I have had enormous success with my private Japanese tutoring over Skype with a student intending to take the EJU so that he can study in Japan. We still have a full year to go, but 60 lessons in, a firm, powerful foundation has been laid down.  (He is currently on a family trip, so I have more free time to write.) For my part, I continue to wonder about how to present my exhaustive knowledge of Japanese in a more fulfilling, more gripping way that captures the imagination of the public.

My latest experiment has become a video on Vimeo. The idea was inspired by the head of Learn Out Live, Andre Klein. I prevailed upon a friend of mine to make me some backgrounds that look like bamboo wood. Upon these, as a favor, he placed very LARGE kanji, twenty in all. For my part, I created a voice-over to explain the etymology of each kanji (the origin and meaning of the characters). Thus, the learner can simply buffer the video, sit, stare at beautifully rendered kanji, and listen to my humble explanation of what the heck it all means.

kanji compassThe observation Andre made that still tickles my mind is that the video has great educational value for people who aren’t learning Japanese. Just so you know, the video does not mention a single kanji reading – it’s all about the meaning of the words, not how to pronounce them, which depends upon the situation in any case. (Spoken Japanese is a hodgepodge of “native” words and “phonetic” pronunciations, meaning that they do to kanji – lit. “Chinese Characters” – what they do to “suupaa,” which is Engrish (as the lingo would have it) for “supermarket.”) So, the video contains no spoken Japanese whatsoever.

This video is all about the content of the characters. Judge not a kanji by its cover, but by the content of its character. Inspiring, yes?

Anyway, give it a look. If nothing else, I hope that the “old school” values here – the carved-into-bamboo-wood effects – are crowd-pleasers, even as the video leaves the viewer more educated for his or her trouble. Thank you very much.

First Grade Kanji Volume I from learnoutlive on Vimeo.