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New textbook help

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New textbook help

Postby chocomamma » Mon 02.23.2009 4:41 am

Ok, so I have been using Contemporary Japanese and the structure of it is not helping me. All of the major explanations are at the end of the chapter and while it has a lot of vocabulary words, that is all I am learning. I am really looking for something that has explanations within the examples cause it gets frustrating having to look at the back of a chapter to learn about the grammar and such. It also has a crap load of ask your classmates. I can pretend I have some but again having to look at the end of the chapter for something that should have been explained in the text is a pain in the behind and I am getting frustrated :x I have looked on the forums and seen that Japanese for Everyone, Genki, and Minna no Nihongo are highly recommended. I am just wondering if anyone knows which would be more straight forward and a little less confusing. I have been leaning toward Genki and MnN because I do like having a workbook to get more practice. I am still going to use CJ if only for the vocabulary, but I need something more explanatory for grammar and such. I'm not really worried about cost, as long as I am getting my money's worth.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby Infidel » Mon 02.23.2009 6:14 am

I'm not totally firm on what you mean. Just about every textbook has a dialog first, then the explanation follows. Generally, make an attempt to review all the vocabulary, then read the dialog, and then hit the explanations. So I'm turning back and forward too. This is normal. Ultimately, a textbook is a reference, so you aren't really expected to read each page in order.

However, CJ does have some weakness when used for self study.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby Sairana » Mon 02.23.2009 6:19 am

chocomamma wrote:I am just wondering if anyone knows which would be more straight forward and a little less confusing.


They're both recommended a lot because they're both good books. The only one who can say for certain which one would be less confusing for you is.. well... you. Maybe you could go to a Barnes and Noble near you (or other such bookstore... Borders, maybe?) and see if they don't have a copy of them you can thumb through.

Also check around on the 'net... I think I recall Genki having samples of their book available for download.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby chocomamma » Mon 02.23.2009 4:25 pm

Infidel wrote:I'm not totally firm on what you mean. Just about every textbook has a dialog first, then the explanation follows. Generally, make an attempt to review all the vocabulary, then read the dialog, and then hit the explanations. So I'm turning back and forward too. This is normal. Ultimately, a textbook is a reference, so you aren't really expected to read each page in order.

However, CJ does have some weakness when used for self study.


I guess it is just for language books then. Most of my textbooks for my IT degree were pretty straight forward and there was very little jumping around. I just want something a little more fleshed out. If it had an explanation after each lesson it would be easier to understand and a little less frustrating by searching through everything at the end of the chapter to find what I am looking for.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby Infidel » Tue 02.24.2009 5:29 pm

Yes, language isn't like math or history where one thing progresses directly into another. And just FYI, most people learn languages naturally, meaning without explanations. In fact, there is a very strong language learning philosophy that language learning should be done completely without explanations. Certainly, learning languages is one of those rare experiences where explanations at the wrong time actually impair the learning process for many. The more you have explained to you, the less you understand. The established best procedure for learning a language via textbook is

1. See the new word or new construction.
2. Guess at the meaning.
3. Look up the meaning.
4. Have it explained if 3 was insufficient. 3 and 4 are interchangeable.

Where in other disciplines you learn in sorta reverse.

4. Verbal Explaination
3. Textbook reference.
2. Problem presented
1. Attempt to solve problem. 4 and 3 are interchangeable.

The important thing here is you need to stretch your mind and puzzle out the meaning, just like you did as a kid and everyone was babbling around you and no one was giving you grammar explanations then either.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby furrykef » Tue 02.24.2009 6:43 pm

Infidel wrote:Certainly, learning languages is one of those rare experiences where explanations at the wrong time actually impair the learning process for many.

Hmm, can you name any fairly concrete examples? I can't think of any instance where it seems that this has happened for me, though maybe that just means I'm a poor judge of how I've learned.

Infidel wrote:The more you have explained to you, the less you understand.

I dunno about this. Getting a big fat book on Spanish grammar was a turning point in my ability to actually understand how that language works, I think, and rarely ever has that book confused me more than it has helped. And on those rare occasions it does confuse me, I simply ignore it until I do understand it. It did take me a while to begin to adhere to the "do not learn what you do not understand" credo, which I do firmly stand by. But I don't think having things explained to you has anything to do with that.

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Re: New textbook help

Postby astaroth » Tue 02.24.2009 6:57 pm

furrykef wrote:
Infidel wrote:The more you have explained to you, the less you understand.

I dunno about this. Getting a big fat book on Spanish grammar was a turning point in my ability to actually understand how that language works, I think, and rarely ever has that book confused me more than it has helped.

Speaking with Americans made me realize that most people believe that a language is whatever people speak, call it natural languages.
I have American friends who find weird, if not entirely wrong, having an institute devoted to preserve the language and its grammar. I don't know, but being a European I firmly believe in the actual usefulness of institutes like Accademia della Crusca. At times their decisions are completely hilarious, like in German considering now grammatically correct the occurrence of triple consonants, but most of the times is simply there to tell you what is correct and what not, otherwise it's a big mess.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 02.24.2009 7:00 pm

I disagree with that as well; I think people make the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Explanations alone don't substitute for practice, but explanations can help you a lot. However, there are some ways I can see (correct) explanations impairing learning:
(a) too much time is spent on them at the expense of actual practice with the language
(b) the explanations are so technical and detailed that the time spent understanding them is not worth it for learners
(c) the explanations are not geared towards the appropriate level.

(And yes, a language is anything people speak. This is not an "American" view but a linguistic view. However, this is an issue in language education because you get some teachers who see foreign learners as their chance to teach some "pure" or "correct" form of the language that nobody actually speaks.)
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Re: New textbook help

Postby chocomamma » Tue 02.24.2009 7:25 pm

Infidel wrote: Certainly, learning languages is one of those rare experiences where explanations at the wrong time actually impair the learning process for many. The more you have explained to you, the less you understand.


I agree that too much can confuse the person learning the language. Especially if it is too in depth for the learner's level. Although I do need to have some things explained and shown to me for me to understand better. Such is what is lacking in the CJ book. If new grammar is going to be introduced, I need a good explanation on it and examples that are right there not 10 pages away. I know now thanks to you and other posts that I will have do page flipping regardless but if I can find something a little more fleshed out or more organized it would make things a little better for me and my learning style :)

I am thinking of going with Genki and using CJ as a supplement in case there is something that Genki doesn't have and vice versa. I guess I just want to finish CJ because I did pay about $70 for the book and workbook.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby astaroth » Tue 02.24.2009 8:50 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:I disagree with that as well; I think people make the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Explanations alone don't substitute for practice, but explanations can help you a lot. However, there are some ways I can see (correct) explanations impairing learning:

Sorry I wasn't saying of not having practice at all, I was more talking about the fact that a grammar should be somewhat codified and for that one needs someone to do the job.
Otherwise we will keep writing "it's" instead of "its", and saying "if I was, I would do".

Yudan Taiteki wrote:And yes, a language is anything people speak. This is not an "American" view but a linguistic view.

Probably it's also that, differently from English, Italian was a constructed language and that somehow is somewhere in my education. The real languages were/are the dialects, of which name is unfortunate and has to do more with history - in particular Fascism - than anything else, and Italian was a fossilized language nobody used until after WWII.
But sorry here I'm digressing.

PS: my English is far from being perfect, so I know I'd sound presumptuous in talking about a language I studied and only recently immersed into.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby Infidel » Tue 02.24.2009 10:56 pm

furrykef wrote:
Infidel wrote:Certainly, learning languages is one of those rare experiences where explanations at the wrong time actually impair the learning process for many.

Hmm, can you name any fairly concrete examples? I can't think of any instance where it seems that this has happened for me, though maybe that just means I'm a poor judge of how I've learned.


Concrete examples. Like explaining calculus to a first grader? Explaining the grammar of kara before the student knows koko. But more specifically, I mean that that period of time where your mind stretches in an attempt to understand on its own is the most efficient. Hearing the explanation later after you have a point of reference to apply it makes the explanation more pertinent and memorable. Explaining that a league is three miles doesn't help you very much if you don't know what a mile is. And it's forgettable info if you don't readily see a way to apply it. How often do you see distance marked in leagues? However, If you see a map marked in leagues and THEN wonder what is a league and have it explained, then you will be much more likely to remember it.

I dunno about this. Getting a big fat book on Spanish grammar was a turning point in my ability to actually understand how that language works, I think, and rarely ever has that book confused me more than it has helped. And on those rare occasions it does confuse me, I simply ignore it until I do understand it. It did take me a while to begin to adhere to the "do not learn what you do not understand" credo, which I do firmly stand by. But I don't think having things explained to you has anything to do with that.
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Actually, it has everything to do with that. and "do not learn what you do not understand" is the near the heart of my point. Get a linguistics book on Japanese and read it from beginning to end. How well do you speak Japanese at the end of this book? The point is, you used the grammar book as a part of the learning process. Out of 100% of your time you spent probably only a small percentage of your time on the explanation, the rest was learning vocabulary and practice.

The closer explanations moves towards 100% the less you know. You may be a linguist that knows a crap ton about Japanese, but can't order kohii at a kissaten. In math, memorizing the explanation is enough. If you go to math class and are able to memorize the formulas and solution steps just from the explanation, then you're good to go. Explanations alone are not enough in language. This is because partly language is a motor skill not a memory game like math. Motor skills require practice, and memory skills, like math and history, do not, although practice can still help, but the practice for memory skills is a memory aid. Memorizing books on ballet or Kung fu will make you neither a skilled dancer nor a good fighter, but memorizing books on History or number Theory could make you a decent Mathematician or Historian.

Italian was a constructed language


Klingon and Esperanto are constructed languages, Italian is a natural language.
I was more talking about the fact that a grammar should be somewhat codified and for that one needs someone to do the job.


Educated people are always attempting to codify the language they use, and sometimes they or the government ATTEMPTS to codify language, but a living language is beyond control. This is the difference between Latin and Italian. Latin is a dead language so it can be controlled,the grammar is static, but Italian is alive, so it is constantly changing, new words are added and dropped as needed, new grammar is tested and old grammar is sometimes retired. Governments and educational institutions have tried and will continue to try to control it, but they will fail, the best they can accomplish is a reduction in the rate of change.

Language is an expression of thought. The reason language cannot be controlled is because thoughts cannot be controlled. You can teach people to think a certain way, but there will always be some people that insist on thinking a different way. Those are the ones that determine the fate of their language, not the ones demanding the world stay the same, but the ones that demand change, because life is change. Thus the ones in power, by refusing to change, eventually diminish their power and pave the way for others to supplant them.
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Re: New textbook help

Postby astaroth » Wed 02.25.2009 12:15 pm

Infidel wrote:Klingon and Esperanto are constructed languages, Italian is a natural language.

Well isn't Klingon a natural language too? It's spoken by the Klingon on Klingon, isn't it? :mrgreen:

Seriously. You probably know very well the origin of Italian and how it developed, but let me say a couple of things about it. Italian was born in the 12th~13th century because, at that time, Tuscan literature dominated intellectually. In particular, Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia is seen as the first true Italian poem, even though also Cavalcanti wrote in what we call Italian, which is the Florentian dialect of that time. Even though, people of Florence like to say their dialect is truly Italian, this is far from being the truth. (Even though Florentian is the dialect of Italy which best approximates Italian both in the vocabulary and in the grammar.)
After the 13th century, poets in Italy kept writing in what they called Italian and standardized as such. Accademia della Crusca was created in 1582 to keep the language pure from external influences, mainly of dialects of Italy. In Italy no one was speaking Italian even after unification in 1861. My grandparents and my parents were speaking Milanese. After the war, internal immigration, from South to North, and the spreading of TV forced people to use a language that before that was used only at school and for official documents. In places like the South that saw less internal immigration people are still speaking dialects.
Because of historical reasons, centuries of division and foreign "occupation", dialects are very far from being dialects of Italian. Not only the vocabulary is different, but also the grammar. Literature written in dialects is less abundant than Italian, simply because Italian was considered the appropriate language for educated people who like to write poems.
In this sense I called it "constructed language", because it wasn't alive for centuries: it was more or less invented and kept pure. (Because it wasn't spoken I feel Italian more artificial than English, to the point that Dante in the 14th century writes in (almost) perfect Italian, while Chaucer of same period writes in a version of English that no one uses.)
Also what I realize non-Italian fails to see is that Italy is not simply divided in North and South, but it's way more variegated. The language spoken in Pavia, less than 100 miles south of Milan, is very different from Milanese, not to mention the one of Bergamo -- less than a 100 miles north of Milan -- that is not even in the same group.
Infidel wrote:Educated people are always attempting to codify the language they use [...]

The point in my opinion is that there should be somewhere the distinction between correct and incorrect, otherwise it's is the same as its, and there, they're and their are all the same. (I taught in US, physics by the way, and I had to correct those mistakes my students often wrote, not to mention forgetting to use subjunctive. And sorry but to me the sentence if I was, I would do sounds awfully wrong, and I have friends who often write/say it.)
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Re: New textbook help

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 02.25.2009 1:25 pm

astaroth wrote:The point in my opinion is that there should be somewhere the distinction between correct and incorrect, otherwise it's is the same as its, and there, they're and their are all the same.


They are the same, though. They're pronounced identically in spoken language, so the practice of writing them differently is purely artificial convention. You should spell them in accordance with the normal rules since non-standard spelling makes your writing harder to read, but it would be no barrier to comprehension if they were all spelled the same. The apostrophe didn't get put into "it's" until about the 17th or 18th century anyway, and for a while "its" and "it's" were used interchangeably for both meanings, sort of like now.

(I taught in US, physics by the way, and I had to correct those mistakes my students often wrote, not to mention forgetting to use subjunctive. And sorry but to me the sentence if I was, I would do sounds awfully wrong, and I have friends who often write/say it.)


It sounds perfectly fine to me; once again using "was" here is no barrier to comprehension, since the "would" carries the meaning of the subjunctive mood already. Modern English has no subjunctive grammatical form, and this irregular use of "were" is rather pointless and inconsistent with every other verb in the language. Of course you still have to do it if you're writing for a medium that will expect "correct" English, but in normal speech there's no problem with using "was" instead of "were".
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Re: New textbook help

Postby furrykef » Wed 02.25.2009 3:21 pm

While we're on that topic, I've noticed that I've latched onto the "If I were/I wish I were" construction ever since I was made aware of what the subjunctive mood is in English, which was probably, I don't know, six years ago. I had, of course, always been aware of it ("I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener"), but I'd never really noticed or distinguished. So now "If I was/I wish I was" actually bothers me a little bit, like a pet peeve, even though it shouldn't, and I wouldn't call it incorrect English (and, in fact, I think North America is the only place that the "were" form is common at all anymore).

The funny thing about it is this development of this pet peeve was totally subconscious; I thought maybe I'd always had it. Then I read old Calvin & Hobbes cartoons (which I'd used to read over and over; it was by far my favorite comic strip) and discovered to my chagrin that Calvin always used the "was" form! So it's obviously something I'd picked up somehow, even though nobody ever actually told me that "If I was/I wish I was" is incorrect English.

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Re: New textbook help

Postby astaroth » Wed 02.25.2009 3:48 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:They are the same, though. They're pronounced identically in spoken language, so the practice of writing them differently is purely artificial convention.

I understand writing is an artificial convention, but at the same time I can't be satisfied of reading they're, their and there written interchangeably because interchangeable they're not.
furrykef wrote:So now "If I was/I wish I was" actually bothers me a little bit

Probably to me it's more a reflex. In Italian the subjunctive mood is kind of serious business -- that is a actually a tidbit more complicate than I was <=> I were -- so I "transport" that into English.

So as a last remark -- and probably Chris was not even saying this, and I'm sorry if I misread -- I don't see why to allow students to write "incorrect English" in papers and lab reports, even though they're not for an English literature course. (I had people bugging me because I was correcting grammar.)
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