A Teacher's Review
by Atsuko Suga
Iki Iki Nihongo: Live Action Japanesecontains more than seventy units describing everyday life situations. Each unit consists of a series of actions, and students can easily memorize them by repeating the actions orally or in their minds when they encounter the actual situations in their everyday lives. Total Physical Response (TPR) techniques can provide students with clear pictures of how to describe actual situations. Students are better able to retain new language by actually acting out and giving directions to their partners or their teachers. Acting out can also make classes more active and motivating. The authors state that teachers can use the book for all levels of learners by expanding on the basic patterns. For example, honorific forms can be used with higher level students rather than the easier imperative forms.
I used this book with some of my beginner-intermediate students in their 30s and 40s. They all commented that it was fun to demonstrate the actions and that they were able to memorize more thoroughly by actually performing the actions. They also informed me that even though they didn't know most of the verbs at first, they were able to comprehend the meanings through the actions. After students were able to say and act patterns out, I asked them to write sentences. In that way, I could check their spelling, especially the long vowel "u" or small "tsu" and make sure that they understood.
The authors state that this book is designed for all ages and situations. I agree, but would note that a teacher does need to be selective and to adapt for specific groups. For example, some units are good for secondary students but not for adults, and vice versa. Adults might feel overly childish pretending that they were a dog or a bird (pp.110-111). Since the teacher must demonstrate actions first, the teacher needs to be a willing "actor/actress," and should prepare necessary props. It should be pointed out that some dialogues don't seem natural because most of the time people don't express such actions orally while doing them. Teachers may therefore need to make some changes in order to encourage more natural usage.
Nevertheless, this book is a great resource for beginner and intermediate learners. I also agree with the authors that it is possible to adapt this text for advanced learners in combination with other materials.
A Student's Review
by Tim Murphey
This book was obviously written by an enthusiastic group of teachers who have tapped into some effective psycholinguistic processes for language learning learning. By getting the body totally involved in a tight series of actions that make mental repetition and rehearsal tremendously enjoyable and meaningful, they have succeeded in giving teachers and learners a very valuable tool.
I've had two lessons with two different teachers and have completed several chapters by myself and am looking forward to doing more. I find myself practicing what I learned in the lessons as I go through my daily activities (opening and locking doors, washing hands). I had one lesson in my office and another in a restaurant after a meal. At first the teacher directs movements in a well defined situation. Refreshingly, the teachers also turn over the learning to the student and the student actually "instructs" the teacher what to do, after having been presented with the material several times. My first teacher had been through a short training course by one of the authors and obviously enjoyed what she was doing.
To see if other teachers would go for it, I lent the book to a second teacher and asked her to give me a lesson the next week after looking over the book. She brought props to the restaurant and we had an enjoyable time, although it was embarrassing washing my hands out loud in public. But fun! Obviously, teachers need to be playful and to have a sense of the dramatic.
I would recommend this text highly to students and teachers who believe in the above mentioned pyscholinguistic concepts and are willing to really give the book a try. Doing a less embarrassing lesson first will convince most users to become brave and to later be able to even "wash their hands out loud in public" (or at least in the classroom). This is also a useful text for students studying on their own, although they will want to consult a native speaker to clarify certain expressions.
The book could have benefited from the organization and commentary of a good critical editor (it was published by a language school in California), and I hope they will shop it around to mainstream publishers so that it presents better and gets more exposure. Asher seems to be misquoted in the preface, there are some typos, and the long 30-page instructions-introduction for users could be better organized with some material placed in the appendix.
However, these are form and surface criticisms mostly. The spirit of the book is
very commendable and I will continue to use it and I think it will also influence
Iki Iki Nihongo: Live Action Japaneseis available through amazon.com. Please search using the ISBN number or "Contee Seely."