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November 06, 2002
On learning Japanese on the Internet

To add my tuppence ha'penny to the debate on internet education I started learning Japanese some months ago. Being a great believer in the potential of the internet to deliver education I signed up with YesJapan which is an internet Japanese course for English speakers run out Las Vegas (of all places).

It is in many ways like a textbook. The skeleton of the course is indeed based on the live lessons (in real classroooms with real students) that take place in Las Vegas. There are, however, some interesting additions. For instance, there are sound files of real native Japanese speakers speaking the words and phrases used on the course. Then there is an online dictionary which can also accept Kanji (the Chinese characters) as input. There is also a Kanji trainer. This is effectively a computerised flash card with the character on one side and its meanings on the other. Another feature is the ability to ask questions and to get them answered. A considerable knowledge base is beginning to accumulate.

The strongest part and YesJapan's great advantage over textbooks is undoubtedly the sound files. You are left in no doubt how the words are pronounced which is especially useful with the letter R (the Japanese pronounce this at different times as "r", "l" and even "d"). It is also useful for listening comprehension which is always the great shock when you go to a foreign country.

The weakness, sadly, is that it is computer-based. I don't know why this is but I prefer paper. It is probably because paper is easier on the eyes and it may be because of the position you adopt when reading. The upshot is that I have recently bought a couple of textbooks and am probably going to cancel my subscription soon.

At the end of this I would like to conclude something either about internet education or about language learning. Alas, I cannot. I just offer this for the record.

Posted by Patrick Crozier at 08:21 PM
Category: LanguagesTechnology
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Comments

Online courses are indeed still an iffy proposition, but there are a large number of online adjunct resources which are incredibly useful for language learning.

I have a special interest in your effort to learn Japanese - I'm been doing it for a decade myself, including a year's stint in Tokyo - so I've been collecting resource links, e.g.:

http://www.ilovelanguages.com/
http://japanese.about.com/
http://www.kanji.org/
http://linear.mv.com/cgi-bin/j-e

The first 3 links are (mostly) self-explanatory; the 4th is "Jeffrey's JapaneseEnglish Dictionary Server". Hope this helps.

Comment by: Russell Whitaker on November 7, 2002 12:53 AM

I used to think that Open University degrees were somewhat high-tech, being taught by TV and radio. Then I did one myself. At least 90% of the studying was by means of good old-fashioned textbooks. It would be perfectly possible to get a good OU degree without owning a radio or television although making reference to the programmes probably gained a couple of extra marks in the monthly essays.

Comment by: David Farrer on November 7, 2002 08:54 AM

Russell

Thanks for the links. By the way I was in Japan recently on a railway study tour (yes, I know). I've put quite a lot up on both Croziervision and UK Transport (www.uktransport.blogspot.com). Your views would be appreciated.

Comment by: Patrick Crozier on November 7, 2002 07:25 PM

Hi Patrick,

I'd be happy to opine, sure. I'll do so sometime today (still tweaking my own new blog Survival Arts).

Comment by: Russell Whitaker on November 11, 2002 05:37 PM

Since having posted my last comment above, I started a second new blog, Asia Pacific Information Systems: http://www.asiapac.com/ , "Asian language (CJK) resources for language learning & software engineering"... what Brian would call a "specialist blog".

Comment by: Russell Whitaker on February 8, 2003 03:11 AM
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