Hello, this is Jeremiah Bourque, head of the Japanese department of Learn Out Live. I want to tell you about the immense progress we have made in a short time, and what value we can offer our students and clients.
I am just completing a unit of courses that, taken together, I call Fundamentals of Japanese. This unit is composed of:
- Beginner Japanese – 10 Lessons
- Kanji – 5 Lessons (4 Regular, 1 Review)
- Vocabulary: Broadening Horizons – 5 Lessons (3 Regular, 2 Mixed Teaching & Review)
Fundamentals of Japanese is designed to take a student from zero to hero: from knowing nothing of the Japanese language, to having a very strong foundation in the Japanese language.
Why is this so important? Because most of the books, courses, and websites teaching Japanese to beginners do not provide a firm foundation. Take it from me: I learned from scratch, on my own, relying on books and websites. It took years of practical experience with real, spoken Japanese and studying the incomplete, poor explanations given by many websites to understand where they had led me astray years earlier, and how they are leading people like you astray right now. By teaching correctly the first time, you will not have to unlearn bad Japanese later, saving you time, grief, embarrassment, and yes, money.
This is our approach, why we’re using it, and why it works.
Step One: Learning About The Japanese Language
The first step is to gain some idea of what your teacher, or sensei, is talking about. Japanese learners start at a diadvantage: the Japanese language uses two types of alphabet-like script, called “kana,” for phonetic writing (that is, writing that, with a few notable exceptions, spoken exactly like how it is read), and “kanji,” or “Chinese characters,” the pictograph/ hieroglyph-like writing that some wrongfully believe is some kind of super-alphabet. It’s better to say that each kanji represents a concept; when you put two kanji together to form a compound, you are putting two concepts together.
All the same, the student doesn’t actually see kanji, except as an example of what they look like, until the 11th lesson.
Instead, the focus is on hiragana and katakana, on parts of speech, on Japanese sentence structure, on pronouns, an introduction to Japanese verbs, and beginner-level vocabulary. This includes basic, everyday greetings like “ohayou gozaimasu,” but also includes leaning why “gozaimasu” makes this greeting not only polite, but humble.
There are two big things with Beginner Japanese that you need to know.
1. No Information Overload!! Every aspect of these ten lessons is specially designed not to push too much information onto the student at any one time. Also, I have undertaken every effort to use all my years of experience as a translator into explaining for your benefit, in English, things that Japanese native speakers take for granted every day of their lives.
2. We Get You Speaking Japanese Quickly. We don’t get you speaking much Japanese, mind you; but as you learn, you get to hear the pronunciation straight from my mouth. Also, with live lessons over Skype, you can pronounce new things out loud for yourself and get real-time correction. When you get it wrong, I help. When you get it right, I praise. It’s simple, it works, and it really helps.
Step Two: Baby Steps Into Kanji
Now, you see, after ten lessons of seeing more and more kana, having that kana reinforced, and not having anything visual to break up the kana, students are not just ready for kanji; they crave the change of pace. So, while carefully avoiding information overload, we begin to cover basic, early kanji. The student is shown how kanji, once you learn them, actually simplify the written language and make it more elegant and interesting.
This is also when we start the really detailed review process. I have a simple rule: I do not ask anything of students they cannot be reasonably expected to deliver. Also, more importantly, reviews are not for for tearing students down. They are for learning.
Step Three: Broadening your Vocabulary Horizons
After five lessons, a student has already seen quite a few kanji. Instead of introducing more kanji “officially,” we focus on hiragana vocabulary. If a word has a kanji with it, I mention the kanji and show you what it is, but you are not expected to memorize it – not yet, anyway. Vocabulary, after all, is about familiarity. No one can be expected to learn something the first time. I do not expect anyone to remember something new the first time it is shown. That’s why I show you new things more than once, and why I keep what I’m going to quiz you on at a level that you can handle. This rule remains true whether you are a beginner or not.
In this part of the course, we finally cover adjectives and more adverbs in a serious way. In Japanese, you can talk about “a red car,” or you can say, “the car is red.” There is a subtle difference. In Japanese, you can say a car is “pretty good,” “pretty bad,” “kinda good,” “totally great,” and so on; it’s just a matter of familiarity with the words that modify “good” and “bad.” These are fundamentals that will greatly help you when learning the language.
Live Tutoring: Why It Is Priceless
In the future, I would like for this lovingly crafted education material, intended to provide you with excellent, clear, concise explanations of the Japanese language’s nuts and bolts without making your head explode, to become books, audiobooks, and multimedia. Nonetheless, the real value of Learn Out Live’s one on one tutoring over Skype is in the “live” part.
Live tutoring means real-time correction of your spoken Japanese. When I ask you to read something out loud, here is the sort of thing that happens:
- You struggle to remember what the characters mean. When this happens, I give you a long leash. I give you time to think. If you are making progress, I allow you to have the satisfaction of working your way through the problem. As you make progress, I immediately affirm when you get something right, and I am quick to praise you when you have done well.
- You understand the text, but you struggle with your pronunciation. When this happens, I make the correct pronunciation with my own voice and get you to follow my lead. When you get it right, I immediately confirm that you have made progress. This is teaching: training your mind to remember the right way.
- You need a little time, but you both understand the text and make correct pronunciations. You remember. I confirm that you have this part nailed down and praise your efforts. It’s not easy, but you’re making progress, and that is very important.
- You just can’t remember what something means. You know you should, you know you want to, but no matter how hard you try, it isn’t coming together. In this circumstance, I do not leave you dangling on a hook. I intervene and show you “the rest of the story”: what you tried to remember, but couldn’t. If you can’t remember it, it’s because you have not seen it enough times. By seeing the rest of the story, that counts as another time. The fact that you thought about it, and then, the fact that you see the answer, helps you to learn in a way that you will not easily forget.
Using these techniques, my first student to have completed these twenty lessons remarked, “I can feel the neurons in my brain making new friends.”
I can think of no higher compliment to me as a teacher.
As head of the Japanese Department, I pride myself on making the Japanese language as simple as possible. However, these advantages are ones that you can get from all teachers at Learn Out Live. Each one of the teachers here has a great deal of knowledge about the languages they teach. The advantage of the personal touch, and real-time correction and reinforcement, is the advantage you will receive from all of Learn Out Live.
I am simply proud to do my part to provide quality language services to you, the customer. This is what we can offer. I very much hope we have the opportunity to help you fulfill your desire to learn new languages.
Thank you for reading.