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New to languages learning Japanese

  Tags: Beginner | Japanese
 Language Learning Forum : Advice Center Post Reply
9 messages over 2 pages: 1 2  Next >>
United Kingdom
Joined 1692 days ago

1 posts - 1 votes

 Message 1 of 9
21 October 2015 at 9:38am | IP Logged 
HI all,

first post here so be gentle.

Learning a second language has long been a dream of mine and since starting Karate a while back it's become more and more of an interest.

I'd love one day to travel to Japan for authentic Karate experience, which makes my aim of learning Japanese all the more useful.

I'd really enjoy hearing anyone's tips for how to get started. I drive a lot for work and also lots of time on flights - I'd like to dedicate this time to learning if possible so if there are any good CDs then please do let me know
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2413 days ago

499 posts - 1080 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 2 of 9
21 October 2015 at 2:16pm | IP Logged 
Welcome to the HTLAL Forum!

I greatly appreciate your enthusiasm for your two projects. Unfortunately, as I have not studied Japanese, I can offer only the most cursory of advice.

My first suggestion is that you register in the "new" HTLAL Forum. Here is the LINK: New HTLAL Forum which, owing to the difficulties associated with the maintenance of the present Forum, was created as an alternative. Many of the "more active" HTLAL Forum Members have registered under the new Forum using their old User Names. If you were to open account on the new Forum, and post your question there as well, it is quite possible that you would receive more responses.

My second suggestion is that you conduct a "G-Search" of the HTLAL Forum using the "SEARCH" button at the top of the page. Simply enter "Japanese" as your search criterion and execute the search. It will yield ALL of the discussion threads that touch upon the subject. As you will quickly see, sifting through the discussion threads will take quite a lot of time. Nonetheless, the FIRST discussion thread listed is the Japanese Profile which I hope you find interesting.

As to "outside" blogs, while I can no longer remember what motivated me, it appears that I saved the following LINK: Advice on Learning Japanese.

I will refrain from offering advice on any specific materials for learning Japanese. However, having earned (eons ago) a black belt in Judo and a green belt in Karate, and having boxed and wrestled, I will say the following: Karate is a fine unarmed fighting style; however, many of its adherents suffer from a LACK OF EFFECTIVE PRACTICE. That is, while they might very well "master" the moves through Katas and sparring, even in their so-called competitions, they NEVER land a punch and they NEVER have to absorb one. For this reason, adherents of Karate can often be defeated by practitioners of "lesser" martial arts forms such as boxers who, from the very first lesson, strap on the gloves and have a go at one another. I mention this because ...

When learning a language, you can practice drills and study for years and, admittedly, achieve a certain "theoretical" knowledge of the target language. However, upon your first "contact" with native speakers, in a wide-ranging conversation, you can easily become overwhelmed. Conversation with native speakers is something like stepping into a boxing ring, it is only through taking and landing an awful lot of punches that you develop the speed necessary to hold your own. So then, while you are embarking on a very interesting project, bear in mind that, at some point, you're going to get your nose bloodied and that this is part of the learning process. I expect that other Forum Members who have studied Japanese will advise you on study materials and methods as well as when and how to PRACTICE the language with tutors, SkyType language partners, et al.

Good luck with your studies!

Edited by Speakeasy on 21 October 2015 at 9:30pm

2 persons have voted this message useful

Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 3026 days ago

1185 posts - 1513 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian*, French
Studies: Japanese

 Message 3 of 9
21 October 2015 at 2:59pm | IP Logged 
Hudson1984 wrote:
HI all,

first post here so be gentle.


Hudson1984 wrote:
I'd really enjoy hearing anyone's tips for how to get started.

Just dive right in I guess?

I started by learning the hiragana (and then katakana) using some sites on the web: it takes a week or two (and then lots of practice!).

After that it depends on how you want to proceed. I (luckily) found a native speaker who was willing to offer tuition. That started me off on the Minna No Nihongo
series. Looking back, if I hadn't had that help I think I might have been better off with Japanese for Busy People.

Hudson1984 wrote:
I drive a lot for work and also lots of time on flights - I'd like to dedicate this time to learning if possible so if there are any good CDs then
please do let me know

I started off with Pimsleur (no grammar, lost of talking) and Michel Thomas (grammar, less talking), both of which I found in the local library.

After that I started working through the material from the Premium subscription was about £100 (there are lots of offers, and, sadly, lots of
spammy email for a while) and the whole shebang can be downloaded via iTunes with just a few clicks. There are sample lessons available. The lessons and dialog tracks
are ideal for a commute.

1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2413 days ago

499 posts - 1080 votes 
Studies: German

 Message 4 of 9
21 October 2015 at 5:11pm | IP Logged 
I'm back with a few additional comments.

As dampingwire suggested, the Pimsleur and Michel Thomas all-audio programmes are a good place to start. While they provide only a very basic introduction to a given target language, they do a very good job at providing a base on which to build and, perhaps more importantly, build one's confidence.

While digging around on the Internet, I came across the JA Connection Bookstore which seems to specialize in materials pertaining to the Japanese language and culture. Also, the Cheng & Tsui company offers materials for studying Japanese; however, I suspect that most of their materials are designed for use in the classroom.

Although the DLI Japanese Headstart course available on the FSI Language Courses is limited, I have posted this link so that you might be aware of the database itself.

I would draw your attention most particularly to the two volume textbook series Beginning Japanese by Eleanor Harz Jorden because, while the book is somewhat dated and while the author deliberately chose to use what-has-since-been-decried as an "impure" teaching method involving the use of a Romanized text which must be latter discarded, the AUDIO-LINGUAL METHOD might suit your learning style. That is, the "basic dialogues", which are analogous to Karate Kata, are broken down into numerous "sentence-pattern drills", which are analogous to the repetitive kicking, punching, striking, and blocking drills that are often employed in the teaching of the basic movements of Karate. The author believed that it was easier for English-speakers to learn "spoken" Japanese first, to be followed by "written" Japanese later, for which she also published two books. As it happens, I have a PDF and MP3 version of this course. If you wish to communicate with me concerning these materials, I suggest that you send me a "Private Message".

I am also providing you with the link to the Indiana University CeLT Recorded Archives which contains some very interesting materials some of which are available to the public. By searching the Internet, one can often locate new or used copies of the accompanying textbooks.

I would point out that there has been some confusion over which course is being referred to when one speaks of "FSI Japanese". My sources indicate that courses identified as "FSI Japanese" or "Barron's Mastering Japanese" are, in fact, the "Beginning Japanese" course by Eleanor Harz Jorden that I mentioned above.

For your general information, Barron's Educational was one of several publishing houses that issued editions of a number of the "FSI" courses. The Barron's editions were published as "Barron's Mastering ..." and they duly noted the source of the materials. However, Barron's also published the "Beginning Japanese" course by Eleanor Harz Jorden and linked it to the FSI. I do not know why they did this, as the original publisher was Yale University Press and presumably held the copyrights whereas the FSI merely adopted for training purposes as they had done for some other language courses. So then, should you come across a recommendation to use either "FSI Japanese" or "Barron's Mastering Japanese", bear in mind that these courses are, in fact, the "Beginning Japanese" course by Eleanor Harz Jorden.

Finally, to add to the confusion, yes, the FSI did eventually publish a Japanese course of their own, entitled "FSI Japanese FAST" for which the textbook, without the audio, is available on the "FSI Language Courses" website. Should you ever come across the audio recordings for this course, please let us all know, as we would appreciate the opportunity to host them on the forenamed website.

Edited by Speakeasy on 21 October 2015 at 10:52pm

1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 1898 days ago

36 posts - 42 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Japanese

 Message 5 of 9
26 October 2015 at 10:41pm | IP Logged 
There are a lot of methods out there for learning Japanese. In the beginning you'll
probably need to go through some trial and error to see what method produces results
for you, fits into your daily schedule, and doesn't burn you out.

Some of the more popular methods out there are:

3. Assimil
4. JapanesePod101

For textbooks you've got

1. Genki
2. Teach Yourself
3. Japanese For Everyone

When I get more time I'll try and post some additional advice, but for now I'd
research the stuff I listed above, download ANKI, and look at purchasing Remember The
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3902 days ago

235 posts - 453 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Dutch, Norwegian, Japanese

 Message 6 of 9
27 October 2015 at 5:23am | IP Logged 
And I'd just like to note that by "Japanese for Everyone" I'm assuming Solaren means Minna no Nihongo
(which basically translates to Japanese for Everyone). I make that distinction because there is a
textbook series called Japanese for Everyone that is very different than Minna no Nihongo and
published by Gakken (Minna no Nihongo is published by 3A Corporation) and also harder to find (the
main book is easy enough but the work and kanji books are hard to find and the audio isn't available
1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 1898 days ago

36 posts - 42 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Japanese

 Message 7 of 9
27 October 2015 at 5:54am | IP Logged 
Thanks for the clarification. I thought they were the same textbooks because of the name. I
actually haven't used them. for textbooks I personally have genki on hand and I'm working my
way through japanese sentence patterns for effective communication, which is absolutely
fantastic and I highly recommend it.
1 person has voted this message useful

United States
Joined 1898 days ago

36 posts - 42 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Japanese

 Message 8 of 9
27 October 2015 at 6:42am | IP Logged 
Okay, so I have a few more minutes to give my take on getting the best start you can
with Japanese. I hope that you find some of this helpful.

First off, Japanese is hard. I'm not sure if it's as hard as some people make it out
to be, but it's a lot different than English. Some things aren't so hard though. For
example, pronunciation is relatively easy. That's a plus. Kana is also relatively
easy. It looks way more difficult than it really is. All you need are a few hours of
study with some flashcards and you'll be able to read kana comfortably.

If your goal is to learn how to say some basic phrases that could be useful on a trip
to Japan and make yourself relatively understood, that's actually not too hard.
Pimsleur and Michel Thomas are both good audio methods to help you get to that level.
Don't expect to easily understand what people say back to you though, that's going to
be harder.

If you aren't planning on going to Japan, those audio methods are still great to help
you build confidence and give you a very basic introduction to the language. I've
completed Michel Thomas Japanese and Level 1 of Pimsleur. Pimsleur in particular will
really help your pronunciation in the beginning. Michel Thomas not as much. Also
you'll want to strangle some of the students in Michel Thomas by the end of it.

If you come out of one of those audio programs and want to learn more, or you are just
really dedicated from the start, here's the path I recommend. It's not the easy path,
but it's an efficient path. A good path. A path that will build a strong foundation in
the language.

1. Download Anki. It's a free flaschard program that uses spaced repetition. It also
connects to your phone, and you can download lots of premade flashcard decks.

2. Find a deck for Kana on the anki shared deck site. I'm sure there are several.

3. Complete that deck as fast as possible, shouldn't take you longer than a week if
you dedicate the time to it.

4. Buy a used textbook online. Genki is awesome. Teach Yourself(EDIT: I looked on
amazon and it seems Teach Yourself may be out of print or hard to get. In which case
Living Language has good reviews, comes with audio CD's and is very reasonably priced,
so it may be a good one to look at) and Minna No Nihongo
are also spoken highly of. Work your way through the first few chapters of this
textbook with your newfound knowledge of kana. Stop when you get bored. This will
become a reference for you.

5. Buy a used copy of Remembering The Kanji and use the free flashcard app on the
Reviewing the Kanji website. There are also Anki decks you can use for this. Dedicate
time every day to learning to recognize the Kanji. You don't need to learn the
readings right now, or how to write them, just learn to recognize them. This is so

6. Keep working your way through the grammar and vocabulary in your textbook. Enter
sentences from the textbook into Anki to review later. Try to make progress every
single day if you can, even if it's just a few sentences into Anki each day.

This is your foundation for your first 3-6 months. From here you can do a few things:

1. You can try the AJATT / JALUP method of learning which is focused on putting
thousands of sentences into Anki. There are a lot of premade decks for this, but I
promise the sentences you will remember best are the ones you do yourself. Something
to think about. AJATT / JALUP are excellent sites to read for more information on that

2. You can buy a subscription to JapanesePod101. I'm a subscriber, I have worked out a
study method that really works for me. The nice thing about Japanesepod is you can
listen to it on your commute, enter sentences from each lesson into anki and review
them. If you've finished RTK this is a great way to build reading, vocabulary, and
listening from a single source.

3. You can purchase Assimil. Make sure to get it with the Audio. It's a method that
works very well for a lot of people. However, I found the dialogs boring compared to
JapanesePod. That said, the price is right and it can really give you a solid
foundation. You can also listen to it in the car to review.

As long as you do the foundation I layed out earlier with buying at least 1 textbook
and RTK, either of those 3 methods can take you very far if they work for your
learning style. There's someone on this forum who went from RTK and Assimil, into
native materials with the help of a few additional grammar resources and some time
with parallel texts.

I know lots of people who have had success with sentence methods like AJATT and JALUP
too, so it really depends on your learning style. Hope all this helps, good luck!

Edited by solaren on 27 October 2015 at 6:54am

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