Archive for January, 2011

2nd Day of Class

For our second lesson of class, we learned the rest of Hiragana which are the modified versions using the ゛ (dakuten) and ゜(handakuten) and use of the small y’s. For dakuten though we used the term てんてん (tenten), which is literally like “dot dot” and まる (maru) which is literally is “circle”. I assume we used them as they might be easier to use or relate to then using the “technical” term (kinda like in English, not many people use the actual terms of punctuation). For the use of the small y’s, we did a comparison of おおき (big) and ちいさい (small). We only briefly touched on っ/ッ, a small tsu which is a sukuon, when talking about コップ (KOPPU). I assume we will get back on that later in the course.

Preview Lesson / First Day of Class

My first day at Japanese class went pretty well. Since I forgot to blog about the preview class and since the first class is like an extended version of it, I am going to lump together my thoughts in one post.

A note though regarding my thoughts. I have self-studied a bit of Japanese through videos, audio tracks and books. So I am going in the class with more knowledge of the language, even though it is a Elementary Level 1 course.

I am glad the school offered a “preview” class (which I took last year) as it gives a chance to see if the teaching style works well for the person. So if you are looking around for a school, you might as well try the preview lesson as it is free.

The class is taught in full immersion environment. Basically it means all Japanese and no English. You have to read, write and speak only in Japanese. I like this method because it basically forces you to learn only in Japanese. Anyway that’s how kids learn a language. You have to learn through the pictures, expressions and gestures to “decode” the language. Also as you know, there will always have a loss in translation when converting English to Japanese and vice-versa. There are some words don’t really translate well or have a good equivalent. Japanese also have words that mean differently based on the context of the situation and other cases where another word is better suited even if the basic meaning is the same. Like one example is there are many ways to apologize in Japanese.

You are expected to know Hiragana when going to the first class so you will have to do some self study before hand. They do provide you with websites, flash cards, the character chart and stroke order to learn the Hirgana. I kinda wished though that they could of offered a basic prep course on speaking, reading and writing Hirgana. As I wanted to know if I am pronouncing and writing it correctly. My handwriting by the way is pretty horrible. I think that is also due to the fact, that I have never actually wrote notes since high school. This is because I am programmer and during college and at work, all I used was a computer to “write”.

The class is small which is good as big classes would of made it harder to focus. I think it was about 12 people. An issue though is since the building is on top of the subway, I sometimes get distracted by the rumbling.

The first lesson is a basic conversion of “What is this?” and “Is this <blank>?” where blank is various simple items like a book, umbrella, etc. Some of the items are the foreign loan words like a camera is カメラ (KAMERA) which sounds like the English word. I don’t know if Japanese kids learn the foreign words in Hiragana as they are normally written in Katakana. I assume that they do as well.

We then learn about when asking about something based on the distance of the person. これ (KORE) for when it is close, それ (SORE) for when it is close to the listener and あれ (ARE) when it is far away. This all done though gestures so you have to “decode” the meaning. (But I knew about since I read about it before).

We then go into groups and do all the above using flash cards of items so that we learn more on the speaking aspect. The cards had items most of us had no idea what it is in Japanese that we had to read the Hiragana. I think the hard part is knowing if we are pronouncing it correctly but the teacher passes by each group and we get to ask him about it (in Japanese of course).

The class was overall fun. At the end, you actually not suppose to ask questions as part of the immersion is to try to analogize. I think for some people, they may find that to be very difficult. Like some questions I think for most people might be thinking after the first class are…

  • The pronunciation of the Rs as it sounds between a L and a R.
  • The pronunciation of を (WO) as it can be pronounced as O.
  • I think the biggest question for most is why is WA written as は (HA) like in これは (KORE WA).

I guess due to my nature of wanting to know answers, I generally look for and read about the answers to get a deep understanding of “Why?”. I found the answers though on the internet and a book my boss gave about it. Like the WO and WA, is due to when it is a particle in a sentence. The way it is taught in class is like “this is how it is” kinda like learning all the special “rules” of English. I think the only way to learn the deeper meaning (knowing about that it is a particle) is explaining it English though. I don’t know if we will learn deep understanding of the sentence structure in the later courses or not. But it does remind me of my French classes in Elementary and High School. Like I don’t know which word is a particle, preposition or such, but I compose out some phrases (very limited though).

Overall though it was a fun and great learning experience. Now I got to continue practice Katakana (as I still not 100% of knowing all the character unlike my Hiragana) and my handwriting (which looks very ugly ;_;).

Learning Japanese

This coming week I will be starting my first class at Aitas Japanese Language School in Toronto. It been a while since I was in school. Especially a very long time since I have to be writing in a book (as programming class only needed a laptop to take notes).

I’ve actually been self-studying the language through a video series (which I can’t remember the name currently), an audio CD (Pimsleur) and books (Japanese for Busy People). However, I decided to go to a real school because I feel I should learn a solid “base” of the language. As well, I don’t get “feedback” especially for speaking (which mispronouncing can totally change the meaning).

Why Japanese?

  • Always been a personal interest. I like the Japanese culture. I also have many books, mangas, games and other stuff in Japanese. It would be really nice to understand many of them 😉
  • My personal site which deals with collections will be mainly focused on my hobbies initially and as such would be easier to input if I had Japanese knowledge.
  • I do plan to visit Japan sometime (don’t know exactly when). I think knowing the basic language would make the trip more enjoyable then wandering aimlessly.

Why this school?

  • Location. As it will be a night class, it will have to be easily accessible via public transit and close to my work.
  • Specialized in Japanese. All this school does is the Japanese language.
  • Native Japanese teachers. I think this is important in any language school. I think there will be a slight “loss in translation” in a sense if the person was not Japanese or was not brought up in Japan. Things like accent and such. Like for me, I can probably teach English as that is what I learned as a kid and throughout my life. But if I teach Tagalog (my birthplace’s language), I don’t think I can do it properly even if I studied the whole language. As even though I was born in the Philippines, I never grew up in a Tagalog-language environment.
  • Immersion. The school focuses on a Japanese language only environment.

My 2nd choice for school was Seneca College (which I studied for my Computer Programming class). However I didn”t for 2 reasons…

  1. The classes don”t seem to get enough enrollment. This is an issue because most people will take the first introductory course but as the course goes on, the enrollment would drop down and can result to the cancellation of the class. This is  usually due to finding out it is not for them or loss of interest. This is an issue for me because I plan to take as many courses as possible. Also if I take the first course and the second course is canceled due to low enrollment then I lose a semester of learning. By the time the second course is available, I already loss my knowledge from the 1st. Aitas (but I believe any course as well) also has the slowing down of enrollment as it progresses but it seems to maintain to at least the intermediate level courses.
  2. Location. The first course is offered in Seneca@York which would be more convenient for me. But the later courses are only offered in the Newnham campus which is further east.

Other choices were Japanese Canadian Culture Centre (which seems good because they also have other Japanese related classes) and Toronto Japanese Language School (says it been here since 1949 but I haven”t heard anyone talk about this school though). York University has a Japanese course (and seems pretty popular as I seen non-Canadian sites even referencing it”s material) but doesn”t have any night/part-time course. Ryerson seem to no longer provide a Japanese course. If you know of any other schools, please feel free to leave a comment.

I will (hopefully) be posting my experience, struggles and opinions as I go through the course in future posts.