Notes from the classroom: Starting off on the right foot


Heading into your first Japanese class is not easy. It might be your first experience with a Japanese person, as opposed to those disembodied voices you'd hear when watching anime. At the same time, you're surrounded by 20 people you've never met, and have no idea who amongst them actually watches anime or reads manga. And how many of them are Narutards. Tread carefully.

There's a lot to worry about when you're first starting out learning Japanese, both with the language and with the other people in your class. Not only are you learning  a new language, but you're also learning two alphabets and a host of symbols, trying to figure out how to blend your Ls and Rs to get the sound just right.

It'll be alright. Just take a deep breath, and follow me after the jump.

Welcome to Chapter 2! We're still using romaji!

Romaji is the romanization of Japanese characters, so that while students are still learning the sounds and symbols of hiragana and katakana, they can move ahead and start learning vocabulary and grammar. For me, that's a big sign of trouble. At the very beginning of the class, the teacher should sit everyone down, and spend about two weeks going over hiragana and katakana to make sure that all the students understand how to read it. Don't worry about grammar or other things -- those can be quickly explained and then re-explained later on. I've seen too many people use romaji as a crutch, and in Japanese III or IV, have trouble reading simple sentences.

Don't be a smartass, you're still in Japanese 101

I don't care how much you studied before you entered this class, you're still in Introductory Japanese. Whatever you have under your belt may be nice to brag about, but you didn't even have enough to get placed in the second level class. I've seen plenty of students do this, trying to correct the teacher on how to use a word or grammar point. Sure, correct the native speaker on how a word is used. I don't care what Dattebayo said, you're just going to make yourself look worse in your peers' eyes, not cooler.

That's not to say that you shouldn't say anything. Just phrase it differently. I've done this all the time. You see a word or phrase used a certain way, and aren't sure how it applies to the current situation. Just say, "I've seen that used as XXX. Is that similar?" It allows for some more discussion and makes things a little more personalized.

Learn your particles

I can't tell you how many times I've had a teacher ask us which particle to use in a sentence, and about a half dozen answers get yelled out all at once. We're all at a functional level of Japanese, most of us interact with our host families and Japanese friends on a daily basis, and we still couldn't tell you that the right answer was de. There are a lot of uses for each particle, and it's easy to get them mixed up. But as you learn each particle, and discover new uses, spend an hour or two going over the particle, and if you have any questions, go and ask. It'll save you a lot of trouble later on.

Make friends with everyone in your class

When I first entered Japanese I, no one knew each other. Everyone was rather quiet before, during, and after class. We were all trying to cope with the overwhelming threat of learning a whole new alphabet, and had no idea what anyone was like in the class. Then, about a week in, someone mentioned Bleach. The floodgates were opened.

Yes, a lot of people take Japanese because they're into anime and manga. No, don't assume that everyone is. There will always be a handful of people who are taking the language for business or other reasons, and if the class suddenly turns into a weeaboo-fest, they'll start enjoying the class a lot less, and might not continue on. From a purely practical standpoint, they're good people to know. They aren't so focused on learning regional language or slang, and often know a lot more business Japanese, and can help you out when you finally want to turn your language skills into something marketable.

Ask questions about the kanji

One of the cool things about kanji is that pretty much all the kanji can be broken down into more basic parts, with their own meanings, and sometimes it (abstractly) tells you the meaning to the larger kanji it's a part of. Not all teachers are experts in the meanings of each bit of kanji, so if the teacher doesn't know, don't pressure them. Just make a habit of learning more than the readings and how to write each kanji. When you're learning them at a rate of 5-10/week, it takes a bit more dedication to learn the meaning of the parts and how they can be applied in other kanji, but it'll help you so much later on. I'm trying to backtrack and do this one, and it's not easy.

Hope you enjoyed this wall of text. I'll pop in again with a few more notes from the classroom when I manage to conjure up a topic.

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Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures



Filed under... #Japanator Original #learn japanese



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