These days, there are a ton of sources out there to be taught Japanese, most of that are geared towards the newbie degree — offering a platform for brand spanking new learners to get their toes moist earlier than they transfer on to extra complicated materials. Essentially the most well-known of the newbie textbooks might be Genki, a two-volume set revealed by The Japan Occasions initially in 1999, which we wrote a evaluate of right here. Whereas this primary stepping-stone now feels almost ubiquitous, choosing a textbook to choose up the place Genki leaves off could be a little harder.

That is the place Quartet is available in. Like Genki, it is a two-volume set of Japanese textbooks revealed by The Japan Occasions, however not like Genki I and II, Quartet is designed for intermediate learners. Beforehand, the most typical advice for college kids after ending Genki was to leap into Tobira: Gateway to Superior Japanese Studying Via Content material and Multimedia. Nevertheless, many have famous the steep issue enhance this introduced, as that e-book is meant for superior learners. The Japan Occasions additionally publishes An Built-in Strategy to Intermediate Japanese, although it was final revised in 2008. On this approach, Quartet may very well be seen as virtually a religious successor to An Built-in Strategy, offering college students a smoother transition from the newbie degree Genki sequence into intermediate research than what was beforehand supplied.

As an intermediate Japanese learner who was on the lookout for a easy transition into extra superior sources after ending Genki II, Quartet ended up being the proper textbook sequence for me. In case you’re not fairly positive the place to show after the Genki sequence, or when you had been one way or the other satisfied that Tobira could be the perfect subsequent step, hold studying this text — you may learn how Quartet helped me step up from the upper-beginner degree and construct a stable basis to have the ability to get pleasure from a variety of native content material as an intermediate learner.

Overview of Quartet Vol.1

The construction of Quartet is easy: every lesson presents sections specializing in the 4 completely different language domains — listening, talking, studying, and writing — in an try to offer a complete useful resource to develop your sensible language expertise. Every quantity consists of six classes, which comprise round ten grammar patterns, forty-five kanji, and a “studying technique” or two. Quantity One is designed for learners roughly across the N3 degree (based mostly on the 5 JLPT ranges), and Quantity Two is geared toward N2. I discovered a lot of the vocabulary utilized in Quartet vol.1 to correspond roughly to ranges 25-35 in WaniKani.

The textbook additionally accommodates a detachable “supplementary textual content” within the again, which lists the vocabulary and kanji utilized in every lesson. Audio is offered by way of an app referred to as OTO Navi which could be downloaded onto both iOS or Android units. Lastly, there’s a separate Workbook out there for each volumes that focuses on writing observe, however contains expanded observe past the textbook in all 4 domains.

In contrast to Genki, there isn’t any central storyline much like Mary’s journey, and apart from occasional instructive diagrams, no illustrations (although there are sometimes pictures accompanying the studying or different sections). Every lesson leads with two readings, which fluctuate in format and tone, adopted by the writing part (which incorporates an instance to information your personal work), a talking part (which equally presents a mannequin dialog), and a listening part.

Via Quartet, I used to be in a position to have interaction with native materials whereas nonetheless getting a serving to hand with some new grammar and vocabulary.

As you would possibly have the ability to inform by this expansive purpose, Quartet is absolutely finest suited to finding out in both a classroom setting, with a instructor, or in a research group. After all, you’d want somebody to assist verify your writing and to converse with, however that is to not say that Quartet has nothing to supply self-learners. I take classes weekly with a instructor the place we do dialog and writing observe, so I centered my time on the studying sections. On this approach, I felt Quartet served as virtually a mushy introduction into the favored immersion-style studying, the place learners research primarily by means of constant publicity to native content material of their goal language. Via Quartet, I used to be in a position to have interaction with native materials whereas nonetheless getting a serving to hand with some new grammar and vocabulary.

Studying Sections

A sample page of Quartets reading section — a description and recipe of nikujaga

The studying sections lead every lesson, and function kind of a spine for the content material. These readings aren’t mannequin conversations like in Genki. As a substitute, Quartet presents texts in a variety of various types and codecs in an try to finest put together learners for extra native materials. Every part is preceded by a set of questions: two for earlier than studying to assist acclimate to the subject, and two to return to after studying — which could be mentioned with a instructor or class, or just thought of by yourself. Afterwards, Quartet breaks down a few of the methods employed within the writing, resembling noun modification or expressing requests and thanks, in addition to roughly 10 grammar buildings discovered within the readings.

These sections are a whole lot of enjoyable, and their variety is a giant plus. Quartet does job of making ready you to learn a variety of supplies — not merely well mannered mannequin conversations, however essays, brochures and the like. Beneath the texts, some vocabulary is highlighted and outlined, and furigana is used when relevant.

This is a listing of the completely different textual content types in Quartet:

Lesson One An essay on director Hayao Miyazaki, and one other on Nobel Prize-Winner Dr. Shinya Yamanaka
Lesson Two An e-mail to a professor, and a letter of thanks
Lesson Three A brochure on climbing Mount Fuji, and an article describing izakaya
Lesson 4 A dialog between trade college students, and a chunk written describing employment as a waiter
Lesson 5 An article describing and providing recommendations on a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, and a recipe for nikujaga
Lesson Six An opinion essay about packaging and its widespread use in Japanese tradition, and one other providing competing viewpoints on the deserves and drawbacks of early English research for Japanese college students

Via this vary of various sources and voices, Quartet not solely has readings that will curiosity many alternative learners, but in addition exposes you to types of writing you could not normally come throughout in your language journey. I believe this units a learner up nicely for constructing their confidence, and making ready them to dive into different native texts they might discover fascinating sooner or later.

Much like Genki, there is a heavy emphasis positioned on grammar in Quartet. Following the studying part, there are normally about ten completely different grammar factors that seem within the textual content defined in additional element. The reasons are sometimes pretty slim, however do job of not solely conveying how the grammar construction was employed within the textual content, however different makes use of for it. That is finished by means of the utilization of a number of instance sentences, all of which assist to construct a radical understanding of the purpose mentioned. Moreover, these explanations are a few of the solely locations within the textbook the place English is used.

One small quibble I’ve with the grammar sections is that they have an inclination to focus simply as closely on expressions or turns of phrase as they do on extra standard grammar buildings, however that is due largely to the intermediate nature of the useful resource. Nonetheless, these expressions are additionally necessary to be taught, and defined totally.

Quartet additionally does an incredible job of constructing on grammar factors launched in earlier classes, in addition to providing widespread pairings, widespread errors, or comparable buildings and explaining the nuance behind them. Within the workbooks, there are questions to check your comprehension of the readings.

Writing Sections

Subsequent are the writing sections. These construct on the texts introduced within the studying sections for some good continuity. For instance, given the primary part’s concentrate on well-known Japanese folks, the primary writing part presents a mannequin essay on the baseball participant Suzuki Ichiro.

These sections are the shortest within the e-book, as they rely closely on doing your personal work and having it checked by a instructor or native speaker. That is a part of the explanation Quartet is just not finest suited to learners finding out on their very own, however I nonetheless discovered these sections to be worthwhile. For instance, there’s a piece on the tradition and etiquette in writing a letter in Japanese, which I then used a few of the methods taught to ship a postcard to my Japanese instructor, who was very appreciative.

After offering a mannequin to assist perceive the fashion of writing that you simply’re anticipated to observe, Quartet briefly breaks down a few of the methods the writing is using, earlier than reminding you of the grammar buildings you could possibly make use of in your personal work. It then poses a query and a instructed phrase depend. These prompts are broad sufficient {that a} vary of codecs could be acceptable, however present simply sufficient of a basis to assist focus.

Within the accompanying workbook there are extra centered workouts based mostly on writing which shall be acquainted to learners coming from the Genki sequence.

Talking Sections

A sample page of Quartets speaking — a dialogue of asking for directions.

The talking sections of Quartet are slightly longer than the writing sections. Right here, Quartet presents a sequence of questions and prompts for learners to behave out with their classmates or a instructor. Moreover, there are some vocabulary or grammar factors Quartet calls consideration to with a quick rationalization and a few instance sentences, however not like within the studying sections, these explanations are all in Japanese.

Just like the writing sections, the talking sections are actually all concerning the work you place into them, and the surroundings wherein you are utilizing Quartet. I used these sections as a framework for observe conversations with my personal instructor, and I additionally chat commonly with native Japanese-speaking buddies, and for that, I discovered them very useful.

Moreover, these sections comprise one or two completely different mannequin conversations between numerous characters. I believe this element shall be most acquainted to college students who’ve labored by means of the Genki sequence, because it intently resembles the opening dialogues of every Genki lesson.

Nevertheless, not like Genki, Quartet’s talking sections go even additional in breaking down the conversations, past simply the grammar factors used. They spotlight the move of the dialog, and name consideration to a few of the extra necessary factors of vocabulary the characters use. On the web page following the dialogue, the dialogue is damaged down into speech bubbles for every character, and additional categorized into components based mostly on the move of the dialog. Quartet additionally provides some descriptors above these bubbles to spotlight the intention behind the phrases used. I believe this can be a very nice addition, constructing off of what was the primary part in Genki.

Listening Sections

The listening sections additionally are usually pretty temporary, however the focus is much less on the steerage Quartet offers, and extra so on providing understandable audio to learners. In contrast to many textbooks the place audio is offered by way of CD (who even has a CD participant anymore?…), in Quartet the audio is distributed by way of an app referred to as “OTO Navi” (“oto” that means “sound” in Japanese).

The app is a bit clumsy, nevertheless it’s not too troublesome to navigate, and offers useful instruments resembling having the ability to change the pace of the audio performed, loop audio, and return a number of seconds to double-check your comprehension. The audio is evident, and I used to be shocked at how nicely it held up whereas being slowed for best understanding. Nevertheless, the dialogues coated undoubtedly sound like scripts, and a transcript is offered within the appendix of every e-book.

The remainder of the part offers inquiries to reply based mostly on the audio, so you possibly can check how nicely you understood. The audio varies just like the texts offered within the studying sections, nevertheless it feels extra “produced” than the texts.

It is definitely a plus to know the audio you are listening to ought to match your present talent degree, nevertheless it’s slightly stilted. I believe I might advocate simply listening to YouTube movies, materials designed for native audio system (even children!), or one of many quite a few podcasts for Japanese learners that exist.

“Brush Up” Part

A sample page of Quartets Brush Up section showing similar looking kanji

Following the six classes within the e-book, there is a part referred to as “Brush Up.” This can be a evaluate part, overlaying grammar, kanji, and vocabulary it’s best to know up up to now. This part is an actual spotlight of the e-book, because it helps lock within the data you have amassed and presents a approach to assist tackle any blind spots or factors of research which may have slipped by means of the cracks.

I discovered this part to be extraordinarily useful, particularly in the way it conveys info. It covers a whole lot of widespread errors for learners, such because the distinction between あげる, くれる, and もらう, or passive/causative/causative-passive. The kanji-focused part is equally nicely finished, overlaying homonyms, comparable wanting kanji, and different widespread errors.

Total, this part offers an effective way to make sure you’ve attained the knowledge you want earlier than shifting on, and as a reference part for widespread errors or lingering difficulties. Moreover, it helps college students and educators distill down a few of the most necessary research factors even additional. I want extra textbooks had one thing like this!

Supplemental Textual content

Past the “Brush Up” part, there’s the supplemental textual content. This can be a coral pink booklet, roughly sixty pages lengthy, that separates from the again of the textbook. This fashion, you possibly can have the supplemental textual content open subsequent to you when you work by means of the teachings.

The supplemental textual content accommodates a chart with vocabulary, their studying, and a definition, from the studying sections of every lesson. This can be a tremendous useful option to search for any phrases you won’t know with out having to make use of your telephone, a pc, or a secondary dictionary. It additionally offers instance sentences for the vocabulary. This isn’t solely a very nice useful resource to accompany the texts, however is moreover an incredible place to search out phrases and sentences to enter into an SRS program, or for college kids finding out for exams in a conventional classroom setting.

The kanji part is equally detailed, with stroke quantity and order, readings, and definitions, even when they differ from how a kanji is used within the textual content.

Is Quartet a Stepping Stone to Success (as an Intermediate Learner)?

A copy of the Japanese textbook, Quartet on a desk.

Total, I discovered the Quartet sequence to be a very nice stepping stone after Genki, with quantity I being a better transition into intermediate-level materials than Tobira. There’s little or no hand-holding right here such as you is likely to be used to when you’re coming from Genki, because the e-book is sort of completely in Japanese apart from the grammar explanations, much like Tobira. However when you get acclimated to this, it turns into one of many main strengths of the e-book, permitting a learner to observe their comprehension expertise in a pure method throughout all 4 domains.

Whereas the majority of the content material is devoted to the studying sections, it isn’t arduous to see how nicely the great method would work in a classroom or research group setting. Whereas not the entire content material in Quartet is created equal, the method works, giving a motivated scholar in the best surroundings all they’d have to take their Japanese to the subsequent degree. But when your finding out is completely self-led, maybe it’s best to look elsewhere.

Personally, I actually loved working by means of the studying sections particularly, and studying new phrases and grammar by means of context. The talking, listening, and writing sections additionally offered a pleasant framework to assist floor my research and hold it constant.

Most of all, I felt Quartet helped me improve my skills not solely from upper-beginner to an intermediate degree, but in addition improve my finding out practices to have interaction with extra native materials. I’ve since delved extra into native books, video games, and movies, and have been in a position to have extra complicated and nuanced conversations with my instructor and buddies. Quartet might help you develop the instruments to devour a broader vary of media, and presents methods to be taught belongings you come throughout in native materials you haven’t seen in your research beforehand.

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