There existed many flaws in the methods used in my four years of formal Japanese classes. The class was way overly focused on output, forcing kids to speak and write almost immediately, all being taught by a non-native speaker. A homegrown, American whitey. We were learning an ugly, mutated version of Japanese. I don’t even want to imagine what our pronunciation must’ve sounded like. Whoops! I accidentally just pictured it… fecal matter spilling out our—never mind.
The only ‘C’ I’ve ever received in my school career landed on me one ominous term of Japanese [one of my favorite classes]. I had a choice to make, either accept the average grade or wait in a massively lengthy line of students twice a day after class hours to speak with the 先生 [teacher] in Japanese for ‘Conversation Coupons’ (which, despite clever alliteration, provided absolutely no savings or discounts off any products). Obviously something I simply refused to do after I was informed 「お元気ですか？・はい、元気です。」was no longer acceptable. I had things to do a.k.a. ‘A LIFE’ and I wasn’t ready to speak something my brain barely had time to have a meaningful relationship with.
All this feeds into one slice of the class pie that I look back as being a major issue, probably the biggest issue. It’s no wonder everyone’s number one leading weakness reflected on the ‘listening’ portion of the grade scale. Our little ears hardly stood a chance. I’m not gonna say we never did, but we rarely did—listen to authentic, native-speaking material and media. Made for natives, by natives. This, in my experience, would have been of the utmost importance. I was one of the top students in the class, but throw me in Japan the day after the 4th and final year ended, the time we’re supposedly ready to flap our wings, you woulda seen a blank-faced, wide-(handsomely blue)-eyed, lost, pathetic little (or tall comparatively, rather) 外人 [foreigner] the second someone tried to interact with me or me, them. I am not saying that physically being in Japan wouldn’t be in the top best for learning. I’m saying that the four years I took to prepare for that leap would be mostly all for nil. There was not only comprehension trouble, but actually being able to hear the mere syllables being pronounced. And, if you can’t distinguish any syllables, good luck being able to pick up words and getting any meaning out of those dancing jaw lines.
Did I correct this minor, major listening problem?
もちろん！ Well, I’m in the latter half of the process. This is something I strongly recommend, even more than I recommend dropkicking parents who think it’s okay their children wear straight-billed baseball caps. The majority of my time spent studying consists simply of watching TV, movies, and videos in Japanese! And you want to know what the best part is? …Oh, you don’t? Never mind then…
Screw you! I’m gonna share anyways!
This solution seems to be (1) the most beneficial and (2) the most fun! Your ears become accustomed to the speed the language is rattled off, the emphasis and pronunciation, the most appropriate times of when to use the phrases and words, and best of all, you learn all this while being entertained! It’s a win-win-win! I win cause I learn to understand them, they win cause they don’t have to repeat themselves or dumb down, and Michael Scott wins for some reason I don’t know! You discover language doesn’t sound like what textbooks try to teach you. Things get shortened, dropped, slurred, and there’s ever-evolving slang.
Here’s a quick example: When first reading the word for zebra, シマウマ, it appears to be pronounced [SHEE-MAH EW-MAH]; but, when heard pronounced on a television program, it came out sounding slightly more like [SHEE-MOW(as in ‘cow’)-MAH].
But you don’t live in Japan, so you can’t watch their TV. Oh, really? You gonna stick with that answer big boy?
If you’ve been serious about learning Japanese, you probably already know about this. You can in fact watch Japanese television… LIVE! It’s a little thing called KeyHole TV that is supported by Mac, PC, and Linux. It’s the Japanese government’s experiment with p2p technology. That means if you have a computer and an internet connection, you’re in business. You get all the major Japanese channels: テレビ東京、フジテレビ、テレビ朝日、日本テレビ、and TBS, along with some other fluff. And it’s all FREE!
There are a few cons. The audio and video aren’t the best quality I’ve seen out there on the web, but it is a legal, consistent stream. There is some choppiness depending on how many people are viewing the channel, which shows visibly the head-count to the right of the channel name. The channels aren’t organized in any particular order, and the order seems to scramble around every so often. But, really, not that big of a deal. You can’t beat free!
Go ahead, have a looksie. Have a blast! …or don’t… Yeesh, you seem cranky today.
Here’s where you can download.