Japanese I

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
Learning objectives
The purpose of this course is to build a knowledge base of the most important topics in Japanese basic grammar, and to impart the skills to use such knowledge in spoken and written Japanese. No previous acquaintance with Japanese language is necessary. More specifically, students will learn:
· the hiragana and katakana syllabaries:
· about 170 ideographic characters (kanji), in both reading and writing;
· all the vocabulary used in the textbook Minna no Nihongo I Honsatsu in Units 1-19, in reading only;
· the basic grammar and the most important expressions required in the daily usage of the language, as introduced in the first 19 Units of the textbook Minna no Nihongo I Honsatsu.
Students will learn the lexical and morphologic components of all the expressions and constructions contained in the textbook, and the combinatory rules regulating their production. They will also learn to identify those structures in both spoken and written texts and to understand the reasons of their use according to context and discourse. On this basis, the students will learn how to evaluate which construction or expression is appropriate to which situation, and to accordingly choose and use the most correct structure.
Expected learning outcomes
The recognition, comprehension and context-dependent appropriate use in simple communicative situations of approximately one third of the basic grammar, lexicon and constructions of the Japanese language. The level reached is around N5 on the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) scale, corresponding approximately to A1 on the CEFR scale.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
In a period of emergency, all classes will be held online on the Teams platform. In order to access the platform you have to first register at the Office 365 site using your @studenti.unimi.it mail address. Then you'll be allowed to download Teams and register. The Teams code to participate to Teams activities (that is, to attend classes) are listed in the 'Bacheca' section of the Ariel site for Lingua giapponese I. Click here: https://sdallachiesalg1med.ariel.ctu.unimi.it/v5/home/Default.aspx


· The program is not changed.
· Textbooks are unchanged, and the supporting material already available on Teams and Ariel are unchanged too. Obviously new materials, such as grammar cards, video recordings of classes, excercises etc., will be uploaded weekly and kept available. For such uploading, occasionally other sites (teachers' personal sites, Zoom etc,) might be used.
· The lectures of the 'corso ufficiale' and the seminar (prof. dalla Chiesa) will be held in real time on MS Teams as "Meetings", with the aid of pdf material. During each 90-minute lecture, the students will write questions an requests of clarification on the Team chat line. The lecturer will answer those questions by voice in the remaining 30 minutes. In special cases (only) this kind of lecture might be replaced by an upload (a videorecording).


· No final online test.

· Written exam to be held online according to the same rules of the final online test.

· Oral exam online via Teams. Same contents and structure as in ordinary times.
Course syllabus
The program corresponds to the grammar topics, lexicon and kanji contained in the first 19 Units of the textbook 'Minna no nihongo I Honsatsu (2nd ed.)'. In short, it consists in the following topics. A general introduction to Japanese grammar; copular expressions and use of the forms of the dummy word family DESU; the constructions of one-, two- and three-place verbs; case particles and the realization of Grammatical relations and Semantic relations (adjuncts); focus particles WA and MO; quantifiers; the morphology and grading of adjectives; the basic verbal morphology; forms and constructions to express possession, permission, prohibition and request; temporal, final, causal, volitional, declarative sentences and related conjunctions; the basic aspectual forms of the verb; the reading and writing of approximately 170 ideographs (kanji), the reading and meaning of all the vocabulary contained in the first 19 textbook Units.
Prerequisites for admission
No previous knowledge of Japanese language, of linguistics and of the school grammar of Italian or English is required. However, students must be proficient in Italian in order to understand the content of lectures and exam instructions.
Teaching methods
The three modules of the official course and the seminar concern grammar and will be entirely taught in Italian, following a 'traditional' method: the lecturer will explain in Italian the grammar rules treated in the textbook units by means of notions of linguistics, and writing on the blackboard. No computer material will be projected. Writing classes, also held in Italian, will also use the blackboard. Homework assignment and periodical kanji tests play an important role in the writing/kanji part of the course. Language practice ('Esercitazioni') will be held in Japanese in an interactive way. The teacher will ask individual questions to students, and all students will be actively involved.
Teaching Resources
Required textbooks

(Main textbook, Units 1-19): Minna no nihongo. Shōkyū I. Dainihan. Honsatsu (2nd ed.). (Tokyo: 3A Nework. ISBN 9784883196036).

(Kanji textbook): Minna no nihongo. Shōkyū I. Dainihan. Kanji eigoban. Elementary I. Second Edition. Kanji - English Edition. (Tokyo: 3A Nework. ISBN 9784883196838).

(Grammar): Simone dalla Chiesa, Introduzione alla grammatica giapponese. Scene, eventi, verbi, argomenti. (Milano: Lumi, 2019, pp. 110. ISBN 9788867850600).

Other material, build by each individual lecturer and teacher, if any, will be available from the Lumi bookstore or downloadable from the Ariel site of the course.

Recommended additional materials

(Grammar rules): Minna no nihongo. Shōkyū I. Giapponese elementare I. Traduzione e note grammaticali - Italiano. (Tokyo: 3A Nework. ISBN 9784883196357. Also available in English and many other languages, under different ISBN codes).

(Grammar practice): Minna no nihongo. Shōkyū I. Dainihan. Hyōjun mondaishū. Elementary I. Second Edition. Basic Workbook. (Tokyo: 3A Nework. ISBN 9784883196067).

(Grammar practice): Minna no nihongo. Shōkyū I. Dainihan. Kaite oboeru bunkei renshuchō. Minna no Nihongo Elementary I Second Edition Sentence Pattern Workbook. (Tokyo: 3A Nework. ISBN 9784883196074).

(Kanji practice): Minna no nihongo. Shōkyū I. Dainihan. Kanji renshūchō. Elementary I. Second Edition. Kanji Workbook. Tokyo: 3A Nework. ISBN 9784883196029.

The following books are reference grammars or can be used as such. They do not make use of the notions, technical terms and linguistic approach followed in the course, but may nevertheless be helpful. They are not in alternative to each other; one can buy them all.

Kubota, Yoko. Grammatica di giapponese moderno. (Venezia: Cafoscarina, 1989. ISBN 9788885613263). This text follows the Japanese school grammar, and is quite 'scientific' from that point of view.

Mastrangelo, Matilde; Ozawa, Naoko; Saito, Mariko. Grammatica giapponese. Seconda Edizione. (Milano: Hoepli, 2016. ISBN 9788820367275). This thorough text explains Japanese with the use of several categories of Italian school grammar.

Oue, Junichi; Manieri, Antonio. Grammatica d'uso della lingua giapponese. Teoria ed esercizi. Livelli N5-N3 del Japanese Language Proficiency Test. (Milano: Hoepli, 2019. ISBN 9788820375546). This text is quite sophisticated from the point of view linguistics, but still uses several notions of Italian school grammar.
Assessment methods and Criteria
The exam will only take place at the end of the two-semester official course. It tests the knowledge build during the three modules of the official course and the skills developed during language practice classes. It is not possible to take a partial exam at the end of each module. There are no interim tests either. The exam consists in a written and in an oral part (thereafter also 'written exam' and 'oral exam'). There is no requirement for sitting the written part of the exam.
In order to sit the oral part of the exam, however, a student needs to have passed the final test or the written exam with a minimum mark of 18/30 (see below on how this mark obtains).
The written part of the exam is itself made of several separate sections, which aim to verify the knowledge of grammar and writing and the capability of actually applying such knowledge to the comprehension of a written text. The oral part of the exam consists in one section only and its aim is to verify a student's skill in using their knowledge in a face-to-face, direct interaction with a Japanese interlocutor, in both speaking and listening.


During the final week of the Second term, a final test will be held. To take it and to pass it is not required in order to sit the written exam. However, those students who will have passed the test with a minimum of 24/30 and with an 80% score in the conjugation section will be exempted from sitting the written exam.
Registration is mandatory.

The test will be held online. It is made of the following sections:
(1) Conjugation. (20 questions, multiple choice).
(2) Kanji (20 questions, multiple choice).
(3) Grammar (20 questions, multiple choice).
(4) Comprehension (5 questions, multiple choice).

The pass score and the exemption from the written exam are valid for one year.


Registration is mandatory.
The written part of the exam is made of several separate sections. Each will take place in a single sitting, one after the other. A certain, specified time is allotted to each section. At the end of the allotted time, the exam sheets will be collected (regardless to their completion) and the exam will proceed to the next test. The whole written exam will last approximately three hours.

VERY IMPORTANT. Barrier sections. In order to obtain the required minimum of 18/30 in the written exam (and be consequently allowed to sit the oral exam), a minimum score of 18/30 is needed in every single section, with no rounding-up. For example, a score of 17.75/18 will not be rounded up to 18/18 and will therefore be considered insufficient. This means that failing in just one section will cause failure in the whole written exam.

During the written exam, dictionaries may not be used.

The written exam consists in the following sections.

- Grammar. This test section to ascertain students' grammar knowledge (at a basic level), and their capability of recognizing the grammatical structures treated during the course. Students will be asked to fill the blanks in a certain number of sentences (usually thirty). This section is to be completed in an allotted time, along with the next one (Conjugation). The mark is awarded in thirties. The minimum mark required to pass the test is 18/30 with no rounding up. The mark thus obtained will be one of the values used to calculate the mean mark of the written exam.

- Conjugation. This section aims to ascertain students' knowledge of the basic morphology of verbs and adjectives. A list of verbs and adjectives in dictionary form is provided, and students are asked to conjugate them in two given forms. This section is to be completed in an allotted time, along with the previous one (Grammar). In order to pass the test, students will have to write correctly at least 80% of the forms (for instance, if 48 forms are to be written, students will have to correctly write 38 of them in order to pass the test). The score of this section is NOT used in calculating the mean, final grade of the written exam.

- Kanji (writing and reading). This section aims to ascertain students' lexical knowledge, as formed by vocabulary knowledge, character writing and character recognition and reading. Students will be asked to write the ideographic character (kanji) corresponding to several words written in hiragana, and to transcribe into kana whole sentences containing one or more kanji. This section is also to be completed in an allotted time. The mark is awarded in thirties. The minimum mark required to pass the test is 18/30 with no rounding up. The mark thus obtained will be one of the values used to calculate the mean mark of the written exam.

- Reading comprehension. This section aims to ascertain students' capability in navigating through a complex text, understanding its general sense and extracting information from it. The section is divided in two parts:
(1) Reading comprehension proper (dokkai) of two texts. Answers to questions on contents are to be given in the form of double choice (right / wrong).
(2) Translation. A short text, on the contents of one of the two dokkai texts above, is to be translated into Italian or English. The translation will have to show a student's comprehension of the sense and logical structure of the source text, not their knowledge of the Italian or English language. The Reading Comprehension section is also to be completed in an allotted time. The mark is awarded in thirties. The minimum mark required to pass the test is 18/30 with no rounding up. The mark thus obtained will be one of the values used to calculate the mean mark of the written exam.

Bonus points. There is a possibility that students will be asked to voluntarily participate in projects testing new teaching methods. In this case, there will be the possibility of rewarding participation with one or more 'bonus' points to be added to the mark(s) of one or more written test. If this will ever happen, students will be timely informed of the quantity and method of assignment of the bonus points.

Mark of the written exam

The marks of the above sections (with the exception of the Conjugation section) will be used equally to calculate the mean mark of the written exam. This mark is also awarded in thirties. The mark will be rounded to the closest entire number (for example: 23.49/30 is rounded down to 23/30, whereas 23.50/30 is rounded up to 24/30).
The mark of the written exam will be send to the students' @studenti.unimi.it email address.
It is considered valid for one year. This means that during that year there will be no need to re-take a passed written exam. The subsequent oral exam can be taken at any point during the year of validity.


A separate, specific registration to the oral exam is required.
Only students who will have successfully passed the final test with 24/30 (80%) or the written exam with a minimum of 18/30 in each section will be able to sit the oral part of the exam and be awarded a final mark. The oral exam consists in one section only, whose aim is to verify a student's capability of understanding basic grammar and simple idioms in listening, and of using them correctly in speaking. The contents of the exam are the following.

- Dialoguing in Japanese with a teacher. Students will have to answer several questions concerning their daily life, their study activities, Japanese culture, and the contents of the textbook. Listening and speaking skills will both be evaluated.
The oral exam is also graded in thirties. A minimum of 18/30 is required to pass the exam.

Final mark and mark recording

At the end of a passed oral exam, the final mark of 'Lingua giapponese I' will be awarded. It consists in the mean average of the two marks obtained in the written and oral exams. It is expressed in thirties. The mark will be rounded to the closest entire number (for example: 23.49/30 is rounded down to 23/30, whereas 23.5/30 is rounded up to 24/30). The professor in charge of the course will calculate and digitally upload the mark. Students can reject this mark online, after receiving the email that notifies it.


Full attendance of all classes (60-hour main course, practice classes) is highly recommended. Students who cannot attend will have to spend more hours studying at home. In this case, it is highly recommended that student use all the support material specified below, not only the main textbooks and compulsory material. In any case, students are discouraged to substitute the prescribed textbooks and supporting material with other material available in bookstores.
Lessons: 60 hours
Educational website(s)
Counseling on Monday 25 Oct. CANCELED. Fall Semester: every Monday 1430-1545 and Wednesday 1245-1430 up to the end of the Fall Semester.
In person only (Sesto Campus, Room 5007). Booking recommended.