Monday, August 8, 2016
For Japanese Listening Practice
People ask me how I study Japanese.
The real question seems to be how they can study Japanese or English.
It is really difficult to motivate yourself to do the mental heavy lifting when you are not immersing yourself in the culture.
One thing I do not recommend as a means of cultural immersion is cross-cultural marriage. That topic deserves a separate blog post or four. (Or more. Have I not blogged about that, yet? Hehehehnoheh.)
But, obviously, if you are marrying into the target culture to learn the target language, you are either lying to yourself (a bad start for a marriage) or you have your priorities exactly backwards (even worse).
Don't do that. It hurts.
Get your priorities straight and be honest with yourself, or you don't have a chance.
Marriage is hard enough when you do it right. Doing it out of your culture and getting the fundamentals wrong is just going to be a load of hurt that you and the other person don't need to be carrying in addition to the usual burdens. If you are going to insist on marrying outside your culture, at least be honest with yourself, and if your priorities are not helping your partner find happiness, back out of it while you can.
And if you can't back out, change your priorities. NOW!
(Marrying cross-culture is hard enough when you do it for good and valid reasons.)
Likewise, I do not really recommend working in the culture. It's also painful, unless you can get an internship or similar arrangement where you know that most of the people you are working with will be resigned to you're not being able to keep up.
Or if you have a specialty that none of your foreign culture co-workers have, and they are not interested in fighting with you about it.
I don't recommend against working in the foreign culture, but I have to warn you that it gets painful at times. Really painful.
This was about recommending something for listening practice.
I don't watch TV. I can't stand it, and my wife is not particularly fond of it anyway.
If you can stand watching Japanese TV, it can help with the listening.
(Ditto, English/American/etc. TV for people study English.)
On the one hand, the visual helps the comprehension. On the other hand, it can get you to one plateau, but after you get to a certain level you start depending on the visual instead of using your ears.
Reading in the target language helps immensely. Without the written language, you don't really learn what you should be listening for.
Newspaper is good, but difficult, and somewhat stilted towards, well, news format.
Scriptures are good if you have some, but tend to focus on religious language.
Novels are great, if you can stand the plot. If you are in a target country, find a nearby library and browse from the stacks. If you think you might find one interesting, borrow it.
If you can't finish it in by the due date, maybe it's not interesting enough to drive you past the temptation to look up every other word. So, definitely don't recheck it out more than once.
Novels are great specifically because you have the target words and phrases in context.
I could have sworn I had blogged about having read コスプレ幽霊 紅蓮女 (Kosupure Yuurei Guren Onna) when preparing to take the JPLT.
(... Not counting certain avant garde novels in which the author deliberately subverts the context. Those take a fair amount of skill and you aren't wondering how to study if you have that kind of skill.)
Grammar books are terrible. Well, if they provide one-page readings and longer, that's an improvement over raw lists of vocabulary, of idiomatic expressions, or even of sentences out of context.
Those kinds of books are easy to write, so lots of people write such books and lots of companies publish them. They aren't completely useless, but they are not very useful. And if you don't quickly get yourself beyond them, they become worse than useless. They drag you down.
(Apologies to unnamed friends, but that's how it is.)
I have seen one set of such collections, done correctly, by a professor named 田尻 (Tajiri), if I remember right. It's not perfect, by any means, but it is first, short, and second, illustrated. A short list of English words and phrases is reasonably easy to absorb. Appropriate illustrations can give enough context to remember the words and phrases by.
(Yes, the above paragraph is dense and incomplete. There's a lot of learning theory packed into it, and I did not really intend to talk about theory here.)
My wife is an avid listener to talk shows. When she was staying with my cousin (Hi, Cuz!), she used to turn on a talk show before she went to bed. She'd wake up and turn it off after an hour. At first, it was incomprehensible to her. After about a month, she woke up to turn it off, and was thinking, what a stupid thing to waste time talking about. And then it hit her. Her listening comprehension had significantly improved over that month.
Sure, radio was not all she was doing, but it does help.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on my attitude that day), her custom of listening to radio talk shows is deeply embedded in her daily habits.
That means we listen to Dojo Yozo and his friends every morning, five days a week.
Sometimes I get really sick of it. It can really interfere with family communication. But it's good for my Japanese, and it keeps me somewhat current on the news. (I used to read slashdot for news, but I don't have time to stay that current, not any more. Oh, well. And that also interfered with communication. [JMR201609090820: There used to be a slashdot.jp, but they changed the name, and the format, a bit. ] :-/ )
She mixes in the NHK language programs, too, which is not just useful for her and the kids, but also helps my Japanese comprehension. Try it sometime, you may see why.
ABC Radio Osaka, which is the company that runs Dojo Yozo's program, has (temporarily, I understand) picked up a new daily radio drama.
It's fairly tame.
One problem with either radio or TV is that the producers of the show, in their efforts to draw an audience, often reach to things that shock and offend. Not just stretch the mind, but shock and offend.
Another problem, maybe just for me, is that once you have read, seen, and heard a certain amount of popular literature, you get sick of what it's selling.
I'm not talking about the commercial messages or the buried commercial references. I'm saying that I don't appreciate the tastes of the editorial boards that select popular literature for publishing.
Anyway, ABC Radio has picked up a radio drama called Nadeshiko Desukara.
The story is basically about a girl named Nadeshiko.
(... After the soccer team or the flower, maybe? -- If you can't read the Japanese, the Japanese wikipedia article on dianthus has a link to an English article. Once you are on wikipedia. The soccer team should be easy to look up in English, if you are not already familiar with them.
Woops. Now I find what it really refers to: Yamato Nadishiko, one of the names of the idealized Japanese woman.
No idea how long this editorial will be available from The Japan Times, which often has unreliable editorials, but it does make solid reference to certain of the cultural frustrations a non-Japanese partner in a marriage relationship will face. ] )
Nadeshiko, the protagonist, gets herself hired by a fictional radio program. (Think Mary Tyler Moore in Japanese? Maybe.) And she has a romance.
Fluff. Cotton candy.
But if you are needing listening practice material, that's all to the good. Lots of stereotyped cultural references and simple ways to talk about them.
Simple, with context. And you know in advance that it is over-simplified and unrealistic, so you don't have to fight the value judgments too much.
Thinking about over-simplifying TV shows --, not just Mary Tyler Moore, but All in the Family, Mash, Married with Children, Dharma and Greg, The Simpsons, Peanuts (in its day), Singing in the Rain, Zanadu.... This deserves its own rant sometime, when I have more time.
"Fluff" is not, strictly speaking, a pejorative.
Stereotyped literature can help us figure things out.
Today's episode touched on a deep problem in Japanese society that they are trying to get a grip on -- lifetime career security vs. people's needs to live their own lives separate from the company.
You can get the previous week's programs on the official channel, linked from the program's home page.
(And, don't tell anybody, but someone is uploading the episodes to youtube. You should be able to find them with a simple search. Maybe they'll publish the whole program as a CD collection or on iTunes/Amazon/whatever, but, for now, they are accessible and you can listen again to pick up the stuff you miss the first time through.)
I just checked again. You don't have to go to youtube. At least, not right now.
All of the past episodes are currently on the official channel page.
Might be useful.
It's back to just the last week on the official channel page.
Too bad Firefox on this old Linux box won't open those, cause I'm wanting to review the last week. (Debian box. Needs to be updated.)
Hope they don't shut down youtube just yet.