Brandon writes: How do you say “blitzkrieg” in Japanese?

Have you ever taken years of a foreign language and then later found that you have little to no working knowledge of the language? Well, that is what happened with all the Latin, French and Spanish I studied in middle and high school. But now I am taking Elementary Japanese at Harvard Extension School (JAPA E-1) with Fujisaki “Sensei”…the Japanese word for “teacher”, pronounced Sen-say-E, and I have already retained more in the first five weeks than I did in all my previous years of language. Why? Perhaps because class is conducted like language blitzkrieg; you’re learning to write Japanese from day one, three classes later you can read and write in Hiragana and you’re already comfortable speaking. It’s the equivalent of four high school language years run in fast-forward, and amazingly it sticks! Meeting twice a week for two hours with a few hours of homework and a quiz at the beginning of each class leaves no time to forget.

But, faster is only better to a certain degree. I sampled a similar Japanese course held during the Harvard Summer School session (JAPA S-Aab Beginning Japanese). The class was worth double the credits, 8 instead of 4 and it takes place in just 7 weeks. To accomplish all that learning the class met every day, M-F for 4 hours and then added another 4-6 hours of homework on top of that! This pace was beyond fast and, in all fairness, the word beginner should not appear in the description for the summer class.

Aside from the not-too-slow, not-too-fast, balanced pace of the Harvard Extension School Elementary Japanese class held in the Fall semester, much credit is owed to Professor Fujisaki for being, true to Japanese form, extremely organized and precise in his teaching methods while managing to get us all to laugh and enjoy our mistakes. Arigato Fujisaki Sensei!


  1. nan
    Posted October 8, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I’m taking an intensive language course this term as well – and oh boy is it kicking my butt! What helps you retain such a large amount of information?

    • Posted October 8, 2009 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for writing! So nice to know I am not alone 🙂 What language are you studying?

      A few ideas for information retention:

      – try making funny pneumonic devices to remember vocabulary, what does the word sound like in your own language and then make a funny image in your head. For example if the foreign word sounds like “carwash” then just imagine that and the funny memory tool will come to you when you are trying to remember it later. Soon the word comes to mind without the silly picture and by then it’s solid in your memory.

      – writing words over and over, say ten times per word helps with spelling and visualization memory

      – make a new friend who speaks the language so you can ask for help with the spoken pronunciation practice

      – work daily at the material starting from the hardest to the easiest, if you run out of time or energy before the easy part it wont matter

      – team up with your class members, just ask the teacher if you can make an announcement after class and invite everyone to join you in another class room at another time or even immediately after class. Working as a team feels allot easier because you will all have different strengths you can share.

      – pass out a sheet of paper in class and ask all interested to put their name email and phone number and then use an online tool like instant messaging to assemble an online study group. If you leave the chat room open even when you are away others can work at different times and when you come back you can see what they practiced by reading the history.

      -lastly, I learned from another classmate during a group session about this cool online program called, which allows you to make your own digital flashcards and, once made, provides many different fun games to study the material.

      Just by writing to me to actively seek a solution you are already one step closer to getting an A in the class 😀

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