|The pitfalls of Learning
When learning any language the biggest problem is going to be
live conversation PRACTICE. No matter how well you
understand the grammar of a language if you haven't been able to
speak it with other native speakers the chances of becoming
truly fluent are diminished. The internet is filled with
ways to have live conversations. There are chat rooms such
as Paltalk which contain
rooms of people speaking Japanese. Paltalk is free and up
to 25 people can be in one room actually SPEAKING with mics and
BUT beware. Your children will be exposed to
idiots who have no issues talking of such topics like sex other
things you might not want your child to be exposed to. I
am not trying to scare you, but please if you care enough to
home school certainly you don't want your children tainted by
kids with no discipline in the internet. I recently have
found a site that offers live lessons in Japanese 1 on 1 so that
your child can have a live teacher.
This site currently charges
around 20 dollars per 50 minute lesson. I have not tried
their services but they look like a reputable outfit.
ALSO once if your child is familiar with Instant Messenger
programs they can usually find a Japanese child close in age
that wants to learn English. Instant Messenger programs
all the TALK ability and if you find a Japanese friend then one
day they can talk only English and other days they can talk only
in Japanese. This is a GREAT way for your child to be even
more involved with Japan.
Learning the writing is a MUST!
I am always shocked to see people trying to learn Japanese
without learning the writing. There are three systems of
writing in Japan. ALL three are important. The first
2 learned by Japanese children are called Hiragana and Katakana.
Both of these systems together are collectively called "Kana".
These are VERY easy to learn. The Kana are phonetic
symbols and do not have meaning by themselves much like the
English alphabet does not have meaning when not part of a word.
Hiragana and Katakana each consist of 46 basic characters and
then around 50 more characters that are made using the first 46
in combination. IT IS MUCH easier than it might sound.
Hiragana and Katakana take only a few strokes to write and are
nothing like the more complicated Kanji.
Even beginning students using our lessons on
YesJapan.com are easily
able to read Hiragana after the first 9 lessons since we
integrate the learning into the lessons. Some books and
courses require the students to learn the Hiragana and Katakana
even before the first grammar is discussed. THIS IS A
MISTAKE because it normally will overwhelm the student and might
turn them off to the language. Other materials will teach
Japanese using the English alphabet. This is referred to
as Romaji in Japanese. Teaching Japanese in Romaji is a
very bad idea because the accent of the student will be strongly
How Writing Improves Japanese Accent
When you grow up speaking and reading English natively English
becomes part of you. It is very hard to throw away what
you have learned of the English language. If you then try
to learn Japanese using English spelling you will often read the
word with an English accent based on your INSTINCT in English.
For example the letter combination "TO" in English is always
read to sound like the number 2. However if you learn
Japanese you will have to overwrite that reading of TO and
change it to sound like TOE. This is a lot of strain on
the brain. It sends contradicting signals to the brain.
It makes learning Japanese harder AND weakens your accents
If instead you learn the Japanese symbol for that sound your
brain will learn THAT symbol represents that sound. And
since you have no preconceived ideas of the symbols you have
learned you will naturally read it and speak it the correct way.
There is no conflict in the brain, and this makes the learning
Japanese MUCH easier.
Over all my years of teaching I have yet to see an awesome
Japanese speaker that didn't learn the writing!
Kanji writing improves overall Japanese
Kanji, unlike the Kana described above, is much more detailed.
But I promise you Kanji will become your child's favorite
writing system. Most students come to like Kanji even more
than the easier to write Hiragana and Katakana.
Because, Kanji is so cool. Yes that is one of the
reasons, but the most compelling reason to learn Kanji is the
power that the Kanji holds in helping fluency. When you
have a grasp of even a few hundred Kanji you have a great
database in your mind of the building blocks of the Japanese
language. Kanji helps comprehension SO much that I would
be shocked if you didn't push your child to go the distance and
learn the Kanji.
HOWEVER!!! Do NOT start with Kanji! Make
sure your child can read and write the Kana first. If they
don't they will be dead in the water for reading Japanese, since
Japanese requires Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji.
These 3 systems work in tandem to make up the Japanese writing
system. They are as important as UPPER, lower and cursive
writing is in English.