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dvac002
April 13th, 2013, 04:31
Hello to everyone,

I'm a shortlister who has some early intermediate Japanese under his belt and would like to perhaps study a bit more before heading out to Japan. I took several courses at my university and finished both Genki I and II and I'm looking for some advice from those already residing in Japan. Are the two Genki books a good enough foundation and resource to have before arriving in Japan. Should I try and essentially master the grammar and learn most of, if not all, the vocabulary from these two books, or would anyone recommend I take up another series or textbook to add upon what I already know? If so, any recommendations?

Thanks!!

Gizmotech
April 13th, 2013, 09:04
If your Genki is solid, and you remember most of the vocab/grammar from it, move onto heisig. It'll help you so much more.

dvac002
April 13th, 2013, 15:06
Thanks Gizmo! I've never heard of Heisig but I'll take your word for it. After all, I will have so much time on my hands!

zombiekelly
April 13th, 2013, 22:30
You should definitely go past Genki. Genki is good but there are some things it leaves out that you'll run into here. (For instance, I don't remember the imperative being covered, just the more polite て request form.)

Japan Times has an intermediate book, but it's not as cute and friendly as Genki. There's also a book called Tobira, but I didn't have time to use it and left it at home, so I can't give you any recommendation about it.

dvac002
April 15th, 2013, 08:29
Yea, Genki never covers the imperative form, but that Intermediate book you mentioned seems a good post-Genki starting point. As for Tobira, a couple of reviews seem to suggest it is a little more advanced so I'm not sure if it would make for a good transition.

By the way, is Heisig only for kanji?

coop52
April 15th, 2013, 08:40
Yes, Heisig's only for kanji. Book 1 teaches how to write and the meanings for each kanji, then Book 2 teaches readings. I personally didn't care for Heisig, but it works well for some people.

For grammar and vocab, you could always get books geared for the JLPT. They're pretty useful even if you never plan to take the test.

therealwindycity
April 15th, 2013, 09:25
I would spend less time focusing on textbooks and instead try to boost your listening/speaking by watching Japanese TV shows, listening to podcasts, etc. I've had so many moments since coming to Japan when I thought "Oh. They definitely didn't cover that in the textbook." The textbook will cover the ideal Japanese that they say you're supposed to speak, so you'll have to go to actual Japanese media intended for Japanese people to get a non-whitewashed sense of the language.

Gizmotech
April 15th, 2013, 09:42
??

Wow, I never realized the book doesn't cover it. We were taught it at some point, but I don't remember if that was because it was in the old version or not.

Gizmotech
April 15th, 2013, 09:45
About Heisig, some people don't like it, I find the amount of information and things I can read so much larger because of it, and it really helps with learning new words. I feel like my vocabulary expands soo much more rapidly and concretely now than it every did pre-heisig, and I have a much better grasp on new words I see. It absolutely doesn't help you with listening, grammar, or speaking, so if that's all your worried about then don't bother with it.

dvac002
April 15th, 2013, 11:56
I feel as if both listening and speaking improve with immersion and time, whereas I can begin studying and brushing up on my reading skills and vocabulary and grammar while I'm here awaiting August. Heisig seems to work for some and not for others, but it's relatively cheap so I see no harm in trying to improve my reading.

I've heard about Japanese pod 101, but I'm a bit skeptical about its efficacy.

therealwindycity
April 15th, 2013, 12:24
I feel as if both listening and speaking improve with immersion and time, whereas I can begin studying and brushing up on my reading skills and vocabulary and grammar while I'm here awaiting August. Heisig seems to work for some and not for others, but it's relatively cheap so I see no harm in trying to improve my reading.

I've heard about Japanese pod 101, but I'm a bit skeptical about its efficacy.

Heisig is good, but be warned that it is a big time investment, and the payoff is definitely in the long run. Of course everyone who studies Japanese wants to learn all the "daily use" kanji as quick as possible, but unless you plan on learning to read newspapers, novels, financial documents, etc., Heisig is going to cover a lot of characters that you just plain won't use in everyday life. It's good to aspire to that level of fluency, but you have to bear in mind that it is a lot of work and time and has to be more than a passing interest.

Don't fall into the belief that you can only practice speaking and listening when you're in the country - there is a lot you can do to improve your listening and speaking while overseas, and even after coming to Japan you have to make an effort not to surround yourself with English at home.

dvac002
April 15th, 2013, 13:27
Hmm...I have yet to decide what my end goal is. I have always told myself that knowing enough Japanese to be able to converse almost effortlessly was my goal, but I am starting to find myself quite uncertain and I'm having second thoughts on what to aim for. It's difficult to predict what my sentiment will be once I am actually there and whether or not I will even want to learn anything beyond elementary Japanese. At the same time, although it is time consuming, what bad can come from it? I'm probably not doing myself any favors by over-thinking this, so I think I'm just gonna stick to an intermediate textbook and look for some podcasts to improve my listening.

Gizmotech
April 15th, 2013, 13:56
Everyone I know who just buckled down and did Heisig, regardless how much they might have hated parts of the process (or the length/commitment) has sung its praises when they were done. It's a big thing in my area, because we have had some great success from it (including one of the three foreigners who hold the Pre 1st Kanji Kantei). I personally support it, as I've been able to communicate (I did genki i+II in the old books) since I got here, not that I did right away... and find that though it put my Japanese study on hold for half a year while I did Heisig slowly, the speed I retain words now after heisig and the amount I can guess read is huge compared to before.

I don't plan to be "fluent" in Japanese before I leave, but I do look at it as "why not try to get as far as I can" and Heisig definitely helps with that.

If you want more details, look at AJATT | All Japanese All The Time | You dont learn a language, you get used to it. (http://www.ajatt.com) (All Japanese All the Time), it gives you a "how to heisig" on there.

Maninguenice
April 15th, 2013, 22:22
I've never been to Japan (fellow shortlister) so I can't speak with authority, but I found myself in the same spot you in the fall after finishing Genki II. I definitely second the vote for Heisig, because as Gizmotech said it makes learning vocabulary so much easier, and it will probably lead you down the rabbit hole to the wonderful world of Anki. You also might check out the Core 2000 vocab packs on Anki, which are supposedly the 2000 most frequently used words in Japanese, sample sentences, pictures, pronunciations and all(almost rosetta stone style). Seeing the kanji in context and compound words makes them much easier to remember than Heisig's at-times awkward keywords.

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 03:10
Genki is very, very basic, and even if you mastered everything in between the bindings, you would still not understand half of what you're told or a tenth of what you read. It's a good starting point and nothing else.

I wrote an addendum at Japanese - The Official /int/ How to Learn A Foreign Language Guide Wiki (http://4chanint.wikia.com/wiki/Japanese) about what to do after reaching upper-novice level. Go and read it, it will help you a lot. Being in Japan is going to do a lot more for your Japanese than anything, but there are people who have lived in Japan for 10 years without being able to communicate, so if you aren't interested in synthesizing study and application you won't become fluent. At the very least, buy Tobira, even if it's the last Japanese textbook you ever use, it will get you a lot closer to where you need to be and you'll probably know 99% of all standard grammatical functions in colloquial Japanese by the time you get to the end of it.

dvac002
April 16th, 2013, 08:41
Hey Dickforce,

I read your addendum on that Wiki page and I must say, it makes for a great read! I've already downloaded Rikaichan and Anki. Quick question though, is Tobira all in Japanese, or does it explain the grammar points in English? Kanji is without a doubt my weakest point, so I'm thinking of reviewing ALL the kanji from the Genki series and then starting Tobira. I'm also seriously considering taking up the intensive Heisig series due to the fact that many seem to recommend it and praise its worth. After all, it's just 20 bucks! Thanks a bunch guys!

Ini
April 16th, 2013, 09:14
just get the nihongo somatome books with the cute animals on the cover for whatever JLPT level you think you are at.

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 09:16
Dvac, it's very English. As you go up in level, you'll see less and less English. If you can completely understand what you're reading, it's too easy. If you can't understand what you're reading at all, it's too hard.

Jiggit
April 16th, 2013, 10:05
Heisig is weird. I think if you decide to do it you should definitely aim to do it as quickly as possible, though it is difficult to do so, I took far too long to finish it but I was studying other stuff at the same time. I definitely am glad I did it in the end but I don't think I'd ever recommend it to someone beyond suggesting that they do some research about it to see if it's for them. It does make remembering/understanding kanji much easier but on the flipside it takes a long time for it to be useful and can end up being a huge timesink for nothing. If what you want most is functional conversational ability in Japanese it may not be worth it at all.

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 10:21
I still have no idea why people study kanji, as though it were a thing. Do you also study syllabic blocks and latin/greco roots while learning English? It's a writing system, study it as it applies to words you learn. Doing anything else is overcomplicating things for no payoff. The only thing kanji study is good for is preparation for the kanji kentei, and you shouldn't even be thinking about that for five years.

therealwindycity
April 16th, 2013, 12:54
I still have no idea why people study kanji, as though it were a thing. Do you also study syllabic blocks and latin/greco roots while learning English? It's a writing system, study it as it applies to words you learn. Doing anything else is overcomplicating things for no payoff. The only thing kanji study is good for is preparation for the kanji kentei, and you shouldn't even be thinking about that for five years.

Kanji study has been helpful for when I'm reading novels and textbooks completely in Japanese. I wouldn't say that it was extremely useful for daily life, but it isn't completely without merit.

coop52
April 16th, 2013, 12:58
It's good if you want to be able to read and figure out new words without consulting a dictionary every 5 minutes.

Ini
April 16th, 2013, 13:01
It's good for figuring out the general meaning of the announcements written on the staffroom blackboard and the staff meeting memos.

Gizmotech
April 16th, 2013, 13:16
Knowing how to write them too (if you do heisig like he tells ya, not just use it to make flash cards) also makes it a lot easier to guess hand written kanji. You know the stroke order of everything and can properly write it, so you can sort of reverse engineer the more illegible crap.

@DickForce, I agree that Genki has a limit, but I wouldn't call it super super basic. It's been enough for me to use here as a base to build on. Usually wasn't the grammar screwing with me but more the missing vocab from those books. Your comparison about roots is actually rather interesting, as people DO study roots in English language learning. They study affixation and suffixation for standard common uses, while also studying the root words and learning how to guess/infer new meaning from a compound word.

Also, kanji kantei 5 years? LOL. It can be done much quicker than that if you want to do it, especially if you're not going for anything past 2. That being said, my friend wrote 2, then wrote pre1 in the next testing period. He said it wasn't hard, just a lot of very similar kanji to remember w/o very clear meanings.

coop52
April 16th, 2013, 13:41
Yeah kanken isn't that hard until you get to the upper levels. If you can do JLPT and write fairly well, you're set. I haven't done it yet since I'm really shit at remembering how to write the damn things.

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 13:45
Kanji study has been helpful for when I'm reading novels and textbooks completely in Japanese. I wouldn't say that it was extremely useful for daily life, but it isn't completely without merit.




You're not telling me why kanji study is important, you're telling me why learning kanji is important, which is still a natural result of studying new vocabulary words and their readings.


Also, kanji kantei 5 years? LOL. It can be done much quicker than that if you want to do it
Yeah, sure, if you want to spend month after month cramming nothing but rote rehearsal strokes and readings instead of, say, actually learning Japanese. Most standard learners of Japanese would say 4-6 years is ample time to fully learn the joyo kanji.

Also, I do remember lessons on suffixes and prefixes, but I never drilled any of them. Just being aware of the existence of suffixes and prefixes, and through studying word interplay such as synonym-antonym relationships, I was able to formulate a root/base pattern for determining the meanings of new words without having to memorize classical root words to that benefit. Would learning Latin and Greek have helped me? Sure, but not as much as just learning English. Same thing with kanji, learning the words and how to read them is more important than trying to figure out the building blocks. Japanese think oppositely to this idea, but 1. they know most of the words they're learning kanji for before they learn kanji, unlike JSL students and 2. they don't know half as many characters on average as Chinese, who study characters in the context of vocabulary.

Ini
April 16th, 2013, 13:58
Japan is so lucky you are coming to save itself from its inferior methods of teaching both English and Japanese! Do you have any plans to shake up the social studies and math programs while you are here?

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 14:20
Because Japan's history program is cutting edge, amirite?:V

Ini
April 16th, 2013, 14:23
no worse than any other countries

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 14:35
In any case, Japanese can learn kanji however they wish, and you can learn kanji however you wish as well. If you think the Japanese style works for you, you can pursue what 120 million people can accomplish with 2200 to 2500 characters. If you would rather use the Chinese approach, you can pursue what over 1 billion people can accomplish with 3000 to 4000 characters. It's f*cking up to you, I'm just offering advice. Take the stick out.

Ini
April 16th, 2013, 14:38
the chinese approach also includes viciously beating your children unless they learn those 4000 characters. if you wish to support cruel regime of child abuse then be my guest.

Jiggit
April 16th, 2013, 14:50
Take the stick out.

I can try if you like but it seems pretty deep. How'd you get this so far up your own arse anyway?

jwkelley
April 16th, 2013, 15:49
The AJATT guy did the remember the Kanji a long with other things and basically got to N1 in 18 months. Having the Kanji meanings basically opens up a whole host of resources for you to learn the language instead of through boring ass textbooks.

therealwindycity
April 16th, 2013, 16:05
You're not telling me why kanji study is important, you're telling me why learning kanji is important
...


Yeah, sure, if you want to spend month after month cramming nothing but rote rehearsal strokes and readings instead of, say, actually learning Japanese. Most standard learners of Japanese would say 4-6 years is ample time to fully learn the joyo kanji.

Ugh I can just tell you're going to be one of those people all the ALTs avoid at gatherings because you'll tell them all they're learning Japanese the "wrong way"



who study characters in the context of vocabulary.

Nobody said you weren't allowed to study vocabulary at the same time


root/base pattern and similar bullshit

yawn


Most standard learners of Japanese would say

Most "standard learners" of Japanese agree on nothing except bickering with each other

zombiekelly
April 16th, 2013, 22:43
I just use Kanji Look and Learn. It's only 512 characters but it has pretty pictures. How else am I going to understand 肉 if there isn't a picture of a ham leg next to it?

DickForce
April 16th, 2013, 23:08
The AJATT guy did the remember the Kanji a long with other things and basically got to N1 in 18 months. Having the Kanji meanings basically opens up a whole host of resources for you to learn the language instead of through boring ass textbooks.

Heisig isn't a boring ass textbook?
If he did "other things" that Heisig might not be the key factor. I'm not going to tell you that kanji study is of no benefit to your ability to pick up the Japanese language, but it's a real question of efficiency and if you can really make yourself benefit from worrying about building blocks instead of holistic elements, in which case the vocabulary method might be better for you. I dunno, do a study on it or something.


...
Kanji study is the process of studying radicals, readings, etc. focusing on the kanji itself. It is a method of learning kanji. This is, for example, as opposed to learning kanji by learning how to read vocabulary words as soon as they come your way, which is more a vocabulary study which also includes the benefit of learning kanji. They are not synonymous terms.


Ugh I can just tell you're going to be one of those people all the ALTs avoid at gatherings because you'll tell them all they're learning Japanese the "wrong way"
I'm not going to tell anyone who doesn't ask me how to learn Japanese. And if people do ask me how to learn Japanese and choose not to take my advice, I'm not going to hound them about it. Like I said already, I'm just giving advice, don't take it if you don't like it.


Nobody said you weren't allowed to study vocabulary at the same time
If studying kanji twice over is what it takes for you to learn it, be my guest. Otherwise if you can learn it through one unified method of study, you might find yourself saving time and the total inconvenience of poring over radicals and readings.


Most "standard learners" of Japanese agree on nothing except bickering with each other
Yes

dvac002
April 16th, 2013, 23:35
So can a consensus be reached by stating that if your goal is to achieve functional conversational Japanese, kanji is not important? I headed over to a JLPT resource site and interestingly enough, my grammar seems to be at JLPT2ish level, whereas my kanji reading is embarrassingly at JLPT 5 -_- ! I don't plan on taking any tests as such, but is my Japanese way too lopsided?

Ini
April 16th, 2013, 23:44
nah, you'll be able to communicate with people which is the main thing. You might struggle to keep up with whats happening at school if you cant read anything and understanding if the letter you just got is vitally important or just an invitation to sign up for a subscription to boyz magazine but if you can speak the lingo then you can always just ask someone to read what it says out to you.

DickForce
April 17th, 2013, 01:04
Yes, learning everything else is more important than learning the written language. And the prohibitive difficulty of the writing system means that most people will lap their writing ability with their vocabulary. On the other hand, if you try to learn vocabulary with readings, your kanji might catch up, so it's worth a try

jwkelley
April 17th, 2013, 02:16
Heisig isn't a boring ass textbook?
If he did "other things" that Heisig might not be the key factor. I'm not going to tell you that kanji study is of no benefit to your ability to pick up the Japanese language, but it's a real question of efficiency and if you can really make yourself benefit from worrying about building blocks instead of holistic elements, in which case the vocabulary method might be better for you. I dunno, do a study on it or something.
s

No the Kanji study was a key factor. He actually oddly studied kanji meaning before anything else. Other things include various forms of input which would not of been possible without the intense Kanji studying.

As for the advice thing, I think i will heed Gizmos advice far more than yours. He is very well read on second language acquisition and generally knows what he is talking about on this subject, probably more than anyone else on this forum.

DickForce
April 17th, 2013, 03:01
No the Kanji study was a key factor. He actually oddly studied kanji meaning before anything else. Other things include various forms of input which would not of been possible without the intense Kanji studying.

As for the advice thing, I think i will heed Gizmos advice far more than yours. He is very well read on second language acquisition and generally knows what he is talking about on this subject, probably more than anyone else on this forum.

I'd say play around with whatever method works best for you, and perhaps try multiple methods to see which is most efficient and effective. I started my Japanese study with kanji study embedded, and since switching to vocabulary-based study I feel like my learning rate and retention rate have both jumped. With language too, ESID

dvac002
April 17th, 2013, 05:48
Yea, ultimately everyone learns at different rates and respond better to different approaches. I'm glad this thread lead me to Anki though, it seems to be seriously potent stuff!

coop52
April 17th, 2013, 08:21
Anki's pretty good if you can remember to do it every day. Playing catch-up sucks. I use renshuu.org. It's a similar idea, but it's easier to exclude terms and kanji I already know.

I don't really get the whole competition thing people have about learning Japanese. It's not like you'll get a prize for learning the most kanji/vocab or for getting to N1 the fastest.

therealwindycity
April 17th, 2013, 08:28
If studying kanji twice over is what it takes for you to learn it, be my guest. Otherwise if you can learn it through one unified method of study, you might find yourself saving time and the total inconvenience of poring over radicals and readings.


I would agree with this, but my university Japanese classes took the approach that you're advocating, and I had a really hard remembering the many characters that had shared radicals and similar readings (especially when writing). I do agree though that the most important thing is to expose yourself to a lot of new Japanese vocabulary; targeted kanji study just helped me keep the characters from bleeding over into each other in my head and made remembering new vocabulary much easier.

DickForce
April 17th, 2013, 09:26
Perhaps I should revise my statement to say that a degree of radical study prior to vocabulary study is almost necessary. To that effect, the first book of Heisig might help you. On the other hand, you can still pick up meaning radical and pronunciation component patterns through vocabulary study, so it's something that I believe gets easier as time goes on. The first time I took Chinese I had had very little exposure to kanji and retaining the characters was impossible. 2 years and a lot of vocabulary-heavy Japanese study later, my ability to study and retain Chinese vocabulary words, without utilizing kanji study, has greatly improved. And no, I don't recognize a huge amount of the characters when I see them in Chinese, I just recognize the components (or what the components should be) after having seen over a thousand characters with shared components.

Gizmotech
April 17th, 2013, 11:07
Perhaps I should revise my statement to say that a degree of radical study prior to vocabulary study is almost necessary. To that effect, the first book of Heisig might help you. On the other hand, you can still pick up meaning radical and pronunciation component patterns through vocabulary study, so it's something that I believe gets easier as time goes on. The first time I took Chinese I had had very little exposure to kanji and retaining the characters was impossible. 2 years and a lot of vocabulary-heavy Japanese study later, my ability to study and retain Chinese vocabulary words, without utilizing kanji study, has greatly improved. And no, I don't recognize a huge amount of the characters when I see them in Chinese, I just recognize the components (or what the components should be) after having seen over a thousand characters with shared components.

I think there are very few people who actually advocate the second heisig book. Once you have the radical/writing system in place, which makes it much easier to distinguish between highly similar kanji, then you might as well move onto vocab (or do it concurrently if you're so inclined... I can't... not enough brain powahs in the day) to pick up on/kun yomi and the variety of exceptions and okurigana constructions.

Maninguenice
April 18th, 2013, 10:13
Comparing studying kanji to latin word roots is exactly the analogy I use when someone asks me "what's the deal with Japanese writing." And yeah people don't study them in school, but maybe we should. Definitely, if they were as "in your face" as the kanji are, instead of being buried beneath and corrupted by centuries of French/anglo saxon fusion. I took that approach to the SAT's, which didn't help me one bit, but it gave me a huge vocab advantage when I started Spanish, which in turn made learning Portuguese stupidly easy. So yes, I think knowledge of latin roots is super useful for learners of western languages, and learning the kanji is equally useful for students of Japanese. I really enjoyed learning the kanji (with Heisig) for the guessing power I get when coming across new words. It's not great, but gives me at least as good a chance of guessing the meaning of a new word as I have in English/Spanish/Portuguese, which is way better than it was pre-kanji when everything was about as clear as a heavily redacted government document.

Jiggit
April 18th, 2013, 11:45
Perhaps I should revise my statement to say that a degree of radical study prior to vocabulary study is almost necessary. To that effect, the first book of Heisig might help you. On the other hand, you can still pick up meaning radical and pronunciation component patterns through vocabulary study, so it's something that I believe gets easier as time goes on. The first time I took Chinese I had had very little exposure to kanji and retaining the characters was impossible. 2 years and a lot of vocabulary-heavy Japanese study later, my ability to study and retain Chinese vocabulary words, without utilizing kanji study, has greatly improved. And no, I don't recognize a huge amount of the characters when I see them in Chinese, I just recognize the components (or what the components should be) after having seen over a thousand characters with shared components.

I think I agree with your general argument and that's why I think Heisig is good if you can do it quickly. It turns what might otherwise be a stream of meaningless nonsense into something that is at least comprehensible, and when you do start to pick up kanji readings and meanings from learning them in context they'll stick in your head much easier. But if you spend ages on it, there are better uses of your time. Try and learn it before coming to Japan would be the best way to go about it imo.

therealwindycity
April 18th, 2013, 17:13
I think I agree with your general argument and that's why I think Heisig is good if you can do it quickly. It turns what might otherwise be a stream of meaningless nonsense into something that is at least comprehensible, and when you do start to pick up kanji readings and meanings from learning them in context they'll stick in your head much easier. But if you spend ages on it, there are better uses of your time. Try and learn it before coming to Japan would be the best way to go about it imo.

I think the mistake many people make is to try to do Heisig without studying anything else at the same time. It should complement other resources you're using to study Japanese

dvac002
April 18th, 2013, 23:47
I think the mistake many people make is to try to do Heisig without studying anything else at the same time. It should complement other resources you're using to study Japanese
Well if it complements something else it should definitely be vocabulary study right?

therealwindycity
April 19th, 2013, 08:38
Yes. I try to learn vocabulary in context as much as possible rather than just memorizing word lists though