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Japanese 101 – A college semester of Japanese December 18, 2010

Posted by coolmikeol in Japan.
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Sensei’s final class doing review for upcoming final exams.

Wow how time flies, I remember when I did the post about my first week of Japanese class. I did mention in that post that I was going to make continuous posts about my progress in my Japanese class, but I got lazy and also had other classes to focus on. Well anyways, this post is to summarize my experiences of my JAPN 101-01 First Semester Japanese class.

My semester started in late August with me taking this class and three other classes, one of them being Japanese immigration in the US  history class. I had no prior knowledge of the Japanese language, besides the several phrases and words you hear constantly from anime watching, and so I felt, while this was going to be a great experience learning Japanese, I also knew that it would be a challenge as well. Back in high school it was required for me to take at least two years of a foreign language, the language being Spanish. I choose Spanish because I didn’t have interest in any of the other languages at the time, them being Chinese, French, and Japanese. Why I didn’t choose Japanese? Well I was not into the Japanese culture like I was today, I was just your average American watching whatever was on TV, like Disney Channel and Cartoon Network. I had a hard time learning Spanish and had pretty bad grades in the class because I didn’t have any interest in the language. I remember telling myself that I was never going to take a language course again. That was before I got interested in Japanese Pop Culture, before I got into it so much to make myself do something I never imagined I would do, learning Japanese, and even right before I choose to take the class I was hesitating to take it because it felt I was doing it on impulse. I convinced myself to do this for two reasons, one was for the units for school, and two was to see how dedicated I was to Japan and my interest in it. I knew for a fact that if I was motivated and interested enough in any subject, I could do well in it. All throughout my semester, my word held well as I maintained high grades in hopes of it someday bringing me closer to the land of the rising sun.

The class itself was organized very well, meeting once every weekday for an hour in the morning. We had a schedule of what we were doing for each day, homework due, and when tests and exams were. A few times however I overlooked obvious things on my class schedule and on those occasions caught me off-guard for turning in homework and a couple of mini exams. The book we used is Genki 1: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese 1 along with its red workbook. The class was focused on basic Japanese grammar usage, along with learning the Japanese alphabet (Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji), to be able to read, write, speak, and understand basic Japanese.

Hiragana and Katakana are part of the basic knowledge of the Japanese language. Memorize these are you will be able to read Japanese, though you need Japanese grammar and vocabulary to understand it.

During the first couple of months, we got into learning and remembering Hiragana and Katakana right away. I had no problems with learning Hiragana. Hiragana is the basis alphabet for Japanese, so you can write solely in Hiragana and be understood, but usually Katakana and Kanji are mixed in writing. Katakana is essentially the same like Hiragana, but most of the characters are different from the Hiragana ones except for a few. Katakana is used in a few ways, such as for foreign words and names, and for emphasis to gain attention such as advertisements. Kanji is slightly different, and for me, much more difficult. Kanji are borrowed Chinese characters that each have multiple meanings, appearance, readings, and usage. What makes them difficult for me to learn is how each is individually unique, so it makes it hard for me to memorize individual Kanji. Many single Kanji have multiple meanings and thus different readings and usage, and so it’s hard to memorize the different combinations of hundreds of Kanji. I know that some Japanese have trouble with Kanji as well, so I’m not too worried about lacking in the Kanji department. I guess what made it truly hard was that I only had a few months to digest all of it into my head.

The grammar stuff overall is not too hard to learn. I’m not going to mention everything I learned because there is so much. If you ever take a look or get a copy of the textbook I used, I studied lessons 1-8 of the grammar. At the very least I can make simple sentences in Japanese such as 私わはたちです。(I’m 20 years old), 私のともだちわうたうのがじょずです。(My friend is good at singing.), and おてあらいわどこですか。(Where is the restroom?). The style of sentence structure of Japanese seems to be the same through all the different grammar rules I’ve learned. The subject of the sentence is first, followed by time, adjectives, etc., then ended with the verb. In short the subject is always mentioned at the beginning of the sentence and the main verb of the sentence is at the end. Once you have that down, the structure in the middle of the sentence is fairly loose and free moving so it’s not too restricting. Another important thing in Japanese grammar is the particles such as わ,に,を, etc. Particles are used to separate the different parts of the sentence. Japanese sentences do not have spaces, so particles play that role partly. An example, the particle わ(wa) comes directly after the subject of the sentence to indicate what is behind it is the subject of the sentence. (Ex: Watashi wa amerikajin desu. (I’m an American.) “Watashi”, meaning I, is the subject of the sentence indicated by the following particle “wa”.) There are many kinds of particles used in Japanese and they are very important in its grammar structure. I just wanted to give some background on what Japanese I learned, this is just a tidbit of my whole semester’s worth of studying.

This is what my Japanese studies look like.

The class itself was a fun experience. I remember the first day of class, my two senseis were talking to each other in Japanese while I took my seat where I would be sitting everyday. Since we were starting from the bottom up in the Japanese language, we started with greetings and basic phrases and such, most of which I already knew from my hours of anime watching which made me happy. Throughout the semester we would do a lot of speaking practice by speaking in pairs, usually with the person who sits next to you. My partner wasn’t too great with Japanese as she would constantly forget some of the stuff we did in class, but I helped her out a bit and also it made me feel better about myself because I knew it better than her. I know that’s kinda mean, but you know how when others don’t know something but you do, you feel better about yourself? Do you know what I’m talking about? I hope so. Moving on, one of my senseis was a starting new teacher, and so there was some days where evaluators came and watched her days when she was teaching the class, and some days where she brought in a video camera to record herself teach the class so she can watch it and learn what she can do better. At her day being in the class, I felt sad but also glad that she was my teacher because she helped me out and also because she tried her best to make the class fun. I wish her good luck in the future for her teaching career.

All of what I learned in my semester came down to my final exams. It was yesterday at 8 in the morning and for about two hours poured my semester’s knowledge worth of Japanese into it. I got to say it was real tough, not like my previous 7 lesson tests. I know I didn’t do so well on my Japanese final, mainly because I didn’t have too much time to study beforehand due to all my other finals and papers pecking at me to be done. I believe I got at the very least a B on my final, but accounting for all the mistakes I realized I did after the fact, it could be worse. My final grade I got for my Japanese 101-01 class is a B, which is good and also predictable when I think about my performance in the class as a whole.

I think my decision in taking Japanese 101-01 was a great decision for me, as it sort of shows myself that as long as I’m willing and passionate enough to work hard, I can achieve and find my future, which is the story of my life right now. I’ve always felt lost in a thick fog, not knowing where I should go. Certain radical events have happened in my life this year, and so finding a future for myself is very crucial. It seems that I’m slowly finding my way through the fog, finally above it, but still need to fight the obstacles above it to reach the stars and my future. As a college student who is free to make my own decisions but under the influence of the current global economy, I’m still finding ways to enjoy life and pursue what I want to do, what ever that may be.

P.S. – I have a couple of review sheets, Hiragana, Katakana, and some Kanji practice sheets as PDF files. Here are the links to those: Hiragana_Others Hiragana_Practice_ Katakana_Practice_ katakana_combination I also have some Kanji writing practice sheets but they don’t have any descriptions about what each are because these sheets go with the Genki book I used for the class. If you want those as well, request it and I will post it.



1. Japanese 102 – My second semester of Japanese « Topic "Otaku" - June 14, 2011

[…] I should of wrote this post nearly a month ago, but various things have been happening as of late. Anyways, just like my first semester of Japanese I took in Fall 2010 semester, I’m writing about my experiences of my second semester of Japanese language study, JAPN 102 at SFSU. My experience of my first semester of Japanese can be found in my previous post called Japanese 101. […]

2. Shelby - March 2, 2013

Thank you so much for posting! I’m just now getting into the language, I would love if you would share your PDF files! I’ve been looking for Japanese classes near me but I’m in such a small town that the closest one is hours away. What are the names of your books? I’ve not watched many anime shows or movies, but figured for the language benefits, it’s not a bad idea. What would you recommend? I love listening to Japanese worship videos on YouTube. I’m beginning to pick up a few things, but I feel there’s still much more out there that will aid me as well. Thank you again so much for the posts! God bless!

coolmikeol - March 3, 2013

Thank you for your comments Shelby! I would be happy to share some of the PDF files I have from my time studying Japanese. The books I used and recommend are the GENKI textbooks which teach Japanese from the ground up in a pretty structured and easy way. Here is a link to the book’s website: http://genki.japantimes.co.jp/index_en

I will try to post the PDF files on this page soon. Please look forward to it!


Shelby - March 4, 2013

Thank you so much! I’m looking forward to it!

3. Mark - May 4, 2013

Hey thanks for the post I am taking JPN 101R this summer and I’m using the exact same textbook as you. Any tips on learning and how much time do you spend on the course weekly?


4. wiramu - July 19, 2014

Dude, your Japanese is horrible. “私わはたちです。(I’m 20 years old), 私のともだちわうたうのがじょずです。(My friend is good at singing.), and おてあらいわどこですか” Are all wrong. The Japanese topic marking particle isn’t わit’s は. It’s pronounced wa when used as a particle. Also, “私わはたちです” means absolutely nothing. “私 は 二十 歳 です,” would be “I’m twenty years old” (Watashi wa nijuu sai desu). 上手 (Jouzu) has a long vowel; you’re missing “u.”

lj - November 9, 2015

Late to the party but 「はたち」 is another way to say 20 years old in the language.

5. Jose Ibarra - January 27, 2019

Konishiwa CoolMikeol I’m so greatful that you made this post since I’m going to start taking a Japanese class tomorrow and I feel so much more relieved and excited about taking this class because now I know I’m not the only who interested in Japan culture and that there are tons of people out there just like me. Overall I just want to say thank you for increasing my interest in the Japan culture

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