It’s time for my monthly update on my slow but steady “Learn Basic Japanense” project (with video at the bottom of this post). I began with the language a full eighteen months ago now. In the last eight months or so, my aim has been to set aside thirty minutes a day, five days a week for a focussed study slot. I tend to do this just after getting up but sometimes it’s in the evening.
As I write this, the COVID-19 lockdown has eased somewhat in England but I’m in my sixteenth week of working from home. I’ve gained some time for language learning as I’m saving about six hours a week commuting time. That said, I used to use some of that for listening to Japanese audio and reviewing flashcards. The latter, in particular, I’m not really managing to do otherwise. So, I’d say the energy I’m saving from the overcrowded and sometimes stressful journeys on the London underground are my main working from home benefit.
Month 18: week-by-week log
I managed at least thirty minutes focussed, interactive study on twenty-eight of June’s thirty days. I beat my May daily record (three days missed) but didn’t equal the “full house” of thirty days that I clocked up in April.
Here’s the June breakdown:
Week 1 (Monday 1st June to Sunday 7th June): 3 hours, forty minutes (studied every day but one).
Week 2 (Monday 8th June to Sunday 14 June): 3 hours, fifty minutes (studied every day but one).
Week 3 (Monday 15th June to Sunday 21st June):
4 hours, thirty minutes (studied every day).
Week 4 (Monday 22nd June to Sunday 28th June): 4 hours, twenty minutes (studied every day).
Week 5 (Monday 29th June and Tuesday 30th June): 1 hour, ten minutes (studied both days)
May 2020 Total: 17 hours, thirty minutes over 28 days (so averaging about thirty seven minutes a day, on those 28 days).
Running total (1st January 2019 to 30th April 2020): 280 hours, thirty minutes
A range of Japanese materials
I like to have a core course and I’m cautious dissipating my focus with two many materials. Still, it helps to have some supplementary materials as no course is perfect and it’s good to come at things from different angles and in a varied order.
Next: an overview on what I’ve been up to with my chosen resources.
Japanese from Zero Book 3
I started with Japanese from Zero Book One way back in January last year and it’s testament to my progress that the book all now seems relatively easy to me.
I’m still on Book Three of this five volume series and reporting on progress for June is simple: I started Lesson 11 (of 13) at the beginning of the month and had completed it by the end.
The Lesson started off by teaching three new verbs: てんきんに なる (to be transferred – e.g. to a new job), さがす (to look for), やる (a second way of saying to do besides する (which was taught in Book 2)), はなせる (to be able to speak (a language)).
In grammar there was more about using adjectives that end in -な and more examples of the -でしょう verb ending. This can variously mean “I think”, “I hope”, “I guess”, “Don’t you agree?” and “I thought you’d say that!”… As the course authors explain “Of course this all depends on the context of the sentence”. Yes, Japanese is a very context-dependent language (and a lot of expression is indirect, with implied meaning).
The Lesson finished with the usual good range of reading comprehension and questions and some drill-style written exercises.
In Book Three the kanji (“Chinese” characters) are taught for the first time (80 in total). I’d already learned 早 (haya, nu, se)(early, fast) early in my project when I was working with James Heisig’s book Remembering the Kanji.
入 (i, hai, nyuu) and 出 (de, ta, shyo, sui) are used in 入る (hairu: to enter, join); 出る(deru – to come out, leave) and I remember seeing these characters a lot when in the metro in Japan (and also in Beijing).
A very useful new character is 本 (moto, hon)(a book, main), not least because it’s used in 日本 (Nihon – Japan).
Although I’m now taking it very easy with the kanji characters, I should stress that I get a lot of practice reading the two kana syllabaries in Japanese from Zero and Assimil. I also write them a lot. Even though Teach Yourself Japanese is just in Latin script (“romanji”) I also do the translation sentence in each unit in kana.
Assimil’s Le japonais
I acquired Assimil’s Le japonais as a second course right at the beginning of this project.
I’m an Assimil fan in general and the strength of its audio is a particular appeal. The JFZ audio is “bitty” and is only available online (some of it is free, some premium).
At the end of May I’d reached the end of Assimil Lesson 35 (first time coverage). In June I covered Lessons 36 and 37 thoroughly.
The key work for me in each Assimil lesson is a dictation exercise. This is not actually part of the Assimil for the “first phase” (working through the first half of the course), though the Le japonais authors recommend it for the “second phase” as a way of revising the first half. I agree with their assesment:”C’est classique, mais efficace.”
I think splitting up your daily slot so that you have a “main” and a “satellite” slot can be really effective. I haven’t done this with Japanese so far but in May I started at least a “satellite slot lite”, actually two of them: on more days than not I’ve reviewed one or two Assimil lessons in bed shortly after waking up in the morning or before my head hits the pillow in the evening.
Pimsleur Japanese is a five-level, audio only course. Each level is made up of thirty lessons, thirty minutes in length. So far, I’ve worked through the second half of Level One and Levels Two, Three and a lot of Level Four. I have already bought level five.
I haven’t been sitting in an armchair attentively working through each level. Instead it’s been on through the earbuds of my phone on my daily walk or jog round the local park.
In the first half of June I completed Level Four, Lessons 23 and 24.
In the second half of the month I didn’t use Pimsleur at all.
This was simply because I switched to using the thirty to forty minutes during my daily run/walk for listening to Basque radio.
I do intend to get back to Pimsleur Level Four. I’ve already bought Level Five in readiness, as well.
Teach Yourself Japanese
Since April, I’ve also been working with the original version of Teach Yourself Japanese (C J Dunn and S Yanada) (1958, reprinted 1971).
This is a very traditional course with detailed explanation of grammar usage (always with example sentences). It’s dated but the sheer number of translation exercises make it useful for internalising structures and vocab. Handle with care though! Only recommended for experienced language learners as a supplementary resource.
In June I read and did all the translation exercises in Lessons 15 and 16.
Goals for July
That last few months my goals section has been “more of the same”.
Not so in July! 😎
As I’ve explained in earlier monthly updates, I’ve been deliberately putting off speaking on this project so far (except for attempting to use the language on my trip to Japan last October).
This was because my Basque experience suggested that it might make more sense for me to continue to limit myself to building the mental scaffolding of the language in my head and learning more vocab before I start spending money on one-to-one Skype sessions with a teacher.
Thinking in this vein, I was fully intending to continue without trying to speak for several months yet.
Then, about a week ago, I heard that John Fotheringham of Language Mastery was running a new “Japanese Accelerator” programme for July, the aim of which is to get you speaking.
I’ve known John personally for a couple of years and interviewed him over Skype for the HowtoGetFluent YouTube channel.
Before I ever met John, I’d bought his Japanese Mastery book and I was hugely impressed with the quality of the content. The sheer volume of “on point” guidance, hard info about how to learn the language and useful links testify to John’s own “mastery” of the field.
So, when I read about this “Live 4-week training course to give you the courage, strategies, language, consistency and accountability you need to start having basic but flowing conversations in just 1 month”, I thought it would be a great opportunity to give myself a bit of a push on the speaking side.
I signed right on up.
It’s a one-month programme and John recommends that participants put in at least thirty minutes a day on the tasks that he’s setting us from week to week. So will, it fits very nicely into my Japanese schedule for July and will be my main focus for July. More in the next update (maybe with some clips of the conversations with natives that we have to record a part of the programme) 🙂
By the way, I think you too would be very impressed with the advice and guidance (on motivation, methods and a whole range of Japanese materials) in John’s Master Japanese guide. For that reason, I’ve partnered with him, so that if you make a purchase through my link, it will benefit my work here at the site, at no extra cost to you. You can check out the offer here:
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on my monthly update. Also, don’t be shy to share your learning Japanese experiences in the comments below.
Here’s “Monthly update: the movie” 😉 :