Learning Japanese with Language Hunting

Japanese lesson 2

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NOTE: The links to vocabulary such as “no-grief debrief” are not working very well. I need to come up with a solution for that. Thank you for your patience.

Yesterday was the second session. Three people showed up, two from last time, and one new person.

No-grief debrief

Because we didn’t do a no-grief debrief session last time, we started with that. I noted that the rock used as a prop wasn’t very clear because one person had to ask what it was, and that I kaizenned by getting two better rocks. I also noted that as black and white rocks, they weren’t very good examples because they are more grayish and off-white, and needed to be further kaizenned.

I also noted that we would mainly switch over to American Sign Language to avoid potential future confusion. Also, I requested help from the new person with ASL—she is fluent—which relieved me of a lot of the need to worry about signs. (Even if I make them up, I still have to remember them.)

On writing

People had read this blog and mentioned that it helped them fix pronunciations in their heads that had been fuzzy. I did not discuss the issue further, but this has the advantage of helping people remember words, as well as the potential disadvantage of anchoring words in written text. I think this serves as a mnemonic of sorts: When I learned Japanese, I had trouble hearing the difference between long and short vowels, so I memorized how the words were written and recalled the spelling when speaking. Eventually the vowel problem disappeared and the memorized spellings faded from memory.

Class content

1. As in the first lesson, we started off with Zip-Zap-Zop, again reordered as “zap zip zop” to mirror the kana ordering. We also did zappu, jippu, zoppu (Japanese phonology) and then the sa and ta columns: sa-shi-su-se-so, and ta-chi-tsu-te-to. The ta column was a little difficult.

2. Review

The new person speaks ASL fluently, so she did not have the initial barrier of learning signs that the others had in the previous session.

Criticism: As people noted during the rest of the class, not enough time was dedicated in the review to the new signs. Everyone overcame the shift, but two more minutes of review at this point would have saved some confusion later on.

3. kore-sore-are-dore

Whether to add in “are,” (that over there) was a major concern I had. Although English has “that over there,” it isn’t a core part of the language, and speakers don’t expect a separate word. In Japanese, this set of four (k, s, a, d) is a pattern that repeats again and again and again. It’s kind of fun because there’s a satori in discovering that Japanese has this extra feature.

Criticism: This was introduced too early. Recommend introducing at least the -no (kono, sono, dono) and -ko (koko, soko, doko) series and then coming back and tossing the “a” member into the mix. There was no real harm done, really, but adding this broadened the focus unnecessarily.

Another feature of this was that with the question “dore?” the particle changes from “wa” to “ga.” When asked about it, I explained it was just part of the question and answer pattern.

4. Writing and number.

We took a very short amount of time to practice writing: い・し・あ・か (i, shi, a, ka).

I wrote them on the board and asked them to write them down on a piece of scratch paper. As I wrote each stroke, I counted in Japanese as a quick primer to the numbers 1, 2, 3.

As expected, あ was difficult. It has a unique balance to it that is difficult to capture. I wrote a model on each person’s paper. Then I collected the scratch paper and we moved on.

5. Who’s?

Second person pronouns (words meaning “you”) have social implications in Japanese, and many people use personal names instead. I wanted to take that approach, using -san after everyone’s name. However, we had a married couple, and it would be odd for them to refer to each other with -san.

  • By using the Japanese Sign Language sign for “married” and using wedding rings on fingers, I introduced the word “kekkon shiteru.”
  • That went really well, but then everyone was saying, “I’m married,” which is awkward, so I introduced the particle “mo,” (also), demonstrating its usage with pens and chalk as well.
  • Everyone got that really fast, too. More practice is needed, but that was a quick acquisition.

We then went around calling each person’s name, with the husband calling the wife with no suffix, and the wife calling the husband with the suffix -kun. An interesting twist was that one person’s name, when pronounced in Japanese, has a geminate (double) consonant followed by a voiceless vowel, which are difficult for English speakers. I introduced “bookkeeper” for the geminate, but AFAIK, English doesn’t have any clear voiceless vowels, so I left that for another day.

I then made a point of giving each person an object and saying it was their object.

We practiced “This is my X.” On the fly, I introduced “boku” for men and “watashi” for women. Someone asked if it would be odd if they got those mixed up, so I said no problem for men, but women can’t use “boku.”

Very quickly, we did “Who’s is that?”

No-grief debrief

Somewhere (in 5?), one person got full, which was fine. He noted in particular that the are-dore (3) was a lot to take in.

Otherwise, it seemed that the balance of review and new material was useful.

I think it was at this point that someone pointed out that the Japanese sign for “rock” was better than the ASL sign:

I think the issue is the fun of doing the sign. So it’s not just the iconicity of the signs but how fun they are to make. It may be useful to redesign signs so they are more dynamic. One example: We used finger spelling to represent the first letter of each person’s name, but for one person, we used the Japanese sign, which has movement. I think that was a better option. Next time, I will revamp the name signs.


Written by RaLAS

15 February 2013 at 03:08

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