Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Choosing the right method to learn

So, in my last post I talked about what to think about when trying to find a method to learn a new language. The three things were GOAL, PASSIVE KNOWLEDGE and LEARNING STYLE. These three elements are important when trying to figure out not just what method might be good for you but give you a clearer goal to work towards. Of course, you can read the whole post here: Starting out with learning a language

I'm compiling this list only to the best of my own knowledge and with what I've read about in other groups and places.
This is by no means a full list of what you can use and I'm not a teacher.

A lot of people will advise you methods because they work so well for them, what they often forget are the three points I talked about last time. Which come down to one simple thing: without knowing what the other wants you can't advise them a method to study from.

Goal: Holiday
Okay, for a start, if you're only going on holiday and need some quick guides, check Amazon for things like "Japanese Phrase Book". There are multiple versions of them like the Eyewitness Travel Guide version or the Lonely Planet version. These will most likely give you what you need for a trip to Japan. Don't worry too much about all the other things unless you want to be able to have full conversations with Japanese people, in which case you should start at least a couple of months ahead.

For all the other goals there is one thing you should do first:
Learn hiragana and katakana!!!
Even if you're not focusing on reading the language, having knowledge of the sounds they use to construct the language is important. Otherwise you might pronounce or hear words differently from how they are intended. Things like ie(house) and iie(no), make quite the difference in a sentence.
By knowing the kana (the syllable "alphabets" the Japanese language uses) you are able to construct and de construct the language easier.
Hiragana and katakana are two different scripts for the same kana, hiragana is use for japanese words and katakana for foreign words. To know the kana sounds you only need to learn one, to be able to read them you need both, plus it's always handy to know how to spell your name.
I learned hiragana through Human Japanese Lite (free android app). And then taught myself katakana through a combination of wikipedia and some other places I can't remember.
Other ways to learn this include text books, youtube, more youtube(watch your audio) and websites (just search "learn hiragana" in google, you'll find enough).
I personally don't advise to actually buy books for this since you'll get through them in a really short time and there are a lot of great resources the of cost. But you can choose for yourself.

Okay, apart from the lovely thing above I'll now go into depth for the different goals and what methods might be good.

Hearing + speaking
This isn't for everyone. This method means that you'll focus most of your time on repeating words and sentences. It is important to remember that not all of these methods use kana or kanji, a lot of them mainly use romaji to write things down, if they have any written part of it at all. This can be a great method for vocal/oral learners.
Methods I've heard that work for this: Rosetta Stone, JapanesePod101 and Pimsleur.
Method that works with a book but has more focus on pronunciation: Japanese for Busy People.

There are multiple methods for this. What I mean by reading comprehension is understanding of the kanji readings and possibly learning how to write them. Some of these methods devote time to grammar and some devote more time to it then others. Not all of these methods focus on on and kun readings, which is important when you want to speak Japanese.
Methods that focus on learning kanji:  Remembering the Kanji and Kanji Pict-O-Graphix.
Methods that seem to be popular and focus on more than just kanji: Japanese from Zero!

This is not speaking in the literal definition of the word but I mean this as being more of a focus on both grammar and/or kanji readings. The combination of these two things means that you can have conversations on an improvising level from early on. You're not bound by set sentences but learn both kanji and grammar so that you can create your own sentences and can mix and match words as you come across them.
Combi focus: An Introduction to Modern Japanese(you need both books of this).
Kanji focus: Japanese Kanji Flashcards and Basic Kanji Book.

I personally also bought two grammar books that have turned out to be quite useful as even for a beginner like me they actually make sense. They are: Japanese grammar and verbs and All about particles. I got them both second hand and really cheap and they have turned out pretty useful when I hear something and I don't know the grammar structure but I know how it's pronounced.

Of course, there are methods that do a mix of all of these things together, like Genki. But they are often more focused towards class teaching and not self study so I'm not including them in here.

I hope this was useful.
What methods are you using? Which ones do you think should be added to this list?