You probably have that look on your face like the time your mom told you that you had to eat your brussel sprouts. What? Dictation? I thought this studying Japanese stuff was suppose to be fun! I know this because I once had the same reaction myself. It seems like such a tedious task that was once used in medieval times as a form of torture.
And it can be a bit tedious, but sometimes you need to eat your vegetables before you can sink your teeth into that steak. Dictation can be appropriate in some situations and for some students’ learning styles. It is most helpful for learners that like to see things written down. If you are more of a visual learner and have a hard time learning just from speaking and listening, this might be the perfect activity for you.
You might be asking how does this help? Well, first off it helps you improve your accuracy with the language. If you listen to a sentence and keep missing particles or verb endings, chances are you are also missing those verb endings and particles in your speech as well. Once you’ve discovered some of your grammar weaknesses, you can use this to focus your studies on those grammar points.
Dictation also improves listening comprehension and focus. You have to stay focused through the entire sentence in order to get it all and write it down. This careful and active listening is an invaluable skill for Japanese and for the JLPT.
Dictation also involves a lot of connected activities. Not only are you listening to the sentence being said, you are also writing it, and also reading it as well. You can also, of course, repeat back the sentence that is being said while you write it so that you can actually practice all 4 skills at one time.
Obviously, this task doesn’t allow you much creativity. You aren’t using your own ideas with the language which is really a key part of learning and becoming fluent in a language, but you are practicing the raw skills of using the language. I wouldn’t overuse this activity, but it is something to practice on a regular basis.
1) Once you have chosen an unheard appropriate-level listening material with a script (very important!). Play one dialog (about a minute worth) all the way through first.
2) Try to understand as much as you can about the main points of the dialog the first time through.
3) Now, go back and listen to the dialog again, this time pause after each sentence.
4) During the pause, write down as much as you can of the sentence. You can try to write the kanji if you want to practice writing kanji, but it isn’t necessary.
5) Continue on through the dialog like this until you come to the end.
6) If you had a hard time writing everything down, go back a second time and check your sentences one by one filling in what you missed. You might want to do this in another color pen so you can check what was difficult for you to hear.
7) Lastly, check your sentences against the script for the dialog you listened to. What kind of mistakes did you make? If you had problems with a particular grammar point, be sure to take your grammar book and circle that chapter or section with a red pen. That way the month before the test you can save time by just reviewing these difficult grammar points.
8) OPTIONAL: If you really want to lock in what you just learned and you have some extra time, you can practice writing 2 or 3 of the sentences you had the most trouble with. Just write out the sentences as fast as you can 5 times while repeating them out loud. This is a way to get yourself used to seeing/hearing the correct grammar so that it will look weird if you make the same mistake again.