Monday, December 1, 2008

I’m dreaming of a Kanji Xmas

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


Just another learning gimmick or the real deal?

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
Like anything to do with language learning techniques it has divided opinion. Why don’t you make up your own mind?

Question: Would you recommend iKnow as a useful learning tool?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Where to start?

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?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why learn Japanese?

Why don’t you learn a really useful language like French or Welsh?

Ok, they don’t say Welsh, but people are slightly puzzled when you confess to your ‘odd’ choice of second language.
“Oooh Japanese, that’s a bit of a weird choice isn’t it, what a weird language, you’re a bit weird aren’t you…WEIRDO, WEIRDO, WEIRDO!”
One other common response is, “why don’t you learn Mandarin instead? China will some day rule the world and Mandarin would be a dam sight more useful than this so called Japanese you are learning.”

And it’s a fair point; China will most likely rule the world and all Mandarin speaking people will live like kings as everyone marvels at their marvelous Mandarin abilities.

But all of the above misses the point slightly. I don’t want to learn Japanese because I think it’s a shrewd career move; I want to learn Japanese because I am passionate about it. If I wasn’t passionate about it I would find it impossible to learn.

To sit down, day in, day out, and study a language when you don’t really have to, shows that you must love it, you have to love it. If you don’t, it can’t really be sustainable. You may do a month or two of good graft but it will soon tail off.

So if your serious about learning Japanese, as I have discovered recently, make sure you enjoy it and don’t be afraid of being called a WEIRDO now and again, because the chances are you most probably are, and isn’t it great.

What first stirred your interest in Japan? Was it the culture, food, history, design, people, sake, anime, martial arts, technology, language….I could go on.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And so it begins...

Welcome to the first ever post on learning-japanesey.

Just a few disclaimers before we begin:

This is not a blog which professes to teach Japanese. There are plenty of websites and bloggers which can do a much better job than I could and in time I will be pointing you in their direction.

This is a blog for you to explore learning resources, techniques and the odd rambling or two on Japanese culture.

So whether you are a seasoned pro, a complete newbie or just someone interested in Japan you are all more then welcome to hang around and share your thoughts.

I hope you enjoy it.