Journalling in a Foreign Language


I came across a video by Hyunwoo of ‘Talk to Me in Korean’ which encouraged writing in a journal on a daily basis to aid language learning, especially if you are unable to immerse yourself in other ways (i.e. you have no native speakers nearby to talk to).

I’ve become acutely aware recently that my speaking and writing skills in Japanese have suffered a lot and so I am keen to build these skills back up again. As it happens, I ended up with two 2017 diaries so journalling in Japanese is a great way of putting the spare diary to use.

I have been doing this for a couple of weeks and I am really enjoying it so far. One thing I immediately discovered is that I absolutely have to write out the diary entries. Writing in my diary seems to engage my brain in a different way to…

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Reason Number 2,371 to Learn Kanji

Okay, a disclaimer.  I don’t actually have 2,370 other reasons why you should learn the Kanji.  I just think it’s a really good idea.  Yes, I know that there are a lot of them, but you don’t have to learn as many as you think to have basic literacy.

As nahcirn pointed out in a recent comment, learning the Kanji will actually help you learn vocabulary.

Here are some examples from my words for the day:

うつす means to transfer/change place or location


うつす means to project/reflect/cast a shadow

Do we see a problem here?

Well, no, actually.  Not if we know the Kanji.

移す means to transfer/change place or location


映す means to project/reflect/cast a shadow

It isn’t hard to keep them straight if you already know 映画 means movie and a movie is a thing that you project. (If it works for you, you can think of projection and tranferring an image, which is why both words sound the same.)

うつる means to be displayed, to be reflected


うつる means to be (in a photo)

Do we see a problem here?

Well, no, actually.  Not if we know the Kanji.

映る means to be displayed, to be reflected, so it makes sense for it to have the same Kanji as 映す means to project/reflect/cast a shadow.  (This is not the time for a discussion of transitive and intransitive verbs, but it looks like that’s what’s going on here.)


写る means to be (in a photo), which makes perfect sense if we already know that the word for photograph is 写真.

In the beginning, it looks like there is a mountain of Kanji, but knowing them really does help you to learn vocabulary more easily.  It may take a little while for that benefit to kick it, but, once you learn enough Kanji, it will absolutely kick in, and you’ll be glad you did it.  I am all in favor of learning the Kanji as soon as possible.

Besides…do you really want to set your sights on learning the crazy beautiful thing that is the Japanese language and deliberately choose to be illiterate?





Learning Styles

What works for you?

Learning through music works well for me.  After all, just a couple of days ago I needed to construct the informal past tense of a verb and had to resort to singing the infamous Te-form song.

It’s very helpful but, if you listen to it, you will run the risk of getting it stuck in your head forever.

Hm.  Maybe I should have put that warning before the video  Oh, well.

So I have been looking for songs in Japanese that I could learn the words to and sing along with, but, to be honest, I haven’t found a lot.  One of the big reasons for this is that I’m just not a fan of J-pop.

Nothing against it, I just don’t like it.

However, a Japanese penpal sent me a link to a song that I like.  Here it is.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really paid attention to the words yet, so I don’t really know what it’s about.  I’ll get there eventually.

What works for someone else isn’t always what works for you, so always be willing to experiment to find out what works for you and then stick with it.


Tricky Vocabulary

quick mastery of vocabulary - in preparation for jlpt n3- 1

I don’t have this book.

What I do have, however, is a memrise course that covers the vocabulary from this book, and I am working my way through it.  Well, I was working my way through it, and now I’m working my way through it again.

I am now working my way through part 2, which is all about verbs.  (In passing, part one had all kinds of words, including lots of verbs, so I don’t know why the verbs from part 1 weren’t in part 2 instead, but okay.)

Take a look at some words from the first set and see if you can spot the problem.



You might notice a certain similarity that many of these words have to each other.  This makes them something of a pain to learn.  And these are just some of the words from lesson 1. (Lesson 2 will be the kanji for these words.)

As you can see (if you look carefully because it’s kind of faint) these new words will be due for review in four hours.  That’s one of the things I like about memrise.  The words come back quickly in the beginning.

So, what’s a good way to keep very similar (or even identical) words separate?

Seriously.  What’s a good way?  I’m asking.

What I’m doing is trying to come up with memory tricks.  I’ve mentioned that idea before (and memrise let’s people enter their memory tricks for others to use) so I won’t go into it here, but, even using every trick I can think of, sometimes it’s just difficult and you have to really focus on the words to keep them straight.

Lesson 1, by the way, is 46 words.  I did 23 of them today and will do the other 23 tomorrow.  If time permits, I’ll jump ahead to lesson 2 and learn the Kanji for the first 23 words.  I don’t know if that’s the best way to do it or not, but it’s what works for me.

Today I can say, “I know more Japanese today than I did yesterday.”  Excellent.

Keep learning the words!



Studying Not According to Plan

Well, with the JLPT looming in a few months, I had a very organized study plan and was ready to hit it hard.  Then life happened.  Things went absolutely bonkers at work, and free time was a thing of the past. This last week it got so bad that I didn’t even have time to work on vocabulary, much less grammar.  Now, finally, everything should settle down and I can come up with a brand new study plan.

So, I’m behind and I have to change things up.

And that’s okay.

Obviously, we want consistent daily effort, but learning Japanese isn’t my life or my job.  It’s a hobby.  I’m doing it for myself because I want to, so I can’t get broken up when things don’t go according to plan.

Sometime the plan has to change.

The problem comes when “the plan” becomes more important than actually learning the language.  I had a setback, now it’s full steam ahead once again, and any time that I lost is lost, so forget about it and move on.  Worrying about what you feel like you should have done last week but didn’t doesn’t help you.  In fact, it hurts you by distracting you.

So, now it’s back to work.  I’ve caught up with my vocabulary, I have new words on tap to learn today, my work schedule is straightened out, and I am just as excited about learning Japanese as ever.

So, 頑張って

By the way, and I won’t keep harping on this, feel free to click on the link at the top of the sidebar and check out my novel.  It’s a fantasy book – elves, dwarves and all that, but it’s also a crime comedy.  Strange, right?  Well, lots of people told me that the idea of learning Japanese was also strange, so I guess that’s just the kind of guy I am!  It is an e-book which you can read on the Kindle or on the free Kindle app and which has absolutely nothing to do with learning Japanese, although a couple of friends in Japan have each bought a copy.

Geocaching (in Japanese)





Bear Watching (In Japanese)

数日前に、友達とジオキャッシングに行った。 ジオキャッシングに行く前に、たくさんのクマがいる公園に行きました。 公園に入ると5分後、クマを見た。 私たちは車の中にいた。 クマが道を渡り、その後私たちを見つめた。 しばらくして、クマはコーンフィールドに消えた。 熊があなたを見つめたことはあるか。 それは少し不気味.


bear track

すぐに私たちは約30メートル離れた熊を見た。 ちょっと怖かった! ママクマも周りに射たか。
持っていた。 私たちはママのクマの近くにいたくなかった。トテモ危なかった!でも若いクマが