to learn Japanese

Japanese Reading Practice with Children's Books

On using children's books for Japanese reading practice, with a healthy dose of otaku shopping thrown in for good measure.

Challenging My Real Time Listening Comprehension

image Sensei and her teaching assistants have started to play CD's containing Japanese conversations in real time. Our task has been to see just how much we can pick out. The answer? Not much.

Nothing makes it so blatantly clear just how far we have to climb than listening to that CD. It made it obvious just how much sensei and her assistants have slowed down their speech for us.

On the first pass, we caught the odd word. By the third pass, we were able to catch phrases - so long as the CD was paused after each phrase!

The question now becomes, "How to practice this at home during the week?" Here are a few ideas that sensei, my classmates and I have come up with:

  • listen to Japanese radio shows
  • listen to Japanese music
  • watch Japanese shows - raw, or without looking at the subtitles

The trick is to listen to the track several times, to see if you can pick out a little bit more each time. むずかしい です ね?

Levelling Up My Japanese

When I first sang a Japanese song at karaoke, I read off a sheet that I printed with the lyrics in Romaji. It was truly a magical moment last year, when I cracked open my Inuyasha music book and could actually read the lyrics to one of my fave songs: I did the happy dance when I realized that I could read the Japanese characters to one of my favourite songs in real time (that is, in time to the music). Photo by R-M Arca.

What a difference a year makes! Now that I'm in Level 2, I have truly levelled up. These are the chords and lyrics to a song that I will be performing in the near future:

This year's challenge: Can I read the kana fast enough to sing the lyrics AND play the music in tempo? Photo by R-M Arca.

Now I could bring the Romaji and keep it close by. However, that defeats the purpose of being able to perform music in Japanese. Go big or go home.

The next challenge of course will be comprehension [Must work on vocabulary!].

Incorporating a New Language into Daily Life

They say that one of the best ways to learn a new language is to completely immerse yourself  into the language and the culture.  I would  love be in Japan for six months to learn Japanese, but I can't. For many of us, it's impractical to drop everything and go live in another country for an extended period of time. The challenge then becomes "How can I immerse myself here?" For me, I've found some success with  writing more "everyday" items in Japanese. First, I started by writing short, simple notes to family and friends who were taking Japanese classes with me. Then, I tried writing my students' names in Katakana on my schedule and planning lists. I've graduated to writing out my "To Do" List and grocery list in Japanese.

The first time I went shopping with a grocery list in Japanese (pre-Smartphone) was extremely challenging. Photo by R-M Arca.

The "pièce de résistance " is my waterproof keitai. I labelled all my folders in Japanese:

Labelling things | look at everyday in Japanese helps me study when I don't have time to study with my workbook.  Photo by R-M Arca.