Learning Japanese via online webcam
March 17, 2010 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I want to learn Japanese online via a webcam (i.e. Skype) Any tried and true recommendations? I looked online, but would like some real life input. How many lessons of one hour each should I have during the course of a week?
posted by ayc200 to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As someone living in Japan and working on my Japanese, I can only say the more the better. Surround yourself with the language as much as you can. Also, are you working on your reading ability? That was something I neglected for my first couple of years studying the language. I thought that if I focused on speaking and listening skills first and later learned the kanji for the words I already knew that it would make learning the kanji easier, as opposed to learning a new word and a new character at the same time. That was stupid. It definitely held me back. Learning kanji is a great way to build vocabulary, and it's really interesting. So in addition to speaking as much as possible, start reading as much as possible too. It'll be slow going at first, but well worth it in the end.
posted by farce majeure at 8:19 PM on March 17, 2010

The more the better. You need to put in at least an hour a day outside of your lessons. Three hours a day would be great.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:27 PM on March 17, 2010

also, check out this guys blog. it makes me feel incredibly incompetent as a language learner, as this guy is the same age as me and is far, far more competent at Japanese, and it appears life in general, than I, but it has lots of good tips on how to improve your japanese.


in particular check out the squidoo lenses he has linked on the lower right column of the blog. lots of good info there.
posted by farce majeure at 8:36 PM on March 17, 2010

Yeah, assuming the lessons are good and you avoid burnout etc., the more the better. Can you provide more info on what you hope to be able to do in Japanese, and how soon? e.g basic business Japanese in six months, watching movies without subtitles by 2011, casual conversation but no particular rush, etc.?
posted by No-sword at 8:39 PM on March 17, 2010

The more immersion, the better. Watch childrens' programming with subtitles. Order some childrens' books on amazon.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 11:51 PM on March 17, 2010

I am going to Tokyo in the first two weeks of August. I want to be able to read signs and have restaurant conversations/ask how to get somewhere. Typical tourist-type communication. I want to be able to read the difference between a sign for a thing versus the name of a place.

I have an East Asian face so unless I speak I cannot expect the "she's a foreigner, she'll make mistakes" mentality from the locals. (yeah, yeah, I know there are different physical attributes per individual nation besides straight black hair and high cheekbones.)

There's a feminine and masculine way of speaking, I believe. I cannot rely on the anime I watch because my male friends have been laughed at for trying to talk like a prepubescent girl. I'm in my early 30s and a woman, so I do NOT want to talk like an elementary school student.

I'm not planning to master all four levels of politeness by that time, but I would like to continue language learning after returning to the States.
posted by ayc200 at 3:43 PM on March 18, 2010

Okay! So, first, I think that it is definitely possible to learn enough Japanese to do tourist-type communication by August. Especially if you have useful fallback phrasebooks (this one and this one are good, although with really bad romanization.)

Re number of lessons a week, this still depends to an extent. If the lessons are really good and you are recording them and reviewing them outside lesson time as well (15 minutes a day is better than 2 hours once a week), you might be able to get by with one a week, ramping up the pace as August comes closer.

On the other hand in my opinion it's better to front-load the learning so that you get a lot of stuff to digest and practice at once, rather than spending a whole week just repeating an hour's worth of "good morning" and "good afternoon" to yourself -- especially since you want to keep learning after you come back too. This I guess will depend on your learning style.

So why not try 2-3 lessons a week, whatever your budget/schedule will allow, and see how you feel after a month or so?

Learning to read is a different issue. I'm not sure that doing it via Skype is the most efficient use of time or money, although, it would be best if the words you are learning to read/write are also the words you are learning to speak. If the Skype lessons come with PDFs showing the content in written Japanese, that's handy. Maybe the teacher there has a recommendation. Either way, you should make it a goal to learn to read hiragana and katakana ASAP, and this is something you can practice on your own pretty easily. (Learning to write them is a bit trickier and without a teacher there you may end up with understandable but distinctly off handwriting. I'm not sure that there's a good solution.)

All of the above is just, like, my opinion, man, based on what I imagine I understand about your situation and the lessons themselves, so I could be completely off. And if an actual educator comes in here and disagrees with me, you should probably go with their take on it. But I hope I have at least given you some ideas for approaching the issue.

Also, bonus tip: don't worry too much about the four levels of politeness and male/female speech, either. It comes surprisingly naturally once you reach the learning level where this kind of distinction is important.
posted by No-sword at 4:54 PM on March 18, 2010

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