More Talking

I have been able to get some serious talking in lately through conversation exchanges.

Right now, I have my Japanese lesson on Saturday mornings, and that, of course, is all in Japanese (although I do cheat occasionally and revert to English now and then – bad me, bad me).  After that, I have a one hour conversation with a Japanese friend, half an hour in English (so he can practice) and half an hour in Japanese (so I can practice).

On Sundays, I have a conversation with another friend, usually for an hour or two, and I need to exert myself to use some Japanese, because he will follow along in whichever language I use, and I have been using too much English.

I have a new friend that I meet with early Thursday mornings for an hour, and we have probably been doing 80% Japanese, so I need to make sure we switch to English more so he can practice.

That gives me opportunities to practice on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday.  If I can find someone to speak with on Tuesdays, I’ll feel pretty good.  That will let me practice throughout the week.

Some of you lucky souls are living in Japan and get the chance to practice daily, and that should help you progress by leaps and bounds.

Grammar points for the week so far:

~ずにはいられない  (to not be able to refrain from doing something)

~らしい  (seems like, sounds like, etc)

~としたら  (if it were the case that, if we assume that, etc.)

Yeah, only three this week.  It’s been crazy busy, but I finally got a big report done, so now I have some more study time.  I only have 86 vocabulary words due for review (much better than the 200+ from the other day when I got behind) and 15 new words to learn today if time permits.  Moving right along.

Meanwhile, my hiragana is looking less like chicken scratches and more like actual Japanese, so that’s a plus.  I guess that means next month I start tackling some basic Kanji.  Woohoo!





Motivation (mō′tə-vā′shənn. – having a desire or willingness to act

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.
– Zig Ziglar

This has been one of those weeks at work when everything comes due at the same time – paperwork, reports, program reviews, evening meetings…I’m trying to study Japanese here, and life keeps getting in the way, so, instead of skimming through the current chapter, I’m just trying to keep my head above water.

Last night, I say down to study some vocabulary, and I just didn’t want to do it.  I was tired.  Now, that would be okay.  Everybody gets tired now and then, but this is what has happened for the last three days in a row.


Scrolling through memrise, I have 286 words due for review today.

Taking a day off from your studies can be a really good thing.  Sometimes your brain just needs a rest.  It can recharge you so that you hit the ground running the next day.

Taking two days in a row off is problematic.  It disrupts the train.

Taking three days in a row off is bad.  You have not just disrupted the train, you may have derailed it entirely.  Don’t do that.

So, how do you motivate yourself?

I don’t know.  After all, I don’t really know you.  I know how I motivate myself.  Fortunately, that’s all I need to know!  You see, the motivation needs to come from within you.  External motivation doesn’t really do it when the going gets tough.  You have to want it for yourself.

Why do you want to learn Japanese?  Do you really want to learn Japanese?  What other things are you willing to postpone or give up in order to make the time to learn Japanese?

And so on.

You’ll notice that I never asked the question Can you learn Japanese?  Of course you can!

So, now I have a report to finish and some papers to grade and a schedule to work out, and then I have 286 vocabulary words to review.




Talk Talk Talk

If you have been studying Japanese for more than a week, it’s time to start talking to people!

Wait.  A week?  Really?!

Yes.  And I’m probably over estimating.  You really ought to start talking to people the first day, but let’s say a week just to give you time to get a little more comfortable with the language.


No, I say a little more comfortable.  It’s okay for you not to be truly comfortable speaking.  It’s just not okay if that stops you from speaking.

Look, even after a week, you probably know how to greet someone, perhaps to ask something like 元気ですか (げんきですか) and maybe a few other basic things.  That’s all you need to get started, so start.  Get over that fear of talking to others as soon as possible, and the only way to do that is to leap in and start talking.

But…what if I make a mistake?!

Then the world will come to an end, the universe will cease to exist and all of your ancestors and future progeny will be shamed for all eternity.

Well, no.  That’s an exaggeration.

What will actually happen is that you will have a chance to learn something and get better at Japanese.

I hate to break this to you, but you make mistakes while speaking your native language all the time.  Most likely, every single day of your life.  You do.  Really.  If you are speaking English, you almost certainly split infinitives, fail to use the subjunctive tense properly, speak in incomplete sentences and commit other offenses against the rules of grammar, and it doesn’t matter.

You will make mistakes while speaking Japanese.  Acknowledge and move on.  In other words, get over it and start speaking and continue to speak as often as you possibly can.

I made a new acquaintance on Skype through the conversation exchange website.  He is a very nice guy who is retired and who wants to help others learn Japanese.  (There are a lot of Japanese people out there whose hobby is teaching Japanese.)  He also wants to practice English.

We have a very nice conversation in English and then in Japanese.  After we had spoken in Japanese, he said, “Well, you don’t need to practice Japanese.”  He did what a lot of very polite Japanese people will do – he over estimated my language ability.

Yes, we chatted in Japanese.  I did, however, have to have him repeat himself or restate something a few times because I didn’t understand him, which obviously means I need more practice.

I explained to him that what I really needed was not formal language instruction but conversation, and we agreed to meet weekly or even twice a week for conversation in both languages.  I already have a couple of people that I speak with on a regular basis on the weekend, but that’s not enough.  I need someone I can meet with during the week as well.  The more conversation the better.

Of all the languages, Japanese is one that you don’t really need to worry about making mistakes in because Japanese people tend to be very polite and very encouraging of language learners, so go for it.  Talk talk talk, every chance you get!




A Present From A Friend – easy reading







Studio Ghibli Fest Returns

May be of interest to people living in the United States –

Fathom Events is doing another Ghibli Fest this year:  details here.  Basically, over the course of the next year, nine Ghibli films will return to theaters for very limited engagements.  Each film will be shown at least once dubbed and at least once with subtitles.

Here’s a short commercial:

Some of these movies look so good that it’s a treat to see them on the big screen.  Now, if I can talk my wife into watch the subbed version instead of the dubbed versions…

Finally, after a week of being sick, I am back to work on Japanese.  This week, chapter six of 中級へ学ぼう.  I actually studied some new vocabulary yesterday for the first time all week.  I did get some good conversation exchanges in over the weekend.  (Skype was having an issue with android devices, but they apparently finally got that fixed.)

During conversation exchanges, I have noticed that I sometimes lapse into English when I am supposed to be speaking Japanese out of either laziness or frustration, so I have asked my friends, when I do that, to give me a 分かりません and force me back in Japanese!  Laziness does not lead to fluency!

The big goal this week is just to get back on track with my studies.  It isn’t about catching up.  That is, I don’t care where I would have been if I hadn’t gotten sick.  I just want to make sure the train is back on the rails and I am doing my normal learning routine.




I’m Sick and Tired…

I’m not mad about anything.  I’m just sick and also tired.  I’ve been sick all week, so the studying has been limited to trying to keep up with my vocabulary reviews on memrise and grammar reviews on bunpro.  Other than that, not a lot of anything happening.  However, I’m finally starting to feel somewhat better and I find myself looking at the remaining part of Chapter 5, so I might have a go at it after work today.  We’ll see.


Why Translation Software is NOT Your Best Friend

Let’s say that you’re doing some reading in Japanese, and you come across a sentence like 9月の半ばを過ぎ、朝晩幾分涼しくなって過ごしやすくなりました。

As you may have guessed, this isn’t a random sentence that I just made up.  It is the first sentence of my reading assignment for this week.  Now, the thing is, the first time I read this sentence, it just didn’t break down sensibly for me.

At that point, I had two options.

Option 1 : Google Translate.  It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s often close enough to correct, and using it would let me move quickly on to the next sentence

Option 2 : Deconstruct the sentence as I have often done as a demonstration in previous posts.  It would take more time and more effort, and it would delay my reading the rest of the assignment.

But, and here’s the crux, which option teaches me more?

I have sometimes resorted to the quick option, but, this time I did what I should always do –  I took option 2 and broke the sentence apart.  It took a few minutes, but, afterward, I understood the sentence.  I didn’t just know how it translated, but I understood it in a way that I wouldn’t have if I had let some piece of software translate it for me.

Now, granted, as I was doing it, I was thinking If I have to do this for every sentence, it’s going to take me all day to read this page.

Well, that was the laziness talking.  That was not the thought of the guy who wants to be fluent in Japanese!

I was prepared to break down every sentence.  I got a break, though, as I was able to simply read the rest of the paragraph.  There is, however, two-thirds of a page left, so we’ll see what happens.

Oh, just a random thought.  Why are so many things in Japanese and English reversed when compared to each other?  I just thought of this as I typed two-thirds.  In Japanese this comes out to 3分の2 i.e three parts of which I have 2.  The important answer to thst question is:  because they are.  Now get back to studying and don’t get bogged down by questions like that.