Category Archives: Method Review
Since I was a wee kanji learner, I have gone upon the mountains and lo, preached the goodness that was the world of Remembering the Kanji and all the RTK followers would rejoice on high…that is until the Almighty Alicrab appeared and toppled RTK over the hill.
Wanikani is crack where RTK is caffeine, picking off where RTK does and going a step further. I found that after RTK there was a sort of deadening space where you lose a little motivation, but mostly because though you can see soooo many kanji everywhere and understand that gist (which is an awesome feeling) it is sorta a little browbeating to sorta ‘start from scratch’ in terms of getting sounds to the kanji. RTK’s 2nd book supposedly addresses this issue, but never have I really heard any good comments about RTK2, nor have I even been remotely interested in it.
This is ultimately why WaniKani is now my beginner ‘program’ of choice when anyone asks me how to start the reading/writing process. It all began with the Alicrab.
What is the almighty Alicrab you say? Well pictures are worth a thousand words.
Though you can see Tofugu’s own post about WaniKani, I’m here to give you a peak at my thoughts. Even though I have completed RTK1, it might not be completely fair to hear my thoughts on the ease of the program. Worry not however, because I forced about 3 people near me who had relativity no kanji experience to use it as well.
Having been a member of the beta for some time now, I’ve seen a wealthy amount of UI changes, even their blog post is quite outdated, however, the changes are like most site changes, some you like, some you don’t. I’ll admit at least for this sensitive eyeballed person here, the newer color scheme is just a tad bit painful and I do hope that it may change soon, however that said, I still enjoy the overall changes and progression that WaniKani has taken on. I’ve seen the levels progress from 7 to now 33, and things like audio and such add up.
I think my favorite things about the site is the system itself, its cuteness of the Alicrab, and the ease of the layout (where you get to see lots of information to fuel your excitement), where as my most hated thing is the lack of sentences and rigidity during reviews (I’ll explain the review section below), but mostly the color scheme (yeah yeah I know, I might complain about it a little more though. Not to say everyone feels the same, lots of people enjoy the color. As a side note, its not my monitor as I’ve viewed it on several computers and my ipad).
Enough of my general talking, let me get down to business.
Like RTK where there are elements that you use to propel mnemonics, so does WK. If you’re into RTK just a little bit, it would not be hard to convert over at all. Even I, who’ve had those keywords in my head for a long time, was almost painless to switch. There were only a few where I continuously miss them due to RTK, such as 日, however I do not see it being problems for those with no heavy RTK influence.
The Kanji (General)
Kanji are usually given the most appropriate keyword for testing periods (SRS), however there are explanations of more within the kanji’s information…center? I’m not sure where he is pulling his list from, but from what I can tell in my own readings and such, the kanji are all relevant kanji you’ll need to know.
The Kanji (Readings)
The readings for the kanji are broken into two sections, the kanji side and the vocabulary side. For some this may seem like a rather odd thing, and at first I was a little eyebrow raising, however I noticed right away the ingenious behind it. Well Played Good Sir, Well Played. If you’re like me, you can never remember the difference between the words, On’Yomi, or Kon’Yomi, however, and though I still don’t think it matters if I do, WaniKani takes on that responsibility of helping you distinguish between when to say what (in general) without you caring to know still. I might of confused you, but when I give an example below, I will point this out better.
Every kanji has a vocabulary in which it goes into in the WaniKani side of things, and some even get a handful (especially combined with other kanji). This can be a little confusing, as for kanji’s readings in its kanji only side is sometimes different than the vocabulary side, and can be a little mind numbing if you mix them up and get the review wrong. However, the reinforcement of how the reading’s show up is a blessing in disguise, and it helps hit home that the kanji should never be confused with its vocabulary counterpart (even if, it is a single kanji vocab). Okay, maybe you’re worried or confused now, but I’ll show you below in an example. The great thing however is most of the vocabulary I feel is pretty common and useful right out the gate.
WK works on a leveling system. The number of radicals, kanji, and vocabulary differ for each level as well. The radicals do not run out however, due to a lot of them being kanji used in other kanji. This is similar to how RTK worked, and perhaps some people have complained about just slightly, since they have to double test on it, however others feel that it is doubly helpful that way.
The homepage, where all your information is before your eyes, you can easily see where you came from, where you’re at, and where you’re going. The dashboard is useful, with the ability to always return to the home screen, start your lessons, your reviews, drop down boxes to view your Level, Radicals, Kanji, and Vocabulary.
The layout is prone to changes, so rather than describing it, I’ll just tell you stuff that has remained on there pretty much the whole time I’ve been on WK. You get to see 4 levels of mastery and a burned item. Basically the more you answer correctly your items pass through stages until they’re so ‘burned’ into your mind that you’ll never forget them.
Apprentice –> Guru –> Master –> Enlightened –> Burned
I have to admit I miss the images they use to have with the levels, of the demon guy, but the new look is sleek and good too showing a turtle coming out of its egg.
Progression bar on the level for both Radical and Kanji has been there, letting you know how many you need to unlock to move forward. I’ve never paid any attention to this, but its a cool thing to look at if you’re powering towards the next level and need some visual boost to propel forward.
It’s also nice to note that there is a color scheme that matches what the item is. When reviewing, the color of the background changes to help you realize it’s a specific item. For example when you have a kanji and a vocabulary item that is the same, the color will change still. The colors are noted below with the examples.
There has always been a showing of current forum posts and the beta blog for WK, so far as I can remember. There is a forum on the site, but I do not participate in it, but from what I have seen, there are bug reporting places, requests, questions, minecraft information, and of course people talking about Japanese related things like media and what not.
Other things have come and gone on the page, such as now there is a ‘New Unlocks”, “Critical Conditions Items”, like those you miss a lot, and “Burned Items” (last 30 days for the new and burned). Also a when to review now, and a bit from then.
Overall the main points have stayed there, just changes in how it is displayed, with a few tweaks.
Certainly the first thing you do on WK is a lesson. A lesson basically consists of the radical, kanji, vocabulary that you are learning to show up, its breakdown (which is what the item is all about), meaning, and reading. These are able to be viewed outside of the lessons as well, and during reviews. The lesson will generally provide you with a mnemonic to use, however you are free to use your own, you just cannot modify it into the system.
Perhaps a first confusion for many is, if you are given more than one reading. In this case, you only need to input one when reviewing, not both/all.
You do roughly 5 new items before it goes into a mini review, and then back again into the lessons. This is helpful to help re-solidify and I enjoy it a lot. It is one of the reasons that I liked iknow as well, which incorporated a ‘learn, review, test’ SRS mentality.
The second main thing you do on this site (and probably actually the most thing you should be doing) is reviewing. WK is an SRS, and therefore, you have to come back and review. Reviewing is pretty straight forward. The review screen will show you what you’re reviewing (and is color coated depending on the item being vocab, kanji, radical) and some options below it.
- item at top in colored box
- input box
- option to view Hiragana
Once you enter in your answer, a few things happen. The top right stats will change depending on your correctness, as well as the box. If you get it right, your stats stay closer to 100% rightness, if not, it detracts from that and you get a little red box where the input was. Options to relearn about the item is now allowed to be accessed. Most items (vocabulary) have sounds which you can hear when ever, and keyboard shortcuts are highly usable, making it really nice.
If you need to look up information on the item, at first it will only show you what you missed, so that it does not give away other testable aspects of the word, however, you can click to see more information to allow you to see more if you’ve just completely forgot a bout the item in question.
A few people claim that the strictness of the spelling is very off putting, but the system does allow for a handful of mistyped words, however similar meanings aren’t usually accepted. There are ways to ask for this stuff on the forum, but you have to be reasonable to an extent about what you can allow in these types of input tested programs.
When items are right, of course, your box goes green! Yay! You can still view information though, just in case you need a refresher, and you’ll notice that when items are reviewed in completion correctly, they can be upgraded, and if missed in one aspect, possibly downgraded (like you get meaning right but reading wrong).
Example run through!
So when you’re a beginner, the very first thing you’ll see is a radical. Here is a listing of some of the radicals you’ll see right out, 大，十、口、日 Its pretty straight forward. Once you unlock a certain amount of them, then you’ll be able to see a kanji. Here is where we’ll pick up our example.
Kanji! [Pink Background]
上＝じょう＝above, equipped with the radicals that make up this Kanji, writing it is easy, and the mnemonic brought with it :
Meaning: “There’s a toe above ground. Look at it.”
Reading: “The toe sticking up above the ground is just a little thing… You go up to poke it and then you realize that the toe actually belongs to Joseph (じょう) Stalin. Joe doesn’t like people messing with his toes, so you slowly back away.”
There is more information given in general during the lesson, but this is the most important things to bring from it in the long run.
Then later on you’ll run against its single kanji vocabulary form.
Vocabulary [Purple Background]
Meaning: “When a vocab word is a single kanji and alone, it tends to steal the meaning from the kanji. Same goes for this one too. It means above or up.”
Reading: “When a vocab word is a single kanji and doesn’t have okurigana (hiragana attached to the kanji) it usually will use the kun’yomi. Since you learned the on’yomi reading of the kanji, we’ll need to use a mnemonic to learn the reading of this vocabulary word. —- Above you is a huge weight. You’re holding it up and struggling (it’s heavy!). You look up and try to crane your neck to see how much it weighs (うえ), but you can’t see the numbers on the side of it. How long can you hold it above your head like this?”
So as you can see, there will be a few of these you’ll run across and forget which one went to which one. It can be a little frustrating at first I know, but working through these little small things make it all pretty cool in the end, trust me.
As you combine other kanji into your learning, they will combine with other kanji and create even more vocabulary words. Here are some that the above kanji are turned into both within the first level to many later:
and many more.
User Created Tools
A cool thing is that every user has a code to their account that contains some general information, like what’s due, lessons, and so on. People have created handy little extensions and what not to use, and If you get into WK I recommend you check them out. They’re mostly about helping remind you to do your work!
Of those that tried it out for me, only a few complained of frustration of some of the exact input spelling for meanings and readings. All in all, we all agree that WK picks up a huge piece that Heisig doesn’t do very well. Perhaps to me, the absoluteness is what bothers me most, and has always been the case with any language to language. Where there are with no doubt words that equal words, that is not always the case, and without sentence examples and usages, the vocabulary words feel a little detached. So it would be my recommendation to combine the sentence mining method with WK in full force from the beginning! Seeing what I have, I also feel that if you were to complete WK, you should go straight to J-J. There is enough background to switch over easily to monolingual, especially if you sentence mined your way through it.
How to get it
As it stands, WK is in the beta phase, so please email sign up! The great thing about beta is that you get started sooner while still helping mold the product. On another good note, you get a discount when going beyond level 2. Yes WK is a paid product, and you can pay by several methods in several time groups. Those who have Textfugu also receive a discount (not stacked). So get in now to get the discounts! Also, it is not known when WK will be released fully and tit is not known how many full levels, though I have heard whispering of at least 50 levels.
I hope that this was helpful, if you have any further questions, or are participating already and would like to expand, comment below!
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 )
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!
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!
JapaneseClass.jp is a website for learning Japanese. It focuses on vocabulary, individual kanji readings, and kanji meanings. It also has a strong social element, allowing you to have friends lists and challenge fellow Japanese learners. Appealing to the gamers among us, the site uses experience points to turn learning new words into an RPG-like quest.
The learning process is based on multiple choice answers to questions. You can practice a certain amount of random questions to earn your attendance for the day, and/or take various levels of tests of specific questions. One feature I really liked was the Reading tab. It will automatically pull small amounts of text from current websites, arranged by category, and can analyze them to create a custom vocabulary test. The idea is that afterwards, you could read that text and understand it. Normally you have to attain a certain level to be able to use this feature, but a donation can unlock it early. Another great way to get some reading in, is how after being tested on each term, it will show you example sentences with translations and readings for your convenience.
There are a few drawbacks to the site however. One is that is does not teach grammar at all. This can be confusing to new learners who aren’t familiar with things like various verb forms. Also, if you’re not new to Japanese, it can be quite tedious to work your way up the levels by going through hundreds or even thousands of words that you already know. Let’s look at a few pros and cons…
- Very active and friendly community
- Everything is web-based, so it’s very easy to get into
- Mixes vocabulary and kanji study
- Provides example sentences
- Reading function can analyze text quite well
- Fun level-up system
- Does not teach grammar
- Example sentences are only shown *after* your answer is selected
- People with previous experience need to trudge through a lot of basic vocabulary
The site is a nice quick and easy way to practice Japanese. That being said, the ability to take some sort of placement test would be a huge bonus, so that more experienced learners can start at a higher level (but maybe still start at 0 for experience to make it fair.) There are a lot of small details that I do like about the site, and it was really great to be able to talk with other learners, so please give it a try to practice your Japanese!
Tool Recommendation – Online Stopwatch
For those of you that practice timeboxing, you probably know that there isn’t always a good timer to use nearby. Fear not! This website features a large format (MY EYEBALLS), straightforward countdown timer with an alarm sound you will definitely notice! It’s especially useful when you’re studying within a browser, since the tab’s title is automatically updated with the remaining time. Personally I have it right on my bookmarks bar, with other daily use tools and websites. Use it, and your time, wisely!
Learning Japanese is a journey, and what better element to give direction to a journey than a map. Plotting out where you want to get to with Japanese, and how you can get there is the best thing you can ever do to feel a real sense of progress and focus. In other words, it can tell you what you should be doing right now. On the other side of things, looking at future points will keep you motivated for what’s to come when the time is right.
I first started drafting out a personal map like this during my Esperanto project. At the time, I had been feeling a lot of burnout with my Japanese studies. It felt like no matter how much kept spinning my Japanese wheels, I still didn’t truly know the language. The short break with Esperanto gave me not only a lot of confidence in language learning, but also helped me develop steps I could focus on to improve my Japanese, and give myself a real sense of progress. A lot of these ideas came from looking at language learning from a fresh perspective with Esperanto; by thinking: knowing about the techniques and resources I know now, how would I go about learning any new language effectively?
I think the key word with a map like this is focus. Not only a focus on Japanese, but on a specific element of it. Before getting too deep into explanations, let me show you a simplified example of what your personal map could look like if you were starting out with Japanese. (The italicized parts are just notes to help you understand how the map works. I like to have the topic that I’m focusing on right at the top. That way I can tell myself to focus on this element above all. The goal should be something measurable, so that you know you’re on track. It’s important to be as specific as you can about it.)
Current Focus: Hiragana & Katakana
Current Goal: Learn 10 new kana per day
Learn hiragana and katakana to be familiar with the sounds of Japanese. (The focus stated clearly in a statement. Then the following is the method(s) to accomplish your goal. )
- Subscribe to some Japanese podcasts to keep the language in your mind.
- Learn JLPT N5 (beginner level) vocabulary.
- Get familiar with Japanese grammar.
- Learn the meanings of kanji characters.
- Start reading short, simple texts with Learning With Texts.
- (To keep it all about the Map itself, I won’t get into all the specific resources for the rest of these.)
- (It’s a good idea to lay out your journey here to give yourself a sense of direction.)
- (Naturally, most of these steps will continue to be practiced as you move on to the next.)
- (For example you’ll want to keep reviewing your previously learned vocabulary even once you start learning grammar.)
- (You can of course expand on these points like the kana one above, once you get to them.)
- (Don’t forget how far you’ve come on your journey!)
Like any good journey, you will of course plot your own points and courses along the way. This is your journey after all! You can be as specific as you like, even things like playing a certain video game in Japanese or discovering new bands can be part of your map. As for my own journey… First, I would define my current level as lower-intermediate. Well past beginner, but not yet past that hurdle of being able to understand the majority of what is heard or read. It’s often stated as one of the most difficult levels to get past, and is where a lot of people give up. Well I literally don’t think I could give up if I tried, so here’s what I did…
Current goal: 1000 Words
Learn 1000 new Japanese words
How will this be done?
- Use the online tool Learning With Texts
- Create cards in LWT that include extra example sentences, and some J-J information.
- Export cards from LWT to Anki each week
- Maintain an average of 10 new cards per day
- (I’m already in to this focus, so if I manage to maintain a steady amount of new cards each day then my estimated date for the completion of this goal: October 6th, 2012. This puts my goal in the not-so-distant, foreseeable future.)
Where will materials come from?
- Wikipedia articles on topics of interest
- Example sentences from Yahoo! Dictionary
- Articles from the Hiragana Times blog
- Text from subtitle files
- OCR from manga
What are the next steps?
- 30 Days of extensive reading
- Reach 2000 terms, using solely J-J cards
- Practice kanji readings
- Use the site Read The Kanji
- Examples from kanji dictionary
- Re-learned all RTK kanji
As you can see, I have even edited my own original design a bit when it comes to my personal map. Also notice how I have extra notes for the “Practice kanji readings” entry. It’s a good idea to plan ahead so you’re not lost when you reach your next destination, even when it comes to specifics. However you want to arrange the layout, notes, etc is fine so long as it puts you into action and gives you focus on your current goal. So have fun creating your personalized map, and good luck on your adventures!
There are not a whole lot of books that I endorse for learning Japanese however There are a few that I got out of curiosity sakes that I must admit are pretty darn cool. If you are a beginner to an intermediate person, or looking perhaps for a spark after you’ve been studying a while, these books might be able to help put a little jump into your Japanese battery.
The first book I want to go over is one that a few people have recommended to me. So after much debate I decided to get it and read it up.
While this book is mostly intended for a beginner, and offers an intense boot camp like feel to it for a 30 day adventure, it can be reworked for any level of learning.
The first 3rd of the book basically gives you an overview of what’s going to happen and how the author came up with this plan. It also tells you what to gather and how to get in the swing of the language. If you’re familiar with AJATT method of immersion, then you’ll be right at home here.
The second 3rd of the book is the layout of Days 1-7, where you grapple the basics of your language, create yourself a language notebook, and get down and dirty with your new language.
The last 3rd of the book basically deals with the remaining time of the month, where you streamline and customize your lists and such to suit your growing need for new material to learn.
The book is pretty neat in helping you lay out self learning techniques if you’ve done them before. A lot of beginners just don’t know where to start, and intermediate to advanced learners can always use a little boost of ideas to improve and help them get further along.
So if you’re feeling a little lost on what things to do next, this book might just help you out with that dilimea. That said, I do want to state that this book is not about Japanese specifically and must be modified to fit it just a bit.
While I’ll tell you the best grammar book I’ve ever enjoyed is Japanese The Manga Way, there is also a really good sentence example filled book that is All About Particles!
This very affordable book I would even go as far to say is a great addition to any beginner to intermediate learner’s book shelf. I personally bought mine from Amazon, used, and super cheap from The Book Depository, and when it arrived, I was pretty happy with my purchase.
While I must admit I’m a tad bit further than the book, in terms of understanding particles, it has not been a waste of money. The book really goes into detail explaining useages of the particles as well as giving sentence examples of every instance. Usually there are about 3-4 sentence per usage, and to boot there are plenty of notes to help you along the way.
The sentences themselves are set up in the following way: (this is the first example shown in the book for wa/は):
asoko ni akai hon ga arimasu ne. Are wa kanji no hon desu.
Over there is a red book, right. It’s a kanji book. / See the red book over there? That’s a kanji book.
While I’m not overly thrilled by the appearance of romanji, its not so bad since there is no furigana for the kanji. so if you come across a kanji you are unfamiliar with, and aren’t completely sure of the sounds it is suppose to have, you can use the romanji as reference. However, you could just write the furigana yourself, and whiteout the roman characters.
There is both an excellent table of contents and index to help you find what you’re looking for. Otherwise, there really isn’t much more to say about the book, other than its really easy to understand, especially through the examples. The sentences themselves never seem complicated, and they are mostly short and pretty good for sentence mining methods.
I saved the best for last. This book is really helpful for intermedete to advanced learners who’ve found themselves in a rut. This 173 page book is packed with a lot of really useful tricks and tips about getting more out of your studying experience.
Generally when books promise crazy results, or some unknown secret, I get extremely skeptical and do not buy them. This one however, after hearing rave reviews from personal friends decided to buy it. It was extremely cheap for me to get used, so there wasn’t much of a financial investment if the book was a dud. I was most pleasantly surprised however at this book and its contents!
Beyond the table of Contents, a little introduction, and an index, the book is divided into 13 sections. The 13 Secrets that is.
Each Secret is broken down with a little objective, explanation of the secret, some examples of it in Japanese, then a Quiz followed by its answers.
To me, the best of them all (#4) dealt with number bands, as numbers are my weak point once they get past 100. There is a lot of incorporated vocabulary, grammar, and so on, which its only downfall being no furigana and romanji for those who can’t read Japanese well enough.
But I must admit, even for me, this book brought a lot to light that I had not ever considered to incorporate into my studying. And it was like a breath of fresh air that helped mix things I knew with things I didn’t know to make a nice warm yummy awesome cake. It was a tiny shove in the back that helped me begin to climb another mountain of learning. So this book, of them all is the most recommended, especially if you’re stuck in a rut!
There were about 3 other books I tried out, which I have to admit, I didn’t like nor found as useful as the books I already use, so they went out to find a home of someone else, and I wont talk about them. I’m a great believer that just because it didn’t help me, that it couldn’t revolutionize your world, so I’ll refrain from even mentioning their titles. Just know that sometimes, a book that only cost you 5 bucks (ie. 13 secrets!) can be worth a gold mine for your learning!
When it comes to learning Japanese through reading text, you may have heard about two opposing ideas that I’ve talked about a bit before. (My LWT Guide). At the risk of repeating myself, here they are:
- Extensive Reading is reading a lot of text in your target language, at a level that is in your comfort zone, preferably with visual aids. The idea here is the pure volume of your active exposure to the language.
- Intensive Reading is reading a smaller amount of text, stopping to look up each word that is unknown. Here the idea isn’t volume, but understanding.
These are often seen as opposite methods. Extensive reading says you can learn everything through massive exposure with nothing more being needed, and intensive reading says it’s more important to completely understand one smaller body of text than just some of a large amount. As you might imagine, I’m going to tell you that it’s not one or the other, but both together that are super effective. And as you might also imagine what the solution is… Indeed, Learning With Texts. It can bridge that gap between these two methods, expanding the territory of your Japanese learning. You may have noticed I like to keep it simple, using only the most effective tools in a variety of ways, rather than spread my efforts too thin with too many different programs and methods.
Now most users of LWT may say that it’s primarily an intensive reading tool, designed to look up unknown words as you go. Yes it is, at first. You read text you’ve entered, look up unknown words, and have LWT store your findings for later reference. This is effective intensive reading at its finest. Where its power for extensive reading comes in is when you hit the print button. It’s a little misleading because it’s useful for so much more than making paper copies of your texts.
Without getting into the specific sites I use for materials, suffice to say the most important thing is to be sure it’s all relevant to your interests. For extensive reading, things with visuals such as manga and games are perfect. If you’re just looking at text you don’t understand with no context it isn’t very enjoyable. But for intensive reading, where you’re able to reference anything, websites with news about stuff you like, Wikipedia topics and kids sites with colourful layouts can be a great way to progress in Japanese.
For extensive reading, it’s just as much as possible however possible with no real order on things. With intensive reading, I do have an order that I’ve found to be effective. It’s like this!
- Starting fresh on the weekend (whenever that happens to be for you!) I enter text into LWT, usually not too much so that I can reference all unknown words in a single sitting. When I gather more text later, I’ll just add it in the existing entry.
- Throughout the week, I enter more text and also review as I go on phone and PC. At this point, I don’t print anything out, since reading it right off the server means it’s up to date.
- After the week is over, I export all new terms to Anki (which would have a score of 1 at this point on LWT).
- I then give all these exported terms a score of 2 to move them up the ladder, since they’re no longer new terms at this point.
- I now make a few printouts of the text. One includes translations and kanji readings, to be left lying around the house for casual review. The other includes only readings, to practice reading without the use of English. I sometimes post these up within sight while doing other things, so I can review “yesterday’s news” at times where I might not otherwise have exposure to Japanese text.
Media Recommendation: Hungry! (Drama)
A drama series about a guy who leaves behind his rock-star dreams to take on the culinary world. Fairly easy to follow even if you don’t know any Japanese at all yet. This series made me realize how much I love the Food genre for J-Dramas, and how it doesn’t really exist specifically in English. Another interesting part of Japanese pop culture!
A few weeks ago, I had a vacation–from Japanese. This vacation took place in la Esperantujo. For the TLDR crowd, I spent a little amount of time learning Esperanto (while maintaining my current Japanese of course.) The whole idea behind this (which is related to Japanese, as I will explain) came from this post by fellow blogger Benny. After returning, the results it’s had on my Japanese has been fantastic!
Without going into too much detail, I’ll give you a brief introduction of what Esperanto is. Esperanto is the world’s most used constructed language. It’s made up of completely regular, logical grammar, with vocabulary taken from various European language families. Basically, it’s language learning on easy mode. There is a small but very active community of Esperantists, creating literature, translations, music, guides, and even video content online. So just like with Japanese, you can learn Esperanto through self-immersion.
Since I wasn’t familiar with any of the sources for Esperanto media, I had to use only what was easily and readily available, especially since this was a shorter term project. This showed me that it’s also the sort of media I should especially be using for Japanese, since it is so easy to just turn on and acquire. My initial goal was to get a feel for what the language sounds like. So right off the bat, in Esperanto, I was using:
- One specific podcast that was quite popular in the Esperanto world
- Posted up a chart of the writing system (Which is a modified Latin alphabet)
- Found an app that streams music in Esperanto
- Video content that I’ve just come across by chance
The whole language is very logical, everything being made up of roots with various prefixes, suffixes, and compounds. I realized that it’s actually a lot like Japanese in this regard, since Japanese is also very regular, kanji compounds are often logical in their composition, etc. So if this logic could be a huge help in Esperanto, then I could use it to my advantage in Japanese too.
Because the language is less common and I was new to it, I was limited to certain sources of media, SRS decks, and guides. I’m sure there was more available, but in this case, limiting was actually a means of focusing. Really, it helped me not get too overwhelmed by trying to follow too many methods simultaneously. For example there were a few grammar guides that I could have explored, but I chose one that I liked the most and used that as a base in my studies. It also showed me that sometimes I’d spent so much time searching for something very specific, or so-called perfect in Japanese, that I’d missed the content that was right in front of me in abundance!
Now that I knew what Esperanto sounded like, I needed to learn how it worked. Without getting into the specific resources (since the point of this post is about Japanese) here is what I did to progress:
- More podcasts, gathered together with a smart playlist.
- A grammar guide that covers the basics of how Esperanto works, with example sentences.
- Low budget but entertaining video of skits in Esperanto, showing some real-life and funny situations.
- Downloaded a pre-made Anki deck of introductory vocabulary that included an example with every sentence.
- Upped my exposure to the language (more audio/video, changed Facebook interface, etc.)
I was actually quite surprised that by the time I got to watching video (which was basically these long skits done in Esperanto) I could actually understand about half of what was spoken from actual knowledge, and virtually everything through context. Naturally, it would take longer in Japanese (or any other non-easy mode language) but it did prove that understanding is possible. This was very encouraging!
So did this help my Japanese? Absolutely! Keep in mind that even during this, I still had exposure to Japanese every day. This break taught me, more than ever, that Japanese has truly become part of my life. I couldn’t completely remove Japanese from my day any more than I could remove English! This is a good thing though, it shows great success with my immersion environment. The whole idea behind spending some time with Esperanto was to give me a fresh approach to Japanese, and a new level of confidence. In both of these factors, I think it was greatly successful.
Media Recommendation: Kupuu~!! Mamegoma (Nintendo DS)
Mamegomas are small seal characters used in various media and merchandising, similar to Hello Kitty. This particular DS title is a virtual pet game (think Nintendogs). There’s also a variety of minigames you can play to win different items for your mamegoma. It’s all in hiragana making it quite accessible for any level, and very cute and colourful to catch your attention. If you’re looking for a fun interactive experience to get into Japanese, you’ve found it with this title!