An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese

Dear Reader, as you may well know from reading one of my latest articles, I have started working with this great textbook. Yesterday I’ve finished adding the vocabulary for chapter three, which contains around 92 words, and in addition to that the 76 kanji, into Anki along with sentences from the various reading sections. Today i was only doing reviews, and tomorrow i will start to review the reading sections, and I will start creating grammar cards. In todays article I wish to share some of my thoughts about the book, and tell you a bit more about An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese and what you can expect when working with it.

With only げんき1 and げんき2 and some basic knowledge about Grammar in  my back, which comes from various sources such as A Dictionary of Basic Japanese, it was a big step up in my self-learning career. This book is going anything but easy on the learner. It confronts you with lengthy sentences, natural speed of speaking, and no English translations for the dialogues, other than vocabulary. The kanji compounds, compared to other textbooks, are very long but they are rather easy to memorize. On top of that, the reading sections and dialogues contain grammar points, that haven´t been introduced in the textbook. Here is an example of the length of a typical sentence.

人に何か上げる時、客に食事を出す時、自分の子供の先生に会った時、そのほかどういう時になんと言ったらよいかが決まっていて、それを覚えるのが、大事な社会教育だと言ってもよいだろう。

There are commonly used set phrases for such times as giving something to person, serving a meal to a guest, meeting with the teacher of one’s children, etc. It can be said that learning these phrases is an important part of social education.

私は文を日本語から英語に翻訳するのが上手ではありません。
I’m not good at translating Japanese Sentences into English. (shame)

On top of that there are the kanji compounds, you are frequently confronted with, here are some examples. The following examples will be already familiar to you, if you have been working with げんき 2. 推薦状 [すいせんじょう] letter of recommendation and 奨学金 [しょうがくきん] tuition. They are easy compared to those: 日付変更線 [ひづけへんこうせん] which translates to International Date Line, 電気工学 [でんきこうがく] electrical engineering, and last but not least a beast like 留学生別科 [りゅがくせいべっか] which means special division for foreign students. All this, together with approximately 130 words the book expects you to memorize, can be quite overwhelming at first. And the fact that the everything is in Japanese, except the vocabulary translation, and the grammar explanations, are making the book to look harder than it really is! In fact, it is good that there is so little English, and so much Japanese in this book, beginning with the dialogues, and ending with the exercises. Yes, even the guide how to carry out a ロールプレ Role-play is given solely in Japanese. But this is quite easy to understand. Let me give you an example for this as well.

ペアになり、一人は日本語の先生、もう一人日本語の先生になりなさい。今は学年の初めてで、学生は暫くぶりに先生に出会った [であった= bump into] ところです。元気がかどうか、夏休みはどうだったか、先生に聞きなさい。そして自分の夏休みについて先生に話しなさい。それが終わったら、学生をやった人が先生になり、先生をやった人が学生になって、もう一度同じ会話を練習しなさい。

Form pairs, one person is becoming a Japanese teacher, the other person is a student who studies Japanese. The school year has just started, and the student is running into his teacher, he hasn’t seen in for a long time. The student should ask the teacher if he is fine, and how his summer holidays have been. Afterwards, the student should talk to his teacher, about his own summer holidays. When you are finished, the person playing a student should be come a teacher, and the person playing a teacher becomes a student. They should repeat to practice the same conversation one more time.

It is of course easy for me to say this, but this book does so many things right, which i was missing badly while working with げんき1 + 2. It makes use of every part of the chapter, when it comes to teaching grammar points, or vocabulary. Everything belongs together and feels like it’s a whole. This really makes it easy to memorize vocabulary because there is always context. Of course it was not easy to get started, i would lie, if i told you that it was not. And i felt really overwhelmed when i first opened up this book to begin working with it. In fact i have been delaying my planned start, in favor of working through the back of the book of Genki I + II. I was hoping that this would guarantee for a smooth transition to An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese. This was sadly not the case. The authors of the book of Genki I + II were missing the chance of gradually dropping away from English and gradually move into Japanese only. This would really have guaranteed for an easy transition into the other book. But i digress.

The length of the sentences is the only thing that is hard for me. Having no English translation, i have to translate everything by myself, as good as i can. I cannot claim that i understand everything a hundred percent. But i will get better, even though it is a challenge, but one that i’m gladly willing to face. I don’t expect that it will get any easier either. But this is no different compared to the other books i have been working with. Looking back everything seems like child play. What matters is that it makes fun to learn, no matter how hard the content of a dialogue, or reading section, may seem at first.

Now that i have been writing at length about the hard parts, i will tell you about the easy and fun parts, which this book also contains. The easiest part of each chapter by far is the grammar section. And the funniest and most interesting to me, is the so called 速読 [そくどく] or speed reading part. This section deals with topics such as 「ハンカチの使い方」 [はんかちのつかいかた] “Using a handkerchief.” or the arrival of a Japanese student to America, and his experiences, with natives. You will allow me to give you an example for such a story, which i found to be the funniest so far. This speed reading exercise is pointing out the different ways of thinking between a Japanese person and an American person. It is called “No thank you.”

ノー・サンキュ

これは、日本から来たばかりの留学生山下君が、始めてアメリカ人の家へ行った時の話です。ケラーと言うそのアメリカ人は、山下君のお父さんの友達で、山下君はお父さんから頼まれた手紙と小さプレゼントを届けに行ったのです。その日は、八月の末で、随分暑い日でした。大学から十分ぐらい歩いてケラーさんノアパトに着きました。ケラーさんに「どうぞお入りなさい」と言われて、山下君は部屋に入りました。自己紹介が終わって、手紙とプレゼントを渡すと、ケラーさんは「コカコーラ何かどうですか」と聞きました。山下君はのどが渇いていて、何か冷たいものを飲みたかったけれど、「はい、飲みたいです」と答えるのは失礼だろうと思ったので、“No, thank you.“ と答えました。もちろん、ケラーさんがもう一度聞いてくれるだろうと思ったからです。ところが、ケラーさん「オーケー」と言っただけど、すぐ山下君のお父さんのことを色々と聞き始めました。家族の事や自分の勉強の事を一時間ぐらい話してから、山下君はケラーさんのアパートを出ました。のどは、まだ渇いたままでした。山下君はその日、アメリカでは「ノー」は「ノー」なのだ、と言うことを知ったのです。

This is the story of the time when Mr. Yamashita, an international student who has just come from Japan, who was visiting an American home for the first time. Mr. Yamashita was delievering a letter and a small present to an American person called Keller who was a friend of Yamashitas father. On that day, at the end of August, the weather was very hot. He arrived at the apartment of Mr. Keller after walking about ten minutes from the university. Mr Keller said, “Please come in,” after which Yamashita entered the room. After the self introduction ended, and after the letter and the small present was handed over, Mr. Keller asked “Would you like some Coca-Cola?” Yamashita’s was thirsty, and wanted to drink something cold, but he thought it was impolite to answer “I would like to drink, yes.” so he answered with “No, thank you.” Of course he thought Mr. Keller would ask once more. Mr. Keller said “Okay,” and began to ask various things about Yamashita’s father. After about an hour of talking about his family and his studies Yamashita left the apartment of Mr. Keller. He was still thirsty. Mr. Yamashita learned on that day, that when someone in America says “No,” it means “No.”

You see, dear reader, these stories contain various interesting facts, and they are funny. But I have already mentioned that, didn’t I? Anyway, if you are looking for a good intermediate textbook, this is it. As for me, 12 chapters are still waiting for me, to get done. But before i move on to chapter 4, i will repeat the other 3 chapters, and add the grammar points to Anki. I just wish there was some sort of automatism to this process, but then again, i have something to read, while i copy and paste the information. In the meantime i also look forward to the arrival of my newest addition of textbooks, called Hiya­ku: An In­ter­me­dia­te Ja­pa­ne­se Cour­se. I wonder how this book turns out, and how useful this will be. In the meantime, dear reader, I wish you good luck, in your own studies.

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