Tuesday, April 4 2006

A disciplined mind

It’s looking like my Spring Quarter Japanese 3 class will be canceled. Actually, it’s all but certain at this point, and everyone who could has already switched their enrollment to the morning class.

This leaves me in an awkward position. The Rosetta Stone software remains useful as a supplement, but it’s been quite a while since it’s been able to really help me advance. I need interaction now, primarily conversation practice, but also occasional enlightenment when I get into trouble (have I mentioned that the Situational Functional Japanese series is crap? I haven’t? Well, it is. More on that another time).

While I wait for the class to be offered again in Summer Quarter, I need two things: someone to talk to (preferably someone familiar with the material I’ve studied), and a decent textbook to review. I’ll get some conversation practice in the Japanese Culture and Calligraphy course I’m taking, but the book is another story.

I could start on a new multi-volume series such as Japanese for Busy People or Genki (both of which I already own, actually), but our teacher suggested an alternative: a single book that covers all of the material usually presented in 4-6 books. They used it for many years at Foothill, and she stressed how much better it was at explaining things and presenting proper use of the language.

It is, of course, long out of print. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean what it used to, and I was able to acquire a copy of Japanese For Today within two days through Amazon.

While going through it and erasing the many penciled-in comments (and sighing over the few inked ones), I started to understand why she liked it, but it wasn’t until I read the “Organization” section that I fully appreciated the work they’d put into it: each of the 30 lessons is precisely 12 printed pages long, divided in exactly the same way each time, but there’s no gratuitous whitespace or obvious padding. The authors appear to have spent a great deal of time thinking about what to cover and how. I’m looking forward to reading it cover-to-cover.

Its only flaw is the extensive use of romanization, which is regrettable, but not surprising in a book written in 1973. The presentation section of each lesson does introduce the new material in proper written Japanese, with furigana, so it’s not all bad.

My other project for the Spring is kanji writing practice, but that’s another blog entry…