First, let me explain the difference between the direct method and the indirect method in learning Japanese.
The direct method means that the explanation is given in Japanese only.
The indirect method is to receive an explanation using a mediating language that the learner can understand (in most cases, the learner’s mother tongue).
If your native language is English, you may worry about whether it’s better to temporarily get explanations in English or to get explanations in Japanese. In the end, it depends on your preferences, but let’s consider the pros and cons of both methods.
Direct Method – Pros
-Learners will develop a habit of reasoning based on words they do know even if there are words they do not understand.
-Lessons can be taken in a form that closely resembles an actual conversation in Japanese.
Direct Method – Cons
-Learners will sometimes misunderstand.
-It may take a while before the learner can understand.
Indirect Method – Pros
-Explanations are definitely easier to understand.
-Learners can understand in a short amount of time.
Indirect Method – Cons
-It’s easy for learners to develop a habit of always thinking in their native language.
-It’s hard for learners to develop a habit of reasoning based on the Japanese they know.
-There may be many instances of not understanding when having an actual conversation in Japanese.
The indirect method is less stressful because beginners cannot understand explanations in Japanese. However, the advantage of studying using the direct method from the beginning is that learners are better prepared for a real conversation because they have been listening to actually conversations in Japanese only. In other words, the difference is whether you consider speaking only in Japanese as “stressful” or “good training.”
I recommend the following approach for people who want to become used to Japanese as quickly as possible, but who also want to use their lesson time efficiently.
・First, tell your instructor ahead of time not to use an intermediate language unless you request otherwise, and basically use Japanese only.
・Then, ask your instructor for explanations in an intermediate language only when you can’t understand no matter how hard you try.
However, make an agreement with your instructor not to use an intermediate language more than three times per lesson.
(It doesn’t matter if you agree to five times or ten times, it’s just seems best to use an intermediate language as little as possible.)
・Then, do not use an intermediate language more than the agreed number of times no matter how frustrating it becomes.
I recommend this approach because, by sticking to these rules, you will develop a habit of thinking for yourself as much as possible even when you don’t understand and you can enjoy your lessons like a game.
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