Pimsleur Japanese

These are some notes that I have taken while listening to the Pimsleur Japanese course. No course is perfect and Pimsleur is no exception; when I first listened to it, sometimes I could not understand what they were saying; I kept rewinding and playing the same portions, specially in the dialogs, i.e., I sorely missed a transcript. This appears to be a common complain about the Pimsleur method. I do not speak Japanese by any stretch of the imagination, but I have been taking classes for a while so now I can understand the beginner lessons that used to puzzle me, so I went back to my notes, fixed them, and am here making them available to anyone that might find them useful. This material is study material for me, so my apologies for any unintentional blunder that I may have written.

The dialogs were pretty useful because they are spoken at a natural speed. I am writing the dialogs in 4 ways:

  1. the translation in English
  2. the romaji version – the sounds as they would be written in English
  3. the kana version – Japanese writing using only hiragana and katakana
  4. the kanji version – the normal Japanese writing

If you are just starting with Japanese following only the Pimsleur course, use the English translation and the romaji versions, e.g., I/me -> watashi; just ignore the kana and kanji version.

With a relative small effort, we can memorize the kanas – the hiragana and the katakana syllabaries – and be able to actually write in Japanese, e.g., watashi ➝ わたし, where わ stands for ‘wa’, た for ‘ta’, and し for ‘shi’. This is a half-baked solution because any Japanese would understand what we are writing but, in general, no Japanese would write using kanas alone, unless s/he is writing a children’s book. Hence, learning the kanas allows us to write anything in Japanese, but we would still be far from being able to read Japanese.

Finally, we can learn how to represent words using kanjis instead of kanas, e.g., わたし, in hiragana, would normally be written in kanji as 私. I’ll point out some basic kanjis as they come up, but only those that are considered ‘beginner’ kanjis, i.e., those that would appear in the JLPT N5 Japanese proficiency tests, which roughly overlaps with the kanjis taught in 1st grade at school.

Another issue that I have with the Pimsleur method is that it is focused on formal language, i.e., the Japanese that you would hear at the office, talking to coworkers. This is also fine to speak politely to strangers that we might find in the street. However, I have no plans to travel to Japan anytime soon, or to work there. My interest in the language lies on the Japanese culture. At one time or another I have been involved in karate, aikido, origami, bonsai, and go; I am also a fan of Japanese movies, everything from ‘Kagemusha’ to ‘Totoro’ to ‘Your name’; likewise I like Japanese music and can’t understand why it isn’t more popular around the world. The problem is that in music, animes, dramas, and movies, the spoken Japanese is of the casual type, not the formal one. Hence, the Pimsleur method helps us to carry out a business conversation, but it doesn’t help much understanding the lyrics of a song, or the dialog in a movie. Hence, I added some information of how map the formal language, found in the business world, to the casual one, found in Japanese pop-culture.

I am also adding translations from romaji to kanas and kanjis. If we don’t know kanas or kanjis (or don’t care about them), just ignore them, but as we learn them, we can go back over material that we already know and learn a bit more Japanese.