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 Brian Micklethwait at 08:21 PM
Category: Languages