Sunday, May 8, 2016

Learning Japanese: immersion

You've probably heard before about how someone learned Japanese just from reading lots of manga or watching lots of anime and listening to Japanese songs. I call bullshit.

Sure, there's probably some people out there that are amazingly smart enough to do that- but I can't frickin imagine doing it. I mean, once you get to a certain level of understanding then sure, you can figure out the couple of words you don't know through context clues. But starting from not knowing anything? No way. Not for me, at least.

I feel like it doesn't even make sense to watch anime/read manga in Japanese until you're at the conversational level- as in you can basically hold a simple conversation in Japanese. At that point you'd have enough vocabulary and understanding of grammar to understand a majority of what you see- and you can look up the rest. When you try to jump into those deep waters too soon you will find that you need to look up every other word or even whole sentences. Stopping every couple of sentences to go look something up isn't really teaching you anything at all, and it can even make you feel discouraged.

People also might tell you that the only way to really progress is to be totally immersed in the language by actually going to the country its spoken in. This is also bullshit. We've obviously lived here for this long and the only things we learned through immersion were how to tell the convenience store people to heat up our bentos. Again, hearing Japanese all the time isn't going to do anything for you if you cant understand any of it- and you actually learn to just tune it all out.

The CDs that come with your textbooks, or obviously Japanese classes or tutors, can help you get exposed to listening to (and speaking in) Japanese within the context of what you understand. This is the best way to solidify those skills and build on them. If you're able to do this then definitely start speaking right away, no matter your level. They say one of the best ways to learn a language is to actually use it (at your level). There are websites that actually team you up with a native speaker of the language you're learning, like a personal tutor, so you can practice conversation at your own pace. I haven't used any so I can't really suggest one, but they're pretty easy to find online, just hunt around.

Now all that being said, I have heard of a manga that great for beginners. Its called Chi's Sweet Home and its about a kitten adopted by a young family. Through the series the Japanese is very simple and slowly progresses, perfect for learning along. I have the first book and so far I'm still at the level where I need to translate something every couple of words so I had to put it down and practice a bit more. My goal is to start reading it this summer, so I'll let you know how it goes.


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