The YouTube bandwagon

Merry Christmas! This Christmas, I bought my wife a pair of Ugg boots, which apparently have been all the rage for quite some time now. It seems every female friend or family member I know already has a pair of these. In turn, she bought me a Canon digital camera so that we can take better pictures for umm… her blog. Still, I always love more gadgets and this one also has HD video! So I’ve been toying with the idea of starting up my own YouTube channel.

Yes, I know it’s fairly late to join the bandwagon but I always wait things out until the technology gets better and cheaper. But technology isn’t the only issue as there really needs to be a good reason to spend the additional time for making any kind of video.

First of all, I prefer text because it’s pretty much better in every way in terms of visibility, searching, and non-intrusiveness. I hate having to sit through a video when I could have gotten the same information much quickly by browsing through text.

So what are the advantages of video? In terms of learning Japanese, I can’t really think of any. Still images can convey just as much information as a video can for things that are more easily understood visually. Audio doesn’t require video to convey pronunciation and intonation. You can also do a lot with just slides and a good microphone. It’s still technically a video but doesn’t require a video recorder. I guess if you have an interesting, funny, or attractive face and/or personality, it can make things more interesting. Doesn’t really apply to me, though.

So I doubt you’ll be seeing Tae Kim’s YouTube channel any time soon. Despite the fact that I now have the technology, I doubt I’ll be getting faster, better, or stronger… at least on YouTube.

What do you think? Is there something special video can do for learning Japanese that I’m missing?

Anyways, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

10 thoughts on “The YouTube bandwagon

  1. yeah, video is kinda an excruciating medium for conveying information. I can’t stand most vlogs, and I imagine that they are much more difficult to produce (and produce well) than text. I imagine that besides all that time spent editing clips together and setting up filming, then uploading, etc, the fact that it is more difficult to let an “entry” distill over time would really lower quality. I get the idea that writers don’t try to pump out an idea all in one go, but that’s the only practical thing to do with video. The only conceivable function it would have, in my opinion, is if there was some Japanese learning tool that was powerful but brutally difficult to learn. Screencasts can be quite helpful. Thankfully Anki and co seem pretty intuitive.

  2. you don’t need a youtube channel. at first it might be exciting but soon it’s too time consuming and you have a dead channel.

    you already do little blog posts so i’m not sure how often you’d even do video updates. not to mention that you have to put yourself in public display, something that i’m convinced the majority of youtubers have or are regretting a lot.

    • Ha ha ouch. I don’t disagree. But with language learning, “dead” isn’t necessarily a bad thing since the language itself isn’t changing that quickly. Dead and incomplete would be bad though.

  3. I don’t think that video is entirely useless. In fact, I get a lot more out of my listening practice when there’s video involved, or real people in front of me. When it’s just a sound clip, the listener doesn’t get the full effect of gesticulations or what’s physically going on inside the mouth of the native Japanese speaker, whereas when the listener can see all of that, he learns the nuances that lead to spoken Japanese that sounds more natural. I think you would agree that it’s very difficult for foreigners to pronounce Japanese in a way that sounds natural, especially to the ears of native Japanese. My pronunciation didn’t really improve until I began to mimic the way my friends “behave” while they’re speaking. This kind of mimicry can’t be obtained from a simple sound recording.

    We all know that Japanese is a vague language. This is compensated for in writing by the use of Kanji. However, in the heat of conversation, you can’t hold up Kanji or draw Kanji on a little white board to show the person you’re speaking with exactly which version of the word you intend to convey. This, however, is not a problem because there are other sources of context, like facial expressions, hand gestures and your surroundings that can be pointed to. In a recording with no video, a lot of the input necessary for full comprehension is lacking. You said that pictures can do most of what a video can, and you’re probably right, but without the addition of a real speaker on screen, a certain portion of information in the pictures might go unnoticed and thereforeend up un-used and un-benefited from.

    Like you said, a vid-cast might not be a productive use of your time in the traditional sense, but if you got creative (pulling together video clips of conversations between people and then adding commentary for instance — this is something I’ve always wanted to do but don’t have the technical know-how to accomplish) I think you could make it work and I think your patrons would be appreciative. Thanks for reading my long post.

  4. A video would pretty much only be useful if you were going to go into the details of body gestures or posture of Japanese people. But that will come naturally to the learner over time so making a video isn’t necessary. You’re fine as is. If you make videos make them for a different reason altogether, and NOT for learning Japanese.

  5. > So what are the advantages of video? In terms of
    > learning Japanese, I can’t really think of any.

    I can, but they all assume that the video is supplementary material, accompanied by much larger amounts of text, images, and so on.

    Imagine, for instance, if the dialog that illustrates a given grammar point (and some new vocabulary items) is available as text, but there’s also an accompanying video, wherein native speakers act out the dialog, with subtitles (complete with furigana) and suitable pauses and maybe a word of explanation here or there. All of this would need to be duplicated in the text, of course, but having the video to go along with it could be useful too.

    But yeah, obviously, if you have to pick, text is better.

    > Audio doesn’t require video to convey pronunciation and intonation.

    True, but audio doesn’t necessarily convey the facial expressions and gestures, and some would argue that video is also more engaging.

    As far as a “channel”, if that’s a thing where you say you’re going to post something up every hour/day/week/whatever, that really isn’t necessary. Whether we’re talking text, audio, video, or whatever, my view is the same: when you have something worthwhile to post, post it, and maybe link it from your blog, and if it’s pertinent to a particular chapter of your grammar guide, link to it from there… The web is not television. Content on the web can appear or be linked wherever it is relevant; it does not need to be organized into channels.

  6. I kind of like the mystery of what you look and sound like. But I don’t think video lectures would be too useful anyway. However, apparently characters in anime talk very differently than real people, and since many learners will mostly be hearing Japanese through anime (points at myself), what I do think would be useful would be real life conversations. Perhaps teach a little grammar and then show it in a conversation, or associate the videos with lessons in your new guide?

  7. You know, studies have shown that being able to see a person’s face while they are speaking causes the same increase in understanding as a 20DB increase in volume…

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