How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.

Should I trust Cure Dolly and "Organic Japanese"?

November 28, 2022 — Tatsumoto Ren

Cure Dolly is sometimes recommended as a grammar resource. After giving it a try, here's what I found.

First, let's touch on some AJATT theory. To really understand grammar, it's crucial to understand it in Japanese. Language acquisition happens when we comprehend what's being said, not necessarily how it's said. When a guide uses English building blocks to invent a model that resembles Japanese grammar, there's a limit to how accurate the explanations can be. So from AJATT's point of view, it is best to make the explanations short (very short) and provide as many usage examples as possible to feed your brain the essential input. The brain needs this input to decipher and figure out the structures, rules, and building blocks of your target language. This process mostly happens unconsciously, but providing the right input can expedite it.

The issues with Cure Dolly that stood out to me:

  • The grammar explanations are a complete joke. I'm not saying that any alternatives are perfectly correct either because they rely on English to describe Japanese, but Cure Dolly takes it to another level.

  • Cure Dolly's delivery can be off-putting. It can come off as a bit creepy. Not everyone's going to have enough willpower to sit through its robotic voice.

  • It's lengthy. Most of the content is in video format. I'm not a big fan of videos. Reading a written grammar guide is going to be more efficient. A good grammar guide should be concise and have natural example sentences with translations for each grammar point it covers. Example sentences are more important than explanations.

  • The text version is long. Over 1,000 pages long! By the time you finish it, you will still not know Japanese, while someone who started AJATT instead of Cure Dolly will be already fluent in Japanese.

  • In lesson 41 (page ~370) we finally learn:

    Nearly all Japanese words fall into one of three categories. Just three. And those three categories are: Nouns, Verbs, and Adjectives.

    Long before you hit page 370, the grammar guide should be over. To succeed, Japanese learners have to spend a lot of time on mass immersion. A 1,000 pages book in English will just eat away the immersion time.

  • Although Dolly provides some example sentences, the ratio of sentences to explanations is very low. The examples provided are sparse and often feel contrived or artificial.

  • There are two whole lessons dedicated to criticizing Tae Kim. Instead of learning Japanese, you are invited to learn the reasons why Tae Kim is bad. Tae Kim is not the best, but at least it gives readers more comprehensible input with multiple example sentences for each grammar rule. The biggest problems of Tae Kim are that it has unnecessary conjugation tables and vocabulary lists to memorize, but you can skip those.

On this site, we recommend reading one of the recommended grammar guides to get a rough understanding of what each of the most common grammar patterns means in order to comprehend more of your input. My personal favorite is All About Particles. We don't worry too much about applying rules to produce Japanese because that comes naturally with immersion. Humans learn grammar by understanding messages, so a grammar guide should provide plenty of examples. It's also helpful to add the example sentences to the SRS to remember them better. Most grammar rules are not covered in guides. You will pick them up by looking up unfamiliar constructs in a dictionary, for example with tools like Rikai-tan.

Later, when you become fluent, consider learning Japanese grammar in Japanese, using resources designed for native speakers.

Tags: faq