Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Good first time experience with italki...
Knowing that a once-a-week three-hour class is not enough to learn Japanese, I've been doing some things for me to learn more about the language.
The school gave us a book and a companion vocab book, which I both use for my classes. Of course, those are definitely helpful and my main sources of information. Every morning, I spend about thirty minutes writing the entire katakana and hiragana characters before I start the day's work. I can read the characters, I can write them in the correct order. The challenge is when I translate sentences in romaji (Hajime mashite. Watashi wa Angelo desu.) to kana characters (はじめまして。わたしはアンジｴロです。) It takes me a second or two to recall the character. The other challenge is reading. I really should find more time to practice reading skills. Let's not even start with kanji. Haha! Oh boy, I still have a long way to go.
To supplement the class lessons, there are a few websites I regularly visit to gain more knowledge about Nihongo. That's the great thing about the Internet and Google, I must say. Type in the right search words and voila! you get a plethora of websites on learning Japanese. The ones I like are also language schools that have free learning materials for download such as hiragana/katakana charts, writing worksheets, and so on. Now, I have a bookmark folder labeled Learning Nihongo. Hehe.
In addition to reading and writing, of course, the number one skill I want to be first good at is speaking. Yup, I can learn about particles, verb conjugations, sentence orders, and so on. Without speaking practice, my learning will be more theoretical. Hehe!
Recently, I found a few websites where you can find a language exchange buddy. I had no idea there are groups like these. Again, Google has the answer. Out of curiosity, I Googled Japanese language learning or something like that. The Google search returned a few sites. There is one site where I found a language exchange buddy based in Singapore. We already met up once. I don't know if I'll organise a meetup again. The thing is I'm a beginner and on our first session, there was really no concrete structure how to conduct our language exchange session. For the first hour, he taught me basic Japanese. For the next hour, I spoke to him in English and gave pointers on what to improve on.
Thanks again to Google, I stumbled upon this site called italki.com. It's an online language service where one could find language teachers from around the world.
What are the good things about italki? One, you can find a real language teacher from various parts of the world. Two, you can practice the language with native speakers. Three, because it is not free, you are sure that the teacher would ensure that you get something out of the session. Four, all you need is a good Internet connection and then you can already start learning.
So, I decided to sign up and searched for a language teacher. The search results gave close to 100 individuals teaching Japanese. I decided to go with a teacher named Haru. He has good feedback from students. He has quite a number of students. He has conducted more than a thousand sessions. He really seems to be in demand because when I checked his available schedule, he is booked for almost the entire day almost every day. That gave me the impression that he must be good.
I found a convenient schedule so I went ahead and booked a 30-minute trial session with Haru-san. On our agreed time, I received a Skype video call. For the next thirty minutes, I was able to practice some of the lessons I've learned from my class. In addition to that, I've learned a few new words and a new grammar structure (making comparisons). Haru-san was very patient and very cheerful. Believe it or not, we spoke very little English throughout the call. He can speak English but he spoke in Nihongo 90% of the time. The good thing about this is that I was forced to think and speak in Japanese.
The cost for the 30-min session was just $8. A 60-min session is $15. Not bad, right? The fees vary from teacher to teacher. I think Haru-san's fees are very good.
So yeah, that was my first time to learn language online via italki. I've been on the Internet since 1996 and up until now, I'm still amazed by technology. I'm in the comfort of my own home in Singapore. My teacher is in his own home, in his own room in the Kanto region in Japan. With a few mouse clicks, taps on the keyboard, I am able to enter into a learning environment in cyberspace. How awesome is that! Hehe!
Anyway, I think I'll schedule another session with Haru-san next week. We'll see how far this new project will go.