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Each daily 30 minute lesson is designed to teach by strategically spaced repetition, detailed explanation of grammar and cultural influences, and asking the listener to interactively form new phrases based on known words and grammatical patterns. Not only answers the what, but also the why and how of speaking the language correctly in various real life situations. Save up your monthly credits for this audiobook!
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Any additional comments?
Before jumping into the details I'll give you the quick answer to the "Did it work? Can you speak Japanese now?" question.
Yes! It worked! But no, I can't speak fluent Japanese, yet.
Completing Phase 1 will give you just enough Japanese to say some basic things that will impress Japanese speakers, but not enough to actually have a conversation longer than a 30-second introduction. You could have a brief exchange, "Hi my name is . . . I'm American. Where is the train station?" But to learn more than that will take time. A lot more time.
And really to get the most out of learning Japanese, you have to be willing to put in a lot of time. It is not an easy language to learn. But Pimsleur is a really good tool. Especially for attuning your ear (and tongue) to the sounds of the language, which can be very difficult for English speakers. There are many sounds in Japanese that do not exist in English. (For example, the Japanese sound for ら is kind of halfway between the English sounds "rah" and "dah".)
The Pimsleur method is mostly solid. It's based on some proven learning systems which are starting to become more mainstream, namely spaced retrieval / recall. That's the idea that the strongest learning comes, not from repetition, but from recall over time. In other words you learn better when asked to recall how to say a word ("How do you say . . . ") instead of being told how to say a word over and over without ever having to recall and produce the word yourself. The act of trying to recall and remember causes learning. Not rote repetition.
One of the first chapters (before you get to the lessons) is all about the Pimsleur method, how it works, and how best to use it. Almost all of the advice is spot on and I recommend following it. Except for one thing: they recommend you do not write words down or combine reading and writing with your Pimsleur course. That's a really bad idea. If you want to truly master Japanese, you have to learn to read and write. In fact, I'd recommend you learn hiragana and katakana before you even start Pimsleur if you can. If you're eager to start speaking, then go right ahead, but just know the sooner you learn hiragana and katakana (and the true Japanese sounds they make, not the English interpretations of them -- one of many reasons you should avoid Romaji as much as possible), the better off you will be. (Learn hiragana and katana as early as possible, but with kanji you can pace yourself. And you kind of have to, since there are thousands of kanji characters to learn.)
I also recommend doing Pimsleur every day as the instructions advise. I also recommend following their advice about repeating a lesson if you struggled with answering the prompts correctly. They say to advance after you've gotten about 80% correct in a lesson. I think that's a little low, and I aim for 95%. If there is just one or two words or phrases I don't get, I move on, but if I'm not getting 1/5 of the prompts, I redo the lesson later in the day or the next day and keep repeating it until I get almost all of the prompts correct. This means it's not really practical to assume you can do 30 units in 30 days. On a very ambitious routine I am trying to do about 30 units every 60 days. This gives me about two days to master a lesson before moving on to the next one. In practice the average time per lesson is two days (when I push myself to keep up), but in reality some lessons are much more difficult than others. It just depends on what words and phrases your brain retains. Some lessons I had to repeat 5 or 6 times before I felt like I got it. Others I nailed on the first try. So just know that you will (or should) be repeating lessons as you progress. Don't advance until your really comfortable with the phrases in the current unit.
In summary, Pimsleur is great, but it should be PART of your tool kit for learning Japanese, not your sole resource. If you really want to learn you'll also need a Japanese textbook, a kanji book, flashcards (or other recall method), and if you can find it: a minimal pairs resource.
Japanese is not an easy language to learn. In fact, the US State Department lists Japanese in the Category III set of languages making it among the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn (right alongside Mandarin Chinese). But you can learn it.
Oh and one other note, many of the phrases in Pimsleur (like most Japanese language resources) are almost always of the extremely formal and polite variety. Several of my Japanese-speaking friends and colleagues have regularly corrected me to say a phrase I've learned is way, way too formal. In some cases like, "only say that if you're meeting the president" formal.
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