Counting Down

No, not to the JLPT.  I don’t want to think about how close that is!  Instead, I’m thinking about thecountdown

Here’s what will be happening:program

And here’s what we’ll be eating

food

A Japanese friend assures me that the food will be authentic, and I’m looking forward to it.  I have vowed to try the takoyaki and promised my wife she could take video of me doing it.  I don’t know how it will taste, but I’m ready to find out. In fact, my plan is to try as many different foods as possible, since several of them are new to me.

Also, I’m looking forward to actually meeting my Japanese friend face to face, since all of our conversations so far have been via skype.

So, to celebrate, here’s a song about summer!

And, what the heck, here’s the opening of my favorite movie about summer, which just happens to be Japanese:

And, yes, if you’re paying attention, you will see that, although the English translation calls the movie Kikujiro, the Japanese clearly says 菊次郎の夏 -Kikujiro’s Summer.

I was completely astonished to find out that this summer festival was taking place in the area where I live.  Where ever you live, take a look around.  You never know what you might find!

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What A Week

Don’t you hate it when life gets in the way of learning Japanese?  I know I do.

And, right now, by life I really mean my job.  Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have a job, but it has been so completely nuts this week that it was just about all I could do to keep my head above water.

I did learn a few new grammar structures, but I’ve mostly been keeping up with vocabulary reviews and not learning any new words.  Until yesterday, that is, when I finally found the time, the inclination and the brain energy all at the same time.

Whew!

So, yet another tip:  when life gets too complicated and you simply don’t have the time or energy to learn something new, at least do your reviews.  The best thing to be able to say is, “I know more Japanese today than I did yesterday”, but, if you can’t do that, at least make sure that you don’t know less Japanese than yesterday!

Don’t forget:  if you skip one day, it gets easy to skip two and then three and then…

Don’t let yourself fall into that trap.

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Introducing the Blogroll

I am trying to include as many learning resources as possible, so I have the website list and the app list, and now I have added a blogroll.  If you know of any good Japanese language (or culture) learning websites, apps or blogs, please let me know so I can add them to the list.  Remember, we’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out.

ありがとう

Progress

Signs of progress are always welcome.  I know that I’m making progress.  For example, I know more Japanese vocabulary today than I did yesterday, but it’s always nice to have that progress confirmed by an outside source.

My first ever language exchange partner, who I’ve been talking with for…I don’t know…eight months, perhaps, commented on the improvement that he has seen since we first began talking to each other.

Meanwhile, I have vocabulary to study and grammar to learn, if I can find the time to do that with things going nuts at work.

Always be ready to adapt your study strategy.  When I first started working on learning grammar for the N3 two weeks ago, I had a method, and it didn’t work.  The grammar was not sticking in my head.  Last week was about recalibrating and coming up with a new study plan that I’ll implement this week as time permits.  Hopefully this one will work better.

Adopt, adapt, improve, right?

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Satori Reader – An Updated Review

A while back – a year ago –  I did a review of Satori Reader.   I was a beta tester then (and knew a year’s worth less of Japanese).  The site is up and running now, and I joined and have been using it as a paid subscriber now, so I wanted to post an updated review.

First, let’s state the verdict:  This is an outstanding site for learning to read Japanese.  In fact, it’s the best site I’ve ever seen for learning to read Japanese.

The site basically consists of a series of short articles and stories.  They include:  a Japanese exchange student’s diary, the autobiography of a cat (yes, really), new stories, dialogs, Human Japanese extra credit and other things.  Also, the folks at Satori Reader are good about updating the content on a regular basis.

Some of the articles exist in two forms, an easier version and a harder version, and there are some options that the reader can use to make the articles even easier.  You get to decide if there are furigana on pretty much everything, only based on your knowledge level or not at all.  You can decide to use Kanji or not.  You can decide to put spaces between the words or not.

Each article is preceded by a brief introduction and a description of the sort of grammar you might find.  Like this:

kona intro

This way you know what to expect before you start.

The real beauty of the articles, however, is that you can click on any word (and some phrases) and get a translation (along with the option to add the word to your study list.

kona 2

But the site is even more user friendly than that.  When appropriate, you also get grammar notes.

kona 3

In addition to that, there some entire phrases that are broken down word-by-word and the grammar explained.

Satori Reader was created by the people behind Human Japanese, which has the clearest explanations of grammar that I have ever seen.  Satori Reader’s grammar explanations are equally clear.

It gets better, though.

You can listen to any sentence or any complete article narrated by a native speaker.  You also have the option of downloading the audio to listen to later.  (At one point I downloaded the audio from several articles in a series and then put them together using Audacity so that I could listen to the whole set while driving.)

The nice folks at Satori Reader have given me permission to post a few audio samples, and and nahcirn gave me a little technical help on how to do it (without having to upgrade my wordpress account) so here they are.  Hopefully, I did it right!  These are all part of longer audio files.

A customer at an izakaya talking to a waitress.

A lady beginning to tell you a spooky story.

They came to the shelter to get a cat.  Ken has just discovered that Natsumi wants two cats and is not exactly pleased.

All in all, it’s a great site, fun and packed with reading practice.  Check it out when you get a chance.

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A Break, SRS, and Ima Doofus

Yesterday, I did not study Japanese.  *gasp*

Okay, that’s not quite true.  I did decided to take a break from learning anything new yesterday, but I also reviewed vocabulary.  This is necessary for more reasons than one.  To explain why, let’s briefly talk about SRS.

SRS stands for Spaced Repetition Software, and it essentially means that the software determines how often to reshow the learner a piece of information based on how well the learner knows that piece of information.

Let’s take what is generally acknowledged as the crown jewel of SRS, Anki.

Anki is essentially virtual flashcards.  You look at one side, click to look at the other and then rate yourself on how well you knew the information.  You can include audio, pictures, text, and you can pack a lot more information onto a virtual flashcard than on a physical one.

Anki is an excellent tool, and I used it to learn the daily use Kanji (check out Phase 1 if you care).

For a brand new card, you can tell anki that you missed it and you will see it again within a few minutes (or less) or that you got it and you will see it again the next day or that it was super easy, and you’ll see it again in a few days.  The times lengthen or shorten as you get the card right or wrong in the future.  That’s spaced repetition, and Anki is very good at it.

(The reason that I put “Ima Doofus” in the title is because I have occasionally wondered why it was called Anki.  I never bothered to try and find out.  I just wondered.  Well, two days ago, I was learning new vocabulary and came across the Japanese word 暗記 which means memorization.  In hiragana it is あんき and in roumaji it is – you guessed it – anki.)

But I don’t really use Anki anymore.  I use Memrise instead.  Instead of just asking you how you did, Memrise actuall quizzes you on the information using audio, multiple choice and having you type on the correct answer.  I like that.

When you first meet a new word, Memrise shows it to you at least seven times in the first learning session, mixed up with other new words.  When you get it right seven times, it is marked “learned” but you’re going to see it again in about 4 hours instead of the next day.

Now, I personally like that.  The downside, of course, is that you can get swamped by the number of cards you have to review since they come back so rapidly, and I can see why someone would hate that.  It works better for me.  It might not work better for you.  Also, you seem to have less flexibility than you do with Anki in regards to what types of information you can put on a card.

And all of that brings me to why I had to review my vocabulary yesterday, even though I was taking a sort of brain break.

The term I’m used to is “Anki Avalanche”.  Let’s say that you have 100 cards to review on a particular day.  (Don’t faint.  It actually doesn’t take very long.  I used to it first thing in the morning, often while having breakfast.)  But let’s say you skip.  Now, the next day you might have 231 cards to review.  Let’s say you skip one more day and, all of a sudden you have 389 cards to review.  What would happen if you skipped one more day?  Don’t ask.

The point is, that, surprisingly quickly, your number of review words can climb so high that you won’t get through them in a day, leaving a new avalanche for the next day…and that often leads people to give up, which is the last thing you want to do!

And, with Memrise, because of the shorter intervals before cards come back, the problem is compounded.  So I didn’t skip reviewing yesterday, but I still had 89 terms to look at when I got up this morning.

Good thing I didn’t skip yesterday!

But, the brain break was good for me.  Now, though, it’s time to hit the old treadmill again.  I have some new words to learn, some grammar to review and some new grammar to learn.  I would say that it was time to get busy on some Japanese, but it’s actually time to go to work.

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Sync for NHK News Web Easy

NHK News Web Easy is a website for interesting reading practice.  (Well, I guess interesting is in the eye of the beholder, but I like it.)  (And there is an NHK News Web hard, even though that isn’t what it’s called.)

Anyway, using my tablet, instead of visiting the website, I use an app.  There are a ton of them, but the one I use is the aptly named Sync for NHK Easy News.  I haven’t any kind of rigorous search of apps, so I’m not saying that this is the best there is, since I have no idea whether it’s the best there is or not, but I like it.

Here’s how it looks:Capture

Of course, you can get all this on the main site, which loads fine on my tablet.  On both the app and the main site you can make place names have a different color font (which is handy so you don’t waste time trying to look them up) and you can turn furigana on and off and you can listen to audio of the stories.

So, why the app?

It will give you a translation for certain words, which can either save you the trouble of looking them up or turn you into a lazy nonspeaker of Japanese because you look stuff up too often instead of trying to figure it out from context kind of person, depending on your will power.

The thing I like about the app, however, is that it is easy to turn the furigana off for individual words.  I like that feature a lot.  I can leave it on for words that I have never seen it before, but I am gradually getting it turned off for words I know.

The thing is, if furigana are there, my eye is drawn to them.  It’s annoying.  I tend to look at the furigana even for words that are old friends, and that won’t get me anything.  Furigana are crutches.  You can use them when you need to, but your goal should be to stop using them when you can.

I generally try to read an article a day.  My goal is to read it a time or two and then listen to it.  (Or, sometimes, the other way around.)  Hey, I might as well get reading and listening practice, right?

By the way, I’m always looking for new websites or apps to add to the list.  We’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out.

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