Since my kids are now in college and I’m left with a nice, clean empty nest, I thought I would take this opportunity to pursue some interests I’ve left on the back burner for too long. One of these pursuits is to learn enough Japanese to be able to go to Japan to visit with distant relatives. I am half-Japanese, and there was a point where I knew some of the language. This is what I learned as a toddler, but any knowledge from forty-plus years ago escaped my mind soon after I started school. That was coupled with the fact that my mother so embraced her new country, she rarely spoke Japanese at all in the home.
In my quest to learn Japanese, I found that I had a few options. One, get some audio tapes or CDs. These are somewhat helpful, in that many of the phrases are ones commonly used by tourists or visitors. However, the quality of some of the CDs is rather poor, and it is difficult to discern the differences between certain letters, especially between “R” and “L.” Even turning up the volume didn’t help. In addition, there aren’t any written workbooks that go along with many of the language programs I tried, such as the Pimsleur program. I think I need to know enough of the alphabet as well as the language in order to find my way around.
Another option was to sign up for Japanese classes at the local college. Wayne State University offers Japanese, but getting to either the downtown Detroit campus or the Oakland County location is problematic. In essence, I don’t want to drive that far, especially for one class. In addition, my business takes up a lot of time, and I am unable to commit to standard classes that run twice a week.
My son turned me onto a Facebook application called “Kanji Box.” Kanji Box is a quick drill in learning Kanji, but it basically covers only the Kanji characters and there is no application for actually learning the language.
After investigating various do-it-yourself programs, I decided to purchase the Rosetta Stone software for Japanese (this was before Michael Phelps’ commercial claiming that is how he learned Chinese for the Olympics). It’s rather pricey (each level is about $197 but you can purchase Level 1, 2 and 3 for right around $500), but I felt that at least this way I could learn the characters as well as the language, and could do so at my own pace. The complete program comes with three CDs, an installation CD, and a headset.