Thursday Miscellany

img_4542Just a few things going on that aren’t enough for their own post:

  • Today I start another month of keeping track of my daily “obligations,” and last month’s cards will head off to the recycling bag. Rather than buy a new journal or something similar, when I decided to keep track of what I wanted to accomplish every day, I came up with the idea of using the index cards we found in the girls’ bedroom that they didn’t need. So far it’s working very well, and is quite motivating – I’m one of those people who likes to see all the blanks filled in.
  • YaYu has been accepted to participate in a two-week research and language study trip to China through the Pacific Asian Affairs Council (Hawai’i)! The application process was quite rigorous and competitive, so we are absolutely thrilled she was accepted. She’s also been shortlisted for one of the scholarships that will pay for part to all of the entire cost. We let her know when she applied that unless she received one of the scholarships we could not afford to pay for the trip; she understood and decided to go for it anyway. With all that’s been happening recently though, both Brett and I are more than a bit nervous about letting her travel overseas without us. She is heading over to Oahu at the end of this month with the team from her high school to compete in a day-long Japanese language/history event. The association for that (JASH) paid for the plane tickets. She’ll be back in the early evening, just in time to attend her swim team banquet. The girl stays busy!
  • I’ve been using Rosetta Stone to study Japanese these past several weeks. In the early sections I thought it worked very well, especially since it was primarily review for me, but as I’ve been moving into more difficult grammatical structures I am beginning to discover several limitations with the program. Speaking as a language instructor, it gives far too little introduction, instruction or repetition to many of the grammatical structures and vocabulary it introduces. Also, the program uses pictures and requires me to match phrases with the pictures, Many times it’s flat-out impossible to tell what’s happening in the pictures, so instead of matching I end up having to guess (and of course get it wrong). The speech recognition software is also problematic. I can say something one time and it’s fine, but the next time have to practically scream at the microphone to be heard, or it only hears part of what I’m saying. And, I’m often given a long, complicated sentence or two to speak, but the buzzer goes off before I can even say half of it – very annoying! In my opinion, Rosetta Stone would be a fine accompaniment to a regular language class, but on its own it falls far short as an effective language learning program, especially with a language as difficult as Japanese. I’m not disappointed I bought it, but I am disappointed in what it claims it can accomplish. I’ve been using the Rosetta Stone program for at least eight weeks, but when Brett and I watched a Japanese film last week (with subtitles), I couldn’t understand even one thing that was said in the film, including words and grammar that I’ve supposedly “learned” already.



10 thoughts on “Thursday Miscellany

  1. Laurel says:

    There is just something satisfying about seeing your goals met on paper, isn’t there? I’m with you!

    Disappointing re: Rosetta Stone. Do you think it’s off base on other languages, too? Or is it because Japanese is so difficult and different from English?


    • Laura says:

      Japanese is an intensely difficult language for English speakers to learn. It’s rated the most difficult among the five Class V languages (others are Chinese, both Mandarin and Cantonese, Arabic, and Korean). To achieve general proficiency in these languages takes around 2200 hours of study, which translates to about two years of 6-7 daily hours of classroom instruction (compared to Spanish, which requires 575-600 hours, or Vietnamese, which requires 1100 hours). So, I’m not really sure what anyone would or could take from three levels of Rosetta Stone – learning Japanese requires an immense commitment of time and motivation. RS is a great supplemental program, but in the end really doesn’t teach much of anything when it comes to Japanese, especially with the teaching method they use.

      I think it would be a far more effective program for Category I languages (all the Romance languages plus Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish). BTW, the topic of my Master’s thesis was how difficult it was for an adult English speaker to learn Japanese!


    • Laura says:

      I have looked at Pimsleur, but it’s also not really an adequate method for learning Japanese. It really does require intensive classroom study. Anything that’s offered online or via tapes are only going to scratch the surface, enough for you to get around Japan but not much more. My son has studied Japanese since 1992, majored in it in college, works in Japan, has a superior level of ability and is still learning.

      We’ve got our fingers crossed too! Financial forms were just sent off . . .


  2. Janette says:

    Woo Hooo for Ya Yu! Hope she gets the scholarship.
    My husband had to learn Chinese when he turned 40. It was his first (and last) foreign language 🙂 My son in law claims that Russian is pretty easy, once you get the hang of it. Pashto is crazy, since it isn’t, really, a written language. He teases his father in law about jumping into the fire with Chinese. They both have Rosetta Stone to keep up- but not to learn- the languages.
    Our close friend just recorded the Rosetta Stone for Navajo. Her kids say it is way too fast for them 🙂 Maybe you are finding that to be true. Rosetta Stone is great for a tune up, but not first learning?
    Have you thought about getting a conversational tutor. We did that in Hong Kong. Half of the conversation was in English and the other in Chinese. A win win!


    • Laura says:

      Russian is a Level 4 language for English speakers, and not one of the most difficult ones either. Most foreign languages are Level 4, btw. I personally think the U.S. does a terrible job of teaching foreign language, especially when contrasted with countries where English classes are mandatory through K-12. I began learning Japanese when I was 18, and it’s been an uphill struggle all the way.

      I could probably find a tutor here – that may be the next step.


  3. Hawaii Planner says:

    Congratulations to Ya Yu, and fingers crossed on the scholarship. And, I’m a total “box checking” kind of person, so I can relate! I have a notebook that I use for work, and a separate “home” note book. I need them, or else my life collapses & I accomplish nothing. 😉


    • Laura says:

      I know people who are big into bullet journaling and such, but my life is just not that complicated right now so index cards work for me! A few years ago I would have had to use notebooks though.


    • Laura says:

      No, I haven’t the NHK lessons, but I’ll check them out. My favorite book about Japanese grammar comes from the NHK.

      I have several good texts and workbooks to turn to after Rosetta Stone though. My biggest gripe with all of this though is that Japanese has several levels of politeness based on who is talking to whom. These lessons basically teach a formal, “polite” form of Japanese, which is OK if you’re a tourist leaves you unable to understand what Japanese are saying to each other, or what’s being said on TV, etc. They don’t teach common usage or ‘slang’ words (it was the same when I taught English – we don’t speak English like they do in textbooks). For example, who in English says “It’s a fine day” when talking about the weather?


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