Japanese Learning – Update 1

Books have arrived!!! (Yay!)

So a week or so ago I finally received my first batch of textbook and workbooks!

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Genki 2 is still to arrive, but it will be a while before I get around to that anyway.  I ended up ordering from Amazon.co.uk in the end, they were A LOT cheaper on amazon.jp, even with shipping.  However amazon add a customs charge which coincidently  happened to be pretty much the exact amount of what I would have saved, funny that!

I’ve not had a chance to get through much of the books so far, but thought I’d give a quick first impressions so far.

Genki 1 – Textbook & Workbook

I was keen to get to finally get my hands on this as it seems to come highly recommended by many people learning the language, and is certainly seems to make it’s way into every list, forum topic or conversation about learning Japanese.

In terms of the format and layout, so far I have found Genki to be laid out really well, the explanations of things introduced are very clear, and it seems to me to be much better than Japanese For Busy People which I used years ago.

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The early sections of the book are quite basic, covering things like greetings, time, this, that, etc.  At this stage of the book the hiragana has the romaji below it as well, this is more of a phonetic romaji to help with pronounciation rather than literal spelling.  For example とけい is spelt below as tokee rather than tokei.

Personally I have been blanking out the romaji and not paying attention to it, as it’s more beneficial to read the hiragana anyway.

As you go through there are various questions asked for you to write the answers and practice the lesson content.  There are parts where it says to do some role play of what you have learnt with other classmates, or read certain questions to each other for each to answer.  Obviously again these are orientated at if you are using this book as part of a course, for learning solo you can still read out both sides of the dialogue.  One bit that did make me laugh was a section that said ‘using what you have learnt, go around your classmates and get 5 phone numbers’.

IMAG5011The other great thing this book does is the way it introduces new vocabulary in each section, there is then a vocab section in each lesson with words that have been used in the questions / examples and new ones as well.  This is great for me as although I already know most of the basic content in the early sections, I could still learn some new words.  For example I have never ever in my lifetime used the word ‘anthropology’ in English before, but now I know it in Japanese.

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Scanning a bit further through the book the romaji disappears (thankfully), and the text changes to just hiragana and also introduces some kanji.  Now I don’t know kanji at this stage (more on that further down), but all kanji here has the furigana below, so you can still read and pronounce it.

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The vocab sections also replace the romaji with kanji as well.  There isn’t actually to much explanation on the kanji in terms of the different meanings etc, however that is because this book is not designed to teach you kanji, it just helps introduce you to it.

They actually do a separate book for that, I think called Genki Plus – Kanji look & learn, for some reason I actually forgot about the existence of this book when I ordered these! Otherwise I would have ordered it as well!

Along with the textbook I purchased the Genki 1 + 2 workbooks.  The workbook is I think actually designed for if you are using the Genki books as part of a class with a teacher, as the pages look perforated near the spine as if you are meant to be able to tear them out and hand them in for marking.

The workbook so far is really questions relating to the lessons, you just write the answers in below.  I’ve actually be writing my answers out in a notepad as I don’t wan to ruin the book, plus if I do the questions again I won’t have the answers there on the same page.

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The workbook follows the same format and phases out the romaji for kanji in the later stages (again with furigana still).  If you were not asked to buy the workbook for a class you are taking then you could do without it if you want to save the cost.  It is by no means essential as there are questions & activities in the main book.  However I am glad I got it as it adds more structure for my solo learning, and again it’s more practice.

Audio sections of Genki

The textbook and workbook both come with MP3 CDs which contain questions read out aloud to help with listening practice.  So far I can’t actually give you any idea what they are like as there has been a slight technical setback in the area, which leads me to my only criticism of Genki so far. \/

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The CDs come in a sleeve that is glued to the back cover of the book! Meaning if you try to remove it then it starts pealing / tearing the back page up with it! I guess I could cut the front of the sleeve and remove the disc that way, but the audio on the disc is available online in MP3 format, so I will just download it and leave the CDs and books intact.

Currently I have not done so as BT who were supposed to connect my proper internet tomorrow have decided they now won’t until the 24th June!! I ordered that on 16th, that’ll be 39 days for BT to do a simple connection! If you plan to change / select a new provider then DO NOT GET BT!!! Useless bunch of pricks! Completely unapologetic and couldn’t care less when I argued with them! Far as they are concerned it is perfectly acceptable that my internet that was due tomorrow has now been moved till the 24th and I will have no landline internet till then, having to pay out £75 on pocket WiFi to have internet for the next 3 weeks to cover their fuck up!

Right sorry got a bit off topic there, but BT have really pissed me off with this whole situation! Anyway onto Nihongo Challenge!

Nihongo Challenge

There are a tonne of kanji learning books out there, I opted for this one as a) I had seen a few people online recommend this one and b) I forgot Genki – Kanji look & learn existed!

For me this was an important book to get right, as kanji is difficult to learn at the best of times, so my hope is having a good book should make it easier.  I have a book called ‘Lets Learn Kanji’ and so far I haven’t found it to be that great.

Nihongo challenge is designed to cover N5 level kanji for the JLPT, also some N4 level kanji.  Overall enough for daily life should I somehow find a way to get a work visa to move to Japan.  Of course I hope to learn a lot more, but this seems a good starting point.

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The book is mostly filled with pages like the one above, where it shows the kanji, stroke order, On & Kun readings, and some examples of the kanji being used.  There are practice boxes, but again I like to keep the book as it is, so I’ve been using a notepad.

The book also gives a drawing or the pictogram the kanji originally derives from, this should be useful for remembering or understanding why some kanji are they way they are.  There are also some questions and exercises to test you on what you’ve learnt.

This book also actually gives you the translations in Korean and Portuguese (I think), so if you really want to up the challenge level you could have a shot at learning words in several languages at once! In all seriousness it’s actually quite a cleaver idea for one book to be able to teach someone reading in one of three languages, kudos to them for thinking of it.

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I haven’t really started on this book, I’m only a few pages in, but it looks promising so far.

Quick App revision

I have decided to drop the Mondly app, the daily reminders were handy, but to be honest the app itself didn’t seem that impressive.  The daily lessons were not very good, translations at times were questionable and even the quality of audio on some parts of the lessons started becoming poor.

I have though found another called Learn Japanese Word and Test, by Boreumdal Lab, this is free, gives a daily learning test, and teaches kanji.  By default it pops up with a test every time you unlock your device, but you can turn that off (which I have).

The app actually has a great simple layout It shows either a single kanji or kanji with hiragana, then it shows the furigana below, then a ? which you tap on to reveal the English translation to see if you got it correct.

It then shows a complete sentence using the word and kanji, again a click on the ? allows you to check the translation to see if you understood it.

Japanese Pod 101

I had planned to be able to give more of an insight on this by now, as I created a new account this time paying the $1 for a premium month trial with the intent of downloading a range of the podcasts before the trial ran out.  Thanks though to the incompetent idiots at BT I won’t be able to do this before that month runs out as I’ll be on my limited data useage pocket WiFi!  So I’ll have to pay another month and hopefully do it when (if) those muppets sort out my internet.

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