I have a lot on my plate in regards to Japanese, so I have had to adjust one of the items on my list: the Nihongoshark.com preloaded vocabulary deck (which you can pick up free at Anki, courtesy of Niko over at – where else – Nihongoshark.com.
Before I got a tutor at Cafetalk, I was running through that deck at 25 new cards a day. Then I got a tutor and started working my way through みんなの日本語. That took up so much of my time that I began to fall behind on the vocabulary deck. Stubbornly, I stuck with it at 25 cards a day, and I eventually got buried, so I made the decision to delete the deck and reinstall it, which meant that I was starting it over from the beginning, now at 10 cards a day.
This turns out to have been a great decision. This is a useful thing to keep in mind – if you are over doing it, reducing your work load will actually help you to learn better.
Let me describe the deck, first:
You get a card with a word on it in Kanji. You hear the word pronounced.
On the back of the card is the word in Kanji, the meaning in English, the word in Kana and a picture that most likely seems to have nothing to do with the word at all.
So far so good, and easy.
Then you get a card with a sentence on it, using the vocabulary word. This is where I started getting lost the first time. You see, the sentences use lots of words I didn’t know and lots of grammatical structures that I wasn’t familiar with it. Being in Japanese, there were no spaces between the words to help you even figure out what was a word. You hear the sentence pronounced.
On the back of the card is the sentence in Kanji, the meaning of the sentence, the sentence in Kana with the important word highlighted, the vocabulary word on its own in Kanji with its meaning, and the same picture that you saw before, only now it makes sense because it relates to the sentence that you just read.
The sentences were killing me. I often didn’t really learned them but simply knew what the sentence was that had that one word in it…not really as helpful as it might be.
But now that I have started over, it’s going really well, because I know (and recognize) a lot more words and I know a lot of grammatical structures that I didn’t know before.
The first time through the deck, that sentence was gibberish to me. I knew that the keyword was 知る which means “to know” but all I was really doing was committing this sequence of sounds to memory along with the English meaning but without actually understanding the sentence.
This time, though, it makes sense to me because I have learned some grammar.
Check it out:
Let’s break it apart like so:
誰 も その 話 を 知らない。
Now, the first time I saw this, my (WRONG) thinking went something like this:
Let’s see…誰…that means “who” and も…doesn’t that mean “also” or something like that?
その means “that”…I think 話 is “talking” maybe? and を means that is the direct object.
知らない comes from 知る which means “to know”…so this is something like…um…”Who knows that that talk is about?”
Uh…not so much…so I could never see how they got the true meaning (which I’ll get to in a minute) out of that, but now I have learned a little grammar, so I can break it down like this:
誰 も その 話 を 知らない。
その 話 を…in this context, 話 means “story” or “tale”, so the direct object of this sentence is “that story”
Now comes the really cool part:
誰 も… 知らない
First of all, I can now recognize that 知らない is negative, so it isn’t “to know” it is “to not know”
And, I have learned that, when the subject of the sentence is followed by も and the verb is negative, it makes the combination completely negative, so instead of “who does not know” or something like that, the presence of that little も turns it into “nobody knows”
Now I understand why 誰もその話を知らない means “Nobody knows that story.”
and, to me, that kind of thing とても楽しいです。
頑張って and have fun!