Textbooks that I could get

As I said, I understand all the reasons why some textbooks don’t teach or even mention it. But why throw it in as the proverbial cherry later? I’d propose instead that getting a good foundation early on makes much more sense here, as you wouldn’t need to restart your learning and unlearn pronunciations you’ve gotten used to during a good 2-3 years into your studies.

It’s a little bit like articles in German – you don’t need to know how to use them correctly to make yourself understood, but wouldn’t it be a bit of a curveball if after 3 years you found out that nouns have gender in German and that you would need to essentially relearn all the vocabulary if you wanted to get them right?

As far as the cherry-on-top-ness of pitch accent is concerned, I would tend to disagree with it somewhat. Obviously, the importance of it depends on what your goals are in language learning, but just because it isn’t strictly necessary to make yourself understood, it doesn’t mean that you don’t get a lot of benefit from even a basic awareness of it. And it’s not simply a matter of putting stress on the “right” syllable, as pitch accent and stress accent don’t work in quite in the same way and people unconsciously use the patterns of their native language anyway (for me, it’s especially noticeable with English speakers).

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i still stand by my points. i’m kinda confused as you keep saying that you get why it’s not taught early on and then follow it up by saying that it’s wrong to teach it that way. which one is it? anecdotally, i am 2-3 years into learning japanese and am just discovering pitch accent now, and while it’s helpful, i’m definitely thankful that i was more focused on grammar and vocab first. it’s not that big of a curveball and i can appreciate it more now that i have words and sentences to practice it on.

anyhow, we’re derailing the thread (sorry OP) so let’s let them get back to talking about textbooks

As I said, I don’t understand why they start teaching it that late into the game. Does it not seem a bit weird to learn about a basic feature of a language years into studying it?

While I understand the reasons why textbooks don’t teach pitch accent, I don’t necessarily agree with it. I’d say it does a disservice to all the people who do want to get a good or at least a better than average pronunciation. And, as I mentioned, there are a lot of benefits to being aware of pitch accent. Knowing how to listen for it makes a lot of difference in your shadowing practice, for example. For a more specific one, knowing not to put stress on syllables makes it a bit easier for listeners to differentiate between short and long sounds, as stress elongates the syllable somewhat.

For you it’s not important, and that’s fine. Just the same as kanji might not be important for someone who just wants to watch anime without subtitles. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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Not really weird to me. Most books don’t teach it because it imposes extra burden on the learner with very little benefit in doing so. Native English speakers also have pitch accent, but we don’t bother teaching it. We understand that students will develop a more natural accent with time. With so many other important things for someone to learn, who cares if you can say 「これはペンです」with a native accent? If someone speaks English with a foreign accent, it’s fine. Japanese people seem to feel the same way, overall. Besides, if people are actually putting in basic effort when shadowing, they will develop a lot of the correct pitch accent patterns naturally anyway.

Honestly, I feel like pitch accent is the latest trend of gatekeeping in the Japanese language community. Why is it necessary that students sound exactly like an eastern Japanese person when they’re not an eastern Japanese person? What would really be a disservice is having a student waste hours learning something they’d eventually develop naturally, when they could be using that time to learn things to help them actually function in the country / language. A lot of people use these textbooks to learn Japanese so they can do their jobs and survive, therefore pitch accent is very low on the list of priorities.

Steering this back on topic, I own and have used almost every popular (and some unpopular) Japanese language textbook in common use today, so I’ll throw out some other suggestions that haven’t been mentioned yet.

Japanese for Everyone: A Functional Approach to Daily Communication
An older textbook that’s fallen out of popularity, but is still pretty good (although it has some older Japanese in it). It is a fairly inexpensive text that includes the answer key. Finding the companion audio can be tricky. I think someone uploaded them to YouTube years back. It has romaji in the first two chapters since it doesn’t assume you know the kana yet. Lesson 3 and on, the romaji is dropped.

Pros:

  1. Fairly inexpensive
  2. The book’s scenario is centered around a working adult, instead of your typical homestay scenario
  3. Covers roughly the same material that Genki I and II does for a lot less money
  4. Most vocab taught has pitch accent notation

Cons:

  1. Old, so the more modern vocab / expressions may be missing
  2. May not be able to find all of the companion audio

Japanese Demystified
Can be found at a lot of bookstores, but doesn’t get a lot of attention. Basically made to be a no-frills beginner textbook for self studying Japanese. The latest edition has a few digital study / practice aids. Probably unpopular because it displays romaji under the native Japanese script throughout the textbook. If you are able to ignore the romaji, the book is actually quite decent for the money (about $25.00 USD). Also covers a lot of the same stuff as Genki I and II. Book includes answer key.

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Like I said, I understand, completely, why some textbooks make the choice of not teaching pitch accent. That’s not the reason why I made the comment and this is a separate discussion, really. Marugoto does teach pitch accent, but it doesn’t start until way, way later. Before that pitch accent isn’t really even mentioned. That is why I said it was weird.

As for “it will all work out eventually”, the thing is that people don’t develop correct pitch accent patterns naturally, though. Even the most hardcore immersion approach people like Khatzumoto and Matt vs Japan didn’t.

It’s not about gatekeeping either. You are perfectly within your rights to ignore whatever aspect of a language you don’t like. However, there are plenty of people whose goal goes beyond just being understood and who want their speech to sound more pleasant and be more easily understandable. Pitch accent is quite important for that goal. Why would you deny people that for 7 books?

And to be clear, it’s not an all or nothing proposition, that you have to learn pitch accent to 100% of accuracy or else all is naught. In my experience, even some rudimentary awareness of it can be very helpful.

Edit: I’ll add just one more thing, since it has been bothering me. You make it sound as if it’s some huge extra burden to learn about pitch accent and that it has little to no benefit. I would argue that the opposite is true. Only since taking a pitch accent class (1.5 hours in total, including people introducing themselves) was I able to really start hearing the differences in pitch in Japanese and this changed my perception of the language in a big way by making me acutely aware of a feature that I was so far completely oblivious to. I actually started hearing Japanese differently. This in turn enabled me to incorporate pitch accent into my regular study, simply by adding a script on WK and an add-on to Anki, and I was able to make quite the leap in my pronunciation just by being able to pay attention to it during my regular shadowing practice. All this benefit for the cheap cheap price of an hour and a half. Hell, I think you could get the basics down in half that time, even. In contrast, if someone were to start practicing pitch accent after they have already reached a high level of Japanese, they would have to study and practice it separately, basically doing all their pronunciation practice all over again and needing to unlearn a lot of the habits they acquired and ingrained during that time.

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If you truly “completely” understand that it’s not that important in the beginning, then I don’t see why you’d find it weird that they teach it later.

Matt vs. Japan also is a big proponent of not practicing output for an extended part of the Japanese learning process, so I wouldn’t count this as evidence that people don’t develop pitch accent over time. If you are speaking with natives on a regular basis, you will absorb their accent. This happens in every language, in every country. Japanese is not an exception.

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I understand the reasons why textbooks would omit it (even though I don’t agree with it), I don’t understand the reasons why they would postpone it far into the future. It’s much easier to develop good habits than it is to get rid of bad ones and it seems kind of a big thing to drop on students that late.

And as for evidence, if you don’t accept Matt vs Japan as an example, he did a video where various people, some of whom have been in Japan for a long time, speak Japanese, and he had a native speaker highlight their pitch accent mistakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74i3MqeyMZw

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Honestly anyone who doesn’t think that language production is an important part of language learning is selling snake oil. For any language, you have to develop certain muscles to get a better feel for it.

I don’t necessarily agree with the silent period myself, and I have only seen a few videos from Matt, but I think this might be a bit of a mischaracterisation of his stance. Surely nobody is saying that practicing speaking is not important?

This is actually the first textbook I got as well since I thought Genki was too expensive.

It does cram quite a bit of info onto a single page but I do think overall it’s a pretty good textbook even without the audio.

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I get that, yes. Either teach it early (or st least mention it, without placing too much amphasis, if you’re worried about overwhelming, or scsring students away), or don’t.

I agree with some of what you said, but I don’t agree with the overall premise. Let me provide more context for my previous comments, because I can understand why you might feel bothered by what I said, based on your experience with learning pitch accent.

I used to teach high school, and on the side I volunteered as an assistant for a native Japanese teacher, teaching Japanese to beginners. In my experience, if a person has already been listening to a lot of Japanese for a while or natively speaks a tonal language (one of my beginner classes was almost entirely comprised of exchange students from mainland China), yes, you can briefly point out pitch accent and they’ll probably be able to pick it out on their own and practice afterwards. However, for people who are 100% beginners with little exposure to the language beforehand, it can really be a struggle to get them to produce pure vowel tones when pronouncing the kana, let alone pitch accent (pitch accent usually won’t change the meaning of a word, but a diphthong definitely will).

How quickly each student gets past this hump varies from “quickly” to “never”. For some students, adding an additional thing for them to get “wrong” would be very demotivating. A lot of potential students already see learning Japanese as a very difficult task, and have plenty of nay sayers discouraging them from learning the language. I’d rather them stick with it and have a “bad” accent than give up. This is why I said it’s a sort of “gatekeeping” in the language learning community. I’ll always be a teacher at heart, and so I’ll always be concerned with keeping my all students encouraged throughout their learning journey. It doesn’t matter how “important” a certain detail is if the student gives up. If the teaching methods / curriculum I choose to use causes my student to give up, then I’d feel like I’ve failed as a teacher. The authors of these books put a lot of thought into their structure, likely because they feel the same way.

TL;DR: For a lot of people new to the language, it’s hard enough just to hear and reproduce the basic sounds, let alone an accent. I do agree that it’s better to learn it earlier rather than later, but I don’t agree that it’s a bad thing if it’s omitted at the beginning, based on my experience with helping students get started with the language. We shouldn’t take our personal experience learning the language and use that as the basis for how all other learners should be taught, nor use it as the basis for how a curriculum should be structured.

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Hey, I’m a teacher too. Granted, my students often have inherent advantages when it comes to pronouncing Japanese, but I have also taught a small group of American students and, while it took a bit more time, I had no problems getting the basics across, including pitch accent. And I dare say the American group was no worse off by the end of the course if not even better in some individual cases.

In my experience, if you show students the basic techniques (like how easy it is to shadow with Anki) and tell them what to pay attention to, they will practice and improve rapidly. Knowing what to pay attention to alone will help them become aware of much of Japanese prosody. And in my experience the results will build confidence rather than destroy it.

We absolutely shouldn’t base curricula on personal experiences or preferences – people have different goals and motivations in language learning and it is the job of a teacher to facilitate that learning – not by protecting students but by guiding and encouraging them.

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Illegal resources are against the WK TOS, so I’d remove some of those links.

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I’m a Genki girl, though I also enjoyed Marugoto.
They (Marugoto) have a free online plattform where you can work through their courses up to finish A2.2 (which is a bit further than Genki 2 would take you).

The online plattform is interactive and every few months they offer a guided course for free too - which means a tutor will check in with you, grading and correcting your work.
The only big minus is the minimalistic grammar explanations since they focus on “learning by using”. But if you check the grammar points online or with a grammar dictionary, you should be good to go.

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For a lot of people new to the language, it’s hard enough just to hear and reproduce the basic sounds, let alone an accent. I do agree that it’s better to learn it earlier rather than later, but I don’t agree that it’s a bad thing if it’s omitted at the beginning, based on my experience with helping students get started with the language. We shouldn’t take our personal experience learning the language and use that as the basis for how all other learners should be taught, nor use it as the basis for how a curriculum should be structured.

I have nothing else to add to this discussion anymore except to say that I am also a teacher (although teaching English in Japan) and you nailed what my view on pitch accent is perfectly.

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The starter version of Irodori just released, if anyone wanna check it out.

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