Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I’m just over 2 months into the sentence stage of learning and I already have the battle scars to prove it…well almost.
It was always going to be a bloody process despite my ‘master plan’ for Japanese sentence domination.
So where did I go wrong and what pitfalls should you look out for if you are following this path…it’s simple…DON’T TRY AND DO TOO MUCH.
Yes, yes, yes, how could I be so stupid?
I had heard all the words of wisdom, the old clichéd ‘it’s a marathon not a sprint’, but boy I just couldn’t help myself, within no time I was sprinting like a Japanese sentence mining mad man having just been let off his ‘Remembering the Kanji’ leash…."add more sentences now god damit, just another 100 more, it won’t hurt." Ah! but it did hurt and it has been hurting pretty damn hard for the last 3 weeks as I try and claw myself out of my overenthusiastic start.
As you can see from my sentence counter on the right I have stalled at 1225 sentences for over 3 weeks now. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. With a hefty rate of repetitions per day things appear to be settling down.
In an attempt to avoid a repeat performance, using the useful features in Anki I have now set it up to only introduce new cards after I have finished all of the repetitions for that day. This means that some days new cards will be added and some days they won’t, it all depends if I finish all of my repetitions…which kind of makes more sense in terms of managing your workload.
Less Hare, more Tortoise.
Question: What do you think is the optimum amount of new cards per day? 10, 25, 40…100?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
My Japanese immersion environment has certainly evolved since I embarked on this journey nearly six months ago. Crucially it still continues to change, adapt, and grow, but there surely is more that I could be doing. There is always more…
So let’s put it to the test, what do I actually do on a typical working day?
6.15 Wake up – Always a good start.
6.30 – 7.00 Sentences - Usually try and do 60 reps in 30 minutes
7.00 – 7.20 Make breakfast and lunch
7.20 – 7.40 Shower and change
7.40 – 9.00 Drive to work (yes it’s a loooong drive) - Japanese podcasts/music
9.00 – 13.00 Work (Office)
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch Break
14.00 – 17.00 Work (Office)
17.00 – 18.20 Drive home - Japanese podcasts/music
18.20 – 7.30 Make dinner & initiate small talk with lady friend (poor girl)
7.30 – 8.30 Sentences / Revtk
8.30 – 9.00 Youtube (Mostly vlogs by English speakers, some Japanese)
9.00 – 10.30 Japanese film/TV, Nintendo DS (Japanese games) or read manga
10.30 - Bedtime
So, in total I am doing something in Japanese for a total of 5 hours and 40 minutes…hmmm respectable I suppose, but if I look a bit closer at my list there are areas I could easily improve on. Well, let’s see…
7.00 – 7.20 – Make breakfast and lunch – I could be listening to Japanese audio in the kitchen. Time to dust down that old portable CD player.
7.20 – 7.40 Shower and change – Shower audio device?? (one for google)
13.00 – 14.00 – Lunch break - One from the Ministry of The Bleeding Obvious here. This time could be dedicated to reading or more Anki reps.
18.20 – 19.30 – Make dinner – Again let’s get some audio going on here you frekkin genius.
20.30 – 21.00 – Youtube – only subscribe to Japanese speakers…I must stop watching vlogs of American’s talking about learning Japanese, it’s not going to get me anywhere.
If I incorporated the above I would add a good 3 and a bit hours of Japanesey stuff to my current amount which would give me a grand total of 9 hours of immersion. That’s an extra 15 hours a week with just a little more effort.
Those hours could make the difference.
Question: What is your daily routine? Have you incorporated any ingenious ways of cramming that extra little bit of Japanese into your average day?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Incredible crepes, karaoke bars and dodgy ramens…
…all seem but a distant memory as I embarked on a New Year tour of California, stopping off at none other than Japan Town, San Francisco.
Not quite Japan but it was the nearest I could hope for having negotiated with my better half that the Land of the Rising Economic Crisis will be next on our ‘must do’ travel hit list.
A man of simple pleasures, probably the highlight of my trip was spending half a day in the Kinokuniya Book Store. Wall to wall bonafide Japanese books, magazines and comics written in actual Japanese by actual Japanese people, I didn’t know where to start.
Using what Kanji knowledge I had I could just about negotiate myself around the store and I amused my self as Japanese shoppers gave me somewhat quizzical looks as I happily flicked through some of the Japanese books on offer.
After ‘investing’ a modest sum in the whole manga series of Death Note my work here was done.
Japan Town (or J-Town to the locals) is a curious place, not quite a full blown town but more a shopping mall with a few surrounding restaurants and supermarkets. The focal point is a quite spectacular white pagoda which appears to be some sort of congregational area for mainly young white kids to prance around to J-Pop while stuffing their faces with ‘Pocky’ sticks. Something to do on the weekend I suppose.
As our time drew to a close I did feel slightly frustrated at only being able to exchange pleasantries with the Japanese locals. Coming from central England, contact with Japanese people is non-existent so this was a rare opportunity to try out what Japanese I did know.
The experience only cemented my desire to learn this remarkable language and I promised myself that the next time I returned or went to Japan I would be highly proficient, perhaps even fluent…lets aim high!
Qu: Have you ever been to Japan? If so, was it what you expected?
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Thank god that’s over.
And I mean both Christmas and learning 2042 squigglerly wiggerly scribbles (otherwise known as kanji) found in ‘Remembering the Kanji’.
After much self adulation and back slapping, it quickly dawned on me that the ‘journey’ had just begun, the actual learning Japanese part starts here. To be exact, the learning of Japanese sentences starts here.
By all accounts it seems that the most difficult part of the sentence phase of learning is getting started. If you lurk around various forums you will quickly realize that there are a hundred and one ways to start sentences, all of them being the best way of course.
So how will I approach the infamous sentence learning method? Well, as a beginner it is pretty difficult to mine from real, bonafide, Japanese media, so to start with it seems sensible to me to pull sentences from grammar books and dictionary’s. But which sentences? On the recommendations of alljapaneseallthetime my approach is to source sentences which incorporate the following vocabulary:
Prepositions (Postpositions) Particles
Action Verbs - Native Japanese words
Here is a small selection of conditional sentences taken from Giles Murray’s excellent, ‘13 Secrets to Fluent Japanese’.
A: あなった が にほん に こんなければ よかった
If only you had never come to Japan…
A:かれ が まだ わたし の そば に いて くれたら、どんあ に しあわせ でしょう
If he were still with me, how happy I’d be…
A:にほん に りゅがく しない と、ほんとう の にほんご お おぼえられません。
If you don’t study in Japan, you’ll never learn real Japanese.
Once the above is completed I will then move onto Tae Kims ‘Guide to Japanese Grammar’ by importing sentences from this fantastic Google document file put together by a fellow AJATTeer and RETK Forum member.
Tae Kim Sentences
Oh, almost forget, there is a similar file for a load of iKnow sentences as well, happy SRSing!
Credit: A huge thanks to Nukemarine for pulling these together.
Qu: What has been your experience with sentences so far? What approach have you taken or will take?
Monday, December 1, 2008
I started Heisig’s ‘Remembering the Kanji’ on 5 October and at 25 kanji a day (the recommended target) it would mean by a complete coincidence I would finish on our lord Jesus’ birthday, Christmas day. Praise the lord!
Counting the kanji down to the magical 2042 figure has been the only thing keeping me going at late. And as I flirt with the possibility of reaching the home straight having just crossed the half way mark, I have to admit there have been some dark moments of doubt, self loafing and dam right laziness.
But after a somewhat slack start I have stepped up my kanji game to try and drag myself back onto the 25 kanji a day target. With gods help and a convenient lack of friends I will win this battle.
To mark my progress I will be updating my ‘Kanji Counter’ every week which you can find on the right hand side of this enthralling blog. I’m sure it will become apparent over the next few weeks whether it is going to be a winter wonderland of kanjiness or a depressing and miserable disappointment of scrooge like proportions.
Fingers crossed for a kanji Xmas.
Question: If you are studying kanji the Heisig way what number are you at? If you are finished how long did it take you?
Thursday, November 6, 2008
In my endless quest for more learning tools I recently stumbled across iKnow, a flash based language learning site for Japanese and English learners with a bit of social networking thrown in for good measure.
A slick and well designed interface allows you to sign up to various courses with a record of the number of items you have studied displayed in a calendar as you progress.
Those of you already familiar with Rossetta Stone will be right at home here.
The supported languages are:
- English for Japanese speakers
- English for English speakers
- Japanese for English speakers
Question: Would you recommend iKnow as a useful learning tool?
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
So where did I start?
I started where I thought I should start and that was to get myself a text book and enroll on a beginner’s course.
This was fine to give me a feel for the language but a solitary two hour class a week with very little study outside of the classroom meant there was more chance of me becoming a sumo wrestler than a fluent Japanese speaker within the next millennia.
I then recently made the decision that I wanted to learn this language…no…I mean….LEARN. To be able to read, write, listen, comprehend and speak to a fluent level.
After much searching/time wasting on the web, I noticed a particular book kept cropping up and that was Dr James Heisig’s ‘Remembering the Kanji’.
It was interesting to read that the biggest obstacle to learning Japanese for westerners is actually learning the 2046 kanji needed to be able to read something as simple as a newspaper in Japanese. And this book could help you learn the essential kanji within three months.
From there I stumbled across an inspiring website called ‘All Japanese All The Time’ which detailed how it is possible to reach a fluent level in just 18 months by truly immersing yourself in the language. In this instance, by consuming Japanese media such as, anime, manga, music, TV and podcasts on a daily basis.
Which brings me to where I am now, taking my first few steps on the road to creating my very own little Japanese immersed bubble.
I have now been learning the kanji using the Heisig method for the last three weeks and I have already clocked up just over 345 kanji.
To review what I have learnt I have been using a website called ‘Reviewing the Kanji’. If you are not familiar with SRSs it works like a stack of flashcards. You gradually add flashcards to your pile as you learn them and you then review them randomly. Simple!
So, is this the only way to start to learn Japanese, absolutely not, but it is a method which makes sense to me, and if it makes sense to you, it could be right for you also.
Question: When learning Japanese (or any other language) where would you recommend starting? What worked/works for you?