Posted by: wesleysensei | August 30, 2008

Learning Japanese? Forget books!

Alright, this is just a short blog about learning Japanese during my stay in Japan. But first, I must mention other more important information….I HAVE THE INTERNET IN MY APARTMENT! That’s right, after about three weeks of figuring out how to get setup with the interweb, I am surfing the net with a decent connection as you read this. I must admit that the time from arriving in Osato to now has been amazing…except for the parts where I had to work out contracts and business deals (e.g. cell phone, internet etc.) There is definitely a long–somewhat funny–story about how I got internet service, but I will spare you from that; leave a comment if you are interested. The point is I now have the internet setup and, though it’s not the fastest, I’m glad to have it. Now on to the title of the blog.

As you may now know, undokai is this weekend. It was supposed to be today but because of rain it was postponed till Sunday. I am actually kinda glad mother nature intervened because it gave me another chance to watch the students prepare for the event. This is where the learning Japanese part comes into the story.

I came over to Japan knowing literally no Japanese. Sure I knew a couple phrases and maybe some hiragana but that doesn’t mean anything practically; I was/am illiterate and still cannot form a cognitive sentence. As a JET I received the “Japanese For JETs” workbook but that has only helped with some vocab and a phrase or two. Struggling to communicate with my coworkers, students, and community, I needed to find a way to learn Japanese, and fast!

Forget learning from books! I have found the most effective–and fun– way to learn the language is through interacting with people and using multimedia. For example, I knew how to count to ten by way of the JET book but it wasn’t until I watched the entire eighth grade class jump rope in unison that I really learned my Japanese numbers. Sure the class only ever got thirty-two jumps in a row which means I can’t count higher than that very well. What matters is that I now can count in Japanese no thanks to a book but thanks to my adventures as an ALT.

Outside of school there are tons of ways to learn Japanese without turning to a book. Turn on the t.v.!! As stated I had some knowledge of hiragana before coming to Japan; katakana, however, was completely foreign to me. It wasn’t until I started watching t.v. (and shopping at the grocery store) that I started to learn katakana. For example, watching Premier League soccer is an effective way to learn some katakana. I see a red jersey with Carlsburg written on it and I think: Liverpool. On the contrary, the team obviously was Ri-ba-pu-u-ru. Their opponent: Mi-do-ru-su-bo-ru (Middlesbrough).

I could have stuck to the books to learn Japanese but I’m finding that to learn the language I have to live it. I personally think it is more effective and if anything it is certainly more fun. I must admit though, the day I learned katakana the funnier Japanese became =P

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