LOL – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

Before I decided to start making videos for learning Japanese on Youtube, I first looked to see if there was anything good on there already. If there was something I liked, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. Much to my surprise, I could not find a single channel that went over ALL the sounds in Japanese including voiced consonants, long vowel sounds, etc. Sure, there were many videos that went over the Hiragana characters but that was usually the end of it.

I put a lot of thought into how I would structure my videos and how to fix what I didn’t like about many of the existing videos on Youtube.

Keep it short. Don’t try to be funny.

A lot of videos fill up a lot of time by trying to make things funny and interesting. Unfortunately, not everybody find the same things to be funny and frankly, a lot of the videos I saw were just not funny to me. One of the disadvantages of video vs text is that it’s harder to skim through so I try to keep things as short as possible. Look, you’re probably busy and I know I’M definitely busy. Let’s not waste each other’s time with my poor attempt at humor and just get straight into learning Japanese.

If I want to try to be funny, it’ll be in the Japanese examples. That way, at least, you’re learning something in the process and it may make you more interested in learning the Japanese instead of listening to me ramble on with some stupid joke in English.

Why would you want to stare at my face while you’re trying to learn?

I know Youtube started out as people recording themselves on their webcam but do you seriously need to stare at my face for minutes at a time while trying to learn Japanese? I’m not exactly Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. I’ve even seen videos of people giving lessons on tiny whiteboards while they take up most of the shot! That’s kind of like sharing a word doc by printing it, scanning it, and emailing the scanned image.

I know watching mouth and body gestures help in learning a language but unfortunately, I don’t have resources to create scenes with staged dialogues. I would love to if I could though.

Cover everything step-by-step

I wanted to have a set progression where a person with zero knowledge of Japanese can start from the first video and learn by watching the videos in order. Too many videos just start kind of in the middle without really going over everything before it in full. I know it’s an ambitious project but I figure no matter how long it takes, the next wave of Japanese learners can benefit with whatever I get done.

As far as I knew, there were no videos for learning Japanese as I just described when I started making them. So today, I saw this video published 4 months after my first video. LOL.

Wow, it’s defintely more professional than my lame Powerpoint slides. And they have more than just one guy (me) that can read the Japanese examples! I’m so jealous. I’m just this dude making videos from my house with a cheap USB mike.

I applaud the “new” format but unfortunately, the grammar explanations suck! 「AはBです」 pattern means “A is B”??? No no no no no! Bad boy! You can’t learn Japanese with sentence patterns!! What are you, an American Japanese linguistics grad student from the 60s?? Please watch my latest video or let me make your slides so I don’t have to spend all my time trying to make these videos by myself. Argh!

10 thoughts on “LOL – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

    • Basically, I would love it if they made good videos. I wouldn’t be spending my time making videos if I could just link to good free ones already out there (though the ads are annoying). It seems like they have the resources to make high quality videos but their explanations are terrible.

  1. Yeah that’s usually the case lol, look at rossetta stone… they spend all their money on marketing instead of trying to actually make a good course.

  2. I just want to say how much I agree with your above statements. I am fairly fluent in Spanish now but the people in my classes try to memorize grammar rules which do not fully encompass the idea. When the time comes to use it they sound uneducated because they learned one rule instead of the grammar’s true function. Anyways, thank you for making such a fantastic, well explained, and in depth guide

  3. You’re the “Khan Academy” (google it) of Japanese, in a way. While I personally just refer to the PDF version of your grammar guide, I’m sure others will appreciate your videos.

    Every time a Japanese language website attempts to use humor or obscure references to Japanese pop culture, I close it and move on. These websites cater to your average 13 year old who’s into anime and manga– not to serious learners.

    In a video, the screen should be the whiteboard… entirely. If I see a person’s face, I move on. I’m trying to learn; not watch a vlog. I also don’t care much for fancy animations or sound effects. Black on white, one font, and one or two colors to highlight the key points; that’s enough.

    Things like JapanesePod101 or “Maggie Sensei” make me throw up.

    • Why can’t an anime lover be a serious learner, and what does age have to do with it? I started learning when I was 15, and I like to think I was pretty serious about it then. Also, what could you possibly have against Maggie Sensei? I don’t use her website very often, but it comes up from time to time when I’m Googling info on a specific grammar pattern or something, and it usually answers my question pretty well.

  4. > I applaud the “new” format but unfortunately, the grammar explanations suck!

    Yes, the pod101 people are very good with pronunciation (well, except for Peter, but he tells you up front that his Japanese is bad and you should listen to the native speakers) and also good at providing entertaining conversation examples but pretty lousy at grammar explanations. They routinely ignore gradeschool-level “technical” things like part of speech (e.g., the difference between verbs and adjectives).

    I think it’s because of their background: the project was started at a translation company. Translators learn to translate idea-for-idea (NOT word-for-word), because doing so yields results that actually sound coherent in the target language, when the reader or listener does not know the source language. If you translate word-for-word you end up with the kind of “English as she is spoke” language commonly found in the instruction manuals of cheap consumer electronics. Nobody wants that, so translators learn to operate at a higher level of thought — what does the original *mean*, and how can I say that in the other language? It works very well — for doing translation.

    What works very well for translators, however, doesn’t necessarily work so well for language learning. I recommend studying grammar from other sources and using the pod101 material just for listening practice. They really are good at teaching pronunciation. (Don’t just look at their videos, either. They started out doing audio, and they have a LOT of audio material available — enough to get you to the point where you can speak English with a Japanese accent.)

    • That certainly makes sense. Being good at translating from Japanese to English doesn’t really help in formulation original thought in Japanese. Why doesn’t Peter work on improving his Japanese more? He’s been there for over 10 years, I think.

  5. I’d be interested in what you meant by “It’s not good to learn with patterns.” I guess you meant it’s not a good idea to try and memorize the rules of a pattern. In that case you are correct. Or, to try and remember grammatical rules based on patterns. Like memorizing. A wa B desu.

    Just worried that somebody will take your meaning the wrong way, and think you are talking about “pattern recognition” which is of course a major part of how human beings acquire language. As it is best to learn to recognize and use grammatical patterns naturally, but not to memorize them… hope that makes sense.

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