The best way to learn Japanese.
It involves contextual learning the best way possible.
So you might be a nerd and you want to learn some Japanese? Maybe you have actual business to do in Japan. Or maybe you just want to enjoy your favorite form of entertainment (*cough* anime *cough*) in its native language. It doesn't matter the reason - I have always thought that learning is important by itself, you don't need a reason to study theoretical quantum mechanics and you don't need a reason to study Japanese, Chinese, or ancient sanskrit. The joy of learning can be enough too.
But learning isn't easy, so let's talk about an easier way to learn a new language.
First, let me begin with a simple discovery.
Anime subtitles are not a Rosetta Stone-type elixir for native English speakers. (I might have tried using them to study, but just got too distracted by the fun anime content.) Trust me, if they were, I would have a career that Edward Seidensticker himself would envy.
History lesson: Edward is the man who translated the Japanese epic The Tale of Genji.
However, there is hope. My fellow anime diehards can find solace by exposing the one major similarity between the Japanese and English languages…
Both languages are spoken by human beings. Meaning, that if you can summon Porunga using Dende’s native Namekian tongue, you can also learn Japanese.
On the other hand, Japanese may appear to be an actual extraterrestrial language; at least, to my bilingual peers who speak both English and Namekian.
Does anyone speak Namekian like some Star Trek fans speak klingon? I am curious, hit me up if you know anyone who can speak it!
Let's start with some examples so you understand the language I am describing.
For example, take the sentence, "Watashi wa eel desu.” If you learned textbook Japanese in a school setting, you were probably taught that "X wa Y desu" means "X is Y.” This sentence would appear to mean, "I am an eel."
"I am an eel?!" What a crazy sentence!
But this sentence is often used to explain exactly why you should not try to translate Japanese in such a simple manner, and instead understand the context of the words being used. Context is key.
Because this sentence actually means "As for me, the eel," which is something you actually say when ordering at a restaurant.
Watashi wa eel desu.
"Watashi (I/me) wa (particle) eel (noun) desu (to be)."
I (to be) eel. I am an eel?
What's missing is the understanding of the context and the particle. In this case, the particle specifies that watashi is the subject. But the subject can also be the indirect object of the sentence. A more direct and incredibly literal translation is:
As far as it goes for me, the subject, the eel is what be.
I am the subject. Eel is the thing that exists.
And when you translate for meaning, you get:
I would like the eel.
But all this seems crazy hard, doesn't it! First of all, we didn't even cover the word for eel (unagi or anago). But that's why you shouldn't be learning this way. Learning through memorization of infinite and flexible rules is going to be a huge challenge!
For this reason, I developed a groundbreaking practice for learning Japanese. This revolutionary method is based on years of practice, study, and understanding. It is intended to help you learn Japanese in the same basic manner that you learned English, through reading.
This awesome and powerful technique begins with reading familiar terms. You will be gradually introduced to new words and phrases, which you will easily grasp, merely by recognizing context clues.
Even without an explanation, this practice will still enable you to comprehend Japanese word structure that you had no knowledge of.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Kopf Method.
My name is Ryan Kopf and I developed my experience in Japanese through running anime conventions. I get to travel the world, meet amazing famous people, and organize the world's most fun events.
I created the Kopf Method to help my staff members, myself, and now you learn Japanese.
Let me show you how the Kopf Method works.
For example: Imagine if you didn't know the word "janpu” before you read this paragraph...
“Jason would janpu feet first into the lake. Earlier in the day he did a forty meter high bungie janpu. Heights did not scare him, nor did falling. His favorite exorcise was janpu jacks."
From the context clues, you may have figured out that janpu is the Japanese spelling of the word "jump". In the future, you would be able to apply this discernment within your own discussions.
“Jason pulled her close and beso'd her, their lips touching for what seemed like an eternity. This was their first ever beso."
Did you get the idea that "beso'd" means "kissed"? Imagine if that were a real word in a foreign language and how you can learn it through context. In fact, beso means "kiss" in Spanish.
Textbooks unsuccessfully attempt to introduce new concepts and vocabulary every day. Imagine a pop quiz on today’s lesson, without reviewing yesterday’s material.
Oh...by the way, today’s lesson is the sequel to yesterday’s lecture.
“This is your textbook speaking. Yes, it is a proven fact that information is assimilated differently by each unique individual. However, my universal approach has produced many scholars! They all contribute en masse to their society. The Matrix is full of them…”
The Kopf Method creates a natural atmosphere of learning for everyone who embraces it. Routine memorization is not the yellow brick road to Oz. The path to individual mastery is created by building a ‘context bridge’ between the lesson and each student’s unique mind.
A study of using memorization (versus other strategies), while learning English was conducted by Khalid Sabie Khamees at the Department of English in Baghdad. The study showed that memorization was the least effective strategy for linguistic education.
Here's a quote from a university study to back me up!
“Learners who adopt (the memorization only) strategy often forget what they memorized, could not differentiate between important and unimportant information, and were incompetent to make inferences.” - Khalid Sabie Khamees, An Evaluative Study of Memorization as a Strategy for Learning English
This means that the most effective learning strategies are those that emphasize: comprehension, stories, and engagement. Even popular systems for learning Japanese, such as spaced repetition systems, are just fancy methods of memorization!
I will satisfy your ravenous hunger by helping you improve your understanding of Japanese. You will retain that comprehension simply by reading tales of our adventures in Japan. New Japanese vocabulary and grammar will be slowly introduced to the reader throughout the story. You will be able to easily recall what you have learned well after you finish this book, which will allow you to read, comprehend, and build your own context bridge.
You will repay me by someday visiting Japan and having an amazing time. Yep, that's all I ask for in return, your own happiness.
I hope The Kopf Method will help guide you to excellence and mastery of the Japanese language.