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All Japanese All The Time

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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby JaySee » Thu 01.29.2009 12:16 pm

I think this method can potentially be very useful (although I do admit that I don't know all the details). What he seems to say is that you should almost try to acquire your second language like you did your first; forget grammar, textbooks, and native languages, just immerse yourself completely. I agree with Yudan though that this seems very difficult if you have zero knowledge of the language you want to learn because you simply have nothing to hold on to, but it might work well if you do already have some kind of a basis to expand from.

It is more or less the way I have learnt English; although I have spent less than 1 month in total in English speaking countries, I know the language well enough now to be able to hold almost any kind of conversation and read academic texts. The main reason for this is that here in Holland (and I would assume most other places) it is very easy to come in contact with English: we have many English TV shows (always subbed, never dubbed), the internet is mostly English, games are in English and the music charts are full of English songs. Granted, I did learn English in high school for six years, but I think that these classes were merely useful in the sense that they "kick started" the language learning process. I also learnt German for four years and French for six years in high school, but I forgot most of that because throughout the years I have simply been much less exposed to (or perhaps have chosen to expose myself much less to) these languages in daily life.

Admittedly though, it is much easier to be exposed to English all the time than it is to Japanese, and since English is quite closely related to Dutch it is also an easier language to pick up once you are exposed to it.

It is a shame though that his website which offers a quite interesting and new way of looking at language learning is marred by somewhat reckless articles like "Grammar Does Not Exist" and "You Don’t Have A Foreign Language Problem, You Have An Adult Literacy Problem" which contain several factual mistakes and some strange ways of reasoning (of course he's entitled to his own opinion, but it does show that he's clearly not a linguist).
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 01.29.2009 1:06 pm

JaySee wrote:It is more or less the way I have learnt English


If you took 6 years of classes, it's not more or less the way you learned it.

It is a shame though that his website which offers a quite interesting and new way of looking at language learning is marred by somewhat reckless articles like "Grammar Does Not Exist" and "You Don’t Have A Foreign Language Problem, You Have An Adult Literacy Problem" which contain several factual mistakes and some strange ways of reasoning (of course he's entitled to his own opinion, but it does show that he's clearly not a linguist).


I think there is a tendency among people who give advice on language learning to do several things:
1) Generalize their own experiences as universals and believe that anybody can do exactly what they did and come to exactly the same results (for instance, the AJATT guy seems to want to say that because he learned Japanese without explicit grammar instruction, that everyone should do that -- not only that, but that explicit grammar instruction can actually be harmful.)
2) Underemphasize and overemphasize parts of their learning process; for instance, some people who took classes feel like the classes were totally useless when in fact they may not have been.
3) Recommend unrealistic things that they didn't actually do based on what they feel like they should have done (i.e. recommending that someone start out with intensive kanji study because they struggled with kanji for a long time)
4) Recommend avoiding potential trouble spots by going way, way too far in the other direction and throwing the baby out with the bath water. (For instance, a potential trouble spot is people spending too much time on English grammatical explanations and trying to construct their own sentences from English translations without seeing enough Japanese examples. However, the solution to this does not have to be completely ignoring English grammatical explanations.)

The person writing the AJATT has no teaching experience or pedagogy training, which means that what he recommends needs to be taken cautiously. This does *not* mean that he's completely wrong or that he should be ignored, it just means that what he says should be carefully considered and not just accepted as "it worked for him, that means it's good advice for everyone." I think that the AJATT site would be better if the writer would stick to describing his own experiences and methods and avoid trying to justify them in terms of pseudo-linguistics and pedagogy explanations that show he doesn't really understand either.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby JaySee » Thu 01.29.2009 2:01 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
JaySee wrote:It is more or less the way I have learnt English


If you took 6 years of classes, it's not more or less the way you learned it.


I'm not really sure what you mean by this. What I was trying to say is that in my opinion the English classes I took were valuable in that they offered me a global sense for the language to work from, but they did not get me (and never would have gotten me) to a level of proficiency that would allow me to read academic texts or hold fairly fluent conversations, for example.

As I said, I have also taken six years of French classes, but after finishing high school my proficiency in that language was far less than my proficiency in English. But then again, I never read French books (voluntarily), and I barely ever watched French TV or listened to French songs. I'd argue that If I had had this same lack of exposure to English, my level of English would have been largely the same as my level of French (that is, deplorable).

I do very much believe that language classes are useful (if you have a good teacher), and my English would certainly be worse if I had never taken any. I think it's a kind of synthesis whereby a few years of (good) classes can increase the speed with which you pick up elements of a language through exposure (and get you to a level from which you can potentially do it all on your own), although I still feel that when comparing the "net amount" of language acquired through exposure and classes, for me the former wins hands down.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 01.29.2009 5:00 pm

JaySee wrote:
Yudan Taiteki wrote:
JaySee wrote:It is more or less the way I have learnt English


If you took 6 years of classes, it's not more or less the way you learned it.


I'm not really sure what you mean by this. What I was trying to say is that in my opinion the English classes I took were valuable in that they offered me a global sense for the language to work from, but they did not get me (and never would have gotten me) to a level of proficiency that would allow me to read academic texts or hold fairly fluent conversations, for example.


Maybe I wasn't following the thread carefully enough -- I thought you were saying that the AJATT method was basically how you learned English; one of the foundations of AJATT is not taking any classes.

Most people's classes do not get them to a proficiency to read academic texts or hold fluent conversations, but the mistake some people make is in thinking "I took 3 years of classes and still couldn't do anything, but then I studied on my own for 3 more years and could read books and hold conversations. Therefore, classes are worthless."
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Dustin » Thu 01.29.2009 8:00 pm

On another note when I was scouring his website once upon a time, I saw him recommend a specific grammar book. That being said, he cannot be 100% against books and classes, just the high majority of them.

Also, he emphasizes going mono lingual in studies as soon as possible rather than translating definitions into english to study, seems it could be more efficient and cause less confusion once you get to that point where you are able to do this.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby nukemarine » Thu 01.29.2009 11:17 pm

Again, the main thing behind AJATT is always watching and listening to fun stuff in Japanese. The importance of it should not be downplayed. Really, I wonder why this part should be, or even is, controversial. What gets people up in arms is he advocates listening to it even though you don't understand Japanese at the beginning. For Khatz, he started off watching translated versions of the Star Trek Voyager series. He loved the show so much in English that watching it in Japanese was a fresh experience that was still fun. (ed. for me, I'm using Battlestar Galactica and Harry Potter).

On his learning method: Khatz did not take a Japanese class, but that should be irrelevant. I've been around long enough to realize college is not needed for a dedicated self-studier. If you have access to information, and are able to get that information in your head, you are doing pretty much what the academic side of college offers. The laboratory side of the house is trickier. If you're taking college Japanese classes and doing the above (listening all the time), you should be seeing just as good a gains assuming the input theory is true.

Khatz did learn how to write and recognize Kanji in English first. He did this for Hanzi (he wanted to learn Chinese) so it was roughly 4000 characters. Now this is controversial here and other places just by reading comments about "Remembering the Kanji" and Heisig. It just makes the next step easier concerning sentences. If you're taking college classes, I'm sure they'll be introduced slower. Again, if you're doing the main thing about AJATT, you'll start seeing kanji a lot just because of sub-titles in your shows and in the manga, blogs and books you're going to start reading.

On grammar, Khatz started out with a few hundred sentences from "All about Particles" (yes, a grammar book) using the sentence/SRS method outlined on Antimoon website. He recommended a book "Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar" as a sentence resource based on comments from his wife who used it. He links to Tae Kim's site as a sentence source. These have a pseudo built in i+1 concept, which is great for those starting out. Like what was said above, you'll learn grammar but you're not studying or memorizing rules. Yeah, it's controversial to not study grammar directly. If you're taking College classes, then this is irrelevant. You're going to learn grammar. Hopefully, your book being used is not Romaji. Hopefully it contains many example sentences using realistic Japanese. Plus, if you're doing AJATT, you start seeing and hearing the patterns in real Japanese (ah, reinforcement).

On vocabulary, I think he picked it up as he went along adding sentences. He used sources such as the shows he watched and the manga he was reading. If you're doing college classes, I'm sure there will be a vocabulary list. Again, hopefully there are example sentences for all the vocabulary words. Again, if you're doing AJATT while taking college classes you're going to see these words pop up in real places, reinforcing that learning.

My point should be obvious that no matter the learning method you've chosen, AJATT's main theme is that you always watch, read and listen to Japanese. Now, it's my experience and opinion that active studying speeds up the benefit of AJATT. So if your studying is the methods from the AJATT blog or college, it will be reinforced by that all important act of watching and reading real Japanese.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Thu 01.29.2009 11:49 pm

nukemarine wrote:Again, the main thing behind AJATT is always watching and listening to fun stuff in Japanese. The importance of it should not be downplayed. Really, I wonder why this part should be, or even is, controversial. What gets people up in arms is he advocates listening to it even though you don't understand Japanese at the beginning.


Right. It's not going to hurt, but I don't know how much it will help.

I've been around long enough to realize college is not needed for a dedicated self-studier.


True, but I never like it when people are actively hostile towards classes; there's a difference between "A class is not necessary" and "Classes suck, avoid them".
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Dustin » Fri 01.30.2009 12:11 am

The main thing about AJATT that seems to spark controversy I have noticed is how an "AJATT Diehard" will say that all Japanese guides, Textbooks, whatever, are bad, if they are made in English.

I have been studying from a textbook, and some online resources, and have had no problems with my Japanese so far. I still have far to go but have not been told that my Japanese is flawed, only basic.

Listening to and watching Japanese shows radio music whatever is not a bad thing, it may be of a little benefit at first, only helping later on when you get better at the language, so it's definitely not the controversial part of the formula.

I am very happy to use my English, Japanese textbook, and when I am advanced enough I will go monolingual, and sentences I feel are good because you are reviewing in context rather than single words.

He has some merit in the system he used, but it is by no means the only, or even necessarily best way to do things.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 01.30.2009 12:20 am

Dustin_Calgary wrote:The main thing about AJATT that seems to spark controversy I have noticed is how an "AJATT Diehard" will say that all Japanese guides, Textbooks, whatever, are bad, if they are made in English.


That's the "baby out with the bathwater" syndrome I was mentioning earlier that you see a lot -- overreliance on English explanations can be bad, so don't use English at all. Kanji are hard, so learn them right off the bat. Romaji can engender bad habits, so avoid all romaji. Some textbooks have unnatural Japanese, so don't use textbooks. Some classes are bad, so avoid classes entirely. And so on.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby jcdietz03 » Fri 01.30.2009 11:57 am

Antimoon.com is a site that tries to help learners of English as a second language learn English.
Here is their page on why classes are bad:
http://www.antimoon.com/other/englishclass.htm
Here is the summary:
* Listen to some bad English.
* Say five sentences in English.
* Read a boring textbook.
* Listen to a few grammar rules, such as "the present continuous tense is used for talking about developing and changing situations".
* Do some grammar exercises.
* Get a homework assignment.
------
Listening: Yes, the students in your class suck (just the same as you). I don't know how much you internalize that wrongness though.

Speaking: The main problem I have with this: In a class of 15 students, you speak 5-10 sentences per class. In a private lesson, it's way more than that, but I think the teacher would be bored. I know I'd be bored if I had to listen to an hour worth of bad English.

Boring Text: The textbook they use in my class, Nakama, doesn't seem that boring to me. It bothers me, especially last year in Japanese 1, that the pace wasn't quick enough. In Japanese II this semester, the pace seems about right. With self-study, you can go at your own pace, and typically much faster than a class.

Grammar Rules: The teacher gives the grammar rule, and then one example. Then she asks the students to give their own examples of the rule. Fill-in-the-blank exercises (criticized on Antimoon) are rare - they are typically done as review for an exam. The in-class exercises are something like: say "Tanaka went out with his friend this weekend" in Japanese. This type of thing - speaking exercises mainly.

Homework: I don't like homework. I never did in high school or college, and I still don't. I think the Nakama workbook exercises are useful, but they make you do too many of them. After the second question (in a typical set of five) you have "learned" the rule they want you to learn. Sometimes they are teaching you about exceptions in these additional questions, but usually not.

I will add time to the list of criticisms of Japanese classes. You have around 64 class hours in a typical course and between 0.25 to 1 hour of homework per class hour (for my class it's 0.25 hours of homework per class hour). It's impossible to learn very much Japanese in that time frame, though you can learn something.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby hyperconjugated » Fri 01.30.2009 12:29 pm

jcdietz03 wrote:Antimoon.com is a site that tries to help learners of English as a second language learn English.
Here is their page on why classes are bad:
http://www.antimoon.com/other/englishclass.htm
Here is the summary:
* Listen to some bad English.
* Say five sentences in English.
* Read a boring textbook.
* Listen to a few grammar rules, such as "the present continuous tense is used for talking about developing and changing situations".
* Do some grammar exercises.
* Get a homework assignment.

I wouldn't put too much value on a site that offers straw man arguments this clumsy to prove their point.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 01.30.2009 12:55 pm

I still stand by my belief that the majority of classes will be helpful. Necessary? Perhaps not for everyone, but look at the number of people who sign up here saying that they want to learn Japanese, make 5-10 posts (often mostly on the manga/anime board), and disappear forever -- motivation and guidance are a big problem for beginners. People like nukemarine who are able to create a learning plan for themselves and motivate themselves to do it seem to be in the minority, but if you are able to do that, you may not need a class (although I still think you could benefit from one -- if the class moves too slowly you can always work extra on your own.)

Classes are less realistic for some people than others. There can be financial concerns involved, as well as time commitment and location. I certainly would not go so far as to say that if you can't take a class you shouldn't even bother trying to learn Japanese. But I strongly disagree that you should actively stay away from classes.

I started off with 2 years of classroom Japanese. I am being kind in describing these classes as not very good. But I consider them to have been absolutely vital to my Japanese studies -- even though the majority of my Japanese was learned through self-study, without those initial classes, I would have never gotten off the ground.

I still have a problem accepting the idea of "don't go to a class to listen to English, just turn on CNN" -- if you are at the point in your English studies where you could profit from watching CNN, I definitely don't think you need to be taking a class (although you still could, of course). I don't know where people come up with the idea that total beginners can learn a foreign language by watching TV. The best it can do is help you get accustomed to the sound of the language, but I don't think you can progress without having input you can understand. And at the beginning level, you are not going to find many (if any) materials produced for native speakers that you can understand without spending hours deciphering tiny amounts of language. (I also think that having things on in the background while you are doing other things is essentially worthless.)

I really do believe that what's going on in these cases is that people took some poor-to-average language classes and realized they were bad, but nevertheless learned a good amount from them. However, after taking the classes they were still unable to actually use the language to do what they wanted to do, so they didn't feel like they had learned much. After studying on their own for a while, they were finally able to use the language to do things they wanted to do -- and they then drew the conclusion that the classes were totally worthless and that only the self-study did them any good, therefore new learners should avoid classes. There's just no other way for me to understand an apparently serious recommendation of "Don't take an English class, watch CNN instead." There's absolutely no way that the writer of that sentence started watching CNN with zero English knowledge and learned a lot from it.

Although I may seem to be inveighing rather strongly against sites like antimoon and AJATT, they have a lot of useful information and recommendations -- for instance, I definitely agree with the emphasis on sentences over isolated vocabulary items -- but I don't know about accepting their methods wholesale.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby Denus » Fri 01.30.2009 1:14 pm

jcdietz03 wrote:Homework: I don't like homework. I never did in high school or college, and I still don't. I think the Nakama workbook exercises are useful, but they make you do too many of them. After the second question (in a typical set of five) you have "learned" the rule they want you to learn. Sometimes they are teaching you about exceptions in these additional questions, but usually not.


This I can't agree with. Any subject requires many, many exercises to be done in order to internalize it. I've fallen into the pit trap of "Yeah, I know it" and then completely fail in actually using it. Language, at least to me, requires a lot of repetition. A lot.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 01.30.2009 1:53 pm

I think finding a "what works for you" method can be difficult.

As Chris mentions, some people can't learn or have a hard time learning in formal classrooms. Others have a hard time learning or can't learn from books. Some people learn better from immersion, while others completely flounder unless they are told how to do everything.

Each person and how they learn are as unique as the fingerprints on their fingers.

It's good to be pationate about what works for you, that's awesome. But to tell someone, who is using a method you don't use, or don't care to use, or think is bad, that using that method will screw them up, is just ludicrous. If those methods hand't worked for someone, they'd not be around long. There are many who think Rosetta Stone is no good. There are just as many who think it is. Who's right? Both groups. The ones it worked for are right about it being good. The ones it didn't work for are righ about it not being good for them.

It's like trying to argue that mustard tastes better on a hotdog than ketchup. Or that Pepperoni is better on a Pizza than olives. For the individual, his tastes, likes and other things will determine that.
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Re: All Japanese All The Time

Postby jcdietz03 » Fri 01.30.2009 1:55 pm

"Any subject requires many, many exercises to be done in order to internalize it."

A lot of people think that.
The SRS method of studying, that I use now, is anti- to that philosophy. You are supposed to look at a question, think of the answer, check your answer, and if you remembered, rate your performance (how well did you remember?). Studying the same thing twice in a row is useless (claims SRS enthusiasts) - it's more useful for your memory to wait a little, when your memory is weaker, before reviewing again.

This is the Wikipedia article on the "spacing effect" I have crudely described:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacing_effect

That's certainly an interesting theory on how sites such as AJATT and Antimoon developed. It seems plausible to me.
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