Today marks the beginning of my conversation practice. I am using the book Genki – An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese for this. It seems that it was a good idea after all to learn the ひらがな beforehand, as most of the initial lessons are written in this script. I will work on the Katakana soon however so that I also have this in my arsenal.
The First Lesson, or rather Lesson Zero, involves some of the most common Greetings in Japanese. This actually proves to be a good practice for myself as I can now write and read these Greetings fairly easily, and learn their pronunciation and meaning at the same time.
I will however not use this book exclusively, but rather try to get my knowledge from a couple of sources. I might try out Pimsleur too, as I heard many good things about it. As for the Katakana and Kanji, I will work with Heisigs books, as they have already proven themselves very useful and effective.
Today I learned different greetings depending on the time of day (e.g. Good morning is おはよう – ohayoo while Good evening is こんばんは – konbanwa*.) In addition, I learned basic etiquette, for example how to say thanks before and after a meal (いただきます – itadakimasu / ごちそうさまでした gochisōsama-deshita respectively).
I am also repeating the ひらがな quite a bit. Right now, I pay special attention to getting the Dakuten, Handakuten, and Yōon right. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be, especially once I get a hang of the standard ひらがな symbols. Now it’s just a matter of adding the right symbols to change their phonetic sound. Simple really, yet I still practice this a lot. Sooner or later I should get to the point where I can read the symbols with ease, not having to resort to images in my mind or waiting a couple of seconds to bring back the sound in my head.
Daily practice does pay off.
So far, I spent around 390 minutes learning Japanese. You see, I have a list where I keep track of my daily learning time, just to see for myself how quickly it can add up. This is more or the less my 14th day of learning, as I usually take one day off in the week (which I “failed” to do last Sunday, as it was much more fun to practice those kana symbols some more). I don’t mean to show off of course, but rather inspire others to see how quickly just 20-40 minutes a day (sometimes more, sometimes less) can add up.
In my opinion, you don’t have to spend hours every day, sitting at your desk, pounding your head with vocabulary. Instead, I’d advise a 1:3 ratio of learning. For example, if I spend 10 minutes learning 9 new kana symbols, I will then spend 30 minutes “applying” them. The first 10 minutes were basically to get to know them, and the 30 minutes were spent writing or reading the symbols. The first part is rather passive, whereas the latter is more active.
This is even more useful in regards to speaking Japanese. Spending 10-20 minutes learning new words or phrases, and then 30-60 minutes actually using them in conversations (be that with yourself or with others) will have a tremendous effect on your learning.
This has worked well for me so far.
Give it a try and tell me of your results.
*it seems that Japanese people use は for the Wa sound here because it denotes the topic marker (as in “this day”). The same is true for こんにちは konnichiwa.
Also, apparently it was used in historical Japan instead of the わ symbol.