Combining Japanese Classes With Self-Study

So you’ve decided to take Japanese classes. But you’ve also decided that you would never let the painfully sluggish pace slow you down, and would continue self-studying like a Japanese language rock star.

Then comes a super annoying issue.

Combining Japanese Classes With Self-Study

One Jalup reader in this situation worried about the following:

“My university only offers three semesters of Japanese through Genki 1 (yes, one and a half years to complete Genki 1!!!), and I hate how–despite the fact that I can use grammar and read and write many kanji we will never learn in our Japanese careers–my teacher looks at me like I have three heads because I don’t know the word for “_______.”

My output is still awful: I can read far more kanji than I can write, and understand far more than I can speak, but my teacher never gives me the opportunity to demonstrate that.

What should I do?”

A year and a half for Genki 1 is insane. But surprisingly typical for universities.

School Japanese can be weird, as it focuses too much on short term (and instant gratification) and not enough on long term. But class is class, and to get a good grade you have to be able to do what they want. You need to be able to know exactly what they teach you, and be able to reproduce it in the way they want.

So two tips to overcome this Japanese divide:

1. In Anki, add in the vocabulary from the textbook vocabulary lists. Either use your existing sentences and exchange vocabulary words to create new sentences, or use the textbook sample sentences filling in those vocabulary words. This will reinforce your grammar and teach you a new word every new sentence you add.

Since quizzes, tests, and your judged ability will depend on those vocabulary you are supposed to know, you will need to learn them now.

2. Read out loud and write sentences (by hand) whenever you do Anki reviews. This increases your output to match the pace of the class.

Once you do this little bit of catch-up to match the class needs, you will easily blow away your teacher and everyone else in the class.

Anyone want to add any other advice how you coped with matching class needs with your self-learning?

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


Combining Japanese Classes With Self-Study — 6 Comments

  1. I never took Japanese 101 to 201 so I missed those 1 1/2 years with Genki 1 completely and jumped into 1 1/2 years with Genki 2 instead. So what I went through may not be exactly what you’re going through. My advice is to use the class as a tool. Really focus on the grammar that you learn and opportunities for corrected output. It’s a good chance to fine tune accuracy.

    When I started Japanese 202, I had all of Genki 1 kanji to catch up on. Like you, I could read a lot, but not write a lot. What I did was write down on a paper kanji on the left, hiragana on the right, folded it in half and wrote the kanji on the right next to the hiragana and reverse, then checked my answers. Then I got a new sheet of paper and wrote down the ones I got wrong and restarted the process. I brought the paper everywhere and did the exercise in my other classes. I was caught up in time by the time of the Genki 1 review exam and aced it.

    For me, I was still learning a lot grammar wise from my Japanese classes, but knew a lot of things my classmates didn’t, sometimes knew the grammar already, and picked up the grammar and vocab we were learning in class so easily because of reinforcement from my immersion environment. A lot of my classmates struggled, but getting an A was easy for me. My teacher even asked how I did it. One professor I hadn’t met talked about how she’s heard how good my Japanese is.

    For me, it was about catching up and fIlling in those gaps because I learned from immersion, not Genki 1. I don’t know what it’d be like starting from Japanese 101. Use your teacher’s reaction to you not knowing a certain word as fuel to motivate your study and learn those words. Then impress her or him later on.

    • Getting corrected is definitely one of the valuable aspects of taking a class. I would think the stricter the teacher the better.

  2. Use the classes as a stepping stone if anything. Get through some basics like learning kana and maybe some basic ます type forms and get out. I personally got into self study about a month into my first Japanese class after realizing that it was waaaaay too slow. I wanted to actually know the language, not just practice writing out kana for two months and saying こんにちは. I had to take some language classes in college to fulfill the requirements, but ended up just taking a placement test to get out of them. If you are motivated to learn, you don’t need to sit in a class endlessly going through basic grammar forms. You’ll be better off with anime and anki.

    • Classes definitely aren’t for everyone, but some people like the structure and what it can provide. I think it becomes a self-judgment call, and one that every learner has to make at some point. However, a class is just one small tool and must be used correctly to gain its benefits.

    • I was thinking about saying this as well. If you are bored out of your mind by a Japanese class, perhaps you either need to place out of them into a higher level or all together. Depending on what you’re looking for. For me, I enjoyed my higher level classes.

      I’m not learning Chinese anymore, but I had to sit through a Chinese 101 class after having taken a beginner class in Chinatown over the summer and using immersion to learn it. While I learned a few things here and there and my basic knowledge was really reaffirmed, I was bored out of my mind. I hated it.

  3. You could also try private online classes that cater specificallly to your needs and level because you are the only student!

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