History of JapanEd

In 1960, I began learning Japanese with the help of the crew of a Japanese log-freighter, and "Teach Yourself Japanese", one of about 4 texts on the market then, and the only one available in New Zealand. There seemed nothing at all remarkable about the way Japanese was presented to the student. It could have been French, or Spanish, or even English. It would have been perfectly sensible for the first people who took up the challenge of presenting Japanese to students from the West, to follow the language learning traditions well established amongst the European nations which had been crossing each other's borders for centuries.

However, as time passed I began questioning the conventional approach and finally, after twenty years of teaching Japanese, a year's leave provided the space to attempt to give concrete expression to these accumulated doubts. I am convinced that some radical changes to the way we present Japanese at the very beginning would be beneficial to the learner and with some trepidation began the task of creating a Japanese course based on these ideas.

With the benefit of hindsight, it would seem to me better if Japanese courses had been designed so as to impart to the student from the beginning, a consciousness of very basic features of Japanese which are different from European Languages. I believe that by blurring the differences, it has made it more difficult for Western students to master natural Japanese forms of expression which are not in themselves particularly difficult. A lot of time and effort is wasted because the student has to undo first impressions, especially if they come to Japan after several years of study at home. These first impressions are particularly difficult to undo if they have been absorbed unconsciously, and it is precisely to avoid creating this sort of situation that I think Japanese should initially be presented to the Western student in a manner better suited to the characteristics of Japanese.

It is my intention that the student should start at a point normally reached only after a considerable period of study, and would work for sometime before coming to where most courses start. This "Foreword" explains why, but rather than being merely an appendage to yet another Japanese course, it is also a personal statement of philosophy concerning the teaching and learning of Japanese.

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