Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The classroom chatterer

You are encouraged to talk in class.

One of things good things about teaching at eduFire is that I learn more about teaching/learning languages than at any other time of day. It seems education is a two way street. A lot of what happens in the chat window during class is not directly related to the lesson, and it happens more quickly than I can respond to, but I'm starting to find it a valuable source of feedback about my teaching. Sometimes when I have the time, I go back through the chat transcripts just to work out what was going on.

I think you'll find it valuable as well, as students often ask me to send them the session notes and chat transcripts if they miss a class. I know sometimes they are after vocabulary, sentences and grammar points. Sometimes though it's the exchange of links that generates the most interest. So for your benefit, I'm going to give you a quick breakdown of what we talked about in class last week.

I hope to open this up to you on a more regular basis, kind of a highlight of the things we were talking about in class. Even readers of this blog who don't get into class can benefit from the things we're sharing.

Smart FM

The new Smart.FM came up in the chat and in conversation more than just about any other site, apart from maybe eduFire of course. I must have added about a dozen friends from eduFire to my friends list over there in the last few days alone. People have been raving about about BrainSpeed and I've had a few requests already for Lists (more on that later). I really need to sharpen up my repetitions on iKnow before you lot put me to shame!

Lee and Teyannie suggested some of these Japanese Lists:

Nintendo DS Emulator

I find Nintendo DS really useful for writing practice, the touch pad makes it easy to practice writing anywhere. What if you don't want to fork out for the hardware? Lee provided the single most useful link of the week, to a DS Emulator! The emulator comes zipped with Pokemon Platinum (.rar), but even more useful than that is My Japanese Coach (.rar).

Koichi posted Studying Japanese with a Nintendo DS in December last year, and the are lots of other ideas in the comments to his post. For the record I use Kanken DS (Kanji practice) and Sono Mama Rakubiki Jiken (Electronic Kanji Dictionary).


Last month I wrote about how reading Manga can be good for your Japanese, and it's a popular topic that keeps coming up in class. Everyone wants to know how to get into Manga, without having to know a lot of Kanji. There are no shortcuts to learning Kanji, it takes hours of dedication to both writing and reading. But Manga can help, especially manga with furigana. Furigana is "helper text" usually written in hiragana, so if you know how to read that it's much easier to get through a comic book without reaching for the Kanji dictionary.

If you haven't already got it, download Rikaichan, a fantastic add-on for Firefox. Rikaichan is a dictionary that reads and translates kanji for you on web pages that you visit. Of course that won't help you when you're reading hard copy. I have a few ideas that I'm working on to help you in this area. If you have any suggestions I'd like to hear about them in the comments.

Worksheets and homework

Saj made the suggestion in class that I provide some kind of homework or worksheets to accompany the lessons. Apart from the lesson notes I have on there isn't much for students to work on outside of class.

I am currently working on compiling all of the loose lesson notes, and incorporating your suggestions in to one workbook for each class. They'll be available as a download in PDF format and will include grammar, vocab and exercises to give you a more well-rounded learning experience.

Please visit for class notes in the meantime.

Other blogs and random links

We all love a bit of link love. These three sites came up in conversation, and are fairly representative of the kinds of blogs written by students of Japanese. Hi Chris, Kyle and Håvard!Quinsy came up with this random flash gunner game.

Watching live Japanese TV

Two live TV sites came up; Freshverse which I haven't used, but is highly recommended for anime, and the software my kids watch Japanese children's television on, Key Hole TV. If you have to immerse yourself from a distance, there is nothing better that zoning out to some Studio Ghibli.

Kansai dialect

Kansai-ben is the dialect spoken in West Japan, from Nagoya to Hyogo. Many of the best comedy acts and comedy stars come from the Kansai region, so Kansai-ben has an irreverent colloquial flavour. Michael Downey (@gakuranman on Twitter) recently posted a pub video of himself and a friend using some of the more common Kansai expressions. A while back Harvey (@JapanNewbie on Twitter) rounded up some of the more common Kansai phrases. Kansai-ben is what we speak at home, so sometimes you might hear me slip it into it.

The round-up

I hope you enjoyed that summary of what we talked about in class this week. I want to do this on a more regular basis. Watch this space for Lists on Smart.FM, workbooks for classes and more posts on using manga to improve your reading.
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