Learning With Texts is a tool that has moved me out of my rut and on to Tadoku-style language learning. It’s like creating your own textbook, with all the materials being of your own choosing. I use some different settings than Mikotoneko, so you may prefer one method or the other! The best way to explain it though, is to show it to you… so here goes!
First you’ll need to get on to a LWT server. I highly recommend this one
one hosted by Fluent In 3 Months. Once you’re logged in, there are a few settings you can change in LWT that will make your life easier and your studies more effective. Assuming this is your first time seeing LWT, these instructions might not make sense but trust me, this stuff works. First click the “My Languages” button on the main screen.
Then you’ll get to your settings:
Among a few things, you can set your dictionaries here. Personally I use the default one that the Fluent in 3 Months server is set up with, jisho.org
, and for my second one I use trusty Yahoo辞書
. (I’ll explain my particular usage for each one in a moment.) I leave the Google Translate field blank, cause if you’re a language learner, then machine translation is the enemy
So here are the exact URLs to use for those dictionaries:
The ###s are there so LWT can replace it with the word you’re looking for. Sadly not all online dictionaries can work this way, but luckily these two great ones do!
Next you’ll see two settings that are very important for Japanese: “Make each character a word,” and “Remove spaces.” LWT can be made to work with Japanese either way, but setting them both to Yes has taken away a lot of headaches and frustration for me. In my research I also discovered this is how the developer suggests using it with Japanese too. I’ll show you how this works in the next step.
So you get to your material by clicking on the “My Texts” part of the main screen (and then “New text” if you haven’t added anything yet). When you open a text you’ll see 4 frames:
- The upper left corner is basically just a menu. If you’ve got your settings like mine, you’ll want to click off “Show All.”
- The bottom left is your text.
- The upper right is where you’ll be able to create your cards/notes for new terms.
- The lower right is where the dictionary results will be shown.
OK here comes the fun part. Click on the first character of a word you don’t know. A box will pop up that looks like this:
What you want to do here is now tell LWT where the word ends. Then, a new, complete term will be created and marked in your text. It will also automatically look up this new term in with your first dictionary. If you didn’t click off the “Show All” button earlier, then it won’t make that distinction your text. What I do is paste the reading AND meaning into the translation field. For the Romanization field, I either enter nothing at all, or only enter a partial reading that will later on be displayed on the question portion of my Anki export. Learning the entire reading for compound kanji can be daunting, so for example if I had a new word like 一生懸命, I might have いっしょうけんめい in the answer portion, and have いっしょう**** in the question portion as a hint.
Once all the unknown words have been looked up, I create a PDF “printout” for my Kindle with the in-line definitions and a furigana version using the site hiragana.jp. (You could also do this for cellphone, tablet, paper version, etc.) Yet another use for this site is creating supplementary reading material based on my source text. This is where Dict2 being set to Yahoo comes into play. I’ll go through the text again, clicking on certain new words and open them in a new tab with Dict2. I then collect all the example sentences from each tab, paste it into hiragana.jp (you have to log into it for that) and create a furigana collection of all the examples to help me fully understand new words.
And what resource would be complete without Anki fitting into it. LWT has full support for exporting all these new terms to Anki, along with the sentence it appeared in, translation, romanization etc. To start this process, click on “My Terms (Words and Expressions)” on the home screen.
This is the interface you’re going to see. First, to show only terms in a learning status, click the “Status” dropdown box and select, Learning [1..4]. This will filter out your terms list to only show words you’re learning (as opposed to learned.) Then click on the dropdown box next to “All ## Terms” and select “Export ALL Terms (Anki).” Now this part is currently a known issue in some browsers. Although I use Google Chrome, the only browser I’ve seen this work on without a hitch is Opera of all things. I’ve heard of it working in IE but it won’t for me. In either case, it will generate a delimited text file that can be imported into Anki. Using that text file to its fullest extent is a whole other ball of wax, covered very nicely here
. After exporting the text file, I mark all the current terms as Learned, since Anki and my printouts will be taking care of the process from this point. That way they won’t be mixed up with your next export.
Where do you get texts? The simple answer is of course from anywhere that interests you. I actually have a mini bookmarks folder of sites that specifically use for LWT material. Here are some examples!
- Kanji version of Learn Japanese By News
- Japanese subtitle files (You can paste it into a spreadsheet program to get rid of all the extra timing data)
- Official sites from some of my favorite games
- The Japanese Wikipedia
- Even just random text from web interfaces on sites I’ve changed to Japanese!
That’s it for now! It seems like a really long and complicated process, and I admit at first it is. But trust me, after you use it once, it will be so second nature that you’ll be able to groggily get out of bed and be learning new words first thing in the morning like I do. Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll find LWT as useful as I have!