Category Archives: Delenir
“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’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!
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.
Hello friends! It’s good to be back after the winter holidays! As I mentioned, I took a break from blogging to try some hardcore Japanese-ing! I wanted to make December all about action rather than theory or preparation. The best way to explain is of course with photos!
Switching entirely to iOS for my mobile platform has been very beneficial for my immersion environment. The biggest reason is that the interface (and many apps) can be set to Japanese. This is something I haven’t seen yet on any Android phone in Canada. Even the few tablets I’ve seen that can be in Japanese rarely extends this feature to the apps. I’ve found a plethora of games that can be played in Japanese, and in the case of certain ones like SquareEnix’s titles, sometimes that’s even its native language. This has been a great change for my immersion environment and ensures even more Japanese at all times!
iKnow.jp is one of the greatest things I’ve ever come across, thanks to our faithful reader Daniru. I’m sure it’s nothing new to some readers, as it’s related to the previous smart.fm website. I’ve been told by veterans of the service that it’s come a long way, and it really shows. It’s a paid service that provides a decent trial beforehand. To me, it’s worth every penny twice over. It’s available on the web, Android, and iOS and automatically syncs across devices. There’s so much I like about it, that I think it’s time to break out the bullet points:
- I was immediately sold when the first thing it did was give me a placement test. The lack of this was the biggest downfall on similar services that I’ve tried. It put me into the Core 3000 which the 3rd level of the 6000 most common Japanese words. This means not having to relearn hundreds if not thousands of words you already know.
- On that note, if you do come across a word you already know, or maybe just don’t find all that useful, you can mark it off. You can actually do this en masse before starting a new section to make it that much more effective.
- As an aside, I actually like it far better on iOS rather than on the PC, to the point where I use it exclusively on my mobile devices.
- Every single word has at least one example sentence with a full audio reading by native speakers.
- You’re tested multiple ways on the same word, including meaning in both directions (J>E & E>J), kanji reading, listening, and spelling.
- What kinds of testing you get is very customizable. You can turn off certain kinds of testing if you don’t find it useful, and when it comes to typing you can either do it via full keyboard, or pick each character from a multiple choice interface (which is great on a smaller phone screen.)
Manga collections like CoroCoro are something I like to describe as bulk manga. These are relatively inexpensive manga collections (compared to たんこばん) that are printed on lower quality paper (still better than newspaper though) and are very thick (they can exceed 700 pages at times.) They’re for a younger audience, so there’s always ふりがな. The content can be anything from Pokémon to card game manga, and there are quite a few ads that I actually find equally entertaining, since they tend to be about stuff I like, such as video games or figures. I got a few of these types of manga from J-List including a 4-panel collection which is great for browsing. Like I say it can be a cheaper way to get some manga into your collection than buying whole series, so please enjoy!
Last but not least for this post, I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year! May 2013 be the year your dreams come true!
There are times during your Japanese studies that you might wonder if another language might be easier. Afterall, there are people learning French, Spanish, or German left and right. Not to mention people are learning English all the time, so European languages must be easy right? I’m not here to argue for or against that, but I am here to tell you that Japanese does have its share of advantages too!
I came to this realization when I was studying Esperanto. It’s an extremely logical language, and I realized that Japanese is too! Far more so than many European languages, which often have more exceptions than rules! Let’s look at some advantages to learning Japanese:
- You basically only have 2 irregular verbs. Think of English verbs like ”buy/bought.” The only similarity is the first letter!
- Other grammatical points such as い/な adjectives, or 五段/一段 verbs follow chart-like rules.
- Japanese kana is completely phonetic, everything is spelled the way it sounds!
- While kanji is a challenge, when you know the characters’ meanings, it can become an indispensable tool for understanding new words.
- There is a TON of native media for Japanese to learn with and enjoy. I find that for French, I often have to turn to dubs for things like movies and animation.
- The way words are made up often make a lot of sense. Take a word like 食堂, often meaning a cafeteria. It literally means eat-hall. Makes perfect sense! Many Japanese words follow this kind of logic.
- There is a standard dialect which is used in media and education, so the words and expressions you’re learning should follow suit for the most part (see: textbook Japanese.) To use French as an example again, I’ve been to several schools that claim to use “standard French,” but I can assure you there is no such thing. (Parisian and Quebecois perhaps, but no “international” French. I speak a whole different dialect myself which is very non-standard.) I know this is a huge source of frustration for people learning a European language, but one that you should not experience in Japanese!
So next time you’re thinking Japanese is really hard, why not focus on the things that make it easier? And what better way to confirm that than some useful resources…
Tool Recommendation: Delenir’s Corner
Yes, it’s finally ready! Delenir’s Corner is a list of my tried and true resources for helping spur along your Japanese. Only stuff I’ve actually used extensively are listed here. As a bonus, I’ve added an indicator to note if it’s a free or paid resource (most are free.) I’ll be adding as I go along, follow my twitter feed to find out when!
I’ve been studying Japanese for a bit longer than I care to admit. There are many times where I feel like I should be an expert by now. There’s a reason for this though. I spent a lot of time, especially in the earlier days, doing many things the wrong way. Here is some advice that I wish I could give my past self on what not to do!
- Focusing on too many elements at once. This is also known as not having focus! I’ve been there—wanting to learn kana, kanji, vocabulary, and grammar all at once. I ended up feeling like I was spinning my tires and getting nowhere. Only by focusing my studies on a particular element (for example, I’m doing vocabulary building now) did I experience the rush of progress that spurs me forward.
- Using things that take way more time to prepare than to use. Thanks to modern technology, this isn’t too big of an issue. What I’m talking about is stuff like typing things manually from a print book, or searching for hours for a particular set of Japanese subtitles, ignoring what is more readily and easily available for your use. There are also tools such as Learning With Texts or Read The Kanji that take out a massive amount of preparation, letting you spend your valuable time on exactly what you need.
- Doing everything way above your level. Don’t be ashamed to use children’s materials, or to take things in small sizes. You can’t expect to understand step 3 if you’re still on step 1.
- Doing everything that is too easy. Then there’s the other side of this coin! If you just keep going over the same level of material without taking the next step, you won’t make any progress either.
- Not making it a lifestyle. This was the biggest reason I never got anywhere for literally years after my initial interest in Japanese. I would study from a textbook about once a week… sometimes. Even worse is I was using only romaji for the longest time too. Beyond that I was playing games in English, sometimes watching anime with English subs back when any anime was hard to come by, had no Japanese text in my environment… you get the idea! Now, I fully consider learning Japanese to be a part of my lifestyle and not just a hobby. It’s on my devices, my media choices, on my walls, everywhere in my life.
Media recommendation: Grooveshark
If you’re looking for a way to discover and listen to new Japanese bands at an alarming rate, then buddy, have I got a website for you! Grooveshark is a streaming music service that will actually learn what kind of songs you like, and make suggestions for more. You can create online playlists and listen in wherever you have an Internet connection. It has a surprising amount of Japanese bands, I’ve only seen it come up short on 1 or 2 bands that I had searched for. I’ve also discovered more bands in one week than I have in the last six months, easily! Listen in, and rock on!
An extra special bonus section I want to try out, the reader poll! In light of the media recommendation being music related, feel free to leave a comment with your top Japanese bands!
I’m now 2 months into my 3 month project, and I think I’m making fairly decent progress. Here are some of my highlights and milestones!
- Removed my Remembering The Kanji deck from Anki. It’s been a great ride, and I recommend the method to all learners. However I think it’s come to a point where I have to shift directions for my kanji studies and expand my knowledge in more ways.
- Started using a pre-made N3 vocab deck in Anki with the reading in the question portion. This is to supplement Read The Kanji, where the words are seen in context without readings.
- Using more Japanese-subbed material. For me, this helps with both focus and enjoyment.
- Learned what a walk-through is called in Japanese, and started referring to them.
- Exchanged messages on Lang-8. This really stretched my knowledge of using Japanese! Very useful however.
- Created a mixed music/podcast playlist for use during commuting.
- Used a Japanese proxy service for the Internet. It worked, allowing me to access certain region-locked content on Nico-Nico Douga. The downside is it turned my 70mbps connection into a 0.5mbps one, so I decided to stop using it.
- On one particular day off, I did 733 reviews between Anki and ReadTK. This included manually adding some sentences to Anki. This was the most focus I’d ever had! Imagine the progress if this could be a daily occurrence!
Overall, I’d say my main method right now is using Read The Kanji as a basis to learn new vocabulary. It really does help. I’m constantly coming across new words in anime and games that I know I learned from ReadTK. Aside from that it’s all about just using Japanese. It’s very important to integrate the language into your day with things like interfaces, audio, or text, even if it’s only passively. You don’t realize how much that stuff helps until you stop using it for a day or two!
For the last phase of this 3 month project, I’d like to finish off the immersion items in my list. As you may have noticed, the list changes and evolves as the project goes on. Since it’s coming to a close, what I’d like to do is not add anymore in November but rather wrap things up and be able to start fresh next time. Until then, on to a new month!