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Being taught Japanese in Japanese

Posted: October 12th, 2008 1:43 am
by jkid
I'm not exactly sure how this could work effectively. If you're learning a language at an educational institution you obviously haven't grasped the language to a fluent level. Given this, how is it that many teachers (including my current one) feel that it is possible to teach Japanese in Japanese with no English allowed and grammatical explanations being explained in Japanese?

I can understand how, after mastering the basics it is possible to follow (partly) what is being said. However, I think it is a bit silly to explain grammar in Japanese and to not allow questions to be asked in English.

This is the first class I have enrolled in that is taught all in Japanese. My previous classes have had a lot of Japanese but the grammar explanations were always in English and questions were allowed to be asked in English.

Posted: October 12th, 2008 6:32 am
by WalterWills
I've been taking Japanese lessons for a few months now, and my teacher speaks to me solely in Japanese, and I have to speak back in Japanese.

I get on fine though...I understand 90% of what she says and anything I don't understand, she can explain it in an easier way.

Given the fact that I rarely have an opportunity to converse in Japanese I much prefer it this way.

As for explaining grammar, I think most things can be explained using diagrams and pictures.

What about English schools in English-speaking countries where the students all speak different languages- Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean etc etc all in the same classroom?

What kind of things are you being taught?

Posted: October 12th, 2008 2:46 pm
by jkid
What about English schools in English-speaking countries where the students all speak different languages- Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean etc etc all in the same classroom?

I guess that is a factor to take into account. A lot of the people in my course are not perhaps able to speak English.

What kind of things are you being taught?

It's interesting actually, we jump from what I would consider lower intermediate to basic grammar for example, last lesson we learn about the っけ ending and then we procceded to learn ADJそうです.

Posted: October 12th, 2008 6:16 pm
by Belton
The immersive communicative method is the usual way of learning a language now I think.
The older way would use a lot of English (or whatever your first language is) and would have a lot of written translation work (exam orientated) rather than productive spoken language.
I think it requires much more skill from the teacher.

My Japanese classes were in Japanese (mostly).
We all got a shock the first day when everyone thought that the teacher couldn't speak English because she arrived speaking Japanese to us when we had zero Japanese skills!
All the grammar and vocabulary were taught through Japanese with a lot of pictures, gestures and acting. The last 10 minutes or so were given over to "Lets speak English and Japanese" where things were clarified, but the rule for the majority of the class was No English. We probably could have done without the English bit and it got less and less as the classes progressed over the years.

Basic, Intermediate and Advanced language are kind of arbitrary distinctions. You need the language you need to perform a task. So it could jump around a bit. The only thing I can see as making these distinctions is Advanced language builds on the structures in Intermediate and Basic. it's easier to learn ta form if you've learnt te form, easier to make tara construction if you know ta form and so on. Perhaps your teacher wants to make sure of a more basic grammar point in order to build on it.

Even in Japanese you jump in at a more advanced level of masu form, because it is immediately useable in all situations, rather than the more basic plain form which might be more useful to build grammar explanations on but is less useful in trying to speak to Japanese as an adult stranger.

English lessons are usually like this with no chance of explanations in your mother tongue because there are so many different learners. Most web sites I see for English are in English too. It's strange but it works. Maybe the student just has to do a bit more research on their own. The hardest leap is to get to a place where you can talk about the language and definitions in the target language.

(It could be like the Tom Cruise method of Japanese where you go from mimi and hana to fluent Japanese sufficient to talk to samurai nobles over the course of a winter while held captive in a remote village.... )

Also, I don't think CLT is used much for English in Japanese schools. Maybe that might be part of why after 5 years of English in school Japanese still feel they can't speak English.

Posted: October 12th, 2008 10:03 pm
by jkid
Thanks so much for such an in depth reply and the link as well.

You said that you have a little bit of time where both English and Japanese can be spoken to clarify things. We don't even get that! :)

I guess my teacher has really taken this "communicative method" to heart. :)

Posted: October 15th, 2008 2:49 am
by johnpa
I imagine the effectiveness of this method depends on factors such as class size, teacher's skill, students' learning style and curriculum. I don't believe it can stand on its own.

I'm a beginner (Lesson 91 in the japanesepod series) and for the past six weeks, I've been going to a tutor to help me grasp Japanese syntax and grammar. The only "English" I ever use is katakana words that I make up for locations and brand names. And the only English I ever hear is "Good guess!", whenever I get something completely wrong.
For me this is working out great. Probably because:
a) I'm not good with abstract concepts. So an English "explanation" is not nearly as clear as Japanese examples.
b) My tutor is very skillful at communicating with cartoon figures, diagrams and algebraic symbols.
c) His lessons follow a very logical, building block progression. (ie. verb conjugations ---> auxilaries ---> sentance patterns ---> dialogues)
And, probably most importantly, d) every lesson is 100% one-on-one.

On the other hand... Years ago I took an ESL class, with at least 40 other students. It was taught by an inexperienced instructor who followed a seemingly random curriculum. My level was supposedly upper-intermediate, but — even though I had no problems with the vocabulary my instructor used — I couldn't grasp any of the concepts he was trying to get across.
I think the only students that learned anything were those of us that formed little study groups to work the material out on our own, after class.

Posted: October 15th, 2008 5:08 pm
by untmdsprt
I've had a Japanese teacher that spoke nothing but English to me. I got tired of wasting my money going to class for this. I'm paying them to teach me Japanese! I finally decided the money spent for the Premium lessons on Jpod101 is well worth it.

I'll usually create playlists that filter out the long English dialogs, and listen to the Japanese only. It's helped immensely, and when I need the grammar I'll go back and listen to the grammar section.

If you ever find a teacher that can speak to you in the language you're learning and you never need to use your native language, hang onto that person and certainly recommend them to others. They are a rare find!!!!

Posted: October 17th, 2008 11:49 pm
by jkid
Thank you for your response. As the lessons have continued and I have spent more time here in Tokyo I have found this method of instruction to beneficial if only because instead of always talking English (to the teacher, classmates etc) I find myself using Japanese because with the teacher speaking Japanese my brain goes into "Japanese mode" (I don't know if that makes any sense). I do sometimes find myself needing an English explanation but that is what the grammar bank is for. :) Of course, if the teacher can see I really don't understand then (at least on one occasion she has used 'a little' English).

Posted: October 22nd, 2008 2:27 pm
by KikoSoujirou
complete immersion is awesome and super effective. While in the beginning you may feel completely overwhelmed and unable to understand anything, when you get through it you'll look back and think the same as me, it's great.
Because your completely immersed it gets your brain a jumping and working faster. You are forced to lean back on instincts and familarities which in turn will allow you to grasps the likenesses and differences in the languages. In the beginning you'll seem like you are not getting anything and words are flying by but later on you'll find that it's easier to recall words, remembering how to say certain things yet not knowing exactly how you know that. The more you use it, the quicker you learn it. not being able to use english..while frustrating, is an excellent way to boost that japanese usage.

think of it like being a baby. When babies first start out, they're mashin words together and only able to use some, the more common words they hear and the meanings they understand, but as they remain in that complete immersion, they quickly learn the language, the ins and outs, and you get a better thinking in the language, as in, you'll start thinkin in japanese instead of english after awhile inorder to respond and understand quicker.

while some think it's kind of silly or stupid, the benefits of it can't be beat. It's absolutely awesome. especially when you all of a sudden realize you can understand things, but you'r not really sure how you came about that knowledge.

hopefully you can understand my post :S (w)

Posted: October 22nd, 2008 5:05 pm
by jkid
Thank you very much for your reply. I have been taking the class for about 4 weeks now and I am already starting to become more accustomed to the Japanese only teaching environment. Hopefully as you say by the end of the course the benefits of complete immersion will be even more obvious.

Posted: October 22nd, 2008 8:42 pm
by untmdsprt
jkid wrote:KikoSoujirou-san,
Thank you very much for your reply. I have been taking the class for about 4 weeks now and I am already starting to become more accustomed to the Japanese only teaching environment. Hopefully as you say by the end of the course the benefits of complete immersion will be even more obvious.

Where are you going? Sounds like something I'd be interested in. PM me if you want and give me the details. I'd like to find a Japanese teacher that will speak nothing but Japanese to me.

I know what you mean about Japanese mode. I switch to English mode as soon as I enter the school grounds where I work. As soon as I leave, I switch back to Japanese.