Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tobira, Genki, and new resources for students.

日本語のレッスン this evening—yay!—so last night I was rereading the current chapter in the Tobira textbook (上級へのとびら, Gateway to Advanced Japanese), which is the third book we've worked with, after the two Genki (元気) books. Tobira is a pretty big step up from even Genki 2; Genki seems designed for foreign students studying in Japan—先生 said it's probably for Korean students specifically—so it tends to focus on issues (such as majors and host families) that pertain to students more directly than to ancients such as I. Its vocab* is pretty basic and its usage generally normal–polite, and although it covers a good deal of grammar the sentences tend to max out at compound.* Tobira expects much more of the reader; it includes very little English in most areas, more kanji, and much longer and more syntactically and semantically complex sentences. So, Tobira can be frustrating sometimes, at least for me.

For example, a passage I was reading last night on basic speech styles (plain, polite, etc.) includes an (apparently literary) style it calls である体, the "de aru" form. In parentheses it labels this as the "expository" form, but it seems not to explain what it means by "expository", or who or what is being exposed to what or whom and in what context. I've seen this form in essays and literature, so I think I pretty much get it, but it's difficult to be sure.** OK, granted, this isn't a big deal, and overall the book is terrific; but from time to time I do want to (respectfully) wing it across the room. 扉 >> 飛びら。 飛び扉。


Anyway, today there's good news on the learning-resources front. I've been thinking for a while of coding a quiz app for the Tobira (and other) vocab, like the very helpful one that Usagi-chan made for Genki, but I've been short on time; today I thought maybe I'd try to contact her and, instead of reinventing the wheel, ask for the existing code (and permission to use it) and just populate it with the Tobira content. Still haven't decided on that, but while surfing around about it I discovered this useful page of resources for students of Japanese, which in turn led me to this amazing page of links. Much fun stuff to explore! I also like to flip through 朝日毎日新聞, Goo, and (I dutifully read the news and culture stories, but I admit I find the horoscopes and personal ads more fun. I'm still looking for a good online source for daily manga, puzzles, etc.) I've also been trying to get away from "crutches" like the plug-in Rikaichan, which are immensely helpful but which sometimes make things too easy. Tough to find a middle ground between looking up 30-some kanji per page, by radicals (as with a paper novel), and skating over unknown kanji online with a quick pop-up, without taking the time to look at the kanji carefully and get used to them.

*Genki's approach to vocabulary is (from my POV) ちょっと可笑しい; I'm all for situational vocabulary units, but the groupings in Genki tend (1) to be not quite as thorough as one might hope for that context (eg, some airport words, but not all you'll need for that experience) and (2) sometimes to seem random (eg, learning how to express having been regrettably groped in the subway, or how to inform the police about a burglary, before you officially learn tree or socks. What if someone steals your socks?). 

**Reminds me of how, when I was learning French in school, my teachers told us we didn't need to learn the passé simple tense, as it was "a literary tense" that we'd never encounter in real life. Probably a reasonable approach for most students, but of course I ended up as a French lit major in college and then grad school. Mais c'est la vie, quoi. しょうがないですね。(「仕方はありません」と言うこともありますかなぁ。Googleでhitsが263千つ(?)あります。「為さい片は御座いません」。。。。へへへ。)

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