Category Archives: Technique
Powering your Japanese Learning and Playing through Google
It never ceases to amaze me the things that you can find online using Google. I’m sure that there are many really great search engines out there, but for some reason, I got Google’s back. We’re homeboys.
Google, what an interesting site to have amazed the world of searching online junk. Google’s name is actually a misspelling of the word googol, which is 10100 and is said to be what the company is reaching for. Now, there isn’t even a googol of webpages out there…yet..but still, Google is a powerhouse of a search engine.
Now how does all this apply to Japanese you might ask?
Knowing how to search quickly to get what you want can be a massive benefit to the language learner. From finding vocabulary lists, site for learning, culture information, buddies from Japan, and so much more, you can really utilize Google.
But you say ‘Oh great Mikoto! I can’t search to save my life!” (/cough cough *wink wink* PANDA)
Tips on Googling Your Way to Mastery!
1) Sentences Are Mostly your Enemies!
“What is the Japanese way of saying night?” You might think this was a good idea. Yes, you might have. SHAME ON YOU! Honestly, go to a dictionary, a credible dictionary and do not waste your time on yahoo answers to find a crap load of incorrect romanji filled garbage.
Besides questions like that, which are mostly useless, there is another concept you must remember about questions. Often Google will try to find as many words strung together as it can, which will lead to someone else’s question. Which means you’re going to more likely find someone who doesn’t know this answer, than someone who does. Also on personal answer sites like Yahoo answers or forums, a lot of people there are trolls and/or just plain wrong without knowing it. Unless they offer a website/book/source (that’s good) about how they got that answer, I wouldn’t trust it,even if they claim to be native.
Also, if your question is an opinion, you’re more than likely to not get relevant and true answers. For instance, on the internet there is a lot of talk about racism in Japan. So if you type in something like “Why do Japanese people hate *insert race/nationality*” Chances are you are going to find many websites of people complaining or trying to tell you their opinion about the hate that Japanese people have. Think about this for a second. “Many Americans hate the middle east.” Is this true? Is it opinion? Depends on who you ask, American or not. (and just to clear it up, I do not hate the middle east at all).
Opinions are worthless, especially Non-Japanese people’s opinions about Japanese’s feelings.
Stop Words is a concept in many search engines and Google is no stranger to it. Common words like I, where, do, for and so on are omitted from searches because they often aren’t important. This can really cause a problem if that word is key to the item you’re searching. And that is where the next bullet point picks up!
2) How to Query! (fancy for How to Use the Search Box!)
You really might be like, hey Mikoto, I’m no idiot! Why you telling me I don’t know how to type into a box! Relax my friend, for you already know this somewhat.
- Quote It!
When you want something specific, don’t we naturally quote it? If you’re learning up a movie, you will type in quotes a lot of times, to make sure you get it, or lyrics of a song. Typing in lyrics like “we’ll meet in the middle” without quotes, you’ll get lucky, the song of choice, but a lot of times, without quotes you can find yourself looking at a whole lot of irrelevant searches.
- Don’t Quote It!
Sometimes lyrics/phrases/words are famous, like “i will always love you”. That’s a dousy if you’re not looking for the song, “I will always love you” made famous by Whitney Houston. So quotes wont save the day.
- Use most likely Words
What are you looking for? Buttons! then type Buttons. (seems easy enough)
Though we can find things with off the wall ways of saying them, humans talk naturally and the internet is less formal because of it. So searching for formal phrases might not be helpful all the time, but helpful in others. For instance, We don’t really use the word ‘mobile device’ but rather cell phone. But if you are looking for something technical, mobile device might be a better search term than cell phone.
- Be as Specific as Possible
Searching for Yellow Polka dotted Buttons? Then make sure that’s in the search box.
While this can hinder your search (someone doesn’t classify a button the same as you), it is always worth a shot to specifically describe an item you’re looking for.
- Spelling oh how I hate thee!
Wait what? You’re telling me I don’t have to spell right anymore? YAY! If you haven’t figured this out by now, you don’t have to spell things right (even in the JP searches). Google already as hey, did you mean this messages below when you’re pulling up a search. This can save you in a pinch if you’re not really sure exactly what word you’re even looking for. This is really handy if you hear a word on a drama, but cannot find it through dictionary means from denshi or something, and google.jp well, that’s no problem!
- “~“ Relate to meet
Not many people are aware of the quaint little ~ button on their keyboard, much less its nice role for Google searching. This button allows you to search words that are related. So if you typed something like ~car, you could also get words like vehicle, automobile. Very useful if you’re trying to search up a concept that people might use different words for.
Sometimes you might be searching for time ranges. Maybe there was a robotics convention in Japan you wanted to know about, and you know that the specific robot was presented around say 2008 and 2012. You could simply put 2008…2012 with other words like robotic ~convention Japan, and get some really relevant information fast. I think this works with time, but I’ve never tested it
Number Ranges are helpful in so many ways, so it doesn’t always have to be a date, it could be a price range too! Limitless possibilities!
There are tons of words that will help you, that you place the word after that : that helps. Uh, that’s weird sounding but an example would be Author:Twain.
- Author: Find author
- define: Define a word
- site: search specific site
- link: Find pages that link to said site
- info: find information about term
- related: things related to term
OMG! I could really go on but it’d be ridiculous. You can find these types of things all over the place if you search more on google search commands!
3) Go Inception on that Google!
Its time to Search within a Search ニオ！One of the best ways to search on Google is to take what you’re searching to a new level using the searches you’re using. ( the brackets are the search box)
Say you’re looking for nouns, more so specifically those in the NLPT 5. Seems easy enough. [jlpt n5 vocabulary list] But darn it all you seem to be getting are lists of vocabulary where nouns are all jumbled and none tell you which are nouns!
So, lets modify….[jlpt n5 noun vocabulary list]…still nothing, poo!, then [jlpt n5 "noun" list], still nothing worth using….wow this is hard…most give up here, oh but wait!
Maybe you’re not using the right words…hmm, a noun is a part of speech….[jlpt n5 vocabulary list parts of speech]…wow more nothing, oh wait…a random, not really worthwhile website…shows (名) for nouns….oh hey! I can use that.
BAM! Bus loads of vocabulary lists for the jlpt n5 that give the words parts of speech, including nouns..all because of this buddy added. (名)
Just because you don’t get the thing you’re looking for right away doesn’t mean its not there, it just means you need to change the way you’re looking it up!
Using other web pages to find other web pages is really useful It can help you find other ways of saying things or finding things.
4) Dumb it Down! Less is More!
Google isn’t a human, so sometimes, more words = more mess. So say you’re looking for a drama and can’t remember its name (like mr. brain). rather than typing something like “drama where guy gets his head hit and turns into a problem solving genius helping the police solve crimes” it’d be a heck of a lot simpler to just say [jdrama head injury ~genius ~detective] #2 Mr. Brain! Of course, if it didn’t pull up what you’re looking for, just change it around some, maybe use different words and/or different parts of the plot.
And more or less lastly!
Never Give Up, Never Surrender!
Never stop trying to find things. The more you get use to ways of looking for things, the better you get at it and the faster you get. And this doesn’t stop in English land either. Google is excellent for any language, and finding things in Japanese with Google Japan, is even more rewarding!
And lastly lastly, a word of warning….Just because its on the internet does not make it truth. Double check all your sources, especially if you’re relying on information for learning purposes.
ps: stop looking at her boobs!
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!
Like many Japanese learners, I would love to be able to spend 8 hours a day making massive progress by leaps and bounds, every day. And like many learners, pesky things like the need for a job or school get in the way of that. I can assure you however, that there are ways to make the most of your time! Here are a few tips that I want to share. Some of them may not apply to your situation, in fact some of them don’t even apply to mine at the moment! Feel free to try whatever you think would help you!
- Is there travel time for school/work? Play podcasts or audio rips. This could be done in your car stereo if you’re driving, or an mp3 player if you’re walking/on the bus, etc. I use Songbird and iTunes to create a combination playlist of music and podcasts, and listen to them to and from work.
- Use break times and lunch times. This is especially useful if you have a mobile device you can use to do a few reviews on your SRS program, for example. Things like printed materials are equally as useful.
- Free up time from household chores. If you’re responsible for your own house/apartment, you know how this can be a time-sucking vampire! Sometimes investing in automating certain tasks (ie: dishwasher, etc.) can equal more free time for Japanese! If investing isn’t an option, you can actually reduce instead. Before we got a dishwasher, I actually got rid of a lot of dishes and cutlery so it couldn’t pile up. Can you tell I really dislike doing dishes? >.>
- Do Japanese during household chores. For those unfortunate times when you have to some task other than play PS3, you can do passive Japanese. For example our home layout lets me hear the TV from the kitchen. Or on other ends of the house, I have my Android phone with me for Japanese audio and video. This might have previously felt like sacrificed time—no longer!
- Do certain things only on days off. What I mean by this, is you don’t want to spend your already busy day just preparing for Japanese and not doing it. For example, if your precious after-work/school free time is spent just seeking new media or trying to get a program to work, and not actually doing Japanese, it’s sort of a day lost. That’s why I only do that sort of stuff on the weekend when there is room for experimentation and possible device failure.
- Have a mobile device. You could probably see this one coming. This to me is without a doubt the single greatest investment you can make for your Japanese. Yes, even more than a dishwasher. It’s the equivalent of purchasing time. You can turn those lost few minutes of your day here and there into literally hours of SRS study. I’ve tried both handhelds and tablets and do find the whole “fits in your pocket” element of a handheld to be more useful in regards to flexibility. They both have their place, but I’m more likely to be able to take out my cellphone for 2-3 minutes at the checkout than I am a 10 inch tablet. That being said, a tablet is far better for things like PDFs or other materials that seeing the big picture (literally) is needed.
- Have your environment in Japanese. Another one that many of you are likely doing already. The first thing that comes to mind here is interfaces. Your computer, game console, Facebook, camera, mobile device—whatever it is, if you can switch it to Japanese, do so. This way even if you get caught up in non Japanese tasks, you’ll still at least have the exposure to keep you on track. I also have materials around the house or packed in a take-with bag so that I don’t really have to think about bringing stuff here and there. The living room of course has my computer and game console, bedstand has manga and Kindle, even the washroom has some “disposable” printed material (yes I went there.) Just having stuff around you in Japanese will help things naturally take their course.
- Make it the first and last thing you do. Each day, I try to make doing something in Japanese how I both start and end my day. After hitting that snooze button in the morning, I try to wake up my mind by doing a few SRS reps. Before turn out the lights, some DS or a manga session are often in order. Something about having these activities at the tail ends of your day seems to make a big difference.
Tool Recommendation & Bonus Interview – Tangorin
Tangorin is an online Japanese dictionary that I came across purely by chance. It bases standard results on a dictionary definition, a few example sentences with furigana, and a kanji breakdown. If you want to be specific, you can have it give you a very extensive list of examples as your results, kanji-related results only, etc. Where this flexibility really shines is how with the click of a button, you can send any item to a personalized list for later study. No copying and pasting needed here! What I do is collect examples and other information over time, then use Send To Kindle to read it later. (The furigana doesn’t seem to take effect on that list, so instead I apply Furigana Injector.) It can also be used in Learning With Texts as a dictionary option, so it makes for a very welcome addition to my resources!
As a special bonus, Gregory Bober, the creator of Tangorin, has graciously answered a few questions about the project! Here’s what he had to say:
I was a Japanese language student at University of Warsaw working
part-time as a web developer. I used different online dictionaries for
hours on a daily basis and simply wasn’t satisfied with the overall
functionality. I discovered the WWWJDIC project and created my own
interface to the freely available dictionary files. It’s been five
years since I registered “tangorin.com” and made it public. Tangorin
is where my interest in Japanese meets my passion for programming.
as Tatoeba and JMdict. How did you come to collaborate with these
There are many great open projects such as the Electronic Dictionary
Research and Development Group (home of JMdict), Tatoeba (example
sentences), or KanjiVG (stroke order diagrams). They maintain and
distribute raw data files for everyone to use in their own work. These
are all community driven projects. My “job” is to make that data
available to the users in the most convenient format.
I plan on combining data from the Japanese WordNet to provide a
thesaurus-like functionality. I have a working prototype of a
translation tool based on Wikipedia that simply displays article
titles in selected languages. It’s surprisingly useful. How many times
have you looked up an article on Wikipedia and then clicked on
available translations to see what’s it called in another language?
This feature will save you few clicks. Apart from that I hope to
improve the Vocabulary section to include a spaced repetition system
for flashcards and printable practice sheets for kanji.
The best way would be to contribute directly to the projects Tangorin
is based on, such as the WWWJDIC, Tatoeba and KanjiVG. There are many
ways to do that. Submitting new entries, reporting inaccurate ones, or
simply by donating.
Nobody, especially not the Japanese, expect you to speak perfect
Japanese. Especially when you’re just starting to learn. Don’t be
afraid to make mistakes when you speak. If the person you’re talking
to gets what you wanted to say, they won’t mind a couple of grammar
mistakes. Your goal should be to communicate and not speak perfect
Japanese. That’s something I wish someone told me more often when I
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!
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!
Learning Japanese has taught me about many other things on the side, and one of those things is timeboxing. Really all it means is giving yourself a certain time limit for a certain task. The idea behind it is that is gives you focus and a push to get into action by containing it in a certain timeframe. In other words…
- You know the beginning and end of the time spent on this task.
- You know it won’t take too long or end up going nowhere because you’ve limited yourself on how much time you can spend on it.
This technique works in a few different directions. Your timer might end when you’re really at the height of whatever you’re doing (playing a game, reviews, etc.) Great, stop now because you’ll be that much more excited to keep at it next time. Other times your timer ends when you’ve really been getting nowhere with a task. Great, stop now because you’ve used enough time on it already. It’s also good for when you have trouble starting on a task because you don’t know where to even begin. No matter, just hit start on that timer and sink your mind into it. You could be surprised that just by taking that leap, you’ll end up making progress.
I usually follow the TV episode theory when setting the duration of a timebox. Most programs are aired anywhere from 30-60 minutes, actual showtime being 22-42 minutes roughly. You can really keep up some variety in your Japanese activities with timeboxing. Just think as the next box as changing the channel when the next program is up. You could go from doing a few Anki reps, then to a TV show, then to some kanji review, then to a video game. Seeing Japanese in different contexts is very useful, so timeboxing makes it even easier to go back and forth.
But what do you do when you can’t decide? This is often why I would end junking out on the computer doing nothing in particular, which made me feel like I wasted my time. There is solution here too. You can leave it to chance. What better tool to randomize your choices than the almighty dice. Just about everyone is familiar with the D6–the cubical, 6-sided wonder common in board games. But there are actually many other dice such as D4s, D8s, D12s, and the D20s, which are all practically synonymous with traditional role playing games.
So how can you use a dice roll to decide what to do next? Simply have a look at your favorite Japanese activities, figure out how many there are, and choose and appropriate dice. I happen to have a small collection (as well as fascination with) different types of dice, but I actually just use an Android app called D20 by Ambergleam to generate rolls. Despite the name it actually has a variety of dice options.
Here is an example with a D6 (regular six-sided dice) with some activities that I personally do.
- Watch a drama or anime
- Do SRS reps in Anki or level up in Reading The Kanji
- Read a snippet from a website with the help of LWT
- Play a video game
- Read a manga
- Allow myself some “About Japanese” time (ex: blogs, grammar guide) This one is especially important to limit, unless you’re reading this blog, then you can just go wild!
So looking at this this example f I rolled a 4, I’ll be playing video games for an hour or so!
Setting time limits really is a means of focus. By saying “I’ll limit myself to one hour for playing a video game in Japanese, what you’re really saying is “For one hour, I’ll only be playing video games in Japanese and not getting distracted by other things that I can look at later.” To use your time effectively it’s important to know/define exactly what you’re doing before hitting start on your timebox. Again, the computer can especially be a time sucking vampire if you just press go on your timer and don’t really know what you’re going on there for. Personally, learning Japanese has truly become a life goal for me, so I feel all the more fulfilled when I know I’ve made good use of my free time to progress towards this dream.
Media Recommendation of the Week: JapanFM
JapanFM is a streaming radio station from the French network Hotmix Radio. All you have to do is watch an ad once every couple of days, and non-stop Japanese music streaming from your browser is yours! They have a lot of variety from pop to rock, even songs you’ll recognize from your favorite dramas or animes. I’ve actually found a lot of new bands this way. Sometimes music can be less distracting than videos when you’re trying to multitask, and it often gets me pumped in the morning, Japanese-style! Happy listening!
Quick little insert about why it’s good to learn a foreign language, apparently (if you’re a native English speaker and you’re flexible with causality.)
“The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer
heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats
and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.”
Had to share that nugget of wit before starting on topic!
Mikoto’s gently nudging me to get back into my studying by making me write this for our audience. . I started in Japanese a very long time ago and I go into sprints and then quit for a short while. This is how I tend to be with ALL things, however. I don’t get a toe wet, I get my entire house wet and then some when jumping into new and exciting things. After so long, I get a little burnt out and quit. I do this with games, cleaning hardcore, excerising and so on. If you’re like me and like to sprint, or am getting burnt out on Japanese learning, please follow along for some tips.
Say you’re completely stopped at your Japanese. You’re not even passively immersing!
1)Start slowly and try to put Japanese back into your life. Even if for the first month back into your studies, you do nothing but passively immerse (listening to things in the background without really shadowing or trying to understand it. Sometimes I call watching shows with subtitles passive. I know a lot of learners out there would have my head for suggesting such a thing but hey.. That’s still more japanese in your life than you had the day before.)
2) If you’re on the Kanji stage-
- Get caught back up to where you were when you quit. What I mean is, for example in Anki, it’ll tell you how many you have due. I’m not saying review all 500 you have, just review what’s due. Anki will take care of the other 400~ (depending on how long you quit and what number you’re on of course)
- Get caught up by doing 3 minute sections every day. You can do more, but you want to at least do kanji once a day. I’m saying go slow to prevent you from being burnt out. If you’re like me, and love sprinting through review, Sprint away. Just make sure you’re taking breaks, at least an hour, between sessions.
- Once you’ve gotten caught back up, THEN add more. Go however you did in the past, 0-15 cards a day.
- Be sure to do something fun with the kanji you know. We have kanji games on site, but there’s a ton of things you can do. I like to add pictures to my anki using google! It’s sometimes really fun to see what can visually represent kanji.
3) If you’re in the Kana stage
- This really depends on how well you knew your kana before. If you were like me and quit after you got to __ it probably wouldn’t hurt to just act like you didn’t learn anything at all (which my retention was practically null, so that worked well for me). I started over with my hiragana and used a mix of Real Kana and Read the Kanji to review. Plus a little forced reading with Japanese Baby 1 and mikoto.
- I had to personally drill the kana into my head. The trick is to do it in short bursts. We’re not a long distance runner, we’re Japanese Sprinter Babies! Sprinting means we get to do fun stuff like watch Japanese movies, animes, Iron chef (which the original is a GREAT FUN way to learn some crazy Japanese dishes)
- As a fellow Japanese baby suggested, the trick is once you get a good grasp kana, put it into practice! Read children books, convert websites into kana, listen/read lyrics. You want this to be FUN!!!! This will keep you coming back for more.
4) Shadowing- We all know that I don’t really like shadowing. If you didn’t know that, you know now! I say this because I feel I sound utterly stupid. So, what I try to do to make light of the situation is to mimic the tones and gender of those speaking. It may just make my gibberish sound more feminine or masculine, but it’s fun. Also, if you want to make yourself feel better, record yourself shadowing your native language and listen to it. You’ll notice you stumble over a lot of it and some of it, your mind guesses and may be close. This is because our brain is hardwired in this language and can think faster than your mouth moves. For example:
- “Oh thank _______”
- Your brain will most likely put one of three words in there, God (if you have a habit of saying that), You, (if you’re polite), My stars! (If you’re just.. unique)
I do this all the time singing. Especially if I don’t know the words, our brain makes a conscious decision to try to ‘fix’ and finish the sentence. You may have a rhyming word, a word that could finish the sentence, or the correct word.You’re probably saying, ok Panda, who cares. My point is: Once you reach a certain point of Japanese, your brain will switch into Japanese and try to be 3 steps ahead of the speaker. So, keep with it young one!
5) After a ～month of getting your feet wet back into Japanese, try to get back into a routine that matches how much free time you have. If you can only devote 5 minutes a day, well damn, that’s 5 minutes more than a non learner is learning! I’d like to quote my Professor from my freshmen year (note, this applies to more then just engineering of course).
- You’re doing Engineering. Do you realize how hard that is? Do you realize you’re actually doing it! It may take you 2 years to finish this degree, it may take you 14. You may be fresh out of high school, you may be 80. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how long or how old. You’re doing it, and once you finish, no one can take it from you.
Another professor during my sophomore year
- (Panda), despite your disability, you can do this. It doesn’t matter the road you take, as long as you work hard and you’re honest with yourself. You are doing this, remember that.
My Advisor during my junior year
- I have a lot of 40 year old’s who come in and say that the road is tough and long but no one can take it way from them. It’s pride that you knocked something out of the park. It may have taken you 50 swings to finally get it over that fence, but it’s now way beyond the boundaries.
Hopefully you have someone spouting off wonderful, delicious support to you! If not, you need new friends (jk!!!) You have to remember, every day is more than the day before. Build on it and succeed.
KEEPING on track
- ok, So, we’re back into Japanese Happy Land, yey. Let’s celebrate with fun games and knowledge! Ok! We can only party straight for 12 hours for so long! Be sure to balance your life with Japanese fun. Don’t go too hardcore unless you’re living in Japan of course, haha (you can handle hardcore all the time!). Listen all the time, however, because passive learning takes no effort and can help sink sounds into your brain.
- For things that need active learning, (shadowing, kana/kanji reps) set reasonable time constraints. You work, go to school, have babies? Devote a % to nothing but Japanese. You can do this all at once for the day, or break it up into small portions through the day. Just be sure to say, for the next __minutes, I WILL do nothing but Japanese! You can timebox for the entire day, if you know the exact times you’re taking care of classes and work, or when the baby naps. Make Japanese be your b**** to your schedule, not the other way around. You decide! You Conquer! You learn Japanese! Find that balance that your schedule will allow, that you want, and without getting burnt out.
- Force Japanese to be in your life. Have your phone/browser/computer/whatever be in Japanese. Anything you can turn into Japanese, keep it in Japanese. This will force you to ALWAYS be touching Japanese in some form. Only have Japanese music on your mp3 player.
- Set real and concise goals. Don’t say I want to improve my immersion. Say I want to listen to a minimum of 1 hour a day of Japanese!
- Write a blog or connect to other learns. Share what you find that works for you and what works for others. Share the wealth of knowledge.
- Celebrate the little things! You just learned your kana? Treat yourself to a Japanese children book and Sushi. At least, that’s how I like to treat myself. Food goes a lot way for me. I’m like Pavlov’s Dog, books and food make my mouth water!
- Keep it fun!