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Thread: Help getting started...

  1. #1

    Default Help getting started...

    Hey everybody!!

    So I always wanted to visit Japan since high school. Now that I have a job and some money saved up, I decided to start planning a trip. My goal was to visit in the summer of 2010 and to spend the year in between learning some conversational Japanese so I could travel comfortably and not rely on tour guides and what not.

    Anyway, I was talking to a friend about this plan and they told me about JET. After doing some research, I decided that it was something I REALLY wanted to do. So now, I stepped up my goals, and want to learn more than just conversational Japanese. As of now, I have the Rosetta Stone software, the Pimsleur audio books, and the Japanese for Busy People I book (and workbook) (romanized version).

    Now this is an overwhelming amount of material to deal with. What do you think should be my first step? I'd prefer to teach myself as much as I can before I spend money on a class. Do I start with memorizing Hiragana + Katakana? Like, I have no clue how to even start.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank in advance and I look forward to becoming a part of this online community.

  2. #2
    Али Димаев AliDimayev's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    I learnt Hiragana and Katakana on me own. I bought a book. I just started writing away. I also foudn sources online so I could listen to the native pronunciations. I then, as I memorized the kana, would learn vocabulary with which to practice my kana.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman View Post
    As usual, you all (Aliを除く) have your heads up your asses.

  3. #3
    VIP UPGRAYEDD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Here is my advice.

    - Dump the rosetta stone. It's pretty much useless.
    - Get started by listening to the pimsleur tapes. If you have an ipod check out the podcasts at Japanesepod101.com too. These are good resources to get an idea on how to pronounce Japanese. Also see if you can find a tutor to get the basics of the pronounciation down.
    - At the same time get a simple workbook for Hiragana and Katakana. I used Lets learn Hirigana and Lets learn Katakana.
    - Buy Genki 1. Don't learn Japanese with romanji. Get the workbook, answerbook, and CDs. They are worth the price.

    Once you do that just keep plowing through Genki 1 and listening to pimsleur or Japanesepod101. Try to find a tutor.
    You see, gentlemen, a pimp's love is very different from a square's...
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  4. #4
    Daimyo ***** dombay's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    I agree with Genki. Genki is the best beginners Japanese material I've ever seen.

    But I think you can learn with JFBP if you've already bought the book. The romanised version would not be my recommendation but I would suggest that you do learn Katakana and Hiragana. What you might do is write the hiragana/katakana over the romanised text to help you learn it. Just have a couple of charts next to when you study.

    Good luck at any rate. Japanese is really really fucking hard. I've studied 5 languages in my time and Japanese is far and away the hardest. But it's good and rewarding too I think.
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  5. #5
    Али Димаев AliDimayev's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    You must have never studied Russian or Hungarian.

    one thing to be thankful about Japanese. No irregular verbs. or only two of :em.

    Also, many of the sounds exist in English ( of course not exactly as in English) but you dont have to learn all sorts of crazy new sounds like you would in Chinese or Arabic and such. Or The unaspirated P of thai.
    <a href=http://www.ithinkimlost.com/image.php?type=sigpic&userid=3134&dateline=1245615339 target=_blank>http://www.ithinkimlost.com/image.ph...ine=1245615339</a>
    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman View Post
    As usual, you all (Aliを除く) have your heads up your asses.

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by UPGRAYEDD View Post
    - Buy Genki 1. Don't learn Japanese with romanji. Get the workbook, answerbook, and CDs. They are worth the price.
    Yes yes this.... Start with hiragana at least and avoid using romaji. Once you're comfortable with the hiragana and know it like the back of your hand, start with the katakana.

    And yeah, try to find a tutor or friend to encourage you to study. It can be hard keeping it up on your own!

  7. #7

    Default

    I plan on taking a class/getting a tutor once i get the ball rolling by myself. Im trying to avoid spending money since im broke as a joke right now.

    i printed out some hiragana flash cards last night and was gonna go that route to start memorizing them. will pick up one of those workbooks this weekend.

    but yea, real mad i bought the romanized version of those books. damn half.com

    thanks for all the advice guys!

  8. #8

    Default

    also, how does everyone feel about the "my japanese coach" for the nintendo ds? LOL

    I havent had time to get past the numbers but it seems pretty useful

  9. #9
    SPACE MONKEY MAFIA vdog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UPGRAYEDD View Post
    - Dump the rosetta stone. It's pretty much useless.
    I've heard this too

    - Get started by listening to the pimsleur tapes.
    From the same person (my prof.) I've also heard that these are bad. Even though they are good for hearing the accent and learning how to say words, some of the phrases are not natural sounding. (ex. okage sama de, genki desu)


    Quote Originally Posted by AliDimayev View Post
    You must have never studied Russian or Hungarian.
    True that, Hungarian is pretty freaking hard.

    @OP If you have a grammar fetish (or a need to know that everything has been explained to the fullest extent possible) then get Japanese the Spoken Language.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Help getting started...

    aklfjsk this is all so overwhelming LOL

    I just need a good start up strategy. Like, how did you guys get started? like could anyone describe their first month of studies?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Johonasen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    thanks for the advice as I have to start trying to learn in a month as well

  12. #12

    Default Re: Help getting started...

    youlovetonyt - I have to apologize I got a bit carried away with this response. Learning a language is indeed very overwhelming. In general, I don't suggest studying on one's own. It can be very difficult to maintain motivation in the face of all that you don't know. But it is possible to be successful studying on your own.

    Just try to make a plan and stick with it. How do you make a plan if you don't know anything about Japanese? It would be good to read up on what makes up Japanese--even things like a wikipedia article or about.com would be helpful. This will help you get a perspective on what all is entailed in the Japanese language. It might also be good to read up on how others have studied Japanese on their own--for both ideas and inspiration. And finally, knowing a bit about language acquisition can help the self-learner, perhaps more than a classroom learner who puts the responsibility of knowing about that on the teacher.

    Here's a general rundown of some important things to know about language acquisition:

    Someone's first language is acquired over a long period of time simply through exposure--they hear it a lot in normal situations and then they can speak.

    After around the age of 13 (or around puberty), people can no longer just hear a language in context and pick it up.

    All written languages are secondary to the spoken language they represent. All are manmade inventions that must be taught explicitly.

    Languages consist of rules describing how sounds, tones, words, and sentences get put together. These rules do not actually exist but are imperfect descriptions made by linguists and grammarians to explain how languages work. Some describe what people do (linguists in general) and some describe what people ought to do (grammarians in general).

    Textbooks try to get students to memorize these rules so that they can later use them when speaking and writing. There are literally 1000s and 1000s of rules. Good luck memorizing them. In addition, I believe, as some linguists have hypothesized, that knowing rules creates a monitor in your brain. Everytime you want to speak, you not only have to come up with the idea you want to say, as you normally would, but you must use your monitor to check how you are forming your statement. This takes time, time that usually doesn't exist in a normal conversation. Some people believe that eventually the monitor goes away as rules are internalized, but this has not been proven. There are other issues--almost all rules have exceptions, rules try to be logical but language is not a logical system, the brain is fallible and is likely to forget, misunderstand, and/or misuse the rules.

    There's another way--though, as I said above, you can't just listen to language and pick it up after puberty, you can make use of that ability in conjunction with the now developed analytical part of your brain in an effort to more or less pick up a new language. Try to focus your studies of grammar on meaning. Many people focus too much effort on correct form. Form is fine but only if it's connected to meaning. Perhaps you took high school French or Spanish--you probably recall conjugation. Too many students know how to conjugation (form) but don't know how to actually use a verb in context (meaning). It's because they practice conjugation outside of context and never just listen to or read the verbs in normal sentences. It's by reading and listening to language in context (radio, movies, TV, native speakers, etc.) that one's brain is able to process how the language works. What's funny is doing it this way means you can actually drop the time spent memorizing forms because your brain eventually just picks those up, too.

    This may sound like I'm contradicting what I said above. After 13, you can't just pick up a language. You can't. But if you give your brain a heads-up of what to be looking for (satisfy the analytical side), you can. So if you tell your brain (ie. read about it in a grammar book) that Japanese verbs have a -te form and the -te form is different depending on the syllable it ends with, then your brain can be on the look out for -te forms when you are reading and listening to Japanese. If you read that Japanese is backwards from English with Object of a sentence first and the verb last, then your brain will be ready for it. But what I've described is still somewhat focused on form alone. You need to also read about what the -te form means/functions as. You need to also not just think "object then verb" but put it in terms of meaning '''hit ball' in English probably gets switched to 'ball hit' in Japanese. That's funny sounding." Etc.

    I agree that you should start with hiragana and katakana. They are very useful and a relatively easy first step to take. They also are very concrete and so you can congratulate yourself upon finishing them.

    But that will be about the last thing you can congratulate yourself on. If you have one, you should get rid of the idea that language is something you can finish learning. It's not. There will always be things you don't know. And there is no hope of you learning everything there is to know. Even kanji, though there are the most common 2000 or so, there are another 1000 or so that you can see fairly often and another 1000 sometimes and another several thousand rarely. You should start framing your progress in terms of abilities--I can read a page of hiragana in X time. (fluency at reading) I can watch a Japanese drama and catch 10 words. (listening) And eventually, I can call and make a reservation in Japanese. I can pleasurably watch a movie without subtitles. I can give a presentation without reading it. Etc.

    I also suggest creating a Japanese rich world. Start listening to Japanese music. Start watching Japanese TV, movies, youtube, etc. Make some Japanese friends. Get some Japanese reading material (in hiragana/katakana at first).

    Start researching about how others have studied Japanese--there are tons of free materials out there. It's hard to know what you really have to pay for unless you start doing some research. There are free dictionaries--online and downloadable, kanji reading tools, kanji to kana website converters, flashcards, exercises, grammar websites, online flashcard systems, podcasts, etc. etc. etc.

    Though it is a shame, I would sell or give away your romanized text and get a kana version. I also do not recommend the busy people series. Though I didn't use a text other than the one provided when you join JET, I've heard that Minna no Nihongo is very good. It's all in Japanese so it can be overwhelming though. But I think you can use it once you know kana. Check it out yourself.

    You should save up an invest in a good dictionary. I think an electronic dictionary is the way to go. If you've got an iPhone or iTouch, you can get a dictionary on it. Nintendo DS also has a dictionary that is fairly useful. I used it for several months before I started feeling some limitations and went to a separate electronic dictionary. Try to get one with a writing pad. Extremely useful when you start getting into kanji. If you're broke, start saving for it.

    Speaking of which... Once you get done patting yourself on the back for learning the kana. You will be then faced with kanji. You need to decide, are you going just dabble in Japanese, do you want to just be a good speaker of Japanese, are you going to spend 5 years or more learning it to functional literacy, or do you want to learn the full language as fast as possible? For the first one, just do the textbooks at a leisurely pace and don't really push the kanji. If you fit number 2, then focus on listening and speaking and forget kanji. If 3, use textbooks, but push yourself hard. 4. Use the book called "Remembering the Kanji" by Heisig to help you memorize kanji as fast as possible.

    I went with the last route and then focused on making myself read Japanese as much as possible. I know reading is the most powerful language teacher. So I wanted to learn to read as soon as possible. To do it I needed kanji, so I learned them up front. Others are successful using options 1, 2 and 3. But everyone has different goals, timelines, understandings of language, etc. Decide for yourself what's best for you. If you do want to know about Heisig, you might check out http://kanji.koohii.com/ or http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com...and-to-fluency .

    Keep in mind. It's going to take a long time to learn Japanese. At least a year to be conversational or somewhat close. For many it takes longer. It's a matter of time and commitment. Those probably matter more than which course of study you choose. Put lots of time into it and stay committed. And 30 minutes a day doesn't cut it if you want to be functional in a year.

    I used Pimsleur for a while. I think I made it through about 20 lessons. I'm sure it helped me in some way, but there's a lot of stupid Japanese on there that I don't think I've ever heard in real conversations. And I've heard mixed things about Rosetta Stone. But to be honest, I feel I've used a lot of crappy or so-so study materials and I feel pretty good about how much progress I've made. I think it's really how much you put yourself into learning. I'm certain that there aren't any study materials that will give no benefits if you put effort into using them.

    Sorry. I'm too longwinded for my own good. I need to get some breakfast now.

    Good luck with your studies. がんばって ください。

  13. #13
    Али Димаев AliDimayev's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattyjaddy View Post
    youlovetonyt - I have to apologize I got a bit carried away with this response. Learning a language is indeed very overwhelming. In general, I don't suggest studying on one's own. It can be very difficult to maintain motivation in the face of all that you don't know. But it is possible to be successful studying on your own.

    Just try to make a plan and stick with it. How do you make a plan if you don't know anything about Japanese? It would be good to read up on what makes up Japanese--even things like a wikipedia article or about.com would be helpful. This will help you get a perspective on what all is entailed in the Japanese language. It might also be good to read up on how others have studied Japanese on their own--for both ideas and inspiration. And finally, knowing a bit about language acquisition can help the self-learner, perhaps more than a classroom learner who puts the responsibility of knowing about that on the teacher.

    Here's a general rundown of some important things to know about language acquisition:

    Someone's first language is acquired over a long period of time simply through exposure--they hear it a lot in normal situations and then they can speak.

    After around the age of 13 (or around puberty), people can no longer just hear a language in context and pick it up.

    All written languages are secondary to the spoken language they represent. All are manmade inventions that must be taught explicitly.

    Languages consist of rules describing how sounds, tones, words, and sentences get put together. These rules do not actually exist but are imperfect descriptions made by linguists and grammarians to explain how languages work. Some describe what people do (linguists in general) and some describe what people ought to do (grammarians in general).

    Textbooks try to get students to memorize these rules so that they can later use them when speaking and writing. There are literally 1000s and 1000s of rules. Good luck memorizing them. In addition, I believe, as some linguists have hypothesized, that knowing rules creates a monitor in your brain. Everytime you want to speak, you not only have to come up with the idea you want to say, as you normally would, but you must use your monitor to check how you are forming your statement. This takes time, time that usually doesn't exist in a normal conversation. Some people believe that eventually the monitor goes away as rules are internalized, but this has not been proven. There are other issues--almost all rules have exceptions, rules try to be logical but language is not a logical system, the brain is fallible and is likely to forget, misunderstand, and/or misuse the rules.

    There's another way--though, as I said above, you can't just listen to language and pick it up after puberty, you can make use of that ability in conjunction with the now developed analytical part of your brain in an effort to more or less pick up a new language. Try to focus your studies of grammar on meaning. Many people focus too much effort on correct form. Form is fine but only if it's connected to meaning. Perhaps you took high school French or Spanish--you probably recall conjugation. Too many students know how to conjugation (form) but don't know how to actually use a verb in context (meaning). It's because they practice conjugation outside of context and never just listen to or read the verbs in normal sentences. It's by reading and listening to language in context (radio, movies, TV, native speakers, etc.) that one's brain is able to process how the language works. What's funny is doing it this way means you can actually drop the time spent memorizing forms because your brain eventually just picks those up, too.

    This may sound like I'm contradicting what I said above. After 13, you can't just pick up a language. You can't. But if you give your brain a heads-up of what to be looking for (satisfy the analytical side), you can. So if you tell your brain (ie. read about it in a grammar book) that Japanese verbs have a -te form and the -te form is different depending on the syllable it ends with, then your brain can be on the look out for -te forms when you are reading and listening to Japanese. If you read that Japanese is backwards from English with Object of a sentence first and the verb last, then your brain will be ready for it. But what I've described is still somewhat focused on form alone. You need to also read about what the -te form means/functions as. You need to also not just think "object then verb" but put it in terms of meaning '''hit ball' in English probably gets switched to 'ball hit' in Japanese. That's funny sounding." Etc.

    I agree that you should start with hiragana and katakana. They are very useful and a relatively easy first step to take. They also are very concrete and so you can congratulate yourself upon finishing them.

    But that will be about the last thing you can congratulate yourself on. If you have one, you should get rid of the idea that language is something you can finish learning. It's not. There will always be things you don't know. And there is no hope of you learning everything there is to know. Even kanji, though there are the most common 2000 or so, there are another 1000 or so that you can see fairly often and another 1000 sometimes and another several thousand rarely. You should start framing your progress in terms of abilities--I can read a page of hiragana in X time. (fluency at reading) I can watch a Japanese drama and catch 10 words. (listening) And eventually, I can call and make a reservation in Japanese. I can pleasurably watch a movie without subtitles. I can give a presentation without reading it. Etc.

    I also suggest creating a Japanese rich world. Start listening to Japanese music. Start watching Japanese TV, movies, youtube, etc. Make some Japanese friends. Get some Japanese reading material (in hiragana/katakana at first).

    Start researching about how others have studied Japanese--there are tons of free materials out there. It's hard to know what you really have to pay for unless you start doing some research. There are free dictionaries--online and downloadable, kanji reading tools, kanji to kana website converters, flashcards, exercises, grammar websites, online flashcard systems, podcasts, etc. etc. etc.

    Though it is a shame, I would sell or give away your romanized text and get a kana version. I also do not recommend the busy people series. Though I didn't use a text other than the one provided when you join JET, I've heard that Minna no Nihongo is very good. It's all in Japanese so it can be overwhelming though. But I think you can use it once you know kana. Check it out yourself.

    You should save up an invest in a good dictionary. I think an electronic dictionary is the way to go. If you've got an iPhone or iTouch, you can get a dictionary on it. Nintendo DS also has a dictionary that is fairly useful. I used it for several months before I started feeling some limitations and went to a separate electronic dictionary. Try to get one with a writing pad. Extremely useful when you start getting into kanji. If you're broke, start saving for it.

    Speaking of which... Once you get done patting yourself on the back for learning the kana. You will be then faced with kanji. You need to decide, are you going just dabble in Japanese, do you want to just be a good speaker of Japanese, are you going to spend 5 years or more learning it to functional literacy, or do you want to learn the full language as fast as possible? For the first one, just do the textbooks at a leisurely pace and don't really push the kanji. If you fit number 2, then focus on listening and speaking and forget kanji. If 3, use textbooks, but push yourself hard. 4. Use the book called "Remembering the Kanji" by Heisig to help you memorize kanji as fast as possible.

    I went with the last route and then focused on making myself read Japanese as much as possible. I know reading is the most powerful language teacher. So I wanted to learn to read as soon as possible. To do it I needed kanji, so I learned them up front. Others are successful using options 1, 2 and 3. But everyone has different goals, timelines, understandings of language, etc. Decide for yourself what's best for you. If you do want to know about Heisig, you might check out http://kanji.koohii.com/ or http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com...and-to-fluency .

    Keep in mind. It's going to take a long time to learn Japanese. At least a year to be conversational or somewhat close. For many it takes longer. It's a matter of time and commitment. Those probably matter more than which course of study you choose. Put lots of time into it and stay committed. And 30 minutes a day doesn't cut it if you want to be functional in a year.

    I used Pimsleur for a while. I think I made it through about 20 lessons. I'm sure it helped me in some way, but there's a lot of stupid Japanese on there that I don't think I've ever heard in real conversations. And I've heard mixed things about Rosetta Stone. But to be honest, I feel I've used a lot of crappy or so-so study materials and I feel pretty good about how much progress I've made. I think it's really how much you put yourself into learning. I'm certain that there aren't any study materials that will give no benefits if you put effort into using them.

    Sorry. I'm too longwinded for my own good. I need to get some breakfast now.

    Good luck with your studies. がんばって ください。
    They don't use spaces in japanese.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyakuman View Post
    As usual, you all (Aliを除く) have your heads up your asses.

  14. #14
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    I would say, don't worry too much about what study materials you use, what philosophy of learning you subscribe to, etc... just do *something.* Listen to Japanese, read Japanese, use Japanese. Anything should help you.

    Romaji is really a crutch, though, so just learn the hiragana and katakana. It only takes a week or two if you put a little effort in.

    Then, listen to some Japanese to get the accent down. Your audio tapes should be fine, or you can watch some tv show, or even some J-pop music could help.

    After that, use whatever materials you have available to learn some vocabulary. I like http://smart.fm for vocabulary building.

    Then, learn to make sentences with the vocabulary. You should be able to learn grammar from a wide variety of textbooks and grammar dictionaries - it's your choice, really, just pick one.

    Of course kanji is a killer, but I wouldn't worry about that quite yet. I'm working on Remembering the Kanji (can't give an opinion on this yet), but I'd say you should get some very basic Japanese under your belt first before considering how many kanji you feel you need to learn. When you're more advanced and know some basic kanji, you can read comics or play Japanese video games for practice.

    Above all, do whatever works for you!

  15. #15

    Default Re: Help getting started...

    I agree with violetessence. If it wasn't clear enough in all the mess I wrote above: Just do something. Start somewhere. Getting going is one of the hardest steps. Realize it's going to take a long time and it all comes about from taking small steps. Then start taking those steps.

    AliDimayev-- Thanks for your point. I'll take it into consideration.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Help getting started...

    Yeah, listening to lots of Japanese is a good idea. I'm trying to do more of that myself. Whether it's true or not, I tell myself that I can absorb language just as well now as I could as a kid: I think it's important to set up high expectations and have a certain optimism. I remember learning to read English in part by listening to stories read to me and trying to read along, then reading to myself individually when my parents weren't around to read them. I try to do much the same thing with Japanese, and combine this basic, less-mediated sort of approach (understanding Japanese as Japanese, not some weird translation exercise) with the extra speed that I think adults who've already learned a language or two can apply: really, I think, we ought to set our standards -higher- than we'd place on a kid. Even if they have some extra natural talent, we're a lot more disciplined and systematic than they are. Great example: kanji memorization.

    When I was first learning Japanese, I watched a bunch of movies and stuff. I couldn't understand hardly anything, but just listening to their intonation and such was very helpful, I think.
    Last edited by Wakatta; April 19th, 2009 at 00:42.
    Quote Originally Posted by katsudon View Post
    Principal: 'genki no nai shapenaa'
    Me: *giggle*
    Principal (turns to me, says): Very old sharpener. I am not as old as that sharpener.

  17. #17
    Tall one nHx's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    One of my friends swears by this: http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/

    Dunno, haven't tried it myself. Besides everyone's great advice, I would say just keep at it.

    Once you get to the point where you can understand the basics, start a little blog on www.lang-8.com and the people there will correct it and provide you with some great feedback. I've used it for many compositions I had to write.

    http://iknow.co.jp is another good free site.

  18. #18
    SENIOR MEMBER Neb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    I dunno why you guys ragging on Rosetta Stone, I tried it (albeit only the beginning) and i gotta say, it's great for basics and vocabulary... it teaches you vocab like phone, tv, to drink, to eat, to cook, different ways to refer to people.. other stuff... I don't know if you guys tried it or as you said "heard" that it was bad, but I assure you, it probably is not all that bad.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Help getting started...

    How does this study schedule sound?

    8-9a and 5-6p, M-F, cultural studies (these are the times i am commuting to work on the bus).

    Monday - 730-830p Read a lesson from Japanese For Busy People
    Tuesday - 730-830p Finish Workbook Section for Japanese For Busy People
    Wednesday - 730-830p Work on Hiragana/Katakana Workbook
    Thursday - 730-830p Review/read Japanese in Mangaland
    Friday - 730-830p Pimsleur/Rosetta Stone lesson

  20. #20
    Resident ewok wicket's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help getting started...

    i'd suggest working more on listening/speaking skills - 3 days a week; and 2 days on reading/writing to begin with.

    but really, as others have said, anything is better than nothing; and you'll soon find your way of doing it. keeping the discipline to do that hour a day will make a lot of difference.
    BTW - Friday night? Rooly? Coz when I was your age I would've been going out (or staying in) for drinkies!
    "Like anyone with a sliver of honesty in them I believe what I find I believe when I wake up each morning."
    Stephen Fry, The stars' tennis balls

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