Category Archives: How We Study
“Welcome to the world of Pokémon!” This is the introductory line that begins so many fantastic adventures in the Pokémon franchise. When I say franchise, and not game series, I mean it. The world of Pokémon is huge, even bigger than you may realize…
There are so many different forms of Pokémon media to enjoy, and since it’s all within the same world, each one helps you better understand the other. Here are just some examples of how much of a multimedia franchise Pokémon is. It includes…
- Core video game series
- Multiple manga series
- Anime series
- Feature-length movies
- OVAs, and other shorts
- Children’s story books
- Educational and puzzle books
- An insane amount of merchandise
What does this mean for your Japanese? Well if you’re already a Pokémon fan… everything! You have an instant, massive library of multiple types of media at your disposal, with the advantage of being familiar with the franchise. Whether you want to read picture books or manga, play a video game (most have kana/kanji options by the way), watch anime, or even research rare merchandise, you can do all of it with a Pokémon-based education. There are even vocabulary lists based on the games to help you along. I can guarantee being familiar with the media will make you feel all the more comfortable with it, and all the more pumped to stick with it.
Here’s my personal experience using the franchise to help me with my Japanese. So back when Red and Blue came out in North America, I jumped on with Pokémania and played Blue all the way through (in English) with my trusty Squirtle. Years later, it was mostly my only exposure to the franchise except for a few anime episodes. That was until I met Animom, the Pokémon queen. With a rekindled interest in the world of catching them all, I wanted to try my first full length game in pure Japanese. So I picked Soul Silver for Nintendo DS. Had this been my first time in the Pokémon world, with my level of Japanese at the time I would have been quite lost.
So right away, knowing how the game mechanics worked and what the general plot was provided a huge confidence boost and got me very excited to jump into my first JRPG in its native language. Then when I came across some Pokémon picture books, I already had context on my side before I even opened the front cover. Same goes for the manga and the anime. Because I was familiar with the world of Pokémon, I was able to easily have fun trying out all the different types of media it has to offer.
Even the overall theme of dedicating yourself to the journey you have set out for is very inspiring. I can’t think of many other franchises that offer this much variety within the same world. And because it’s normally aimed at a younger audience, I also find it to be an incredibly accessible universe to immerse yourself in on your own Japanese journey to be the very best, like no one ever was.
On a related note, I’ll be doing my first public presentation ever at Animaritime 2013, along with Animom. As you may have guessed, the topic is Pokémon and its evolution as a franchise. If you’re attending this event, please leave a comment or send me a message. I would absolutely love to meet a reader in person! There will even be a section on Japanese-only elements of Pokémon, so if you’re in the Fredericton, NB at the time, please say hello!
In this series we’ll be covering the various Pokemon merchandises out there and how you can pull fun Japanese from it, and so forth. Stay Tuned for our next segment on the anime side of Pokemon.
I wanted to break down exactly what I’m doing so that those who need a restart, or those beginning for the first time, can get some guidance on how this ol’ パンダちゃん does it!
I created a schedule for my days so that I don’t fall into ruts or not do something. This includes cleaning, crafting, Japanese, exercise, and so on. I have schedule this past week with 2 full hours of concentrated Japanese study every day. The rest of the day is immersion type studying. I broke it up this way:
Wanikani (please read みことちゃん review and recap of it.). This was picking up where I had left off before because I was lucky enough to get into the beta testing. ３０ minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon
Kana: ３０ minutes in the morning and 30 in the afternoon
- I wrote all of the Hiragana (as I already have learned it, and just needed a refresher) using Tae Kim’s Guide.
- After finishing all of that, I then restarted my Read the Kanji account. I did this by creating a new account! I’m sure there is a way to wipe your old account, but I had no access to that email account anymore either, so it worked out.
- I will do Read the Kanji for 2 more days for hiragana, and then I will repeat for katakana.
Immersion: So this is what I listened/watched.
- Crunchyroll: 07 Ghost, 5 Centimeters per second, Polar Bear Cafe, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Sword Art Online, Chi’s Sweet Home, ( I honestly can’t remember the last one, but it was under the ‘popular’ category.
- Spotify: I used a Japanese pop radio station and listened for a short while. Unfortunately as soon as I told someone about it, I got nothing but English music after that. I will look into last.fm in the future.
- Youtube: I have an old Japanese playlist that I created
- Iphone/itunes: I have purchased a couple of my favorite artists’ albums and have them on my phone.
- Passively reading: I have a couple of books that my friend キャサリンちゃん gave me, and I’ve recently purchased a couple (more like 30) books on my kindle. I also have a craft book, and obviously the internet!
- Active shadowing (both verbally and reading). I haven’t done this as much, but I do it once I hear phrases that I know. I figured, start small, start comfortable.
Writing: I am trying to actively write words that I know in Japanese. Common phrases that I hear/use a lot, and then some off the wall ones for fun. I have a ‘cheat’ sheet, and I’ll be adding to it. Thankfully, my immense re-immersion has reminded me of a lot of those terms. I can say them, but can’t spell them yet. I will be working on that in the next upcoming weeks.
Have any questions or comments? Please post them!
As you guys probably know by now, I like to move. In fact, its weird if I don’t move, so as I got to think about it, maybe giving some of the tips I’ve realized since I started moving and keeping in Japanese would help some of you who maybe like to move or will move soonish. Some of these concepts are in line with Daniel’s immersion on the go mentality, save rather than just a small amount, you’re going large.
I start it by Immersion in a Box!
This Box, which can either be different in colors, can also be plain, or a duffle bag, or a backpack, or something basically where you can store stuff.
If you sit down and think about it, what can give you the most bang for your buck? This is what will fill your bag. Here are some examples:
- MP3 Players
- iPods, iTouches, iPads
- Tablets of your choosing, like Kindle Fire, Nook, and so forth
- Physical Books you just love
- Paper Dictionary (if you prefer them over electronic ones, or an electronic dic)
- Posters (motivational or informatative)
- DS or Other gaming devices like PS2 that do JP games
The reason these things will stay separated is, if all in doubt, they can fill moments where you need some immersion. Here is some rules:
- Never place this box with other boxes.
- Mark it up, put a sign ”HEY LEAVE THIS OUT AND ALONE!’ (I’ve had the issue where someone tried to pack it away because they were unaware)
- Do not place anything unJapanese orientated in the box. I don’t care if you need your toothbrush out, it does not go in here
- If you take something out (before or during the move) make sure to put it back
- Mark all other items that may be related to Japanese but not as important as this emergency immersion box, so that when you are in your new place you can easily pull it out
Now Here are some tips on how to use the box (some of these will not be applicable to parents, however there are also tips that wont make sense to the single)
- Music should be playing in the background during your packing times. It will not hurt anything to have this going
- Music in your ears can prevent you from hearing people ask questions about stuff, and you want to make it a smooth time for everyone
- Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t want to listen to JP, hey you rule your house right? (jk, at least make compromise)
- During the packing stage, hesitate to pack any secondary equipment, such as your gaming/computer type devices, as it really wont hurt to save them for last.
- Things like books and movies come in really handy during night times and breaks.
- Hold off on additions to studying, but maintain minimum things like SRS reps
- If your computer is your sole thing to study with, it should be last to pack and first to unpack, even if you’re laying on the floor with it, keep that alive. (it will help you avoid guilt)
- Take Breaks! (hey this important in packing to not overwork your body, best time to sneak in a few things there)
- If you rely on internet exclusively but anticipate being without internet make sure to get things for offline as much as possible. This can be difficult, but I know you’re crafty! (I’ll give more tips on this in a second)
- During the Ride, you might wanna get one of those MP3 sound speakers. Sad thing is, most moving vans do not even have CD players. (I’ve never seen one at least) Headphones, also work, but I found they sometimes make me miss phone calls and I need that due to the dual driving of daughter/partner)
- If you’re hotel-ling, make sure to keep the sound going. This is the most useful immersion tool during your moving.
- When you get to your new home, besides the desire to crash out on the floor and cough on carpet dust, pull our your box of wonders, PUT IT EVERYWHERE!
- Never have Japanese out of reach now, it should be more important than food!
Tips on Non-Internet computer exclusive:
So you’re a big fan of web browsing and perhaps that is where you get all your excitement. If you don’t have a laptop with internet abilities and a free WiFi, it may be useful to temporarily forget your SRS reps, but don’t throw out the complete possibilities of non immersion.
Copy Web Pages to your hard drive
- Make a folder in an area that you got lots of space, and make a shortcut to your desktop
- Options—> Save Page As (Chrome/FireFox)–>Save under a name your want
- Do this X a lot, because if you do not know when you will get internet, then you want to make sure you have enough to fill your fancy.
- If you don’t believe in pirating, that’s fine, youtube is full of audio that is actually legal
- copying the link for the page will show you the audio file among others for the link (if you want), download it!
Friends, Families, neighbors, businesses, and Wifi’s
- If you are moving near family or friends or a McDonalds, use them. USE THEM
- jk (hehe) McDonalds, as long as you agree to their terms can allow you a wide opportunity of time. Kids can play in the play area.
- If no laptop, then ask family or friends if you can chill just for a few hours to get some immersion in. They love you, they will understand.
- Most apartments have a business center that does have free WiFi with computers, utilize one the other or both.
- Ride off of neighbor WiFi’s (ask permission, a lot of them will be more than happy to temporarily allow you to piggy back, offer some money even, be creative!)
In the end of it all however, you know your situation and how it will overall work out. Think carefully on how you can beat the system and get the most JP around you. In the end, there is no excuse that you cannot get at least something around you.
I’ve always felt that spring should mark the new year. It is after all the first season of the year, and one that marks renewal and freshness. March is the month that spring begins, and what better time to develop new ways to focus on your goals. To find out what turn in the path to take next, I first looked at my greatest weakness: kanji readings. It’s one thing to know what a set of characters means, but how is it pronounced? I find knowing this really adds to the fluidity of reading things like stories or articles. In the past, I’d turned to Read The Kanji for this, but eventually stopped because of a few drawbacks. The biggest thing was trouble with long or short vowels. I may have actually known the reading, but not always if it was じょう vs. じょ for example. This lead to a lot of frustration and repeatedly seeing the same compounds despite more or less knowing the word. So it may surprise you to find out that ReadTK is exactly what I have come back to in order to practice my kanji readings. It’s all thanks to realizing the power of the IME…
An IME, which stands for Input Method Editor, is how Japanese is typed with a regular QWERTY keyboard. You just type in the romanization of whatever word you want, and the popup list you see above gives you all the words with the same spelling. Normally ReadTK has its own built in Japanese keyboard, which does not bring up a list like the one above. But unlike iKnow.jp for example, it will still accept input from your operating system’s IME. In the image above, I typed in 情報, which is pronounced じょうほう. Had I typed in じょほ, じょうほ or any other incorrect reading, then 情報 would not have turned up. So while the IME won’t tell me what the answer is on ReadTK, it can certainly tell me what it is not. This has taken a lot of headache away, so I’m really back into it full swing! Looking further down the path, there was something else I wanted to include…
I wouldn’t say grammar is one of my weak points, but there is certainly a lot more I need to know, especially if I want to carry out my summer reading plans (more on this later.) In addition to using Nihon Shock’s grammar sheets, I’ve started using grammar flash cards in Anki, based on actual published books. I’ve started with this one based on the JLPT-N3 level of Nihongo So-Matome, and once that’s completed (which is soon) I’ll add a deck based on the ever-useful All About Particles. I already find myself picking up on these grammatical elements when reading manga or playing video games.
As I mentioned earlier, what I want to do over the summer is really focus on tadoku (extensive reading) and even get more into monolingual studies, so I think polishing up these two skills will go a long way to get me moving with even more vigor. For now, it’s time to spring into focus!
In preparation for my next project, which will be something done monthly, I’m looking to refine my habits, and my environment. What this means for me is less English and more Japanese. For it to work, this should be long term, sustainable changes that can keep me on track.
Following my personal guideline of always having something to listen to, watch, play, read, and study, here are some specifics I have lined up. I want to do more…
- Listening to comprehensible and familiar audio, like audio tracks to graded readers, or rips from movies I’ve seen with Japanese subs. Speaking of which…
- Watching TV with Japanese subs. Having audio and text with kanji at the same time with the video for cues is far too useful not to use!
- Playing more video games, especially ones that have a lot of text. Sometimes I get so caught up in other parts of learning Japanese, that I forget one of the best of all!
- Reading manga and other texts on paper at the end of the day. Winding down with some manga or graded readers is a great way to top things off!
- Studying using Anki and Learning With Texts with a monolingual dictionary, and aiming to reach my goal for new cards and reviews each and every day.
So that’s all well and good, but what about cutting out distractions? After all, there’s nothing more detrimental to your language learning than coming home from your day job only to spend hours with your favorite English time-sucking vampire. I’m going to be quite personal and specific in this section, so hopefully you can look at my changes and make equally specific adjustments in your own environment. In order to improve myself, I want to limit…
- Visiting my Facebook news feed and notifications page. I’m sure for many of you, this is a huge and frequent distraction. This will be for Saturday mornings only.
- Watching English TV isn’t something that I do a lot of. Usually just on Saturday nights when friends are over, so looks like it will be limited to then.
- I still want to check Gmail, Facebook Messenger, and text messages, because if I don’t, honestly I will fall off the face of the planet. Instead of checking it compulsively, I’ll do so at a more convenient and regular opportunity, such as at every meal time. A good chance to take a break from whatever I’m doing, and catch up with friends and family.
- I spend a lot of time searching for media to use in my environment, not to mention converting, sorting, and that sort of thing. To avoid spending more time looking for media than using it, I’ll only be on the search on Friday nights, when the whole weekend is still ahead of me.
- Even blogging, which is an enjoyable and fulfilling activity, is of course also done in English. To ensure it’s done at a time where I can use it to get all pumped up for great Japanese learning to its fullest potential, I’ll also be doing this on Friday nights.
There we go—that’s 5 things to add and 5 to limit! To keep things on track, besides the site-blocking plugins that I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become a big fan of e.ggtimer.com for timeboxing. You can bookmark custom URLs for certain times, and even though it’s browser based, there is a sound effect and a popup to altert you when it’s time to switch tasks. Use it and watch your efficiency fly!
When I began listening to Japanese, there came this magical moment when Japanese no longer was foreign. To describe it in another way, is to say that it was just as ordinary as English and at times had to consciously think about what language I was listening to. Both English and Japanese began to melt into a pot of such familiarity, the otherness of Japanese sounds abandoned me.
In another post I’m going to talk about this more so (evolution of learning through listening immersion).
However, I found out today that all this past month (plus times before of course) has finally brought a magical moment to me in reading. Though I sucked at updating my status on Twitter, I actually packed a really high number of pages read. I was pretty happy, but just a mere 30 minutes before writing this post, that magical moment happened again.
Japanese no longer feels foreign. I see Japanese, and it looks just as natural to me to look at as English. I’m not sure how fast this may happen to others. Sure I could recognize Japanese for a long time, obviously, but to the point where I’m thinking about it separately from my native language had completely ended.
It happened when I was scanning a newly acquired manga to see if I’d even want to read it. I was shocked when I almost adverted my eyes because I thought I was reading English. It was Japanese. My mind just automatically switched into, idk, Japanese MODE, so quick, effortlessly, assassinating English with a shiny zinging blade that I actually was startled.
Many of you know that I’ve been reading out loud children’s books for some time, and reading magazines for mothers/housewives, web browsing, and so on, but never before had this really occurred I had to always do this mid translation, even if it was shady.
Everything I read before had mind subtitles in the back of my head. Poof!
Keep reading my friends, if you haven’t hit this road, the only way to pass it is through diligent reading. Surely as it happened in listening for me, it happened in reading. Tadoku for ears and eyes has completely changed my study, more so than any program, study method, or the like. Sure those things helped lift and support it, but never did produce the same thing.
I’m sure that Japanese MODE for my eyes isn’t steady, like it is for my ears now, but I’m sure that the more I do it, the more those moments will be longer and English brain titles will be washed away with the tide and hopefully brick boot-ed so the po-po doesn’t know I murdered it.
anyhow, thank you for listening to my rambles!
Hope to actually update properly next tadoku round! (ps: i beat my goal )
That storm is sacrifice. I’d read countless blogs that stated one should fill their environment with Japanese media to learn quickly and effectively. This is called self-immersion. Sure, I’d added a great deal of Japanese TV, comics, games, and other fun stuff to my environment, but I was still doing tons of stuff in my native languages, sometimes going all evening without touching Japanese. This brings us to the tip of 2012, when I’d finally decided that if I wanted to climb the great wall of the intermediate level, I would need to make some big changes that would not be easy.
I’m a person that doesn’t know what bored means. Aside from Japanese, I have great interest in playing the guitar, photography, writing fiction, gaming, geocaching, and even other languages. During my winter holiday in 2012, I slowly came to the realization that to make further progress, I may need to completely set these things aside for now. When I think of it, it was strange for me to do otherwise up to this point. I’d been the kind of learner that saw using Anki while waiting in line at the supermarket as a valuable use of time that would be otherwise lost. I used every spare minute as the chance to get that much closer to my goal, yet I thought nothing to spend hours on a Saturday afternoon playing a North American copy of Skyrim, instead of investing in a Japanese version. I realized that if I wanted to make 2013 the year that my goal becomes in sight, I would need to really, truly, 100% make it my focus. And then came the painful sacrifices.
With photography, it meant physically packing up and storing away the props I’d used to make my photo-based webcomic, or editing work to put on deviantART. (By the way, all the photos in this post are by me!) For guitar, it meant no longer plugging in to GuitarRig and practicing new songs, which is especially hard when I watch an anime like K-On that makes me want to rock out. I even went so far as to take the advice of fellow blogger regarding minimalism, and reduce the amount of stuff not only in my own home, but also the amount of programs and personal files on my PC and mobile devices. My favorite quote from her article is “minimalism is really about knowing what’s really important to you, and arranging your environment in such a way that it’s easier for you to focus on those important things.” So that’s exactly what I did in my own environment. Things related to my goal are close at hand, and things that are not are packed away for now. The last and most difficult thing to give up was writing fiction, for that meant leaving the world I’d been building in my head for almost 14 years. As a person who is forever in the clouds of my imagination, that was certainly the most sorrow-filled sacrifice I’ve had to make. Instead, I now look to take the ideals and philosophies of my fictional world, and apply them to my real-life journey in this new year. After all, those things will still be there waiting for me on the other side of that wall, and it will be a brighter day when I see them again.
Something that started with simply wanting to know how to read item names in RPGs has blossomed into literally being my dream in life. To learn a foreign language, to be able to immerse in that culture and even be a part of it, and to be able to visit that country with understanding… That has become my dream, and the best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.