A few weeks ago, I purchased a first grade reader and kanji workbook from the Japanese supermarket (which is about an hour and a half away from where I live). I have found that these books are challenging, but possible for me. Also, I have been using an Anpanman NintendoDS game to help me with my pronunciation, kikitori, and writing skills. For immersion, I have been using Anime such as Precure, Sailor Moon, and Anpanman. While I am an adult, I have been letting myself be a child in Japanese as much as possible.
In some ways I am far ahead of a Japanese child entering school, while at the same time, in other ways, I am far, far behind a Japanese child. For this reason, I think it is still important to use the adult foreign learners’ materials, as I need grammar explanations that Japanese children would not. After learning the concepts from the textbooks in English, I have been using Japanese children’s material to fill in the gaps and to provide extra practice.
The difference in the materials is quite interesting, I think. The adult learners’ textbook I used was Genki, and the early vocabulary included things like 国際関係, kokusaikankei (“international relations”), 政治, seiji (“politics”), and 経済, keizai (“economics”). The children’s learning material started with words such as リス, risu (“squirrel”), どんぐり, donguri (“acorn”), リンゴ, ringo (“apple”). I have to say that I think that the children’s vocabulary seems a bit more useful.
I am not sure exactly why I am learning Japanese, but it seems important to me to let Japanese change me. Maybe it would be more accurate to say to allow Japanese to bring out who I really am. Even though I was born and raised in the West, I was always baffled by the manners and customs of the West. Yet, the more I learn about Japanese customs and manners, the more sense they make to me in a way that Western culture never did.
I am fortunate enough that I do not need Japanese for a job and I do not have to take any tests, so there is no reason for me to become an adult in Japanese any time soon. My sensei fully supports and encourages the concept of metaphorically learning to walk before I run. I am rather enjoying my Japanese childhood, I must say.