Approximately 130 million people speak Japanese, the standard language of Japan. In entering into business relationships with the Japanese, Western investors would be well-advised to learn the basics of the language. The Japanese are proud of their heritage, and you can honor that pride by making the effort to learn their language. One finds it is easier to build relationship and trust with the Japanese when discourses are carried on in Japanese.
Rocket Japanese claims to provide fun and easy ways to approach learning the Japanese language for a fraction of what it would normally cost to enroll in individualized tutorial. To validate this claim, 60 participants have been signed up for a three-month learning program. The participants come from a variety of backgrounds: exchange students preparing for a semester in Japan, English-as-a-Second-Language teachers bound for Japan, recent travelers to Japan who want to learn more of the language, and businessmen of the IT-space.
All were signed up with Rocket Japanese Premium package, including audio CDs and other interactive media. Evaluation was scheduled at the end of every month, and participants were advised to include in their daily routine the following exercises for the next four weeks:
- 15 minutes of “tuning the ear” to Japanese everyday;
- 15 minutes of vocal practice everyday;
- 15 minutes of participation in online forum everyday;
Guidelines are set to ensure that there is some level of uniform measurement to assess individual progress. Participants can put in more time, but they are required to spend at least 45 minutes a day for the next four weeks so objective assessment can be made at the end of the period.
After four weeks, the participants were evaluated by a native Japanese speaker. He came to the conclusion that at least 60% (36) of the participants have a good grasp of pronunciation, and can carry basic conversation in Japanese with few errors. The rest of the participants can carry rudimentary conversation with a lot of room for improvement.
On the second month, the guidelines were to increase the daily practice to an hour, with 30 minutes on the vocal practice, so the basic slips of Japanese pronunciation can be corrected. This 30-minute practice also included 10 minutes of expanding the participants’ vocabulary. Often, messages can be conveyed with the correct word, despite a few errors in grammar.
The participants were also highly encouraged to employ the self-testing kit built in the learning program, so they can have frequent feedback of how they are doing in the vocal area. Japanese has a significant pitch-accent system, and getting a good grasp of that is important in mastering the basics.
The participants were again individually assessed to check their progress. Up to 80% (48) of the participants can carry decent conversation in the language, although there is still a lot of work to be done in sentence structure. Of the 80%, at least half (24) can carry basic conversation that includes getting around, ordering food and drinks, making travel plans, and generally striking that first conversation with any Japanese.
On the third month, participants were given this set of guidelines to step up their learning progress:
- 20 minutes of “tuning the ear” to Japanese everyday;
- 30 minutes of vocal practice everyday;
- 10 minutes of vocabulary practice, learning at least 10 new words a day;
- Participation in online forums as often as possible;
- Film-viewing of Japanese “manga” without subtitles.
At the end of the pilot study period, all the participants were found to be conversant in basic Japanese, with few errors. At least half of the participants were considered intermediate, which means they can carry conversations beyond the day-to-day topics of getting around the city and interacting for the first time. A few participants (at least 10%, or 6) have taken the initiative to learn “katakana,” or written Japanese using the Japanese alphabet.
The Japanese consultant concluded that Rocket Japanese provided an easy and interactive portal to learn more of the language and achieve high proficiency. Additionally, he concluded that the online forum and feedback system and self-testing components of the program were effective in helping students learn the language faster.
Rocket Japanese Review
Jeffery Gulleson, Birmingham, AL(Posted October 2010)
I frequently travel to Japan for business, and the more I get to personally know Japanese, the more there is a need for me to learn Japanese beyond the usual “konnichiwa.” Before, I had to hire a Japanese tutor on an hourly basis, and the tuition could really pile up at the end of the term. So I decided to look for language learning programs online, and I chanced upon Rocket Japanese. For only a small amount of what I would pay for my monthly tuition, I signed up with the program.
I find it very convenient to learn the language at my own pace. Being a businessman, it is not easy to sit down to a formal tutorial program. Within a few weeks of brushing up on my Japanese skills, I was able to put it in practice when I went to Kyoto for a business conference. My Japanese host was impressed with how my Japanese improved since the last time I went to Japan. I discovered that I was able to personally connect more with my Kyoto business partners, and I realized doing business with them was a lot easier without the translator! I was able to encourage my business partners to start learning Japanese, especially if we were to clinch big Japanese accounts. That way, I will also have buddies to practice the language with. My team has actually found the whole Japanese learning process fun, and we find it useful to speak in Japanese when we are talking about our business in public, sort of like a language of our own. I am in the process of learning “katakana,” and I find that the whole Japanese alphabet thing is quite challenging, but Rocket Japanese is making learning engaging. I find I could learn Japanese even as a hobby, with how fun and easy things are with Rocket Japanese.