understand" the Japanese without understanding it.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 11.06.2008 12:00 am

arbalest71 wrote:My personal experience might unduly influence me here. I started learning Japanese by accident. I watched a few Japanese movies, with English subs, and wound up paying more attention to the Japanese than to the movies. So I watched them again... and again... by the time I got a textbook I didn't need it to introduce constructs. I just needed it to answer some questions about constructs I had heard many times. I already understood a lot of the more common bound morphemes in Japanese, even when I couldn't recognize the morphemes they were bound to.


If you're not exaggerating here, you are extremely unusual -- a nearly genius level language learner, and your experience cannot be taken as the basis for other people's study. For the majority of people, making any significant progress in a language just by watching subtitled Japanese TV is impossible. In general, you can hope to learn a small amount of vocabulary, or maybe a few simple phrases, by watching subtitled TV, but no actual grammar.

Knowledge of grammar correlates poorly with ability to speak and understand a language. There are people who have detailed knowledge of Japanese grammar who don't speak it very well. There are also a lot of people who lack detailed (explicit) knowledge of Japanese grammar who speak it perfectly- we call them native speakers.


It's true that grammatical knowledge alone will not enable you to speak or understand a language; you need to practice a lot as well. But to draw the conclusion that grammatical knowledge is unnecessary is like saying that knowing addition and subtraction will not enable you to do algebra, therefore you do not need to study addition and subtraction to be able to learn algebra.

Native speakers may lack *explicit* grammatical knowledge, but they do not lack grammatical knowledge at all. Native speakers have an incredible command of the grammar of their own language, and understand many things intuitively. But as a second language learner you can't just depend on feel to get things right. Most people who try this end up with sort of partial fluency where they say a lot of things wrong and sort of communicate meaning, but don't speak really fluent Japanese.

This is a common misconception people have -- they assume that because a native speaker is not familiar with certain grammatical terms, or cannot explain a particular grammatical feature, that they actually do not understand that grammatical feature. I have been confronted about this by students; they showed their grammatical explanations to Japanese native speakers, who had difficulty understanding them (at first read), and thus they concluded that the grammatical explanations were either wrong or unnecessary.

It is well established that children learn language in a way that adults cannot mimic (the people who claim that this isn't true are the linguistics equivalents of flat earth/creationism/bodily humours), and the fact that native speakers do not need explicit instruction in the grammar of their own language doesn't mean that foreign learners should go without it.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby furrykef » Thu 11.06.2008 12:04 am

Tae Kim is organized like a textbook, but it's too 'thin' to really be a textbook. If you have a fascination with grammar (as I do) then it might be perfect to learn from regardless, but then you still need vocabulary, and Tae Kim has no vocabulary lessons. It won't teach you how to count to 10 or what the colors are. Grammar also tends to be the easy part of learning a language... I've absorbed most Spanish grammar but only a fraction of its vocabulary. (Though, to be fair, Spanish has much less new grammar to learn than Japanese.) Grammar is harder in the sense that you have to understand the fundamental principles of grammar whereas words are just words -- though even then you have to watch out for shades of meaning and such -- but it's easier because there's just not nearly as much of it as vocabulary.

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Re: No books yet ...

Postby chikara » Thu 11.06.2008 12:18 am

arbalest71 wrote:.... Well, there are a variety of viewpoints on this issue. There are a number of linguists who specialize in second language acquisition who would disagree with you, and I happen to agree with them......

If you read my earlier post, see snippet below, I did say that it can't hurt. I was simply questioning the benefit that someone with no knowledge of grammar and no vocab will gain from watching J-drama. My personal opinion is that the OP's time in this very early stage may be better spent on developing some vocab and some basic grammar. Certainly listening to audio of the new words as they are learnt is of great benefit.

Thank you for sharing your viewpoint and personal experience.

chikara wrote:..... Listening practice as arbalest71-san has suggested certainly wont hurt but without much knowledge of grammar and a reasonable vocab it may be of limited benefit at this stage.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby arbalest71 » Thu 11.06.2008 2:39 am

[quote="Yudan Taiteki"
If you're not exaggerating here, you are extremely unusual -- a nearly genius level language learner[\quote]

I am a genius level learner at whatever I choose to study, if you choose to measure things that way. My ability to reason inductively is unusual. I don't like that term though. Geniuses do things. I do nothing ;).

Anyway, you ought to argue with Krashern. Your advice should be adjusted to be in line with recent findings. As it stands it is not good advice in my opinion.
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby arbalest71 » Thu 11.06.2008 3:07 am

tYudan: "he fact that native speakers do not need explicit instruction in the grammar of their own language doesn't mean that foreign learners should go without it."

OK, but... to what degree is that true?
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Re: No books yet ...

Postby arbalest71 » Thu 11.06.2008 5:28 am

The more I think about it the more I want to bet that my Japanese is better than the Japanese of your students _despite_ the fact that I've never studied Japanese. I'd be willing to make a bet- I come to your Uni and pick one of your students. We all fly to Japan. If your boy speaks better I pay for the whole thing.. if the guy I pick can't order ramen... I have the 10 G's on hand, and I'll take this bet any time as long as I get to pick your agent. If your boy is less capable than I am... you pay.
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