Good Days & Bad Days

You know what’s annoying?  Some day, vocabulary is annoying.  Some days it’s great, and I whiz through the reviews like nobody’s business.  Got it.  Got it.  Got it.

There are some days, though, when going through the reviews is a real grind.  Yeah, I’ve seen that word before…I really should know what it means…but I can’t recall…next word…yeah, I’ve seen that word before…I really should know what it means…

Sigh.

Some days my brain just doesn’t want to cooperate.  From time to time, on those days, my temptation is just to put all the reviews off until the next day, but I don’t.  First of all, I am still reviewing, and that’s a good thing.  Second, tomorrow will bring it’s own reviews, and I don’t want the reviews from today to stack on top of those so I have a ton to get through.

In other words, do it anyway, and don’t get discouraged.

Last week I hit a grammar point that really threw me for a loop.  -であろうと

I have studied it and looked it up, and I more or less get it, but every time I see it I still have to think about it.  The problem is that it seems to have a lot of kind of related but different meanings, so it’s tough.

Again, don’t get discouraged when this happens to you.

Discouragement is the enemy here.  You just have to keep digging in and moving forward.  Some days you will move forward in leaps and bounds and other days a snail could give you a good run for your money.  That’s all fine.  As long as you are moving forward, not matter the pace, you are getting closer to your goal.

Remember:  as long as you can say, “I know more Japanese today than I did yesterday,” even if it is only one new word, then you are moving forward.

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App for Beginner’s Vocabulary

Yesterday I was feeling kind of lazy and didn’t really want to study.  Instead I just wanted to relax and play a game or something, so I compromised by trying a Japanese vocabulary game.

I downloaded a free app (though it contains ads) called Infinite Japanese:

Capture

Okay, I would argue with their characterization of multiple and flashcards as “boring stuff” but the game was fun.  I set it for kanji only and maximum difficulty, and I learned a few animal names that I didn’t know.

It’s probably useful for more than just beginners since, as you can see above, they don’t use any English.  You have to recognize either the written word or the spoken word and click on the picture.  At maximum difficulty, you don’t really have time to translate, so you have to begin to associate the Japanese with the image, which is a great step toward fluency.

The words are fairly basic, however – numbers, colors, animals, foods and so on, but it was fun.  The ads can get a little annoying, but that’s the price you pay for not paying for the app.

I certainly don’t mind playing games to help me learn Japanese!

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Chuukyuu he manabou

So far, I have gone through みんなの日本語 volume 1&2 (50 chapters).

When I finished that, which took a year, my Cafetalk tutor told me that I had finished the beginner’s book!

Then I did 中級へ移行 (10 chapters).

Now I am using 中級へ学ぼう (which is only 8 chapters long).

Why are these books getting shorter?  I don’t know.

Anyway, here’s how the book is structured, using the current chapter (Chapter 3) as an example:

-a chapter title, a picture, a discussion topic (presumably for the friends in the class that I am not taking)

-a page-long essay with new vocabulary and grammar

-vocabulary exercises

-a list of new grammar (in this case 7 items) with brief descriptions in Japanese and some example sentences. (Later in the book, you can find very brief descriptions in English for some of the new grammar but not all)

-grammar exercises.  These include making sentences and writing short paragraphs on a given topic.  There are also paragraphs to read and then answer questions about.  Some of these are content questions but others are a bit tricker (「このこと」は何ですか。)Some of these exercises are quite creative, and there is a lot of reading.

-the essay from the beginning is repeated with blanks.  You listen to the cd and fill in the blanks with what you hear.

It’s a pretty thorough book and is definitely a step up in difficulty from the previous book!

Now that things have settled down, hopefully I can really dig into Chapter 3 this week.  I managed to get part of it done during all of the mess last week, but this week I intend to finish it.

Oh, and I have created a course for the book in Memrise. When I start a new Chapter, I add in the vocabulary for that chapter.  And, of course, there are daily reviews of the vocabulary form the previous memrise courses.

Not being able to follow my routine for the last couple of weeks has been annoying, to be honest, but things seem to be back to normal now.

Onward we go!

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Rules for (Japanese) Language Learning

1.  We’re all in this together.  We should share ideas and help each other out

2. Don’t stop swimming.  You are crossing an ocean.  (from Nihongoshark.com)

3. Don’t make excuses or let fear hold you back.  Just do it.

4. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk.  Don’t wait until you think you’re ready.  Start having               conversations as soon as possible, or even sooner.

5. Study every day.

6. Find, develop, beg, borrow or (as a last resort) purchase a plan, but be prepared to adapt your plan to your own circumstances.  We like things that are ただ (free).

7. If you are learning Japanese, learn Kanji from the very beginning.

8. Watching anime isn’t really studying, but getting your ears accustomed to the sounds of the language is still a good thing.

9. Learning a new language isn’t difficult.  Making yourself study every day, that’s the difficult part.  If you work on it every day, you will learn the language.

10. Start by knowing that you can do it, because you can!

11. Mistakes don’t hurt you.  Don’t let fear of making mistakes hold you back.

12. You will not be fluent in a week, no matter what anybody tells you.

13. There are better ways of doing things, but there is no magic method that will allow you to learn a new language with no effort.  It takes work.  But, again, you can do it!

14. It isn’t a race.  Don’t compare yourself to how quickly or slowly other people learn.  Your own pace is the pace that’s right for you.

15. Just because it’s on a language learning blog doesn’t make it right!

Anybody want to suggest alterations, deletions or additions to the list?  Have at it.

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Talking of talking…

Last week I ran into a language learner.  (I know.  We’re everywhere!)  So, naturally, we started talking about language acquisition.  She is learning Korean, and her method is an app (she didn’t actually tell me which one) and watching Korean TV shows (with subtitles).  She said that she was at an intermediate level.  Then she said that she had never actually spoken to anyone in Korean.

Intermediate?

Being me, I, of course, recommended some language exchange websites, and she said that she had heard of some of them but she didn’t feel that she was ready to actually try and talk with anyone.

Now, I get that.  Talking to people in another language is scary.  You might make mistakes, not understand what they say, not be able to say what you want, or (seemingly the great fear of many people) say something rude.

So, let me help you out with these fears.

Will you makes mistakes?  Yes, definitely.

Will there be times when you don’t understand what the other person says?  Most certainly.

Will there be times when you can’t say what you want to say?  Yep.  You can count on it.

And do you know what will happen to you when these things occur?  Do you?

What will happen is that you will have a chance to learn a little more of your target language.  That means that these are good things.

Oh, and the other concern?

Will you say something rude?  Not impossible, but not likely.  Oh, sure, in Japanese you might use the wrong level of formality which is, technically, rude, but the other person will understand that you are just learning and it won’t be a big deal.  You might mispronounce a word and turn it into something rude, I guess, but, again, the other person, knowing that you are a language learner, will understand.

So, now that we know that most of these things are actually good, and the other one isn’t a big deal, what’s stopping you?

But, back to the person I was speaking with.  A question rose in my mind.  Can you truly be at an intermediate level in a language without  ever having conversed with anyone?

She might read at an intermediate level, and that’s certainly a good thing, but I don’t think she’s learning Korean just to read.  She wants to communicate with other people, and, somehow, there’s a world of difference between the written word and the spoken word.  There’s also a world of difference between being able to conjugate a given verb in all its forms and being able to make a sentence on the fly, or between having the time to deconstruct a written sentence and understanding what someone says to you.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not making fun of her at all, but she has fallen into one of the great traps of the language learner – she is waiting until she is “ready” to try and talk with someone.

Most people are never actually ready for that first conversation, so don’t wait until that mythical moment when you’re ready – go ahead and jump on in.  It will supercharge your learning and, best of all, you’ll learn that it isn’t so terrible to make a mistake or two (or even twenty-seven) and then you’ll talk more and you’ll learn all the faster for it.

Go for it.  It’s actually pretty fun.

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あけましておめでとうございます!

Or, to put it another way, Happy New Year!

今年もよろしくおねがいします!

The blog has been uncharacteristically silent for the awhile for personal reasons that would bore you, since this isn’t my autobiography but a blog about learning Japanese, so we’ll just skip it and keep on learning.

I already knew that あけましておめでとうございますis how to wish someone a happy new year in Japanese, but I just learned that, before the new year actually gets here, you say よいおとしを。。。which is actually short for よいお年をお迎えください and which can be translated as Please have a good new year.

If you didn’t already know this, I don’t suppose I’ve done you much of a favor by telling you, since I am writing this on January 2nd, so it’s going to be awhile before it’s actually useful again, by which time I probably won’t even remember it myself.

Things are in the process of settling back down around here, so I can dig back into some Japanese in depth, and I’m glad for that.  This week it is all about a little review of Chapter 2 and hitting Chapter 3 hard, and I am itching to get down to it.

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To Remember or Not To Remember…

That’s the question, and I know what I want the answer to be.

Each chapter of the current book (and, I suppose, pretty much any book to teach you any language) introduces new grammar points and then gives you exercises to practice those new grammar points.

The real question becomes, how do you remember them a few weeks (months, years, decades) down the line?

I guess, really, the best way is to consciously use them for awhile.  I think that if you use them for long enough, they’ll more or less sink in, and one week (or even two) while studying a chapter isn’t enough (at least nor for me).

The two best ways that I can think of are (a) to write sentences, paragraphs, novels, whatever your heart fancies and (b) to talk to yourself and to make use of the grammar deliberately.

I suppose there is also (c) talk to people in Japanese and make use of the grammar, but I suspect that would be the most difficult since (d) a lot of people don’t have others to talk to who understand Japanese and (e) coming up with the grammar on the fly during a conversation while it is (f) excellent practice is probably (g) ridiculously hard in the beginning.

So that takes me back to (a) and (b).

I have been intending to start keeping a journal in Japanese for quite some time, but, somehow, I have never gotten around to it.  Time to stop making excuses and just do it!

I can always talk to myself, so (b) is not a problem  (Also, conveniently, when I talk to myself, I came quite patient as I wait for myself to figure out how to say what I want to say.

Oh, and that brings me to the next thing.  I intend, of course, to keep my journal on the computer because I can’t write Japanese, but my Japanese tutor has now told me that I need to buckle down and learn to write hiragana and starting writing my homework answers in hiragana.  So, it’s time to look up hiragana practice sheets and download them and get to work.  Fortunately, there are a lot of free hiragana practice sheets online.

There are, of course, also some apps out there, but it seems to me that they are only useful if you are doing your practice with a stylus rather than writing with your finger on the screen, since you need to mimic what you would be doing on paper as closely as possible.

I have actually intended for some time to learn hiragana (and enough katakana to write my name) since I figure that will be enough to get by with if it becomes necessary to write something.

Anyway, to work.

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