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learning Japanese before trip--study materials?

learning Japanese before trip--study materials?

Jul 8th, 2008, 10:55 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 10
learning Japanese before trip--study materials?

My husband and I are planning to go to Japan for 2wks in October and we are both interested in learning as much Japanese as we can before we leave. What study materials should we use? There are so many things out there that it's totally overwhelming. My husband is wanting to grab all of these books and read them and listen to the Pimsleur and I think it's a little overambitious.
philosophin is offline  
Jul 8th, 2008, 11:31 PM
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Whatever you select, be sure it has an audio component so you can hear correct pronunciation. If you mispronounce even the most basic word like "Arigatou" (thank you), you are more often than not completely not understood.


These two links are pretty good for beginners.

KimJapan is offline  
Jul 9th, 2008, 06:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,100
I've been studying Japanese with a private teacher for quite some time but recently on another discussion board, japanesepod101 was mentioned. I think it is really good. You can do a free week and see what it has to offer. Since I am studying Japanese long-term I lucked out and got a six month membership on sale. Plus if you wait til the last minute of your free week, they will probably offer you a good deal to renew. ;-)
Mara is offline  
Jul 11th, 2008, 10:52 PM
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thanks y'alls
philosophin is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 03:01 AM
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Unless you are willing to spend an unusually large amount of time and money between now and October, it is very unlikely that you can become conversational -- that is, be able to understand and be understood with a reasonably sized vocabulary. (A 6-year-old, for example, typically has a 10,000-word vocabulary.)

It would probably be more realistic to learn well some key phrases and accept the knowledge that you'll be unable to understand most any response that you get in Japanese. I can assure you that any phrases that you, as a Westerner, do speak in Japanese will be well received.

DonTopaz is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 07:48 AM
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I agree with all of the excellent advice above. Probably most important is to at least master the courtesies of being in a different culture (thank you; please; yes/no; excuse me...) and things that make you most comfortable (in my husband's case -- the words for beer, or a preferred brand.)

We found that almost everyone could understand the phrase, said in English, "Do you speak English?" The response was always "Yes," "No," or "A little." We took it from there.

The basic issue with learning any language is that even if you can say a few phrases, can you understand any responses? While I'll never discourage learning a foreign langugage, 'best to keep it simple if you will only have limited time and need to use the language.

We also relied a lot on carrying a notepad and paper; notes from the hotel about any strong preferences (in my case, "Please do not put any egg on my food," a note written in Japanese by the concierge, and given to waiters) etc.

You might also learn a phrase or word for menu items you know are favorites, e.g. scallops. We often found menus that would have the category in Engligh (seafood) but the actual 8-10 items were all in Japanese. Asking for scallops helped the process. Also: it often helped to have our English-Japanese book with us.

On occasion, we'd take out the book, and the waiter would point to items inthe book that we were considering (e.g. if the menu had pictures, or if the restaurant had the plastic food examples in the window. We would guess what was in the dish, and ask the waiter for verification. We did not spend a lot of time with this as we did not want to be pests. We are adventurous, but not THAT adventurous with some foods (we really dislike cuttlefish, and wanted to verify if that was the seafood in a dish.)

The waiters and service providers and basically everyone we met in Japan was extremely polite and helpful, but we only like to test their patience so far.

A notepad also helped in some cases when we were not sure about what was in a dish. It is amazing how well a waitress could quickly draw a a crab, an eggplant, etc.
madameX is offline  
Jul 12th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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Agree -- a notepad was of huge benefit in Thailand, and I figure I'll get the same benefit in Japan.

This thread made me investigate the Japanese-language free offerings on iTunes. Today I've really been enjoying the short lessons from the Survival Japanese podcast -- really helps to hear "arigato gozaimasu" pronounced! And it's free!
tahl is offline  
Jul 15th, 2008, 03:28 AM
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"A 6-year-old, for example, typically has a 10,000-word vocabulary."

Wow. Amazing. Now I finally understand why my 6yo daughter is such a chatterbox!
W9London is offline  
Jul 19th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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philosphin, first off I think it's a wonderful idea. I have been trying to take basic language lessons prior to each of our big trips in the past few years and found that it makes the trip so much more rewarding as you can connect with the locals and often get to do and see things that would be unlikely w/o local language skills. I went on my 2nd trip to Japan in November a couple of years ago and started taking private tutor lessons in August. During the first lesson I thought I would never be able to speak with the correct intonation or understand the response, but after 10 one hour lessons, I was indeed able to do so. I found my tutor on craigslist and it was very inexpensive. She came to my house and taught me some of the obvious greetings first and then we moved on to focusing on asking key questions you might want to ask such as direction questions, for walking and trying to find a building or specific temple or store to bus and train schedule and platform questions. Then we covered ordering food in a restaurant, buying things in a store etc. We first focused on my pronunciation of the questions then on listening to her answers and what to respond to that. In my last class before leaving on the trip, she brought me to a japanese speaking restaurant where she told the waiter to only speak to me in japanese and to only respond if he understood me or to ask for clarification in japanese. It was a great thing to do as it built up my confidence before we got to Japan as I was indeed able to communicate just fine. When we got there although i had some nervous moments at first, I was indeed able to communicate most of the things I wanted. In fact, typically after I thanked the person for answering my questions, they would then start talking about other things in japanese and of course lost me completely. It made no sense to them that my original questions and responses were in good japanese and then suddenly I did not understand another word they said. But it was all still great fun and I found people to be incredibly helpful and more friendly as a result too. And people in general did not respond to me in english as if my japanese was so bad that they were sure I would only speak english. In any case, I say go for it. I don't know where you live but if you happen to be in Los Angeles, I could refer you directly to my tutor. I will have to ask her if she would want me to post her email address here but if not I could ask her to contact you if you supply your email.
Paulo59 is offline  
Jul 21st, 2008, 01:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
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Just heard from Leanne. Feel free to contact her about Japanese lessons in Los Angeles at her email:[email protected]
Paulo59 is offline  
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