Working Working Working and oops

This week is a busy one, but I’ll still cramming in some Japanese where ever possible.

The grammar for this week is:

~という and っていう

ほど。。。はない

~ぐらい・くらい

~からすると

more about より

and something else that I haven’t made heads or tails of yet.

Just recently I had a couple of very nice Skype conversations with a Japanese person, but she decided that her English wasn’t good enough to continue conversing – she felt that she was having to think too long to make her responses that I was having to slow down my speaking somewhat in order for her to understand me.

But, here’s the thing – it’s a language exchange.  You’re doing it to learn and to practice.   Yes, I may have slowed down my speech somewhat, and she may sometimes have had to think a bit before figuring out how to reply, but the people I speak with in Japanese sometimes have to repeat things or rephrase things or slow down for me to understand them, and sometimes I have to think about how to say what I want to say before I can say it in Japanese.

That’s how it works when we’re learning.

One of my primary rules for language learning:  You will make mistakes.  Acknowledge and move one.  (The original version of this, which I used to quote to myself was:  You will make mistakes.  Get over it.  I’m softening it up a little bit for use with people other than myself!)

In order to learn a new language, you need to use that new language as much as possible.  The idea that you can practice on your own, master the language and then go out and talk to other people is probably wrong.   (There may be some language wizard out there who could do it, but for us mere mortals, it doesn’t work that way.)  Having as much conversation as possible is an essential step toward language mastery.

Being too embarrassed or too shy to use the language, being too worried about mistakes or being worried that your vocabulary is too small will actually stop you from learning.  Tell people you are just learning and then go for it!

You might say to me, “Easy for you to say.  You’re probably at a level where you feel comfortable speaking in Japanese.”  Well, when I had my first Skype conversation, I really new very little Japanese at all.  In fact, I had a cheat sheet in front of with with use useful phrases as はじめまして and おげんきですか written out in hiragana so I could whip them out and demonstrate my complete lack of mastery of Japanese.

I had an advantage, you see.  I had already learning Spanish, and I had made mistakes that left my friends rolling on the floor with laughter.  (Strangers never laughed at me.  Only my friends did that.)  And, you know what, it didn’t do me in.  I discovered that making mistakes, even in public, even with total strangers, didn’t actually hurt me at all, so…when it came to learning Japanese, I went in armed with that knowledge.  When people  know that you are just learning, they tend to be untroubled by your mistakes, so don’t let fear hold you back.

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P.S.

Actual mistake I made in Spanish in church:

What I was supposed to say:   Creo en el perdón de los pecados.

What I actually said:                Creo en el perdón de los pescados,

Ah, they look so much alike, but the first one means I believe in the forgiveness of sins, while what actually came out of my mouth was I believe in the forgiveness of fish.

I though that my friend next to me was going to break a rib from the effort of holding in her laughter.  For months afterward, at the appropriate moment, she would look over at me and mouth the word pescados, and this is just one example among many.

Just laugh it off and move on.

 

 

 

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Udemy

My goal is to learn Japanese while spending as little money as possible, but I did shell out a few dollars today at Udemy.  The funny is that I’ve known about Udemy for years – they have lots of really good guitar courses – but it never occurred to me to check for Japanese, which is pretty ridiculous of me considered that their tagline is “learn anything you want, on your schedule”.  Does “anything you want” include Japanese?  Why, yes, it does.

I did a search for Japanese and came across some interesting sounding courses, and, as it turned out, there was a sale going on, so I picked up an N3 reading course.  (Yes, I know I just took the N3, but I think that the reading section was a weakness, so I’m working on it.

The course I picked up was called N3: Reading Comprehension Complete ed. and it was on sale at about 75% off.  I’ve looked at the first video in the course, and I like it.  It is entirely in Japanese, and it walks you through strategies for answering the questions using examples.  You actually end up getting reading practice, listening practice and testing strategies all in one.  Nice.  And, they provide a preview, you can see a sample lesson to decide if it’s worth your money, and I always appreciate that.

I finished Chapter one of Chuukyuu he manabou, but I have to redo some of the homework (sigh) because I made some mistakes.  Still, next week, it’s on to Chapter 2.  I have already set up a Memrise course for the vocabulary, and I just finished adding the words from Chapter 2 to it, so I will start learning them tonight.

So, on we go.  I will say one thing.  I have been working on Japanese for about 2 years now, I guess, and I’m having a great time.  Would I like to be more advanced than I am?  Well, yeah.  But, when I start feeling frustrated because of that, I look back at how far I’ve come.  Even a year ago, a this video would have left me completely lost:

Today, I can watch it and follow along.  That’s progress.  (The video, by the way, is from the excellent 日本語の森, and you find free grammar videos there to fit your level, from N5 on up.)

And, if you don’t know about the JLPT, here’s a brief intro.  (If you do already know about the JLPT, you should probably go and read a book or something instead of the rest of this post.)

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test is offered either once or twice a year depending on the country you live in.  (I suppose there must be countries where it is offered 0 times a year, too.)  There are five levels, with N5 being the lowest.

From the JLPT website:

N4 and N5 measure the level of understanding of basic Japanese mainly learned in class. N1and N2 measure the level of understanding of Japanese used in a broad range of scenes in actual everyday life. N3 is a bridging level between N1/N2 and N4/N5.

Linguistic competence required for the JLPT is expressed in terms of language activities, such as Reading and Listening, as shown in the table below. (Except, I am not showing the table below, or anywhere else, for that matter.  You can click on the link above if you’re curious.)  While not noted in the table, Language Knowledge, such as Vocabulary and Grammar, is also required for successful execution of these activities.

The JLPT is a “one and done” test in the sense that you earn a certificate that is then good forever.

Anyway, I have some studying to do.

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A Brief Plug For My Novel

Nothing to do with Japanese, but my novel now has been rated by seven customers at amazon and has a 5 star rating.  It’s a loopy fantasy crime comedy.  Strange, I know, but apparently I’m not the only person who thinks it’s funny.  It is available for the kindle and, in case you don’t have a kindle, the (free!) kindle app.

You can get a look at it on amazon here or do a search for “rg benedetto” in the amazon of your country.

Sorry for the commercial.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Here’s a video where you can learn about the koto and then hear some modern music with an ancient Japanese twist.

The Schedule Now – Just In Case You Were Wondering

You know what?  I’m really enjoying being back to business as usual.  So, what is business as usual?

  1. Memrise

I am currently signed up for a completely ridiculous sounding 6 courses on memrise, but it isn’t really that that bad.

Minna no Nihongo 1 & 2, Chuukyuu he ikou, JLPT N3 Standard parts 1 & 2 are all courses that I have finished, but I stay in them for regular reviews in order to keep the vocabulary current.

Chuukyuu he manabou is the only course that I am learning new vocabulary in, and that is a course that I am creating one chapter at a time as I move through the book

 

  1. Chuukyuu he manabou

This is the current book that I am using.  It only has 8 chapters, and I am on Chapter one.  That means new vocabulary and new grammar points.  The grammar for this chapter is:

―だろう、-のだろうか、-わけではない、-わけがない、-のー、こそ、同市の省略 and よりー all of which might sound like a lot but really isn’t, since I most of it is not actually brand new to me.  Then there are exercises using the new vocabulary, exercises using the new grammar and a theme to read (and listen to, since the book comes with a CD.)

 

  1. Skype

My Cafetalk lesson and my language exchanges, which are scheduled each week.  (Aside from getting a book now and then, Cafetalk is the only thing that I spend money on.  There are other worthwhile things, but the funds are limited, so I have to prioritize.)

 

  1. Extra stuff

Which means watching Japanese TV shows on YouTube or Netflix and getting reading practice.   I watch the TV shows with subtitles first and then again without subtitles.  The reading practice right now is using the app TangoRisto and the source material comes from hakumusume.com and Matcha JP.  (I had been using News Web Easy  but it is often not challenging enough, while the normal NHK News Web is actually too hard (although, with TangoRisto, it might be doable.)

 

The reason this stuff is in numerical order is because I always do the first one every day.  I try to do the second one every day, and I succeed almost every day.  The third one I do weekly, and it is scheduled at specific times so it already fits in (usually, by the way, because I get up early to do it).  The last one is simply “as time permits” which means that some weeks I do it a lot and some weeks not very much.

The obvious question is, how long does all this stuff take?

Not as long as you might think.  For example, I did nearly all of my vocabulary stuff before breakfast this morning.  When I’m really on point, I do the vocabulary first thing in the morning and maybe check on it in the evening to see if new reviews have popped up that I want to go ahead and do.

I might set aside half an hour for Chuukyuu he manabou homework each day.  The rest of if I just fit in when and where I can.  Or not.

If all of this seems too much to you, then do less.  If it makes it seem like I’m a lazy guy, then do more.  My way is the way that works best for me.  That doesn’t mean it’s the way that will work best for you.  You have to explore, find resources, experiment and discover the best way for you.  The one thing I can tell you is that consistent daily effort is cruicial.  Even it is only 15 minutes of vocabulary reviews, do it every day and you will get there in the end.

Either way…頑張って

 

Business as Usual

So, I’ve taken the JLPT and now I have to wait 3 months to find out how I did.  That means it’s back to business as usual, though I will change my focus slightly based on how the test felt.  I need some more difficult reading material and more listening.

I am taking a look at where I am now – taking the N3 with at least a chance of passing – compared to where I was when I started out knowing no kana, no kanji and no grammar, and I can see that I have made a tremendous amount of progress, and that’s the real point, after all.  Whether I passed the N3 the first time out or will be retaking it doesn’t matter.  I know a lot more Japanese now than I did two years ago, a year ago, six months ago.

Have you discovered that, if you learn some Japanese, people will put it down to you have “a gift for languages”?  I have run into that one, and to be honest, it kind of annoys me, for two reasons.

The first is that it takes away from the accomplishment.  No, it wasn’t because of all the daily effort and study, it’s just because he has a gift for languages.  Hey, I wouldn’t mind being able to soak up a new language like a sponge and speak it with no effort on my part, but that’s not how it works, at least not for me.

Second, it’s because it goes back to the old trope that Japanese is just impossible to learn.  If you are learning it, then it’s because you’re some sort of language wizard because no normal person could have done it.

Those things are so wrong!  And they keep people from learning the language.

Do you want to learn Japanese?  Yes?  Then start by knowing that you can.  After that, just do it.

Be prepared to put in the time and the effort, get an organized study plan and do it.

Learning Japanese isn’t hard.  Putting in the consistent daily effort needed to learn Japanese, yeah, that’s hard.  But it’s doable, and that’s the most important point.  You can learn Japanese if you want to.

If you’re an ordinary mortal like the rest us, particularly if you aren’t living in Japan, you aren’t going to fluent in a week or a month or a year and that’s okay.  It isn’t a race.  It does take work and effort and dedication, yes, but so do countless other things that people learn how to do well all the time.

Trust me, I’m not a language wizard.  I’m just a guy who knows how to study and who is willing to put in the consistent effort.  I have looked for the ways that work best for me and then put those things into practice.  No magic there at all.

Speaking of which, I have a few dozen vocabulary words to learn this week and about a dozen pages of homework to get through, you know, along with spending time with my family, doing my regular job and other things, so I need to get back to work.

Never let the naysayers stop you!

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The Morning After…

So, I took the Japanese Language Proficiency test yesterday, and I have a greater idea of some of my linguistic weaknesses and no idea at all how I did on the test.  I also had the experience of encountering several kinds of people…

There were several hundred people there taking the test.  The N3 actually had the smallest number of people signed up for it – 91, out of whom only 66 actually showed up.  At a rough guess, about 99.9% of the test takers were college age, most of them apparently enrolled in Japanese language classes somewhere.  About a fourth of the students were Asian, which kind of surprised me, thought I don’t know why.  There was a girl there taking the N5 who looked to be about 10 or 12.  Her dad, who was taking a different level, was there with her.

Now, most of the test takers were just ordinary people who had worked hard and were, perhaps, a little nervous.  However, there were a few other types there, such as:

The Condescending Guy

He is taking a higher level of the test than you are and is a bit (or a lot) smug about it.

Actual quote:  “Oh, you’re in that room.  You’re taking the N2.  Of course, I’m taking the N1…”

The Expert

He was an experienced test taker, having passed the N5 and failed the N4, which he was there to retake.  He had a group of people gathered around him and was regaling them with his study habits and techniques, explaining how the test is graded, and telling them all about his test taking strategies at great length.  His audience was genuinely fascinated.

Actual quote:  “And, of course, I watch nothing but anime every day…”

The sick person

Now, I’m not knocking her.  She paid her registration fee, she (presumably) studied hard, and the test only comes around once a year, so, of course, being sick didn’t stop her from taking the test.  I probably would have done the same thing.  But the high-pitched barking cough she let loose every few minutes during the test was not helpful.

Actual quote:  “Kaaahhkk!”

The practicer

If you are getting ready to take a Japanese test, why not speak Japanese?  It’s what I would have done if I had actually known anybody there to talk to.  I only encountered one small group doing that, which, to be honest, kind of surprised me.  I was expecting a lot more.

Actual quote:  「日本語で話しましょう。」

The casual guy

This is the guy who is absolutely not worried about the test at all.

Actual quote:  “No, I didn’t study!  I lived there for a few years, so I figured…”

The “friend”

She isn’t there taking the test, but she is everyone’s example.

Actual quote:  “Oh, yes, my friend Caitlin got a perfect score on the N3 so…she’s pretty good.”

It’s not her fault, but, as I was waiting to take the N3, I found Caitlin (who wasn’t even there) kind of annoying.

The blogger

This is the guy who overhears people talking and writes it down somewhere on the internet.  He’s probably pretty annoying, too.

Actual quote:  “I should remember that for a blog post…”

After this, probably one more post about the JLPT and then back to business as usual.

In case you’re wondering what I plan to do the day after the N3, I have a new book to start on, which means new vocabulary and more grammar, here I come.

Step one, get caught up on my vocabulary reviews, which I let slide a bit over the last couple of days while my attention was on listening and grammar. Taking the N3 isn’t an ending of any kind.  Remember Niko’s quote about learning Japanese:  “Keep swimming.  You are crossing an ocean.”  For me, the day after the test is not a day off from studying.

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Coming Up

The JLPT is now eight days away, and so I don’t expect to write much this week.

I’ll be digging in to my studies and listening to as much Japanese as possible.

The most important thing for anyone learning Japanese is to start by knowing that you can do it.  For some people, that self-knowledge might be the hardest part, but it’s important.

And don’t worry about how long it takes or if someone learns faster than you do.  What does that matter?  You are not competing with anyone.  See you in a week or so.

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