Waseda Japanese Pronunciation Course EdX Review

A lot of people on the Jalup Line Group and social media have been talking about this new online pronunciation course offered by Waseda. I figured it was worth checking out and giving a review of it, now that the course has reached its final week. I went through most of the lessons and videos, and want to share a few thoughts about it.

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Everyone would love to improve their pronunciation, so having a free pronunciation course by a reputable university like Waseda is a nice welcome. There aren’t many places to find courses solely on pronunciation.

First impressions

It’s well made, the videos are clearly well thought out, and you can feel the positive effort that went into course creation. This could have easily been a pay-for course.

Using the online platform is simple and the syllabus lays everything out nicely. No time is wasted figuring out what to do. Most of the lessons are in spoken Japanese, with optional English subtitles. There is a lot that is covered, so it should keep you occupied for a while.

The teacher

Professor Takako Toda is a sweet lady, enthusiastic, and most importantly, has extremely easy to understand pronunciation. She has “teacher pronunciation.” The type of pronunciation that builds your listening confidence, until you listen to “outside the classroom Japanese” and are shocked. She explains everything in depth, and there are plenty of visual aids to help along with each lesson.

She speaks a bit slow. Which is fine I guess if you are a beginner. But luckily, there is a feature on the video player to speed up the video. At a minimum, I had to watch all the videos at 1.25x, and was often finding myself going to 1.5x. Maybe I’m impatient.

The one thing that bothered me was that she didn’t look into the camera, ever. I’m assuming that she was reading off of a teleprompter, which is fine, but it caused her eyes to always stare slightly to the left of the screen. Or maybe this is just my imagination…?

Topics

The course was split up into:

General Pronunciation Points
Accent
Intonation
Colloquial Japanese
Becoming a Pronunciation Expert

I’m not going to go into detail into each topic. They all have introductions, listening practice, speaking practice, shadowing practice, and culture points. What I really want to talk about is the lesson on Pitch Accent, as this is information that you may have never heard before.

Pitch Accent?

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Pitch accent is not a topic that is discussed much, yet is important to having natural sounding Japanese. The series of videos and practice provided here are great. Never heard of pitch accent? Start here. Learn some of the basic rules, practice them, and see why it makes a difference. Even if you had no interest in the course, I would still recommend checking out this one section.

If you are interested in pitch accent, I recommend Dogen’s new series on YouTube. He’s done a nice job breaking the subject down and I like his presentation. While he has just begun a new online course at Patreon, it seems worth supporting.

Do I recommend the Waseda course?

Give it a try.

It definitely feels like a school class. So I wouldn’t say it’s exciting. The Japanese conversation skit videos are typical ones you’d see in any online textbook. It’s like Genki, real world version. I also think that pitch accent should have been expanded on for multiple weeks.

But overall, I’d check it out. You’ll learn a lot.

What did you think?

For those of you who took the course, or are currently in it right now, what are your thoughts on it?



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Adam

Adam

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

Comments

Waseda Japanese Pronunciation Course EdX Review — 14 Comments

  1. A question I had for a while now,

    can you pick up pitch accent just by listening to native japanese and then just kind of reproducing it naturally? Or is it really necessary to study it?

    • I think with lots of active modeling and shadowing over native voices it can come.

      I’m one of those lucky people that can hear accents and sounds and reproduce them pretty well. Comes with music training. However, I think some level of active training on it has to be there somewhere to reach “super awesome almost native level.”

    • People will have mixed opinions, but here is what I think.

      You should learn what pitch accent is, how it works, and practice it to some extent. This is why a course like this (or the above mentioned Dogen course) is helpful. With this knowledge, when you listen and talk, and Japanese people correct you, you understand what they are talking about when you think you are saying a word right, but actually aren’t. Also, as you as you listen to more native material, pitch accent starts to stand out.

      Shadow immersion, and having Japanese people correct you go a long way to giving you more natural sounding Japanese.

      How far you decide to take it is up to you.

      I personally wouldn’t, for example, add the pitch accent to every single flash card I did. But others will, and if they can pull that off, then by all means go for it. You find the balance that works for you.

  2. I took the course, thought it was helpful, and look forward to rewatching the main lectures (as well as some of the interviews) again. For a free series on pitch accent, I haven’t seen anything better.

    I’m also following Dogen’s series on Patreon, and am glad to be paying for it. The lectures are crystal clear, the presentation is interesting, and the message that a foreigner can speak like a native is constantly shown (rather than stated). The whole production feels like a course on pitch accent designed by Apple.

    • I agree, so far the Waseda course is the best I’ve seen (though there isn’t much to compare it to yet.)

      And Dogen’s course is well put together, and quite impressive. I think by the time he finishes it, he will have created something special.

  3. I just joined Dogen’s Patreon group. Great stuff. Since I am starting over with intermediate, this is a great opportunity for me to add pitch accent diagrams and native audio from the following free websites:

    forvo (dot) com
    www(dot)gavo(dot)t(dot)u-tokyo(dot)ac(dot)jp/ojad/eng/phrasing/index

    (the t after dot is not accidental)

  4. Do different words using the same kanji with the same reading of that kanji tend to have the same pitch accent? I am under the impression that pitch typically only changes once per word, so I doubt this is the case.

  5. Lol, I should have figured that you would write about this course. It was definitely worth while, though I probably should have gone at 1.25 speed too. It can be hard to hear the pitch at times, but I’ll look out for it in the future.

    • You know me haha.

      It can be hard to hear, but once you are on the lookout for it, it can become a little easier.

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