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Learning question

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Learning question

Postby Robdan » Tue 02.14.2006 7:01 pm

I've been studying the Pimsleur CD's for a few weeks now and I really feel like my speaking and listening is progressing. However, I've had the forture to find a native Japanese speaker who wants to help me learn and I'm having some contradictions/problems:

I'm learning very fast that there are several ways to say just one phrase in Japanese and my friend tells me that in the Pimsleur CD's that they teach you in a very formal way, too formal in fact. He tells me that people in Japan would understand what you are saying but they might think it is a little bit weird.

That bothers me becuase now I feel like I've spent all this money and such to learn something that will make me sound "a little bit weird." I know there is no way I can learn every way to say just one phrase all at once so I thought it would be good to learn the formal way to speak and then work on the less formal?

Is this a bad idea? should I just concentrate on the less formal Japanese?

Any help is most appreciated!
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RE: Learning question

Postby mandolin » Tue 02.14.2006 7:12 pm

Pimsleur's is going to still net you a sizable chunk of vocab, invaluable listening and speaking practice. Remember, you're doing more than memorizing phrases, you are starting to internalize japanese sounds throughout, making speaking and listening more natural for you.

Formal japanese is sometimes -easier- to learn than informal because almost everything is conjugated to -masu -desu form (at least in the beginning). This makes verb conjugation MUCH easier. I believe that's part of the reason that Pimsleur uses "ja arimasen" instead of "ja nai"... but that's just a guess.

I see nothing wrong with using pimsleur, as long as you're using or planning on using other resources at a later date. And I don't care what anyone says.. your japanese is always going to sound "wierd" when you're first starting out, whether it's because you're being overly formal, overly informal, using the wrong words or particles....

Give yourself time. :)
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RE: Learning question

Postby Mukade » Tue 02.14.2006 11:03 pm

There are two common ways of speaking in Japan:
Standard polite and standard informal

Learn them both, because you'll need them both. When you are speaking with friends and family, you simply will not use standard polite. But then again, when you are speaking to someone you have only just met or someone like your teacher or boss you won't be using the standard informal, either.

There are many more ways to say things in Japanese, yes, but focus on these two forms and you'll be creating a solid foundation for yourself. Most every textbook around teaches standard formal, and I would presume that's what Pimsleur's is going to teach you. But certainly don't miss the opportunity to learn how to say the same things casually from your newfound friend.

Good luck.
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RE: Learning question

Postby Robdan » Wed 02.15.2006 5:26 am

ありがとうございます! I feel alot better now. I will just continue my Pimsleur studies and try my best to learn what my friend tells me along the way and hope I can remember. I'm thinking that learning the most formal way first I will know I won't say anything to offend anyone :D
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RE: Learning question

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 02.15.2006 7:33 am

Most people learn formal speech first, and that's really the best way, in my opinion. First, formal is easier to learn than informal (as it all deals with masu conjugations), and it's better to be too polite than too rude in Japanese society.

I see people (especially foreigners on TV) who thought that polite form was a waste, and so can only speak informally. This causes a lot of problems when they leave their circle of friends, and half to talk to people in regular society. I think the best example of this is Bobby, who is pretty fluent, but calls everyone お前 and can't speak in keigo to save his life. Watching him on TV sometimes makes me cringe. He met a famous fortune teller, and responds to one of her questions お前はそうやろう!:o
Last edited by Harisenbon on Wed 02.15.2006 7:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Learning question

Postby keatonatron » Wed 02.15.2006 9:42 am

If you're just learning as a hobby and want to be able to chat with people when you vacation in Japan, sticking with the formal version that pimsleur teaches you is fine. However, if you plan on becoming a serious student of Japanese, I don't recommend learning the formal form first (sorry Harisen, gotta oppose you this time!).

The formal is much easier to learn, and will give you skills you can use immediately (going to Japan and talking to people you don't know, using this form would be better). However, if you become comfortable with the formal form it's very hard to learn the informal form, because you have to work backwards.

Basically the steps are like this:

Informal present to past:
Taberu -> Tabeta
Iku->Itta (irregular)

Informal to formal:
Taberu -> (drop ru, add masu) Tabemasu (formal present) -> Tabemashita (formal past)
Iku -> (drop u, add imasu) Ikimasu (formal present) -> Ikimashita (formal past)

If you start with formal as the base, it's hard to figure some stuff out:

Formal to informal:
Tabemasu -> (drop masu, add ru) Taberu -> Tabeta
Ikimasu -> (drop imasu, or masu) Iku or Ikiru (we don't know!!) -> Itta or Ikita

If you know Iku, it's extremely to make the formal (just drop the u and add imasu) but if you only know Ikimasu it's impossible to make the informal form (you can guess that it's Iku, but.. that's not always correct)


Oh yeah, I hate boby!!!! He just... looks... so... stupid. And I noticed what you brought up, he's totally rude to everyone. And this is what all of Japan thinks of foreigners!!! (it's on TV, must be true!) I saw boby co-hosting a show where they were doing riddles using kanji (what radical can you add to make a new word, etc.) I was just thinking "oh come on, how much of this is boby actually following???? I'd like to see him be a contestant!!"
Last edited by keatonatron on Wed 02.15.2006 9:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Learning question

Postby maco » Wed 02.15.2006 12:29 pm

I got the Pimsleur cds for Russian last night. I'm going to start them today. It's the same way we learned in Japanese class though. Formal is considered more important to learn because for business you will need to be formal (yes, need, because the Japanese are very strict on being polite). That's why in classes you get 2 years of formal before you start doing informal. It's like how it's really important that you learn proper English grammar and to say "please" and "thank you" when you're little, but when you get older you start using a lot more slang.

Really, the best thing to do is learn all the verbs in their dictionary (or plain) forms. So aru, iru, iku, omou, yomu, nomu, etc. and learn to conjugate them. Then you can know how to conjugate to formal (turn the "u" sound to an "i" sound....or drop "ru" if it's a weak verb...and add masu) with the tenses or to informal tenses. It's good to learn formal syntax first (using particles and things like that), but verbs should be learned in dictionary form to make it easier.
Last edited by maco on Wed 02.15.2006 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Learning question

Postby zengargoyle » Wed 02.15.2006 1:04 pm

my 2 cents.. learn the dictionary *and* the -masu forms together. with both pieces of information you can tell what group the verb is in (ichidan/godan, u/ru, group1/goup2, whatever your learning materials choose to call them) and then you'll know how to make the rest of the forms. this really helps with the -iru and -eru verbs which might belong to either group.
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RE: Learning question

Postby Sachi » Wed 02.15.2006 6:43 pm

I have to agree with zengargoyle... What I do is learn the dictionary and -masu form first.

I also beleive the polite is better to learn first, because you will need it. If you think you know enough grammar and vocab to try chatting in Japanese, but only know the informal forms, people will think you're rude. Better safe than sorry, as they say!

So, over-polite is better than under-poilte, ne? :p

Edited for typos XD
Last edited by Sachi on Wed 02.15.2006 6:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Learning question

Postby Harisenbon » Wed 02.15.2006 10:25 pm

keatonatron wrote:
The formal is much easier to learn, and will give you skills you can use immediately (going to Japan and talking to people you don't know, using this form would be better). However, if you become comfortable with the formal form it's very hard to learn the informal form, because you have to work backwards.


I think we're looking at this in different time frames. I believe that polite Japanese will get your further in Japanese society in the long run, and thus it is more important to build a solid foundation of polite (and easy to conjugate) speech at first, and then build off of that. No one will be upset if you speak too politely. But, if you speak too rudely to someone, it can really damage the relationship.

I started off with polite form when I started Japanese, and had a similar anti-politeness kick for a couple of years. It hurt me a lot in the long run. I used casual form so much, that I forgot how to use base form politely, and had to recondition myself to speak politely in my work. I still make mistakes a lot, just out of bad habits.

If you plan to stay a child forever (and many people do, just look at Bobby, or most foreigners in Japan) you can get away with never using masu form/speaking politely. But if you ever want to actually enter Japanese society you should learn and focus on polite speech.

-- "Foreigners are Rude" By Keith ;)

As for the Bobby thing, I think he knows most of what's going on, but has built up such a habit of speaking rudely that he just can't snap himself out of it. It's hard for some Japanese people to change between polite and casual Japanese. (One of the prospective students at my wife's college went into his interview and went 俺はさぁ,この学校に行きたいでさぁ)It's much harder for foreigners.
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RE: Learning question

Postby Mukade » Wed 02.15.2006 10:38 pm

Harisenbon wrote:
As for the Bobby thing, I think he knows most of what's going on, but has built up such a habit of speaking rudely that he just can't snap himself out of it.


Actually, I think Bobby does a lot of this on purpose. After all, if he didn't speak that way, he probably wouldn't be on TV.

But more importantly, if you ever pay attention to his "mistakes," you'll notice that they often end up being quite interesting puns. I think his mastery of Japanese is actually quite phenomenal, and that the 'bumbling foreigner' constantly making mistakes is his stage persona.

He's basically made a career out of fulfilling Japanese people's expectations of foreigners. :o
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RE: Learning question

Postby maco » Thu 02.16.2006 2:54 am

One of my friends gets yelled at by sensei for saying "ore" all the time. She's female. I just try to avoid "atashi" around sensei. When I'm talking to my friends (or myself), I say things like "hon wa doko?" but if they give me a look like "where's the rest?" I add "ni arimasuka?" or "ni aruka?" and then they get what I was asking. I don't *think* there's anything wrong with "hon wa doko?" for being really informal though, just that they're not used to it
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RE: Learning question

Postby hyperconjugated » Thu 02.16.2006 6:41 am

maco wrote:
I don't *think* there's anything wrong with "hon wa doko?" for being really informal though, just that they're not used to it


In japanese isn't it incorrect grammar to omit the verb or copula?
Maybe it's correct and sounds right too not to leave the "ni arimasu/aru ka"
out? Without it there isn't really anything that indicates whether
it's formal or informal. Just an incomplete sentence. Or have I just
grasped it plain wrong?
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RE: Learning question

Postby keatonatron » Thu 02.16.2006 7:55 am

Yeah, I agree about Bobby... he's really playing the fool to be on TV. What's interesting about a foreigner that speaks proper Japanese? Millions of Japanese people do it every day! :p

And I guess my point about formal speech is that it's easy to go from informal to formal, but hard to go the other way. It is ulitmately best to learn both together though! It does really help with eru/iru, so whoever suggested that, good advice.
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RE: Learning question

Postby Robdan » Thu 02.16.2006 1:08 pm

Thank you all very much for the help!
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