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Archive for the 'Japanese Grammar' Category

The 5 Aspects of a Great Japanese Course

I started searching for a Japanese course a little over 6 months ago, when I really started to get interested in language learning. I quickly discovered that there weren’t a lot of options out there for students of the language. The lion’s share of materials were aimed at people learning languages like Spanish or French.

A few of the most notable courses left me disappointed. They simply didn’t do a good job of teaching the Japanese language. Some of the most popular options didn’t really have that much to offer. In this article we’ll look at 5 aspects of a good Japanese course. We’ll also look at how JapanesePod101, is a rare exception among most courses, as it thoroughly fulfills all 5 aspects.

Afraid of Japanese Grammar

1) It isn’t afraid of Japanese grammar

In the language learning world Japanese grammar is a beast all its own. With attributes such as honorific language, a flexible word order, particles, and clause-modifiers of nouns all work together to make the Japanese grammar system incredibly fascinating, but undeniably difficult for native English speakers. A quick search on Reddit or Quora will reveal a host of puzzled Japanese learners who are doing their best trying to grapple with the language. Linguistically speaking, you can’t get much further from English than Japanese. It’s consistently ranked as one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn.

More often than not a language learning company will slap a Japanese sticker on what’s essentially a Spanish or French course. They make little to no accommodation for the mechanics of the Japanese language. Some language courses even ignore the grammatical difference entirely!

The way you learn a romance language like Spanish will not be the same way you should approach an asian language like Japanese. One thing I love about JapanesePod101 is that it dives straight into Japanese grammar from the get go. Every lesson highlights a very specific aspect of grammar as it’s used in the audio portion of the podcast, and you are given a list of explanations and example sentences to go along with it.

It’s essentially as if JapanesePod101 took the best parts of a Japanese language class and put it right at your fingertips.

Kanji

2) It doesn’t ignore Kanji or Hiragana

Just as Japanese grammar is notoriously unique, so is its writing system. In fact it’s writing system is cited as one of the most difficult in the world. This is mainly because it combines 3 different writing systems into one. Hiragana and katakana aren’t usually too hard for native English speakers to pick up, but it’s the logographic Kanji that pose the real challenge.

9 times out of 10 a Japanese course only includes romaji (Japanese written in latin script) in their learning materials. Users aren’t exposed much, if at all, to the writing system actually used in Japan. Romaji isn’t always bad, and it certainly has its uses, but it’s definitely not a substitute for actual Japanese writing.

JapanesePod101’s lesson transcripts (available in English, romaji, kanji, and hiragana) are just about the perfect tools for familiarizing yourself with the Japanese writing system while learning grammar and vocabulary. The site’s built in spaced repetition flashcard system is also ideal for committing kanji to memory.

Listening

3) Helps you listen in Japanese

Listening comprehension is an often overlooked skill when learning any foreign language, not just Japanese. It’s one thing to know words when you see them in a textbook or when you speak them. But it’s a whole different ballgame when you try to understand native speakers talking at normal speed. Syllables and sounds gets reduced or dropped and whole phrases are spoken in rapid succession. If you haven’t practiced listening to native speakers then your first Japanese conversation could be a rude awakening.

This is why good audio courses can be so powerful. If they’re worth their salt they acclimate your ear to the language gradually over time. At first the speakers talk slow and space out their words, but as the course progresses the dialogue becomes more difficult. JapanesePod101 has a great slow playback feature that allows you to listen to individual words at a regular or reduced speed. This is a superb option for easing yourself into the Japanese sound system.

Vocabulary

4) Gives you practical vocabulary

There are a lot of language courses out there that simply fail to provide you with relevant vocabulary that you can actually use in a conversation. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in the language learning world, and I’ve written extensively about language learning programs that do this. You don’t want to spend valuable time and energy learning vocabulary that you’re not likely to use, especially if you’re a beginner.

Sentences like “the cat drinks milk”, or “the man runs”, just aren’t all that useful in the real world. While there is an aspect of vocabulary that is inevitably personal (your job, personal interests, etc), there are still words, phrases, and grammatical constructions that carry over to a variety of uses. Part of the genius of JapanesePod101 is that each lesson is built around a dialogue between native speakers.

This is great because you see grammar and vocabulary in action. It’s a lot easier to remember how to make a certain sentence construction when you first heard it in a conversation. The contexts of the podcast are also highly practical. You’re talking to someone on the street, to friends in a restaurant, or maybe speaking with a loved one over the phone. Throughout the podcast series there’s a real push to learn grammar and vocabulary in a practical setting. This is a feature sorely lacking from far too many Japanese courses.

Listening

5) It should be interesting, even fun!

A dull language course is the worst. Language learning isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. At its heart the language learning process is one of continual discovery, and a good Japanese course should reflect that. Thus I appreciate the hosts in JapanesePod101, because they do a good job of engaging the listener. Even though you are learning a great deal of grammar, vocabulary, and cultural insights; their playful tone and banter help keep things lively and interesting. It’s a far cry from some older more traditional audio courses.

Final thoughts

So there you have it, 5 things to look for in a good Japanese course. Remember when learning a foreign language, using a good course or method is important; but even the best course isn’t a substitute for hard work and consistent practice. If you stay focused and put in the effort you will see your language skills improve!

How JapanesePod101 makes learning grammar easy and fun - JapanesePod101 Review

理解することはまあまあできるけど、話すのは難しい!
Understanding is alright, but speaking is hard!

Hi, my name is Noemi and this is what I have been saying for over a year whenever someone asks me about my level in Japanese.

I have tons of learning books, and I think they are all good but just too heavy to carry. My Japanese friends are helping me, but it is impossible to remember everything they are teaching me, especially in a more casual context. I also took Japanese classes for 2 years, and those are generally a great option, but not so much for my wallet.

In other words: I was stuck at my let’s say lower intermediate level and this needs to change. I am in Japan now, so it’s time to learn.

Basically, what I need is something light and inexpensive that allows me to learn at my own pace.

I started using JapanesePod101. I was afraid I would give up, but I have now been learning by myself for a few weeks and I enjoy it!

The three main reasons I like learning with JapanesePod101 are:

1. Audio Lessons
Commuting in Japan or anywhere in the world can be quite long and boring. I am getting tired of my iTunes playlist so I’ve decided not to waste my time and listen to those lessons while I’m in the subway.
What about when I don’t have any data in the subway? It doesn’t matter, because if I download the lessons I can listen to them anywhere at anytime!
I can always check the script if there are words I couldn’t catch or kanji I am wondering about.
I am not only learning Japanese, but also about important cultural points, which is really important to me in such a unique country.

You can find them here:
https://www.japanesepod101.com/index.php?cat=Introduction

2. The Grammar Bank
Grammar has always been my nightmare – in English, German, and even my native language French.
Of course, this is also my biggest problem in Japanese and the reason I can not talk fluently for more than 20 seconds. “Grammar” is therefore the first word I looked for when I signed up to JapanesePod101.
Filters can be used to study grammar points by JLPT level, category, series, and more. For each item, there are examples in both romaji and kana. Audio and explanations are also available. The Grammar Bank is an extremely useful tool for everyone struggling like me with grammar. I promise you that you will progress!

But first of all, you should check this introduction to grammar:
https://www.japanesepod101.com/japanese-grammar-introduction/

3. The Practice Tests
Checking my progress and realizing I am actually learning new grammar points, words, or kanji is one of the most important things overall.
I can make my own statistics and it actually helps me to set weekly objectives, which maintains my motivation to learn.
I like printing sheets to practice my kanji or check if I can finally reach that JLPT4 level.

There other points that I really appreciate as well:

  • If you don’t like wasting your time on complicated websites or waiting forever for a confirmation email, well JapanesePod101 is amazing, because everything is simple and fast.
  • Do you have a question? Just ask it and a JapanesePod101 staff member will answer you!
    The vocabulary. Although it’s not what I am currently focusing on, there is a 2,000-word dictionary, with examples, that you can study by subject.
  • You can easily find what you are looking for. The website is well organized by subject, level, JLPT or alphabetical order. You won’t do the same lesson twice ;)
  • It is very entertaining. As I mentioned, I am learning new vocabulary and grammar points, but at the same time, I am discovering more about Japan.
  • Kanji learning. They are my second biggest nightmare and as they are just everywhere in Japan, it’s very frustrating to understand only 20% of them. JapanesePod101 is helping me to increase this percentage though ;)
  • I am still learning, and I will keep you updated on my level in a few weeks, but I can already feel progress. This is at the same time very exciting and challenging.
  • There are other points I could talk about, but I think that everyone who is learning Japanese or wants to learn will find what they need on JapanesePod101.

    Learning languages doesn’t only look good on a resume, I believe it makes us richer too, so if you are interested in learning Japanese, definitely check JapanesePod101 out!

    Click here:
    https://www.japanesepod101.com/

    Double Your Rewards In Japanese!

    As you learn more about Japanese culture, we are sure that you will want to learn even more Japanese words and phrases! The way to experience Japan at its fullest is being able to communicate and make the best of your stay in this fascinating country. But sometimes we feel that time is short! However, did you know that you can use Japanese to learn more Japanese?  of course, you can ask for help, in Japanese!
    Remember to be polite at all times and use:

    すみません。 (  Sumimasen  )
    “excuse me.”

    We often use it to try to politely get someone’s attention if we are about to say something or ask a question.

    「 word 」 は日本語で何ですか。 (  [ word ] wa Nihon-go de nan desu ka? )
    “How do you say (word) in Japanese?”

    You can use this phrase when you don’t know what something is called in Japanese.
    If you wish, in the blank you can point and say kore wa (これは, “this”). don’t hesitate to use the ‘pointing system’, as it will help you until you have increased your vocabulary.
    If someone uses a Japanese word you dont know, you can ask:
    英語で何ですか。 (  Eigo de nan desu ka? )
    “what is it in English?”

    お 願いします。 (  Onegai shimasu. )
    “Please.”

    Onegai shimasu is a phrase that means “please.” You can use this phrase when you are asking for something or asking someone to do something for you.

    Also, you can pair the following two phrases with onegai shimasu to ask aomeone to repeat something.

    もう一度  (  Mo ichi-do  )
    “one more time”

    as well as:
    ゆっ くり   (  Yukkuri  )
    “Slowly”

    Use Japanese to learn more Japanese words as well getting used to communicating in Japanese as much as possible. Remember that practice is fundamental as you learn, and it will Help you create not only fun memories, but maybe might start the beginning of an awesome friendship!

    I Marge Am

    You may have noticed that Japanese sentences’ word order are different from English. Yet, although it may sound odd to say “I Marge am”, don’t be discouraged about it, it is just a matter of learning Japanese sentence structure and soon it will become second nature. Remember that to Nihon-jin our word order for “My name is Marge” must be strange too!

    What is Nihon-jin? Nihon-jin is the way to say “Japanese person”.
    in Japanese, to express nationality, you add the word for person, jin ( 人 )to the name of a country. Let’s take a look at some examples.

    日本 (Nihon)  (jin )= 日本人  “Japanese person”

    in the same way:

    ア メリカ (Amerika) +  人 (jin )アメリカ人 (Amerika-jin)  “American person”

    イギリス
    (Igirisu)  + (jin )=  イギリス人  (Igirisu-jin)   “English person”

    in total, you can say:
    (私は)アメリカ人です。
     (Watashi wa) amerika-jin desu.
     I’m American.

    Note that when talking about yourself, it is not necessary to say “watashi wa”, as it is implied that you are talking about your own nationality in this case.

    Easy enough? Talking Japanese step by step you will realize that although the grammar and structure might seem different, it makes sense in its own way.  now that you know some basic introduction and important ice-breaking introductions, go ahead and take that trip confidently! It only gets more interesting from here!

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