What is a Language and How to Find Sentences

Languages are what?

I know our friendly online dictionary pulls out the ol’ complication by saying that language is “a systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols”. Really, simply, languages is just how we communicate. While languages seem daunting and complex, rules and points and expressions, cultural blah blahs mixed with crazy squiggly lines and weird noises, I cannot seem to think of them as hard. I guess when it comes down to it, how we all feel about languages varies since we all experience life differently. I personally don’t see them as hard for the brain to comprehend (ie, we already speak a funny noise with squiggly line and lots of “grammatical rules”) but rather simply time consuming.

I don’t care what people tell you or me about age or natural ability of children, I still don’t hear my 5 year old niece talking perfect English, and its all she does, and has around her (that’s 43800 hours roughly man of pure immersion). She still mixes words and ideas and noises and cannot write hardly anything at all, nor read extensively. Harry Potter would Own Her.

People find a lot that’s blocking them from grasping a second language is preconceived ideas that they’re not good enough to, or its too hard for the brain. But do try to remember that its only exposure that matters, getting it around you. Hey and guess what, you’re smarter, can employ more critical thinking, and have more say over your life than a 5 year old, so I think you’ll have an easier time. The problem is, people don’t want to spend the time. You’ll gain more in 43800 hours (or 5 years) than my niece could even dream of doing if you started today, because you’re not learning how to learn to potty, and feed yourself amongst other things.

How to Find Sentences

or vocabulary

So what is communicating? What do we communicate? Did you ever step back and think, what do I actually talk about the most? So I did an experiment just a couple of weeks ago and recorded what types of subjects I talked to people about throughout the week. It was pretty funny how much we talked about the same things over again. Let me show you.

  1. How is everyone, what I did today, where I went and what I bought. Basic really
  2. weather: man don’t underestimate the amount of small chit chat you really use. Things like, the weather is nice, man its hot, wow look at that rain coming in.
  3. Hobbies: music, singing, karaoke, and all sorts of music instruments, and of course, Japanese learning
  4. Expressing emotions: this movie lacks umpf, ect, stuff like that
  5. psychology, finances, computer technical, hvac, serious type subjects.

So as you can see, most of what I communicated was daily doings and weather. Funnest stuff I talked about was hobbies, and while I did a bit of emotional talking, or my feelings on subjects, movies, and whatever, only a few of my conversations were serious hitters like finances and psychology. Once you’re armed with your information on what you talk about daily, lets see how to use that.

If you’re following the sentence mining method, or even just looking for some vocabulary that you know you’re going to use, then using the above information is like peanut butter and jelly.

Warning, outdated information here preserved for post’s history : [[I always recommending those who want useful lists of vocabulary that’s popular and shows up a lot to of course go to the the Smart.fm website and start their Core 2k programs, as it will teach you 2k of the most used vocabulary (and now they even have a core 6k, which is 4k More words that’re pretty darn popular). If you’re not familiar with Smart.fm, I’d recommend you take a look. Words, sentences, native audio, two game styles, and two drill styles, lots of fun.]]

Currently smart.fm is now Iknow.jp. They still have a vocabulary set up of 6K words most commonly found in Japanese. They have updated their iknow system to have the following features: study application, messaging system, and calendar; Dictation and Shadowing application; app for both iphone/ipod and android users; community; ability to still create your own lists; progression/stats page. Sadly now despite lots of angry protesting, Iknow.jp is now a service you must pay for. Not only that, its in Yen. Paypal does do automatic currency changing though, so fear not.

If you didn’t pick up something like AJATT’s “My First Sentence Pack” or pick up one of those books out there with the like, oh useful phrases in Japan, then you’re left at this point of trying to figure out where to start. The one thing I didn’t put in my list that I really never thought about was simply conveying basic needs. I probably do that more than I realize because I use a lot of body language with it versus much spoken English on the issue. I don’t say, Hand me that, Doug, I just point and nod at it, and we totally get each other. But maybe you don’t have that, or don’t do it, and need to convey that too. Like, Hey, I gotta PEE!

So now you know what you want to say in English, Great, now what?

Alright, lets take an example from each topic and I’ll show ya!

Conveying Basic Needs: “I need to get something to eat” Okay, so lets think, what’s the most important word in the sentence. Need or eat. Eat I think is better simply because it can be worked with more perhaps, hmm, maybe even changing it to, food. Either way, there is 3 vocabulary words to work with. Now we hop to a site that gives sentences. I’ll list a bunch of them below. I found a really good one too, so “When are we eating, I’m hungry!” shows up on the site as “いつ ご飯 食べる(たべる) の ? お腹 空い(あい) た よ 。”

Bam, first section done. You can repeat this process for stuff like that easy mode.

Okay onto the list, here is an example from each one.

1) “I went to the store today” typed in store found a sentence of “I went to the store nearby” which will work since that store was nearby, and then bam “私(わたし) は 、 すぐ 近く(ちかく) の 店(みせ) に 行っ(いっ) た 。”

2) typed in weather “The weather here is so different from where I was” found one like “I can’t get over how different the weather is here” almost the same, bam “気候(きこう) が あまりに 違う(ちがう) んで 、 びっくり し て い ます”

3) Singing is a big hobby, I just plugged in Sing and got so many sentences that its nuts, I’ll find more sentences about my hobby than I imagined from some of these sites, “歌う(うたう) こと は 好き(すき) です か 。” or “音楽(おんがく) は 聞く(きく) の が 好き(すき) です か 、 それとも 歌う(うたう) の が 好き(すき) です か 。”

4) a little rough, but one feeling I feel a lot is happiness, since happiness is fun, lets choose one from there, ooh, already a good one, I often try to cheer up people so “don’t worry be happy” is a common thing, “くよくよ し ない で 、 楽しく(たのしく) 行こ(いこ) う !” or “心配(しんぱい) し ない で 、 楽しく(たのしく) いこ う !” works in that place

5) evil serious subjects often have tons of vocabulary, a popular one, depression, financial that is “the stock market is down”. So I typed in depression, and then stock market, found this sentence in both actually “株式(かぶしき) 市場(しじょう) は ひどい 状況(じょうきょう) に ある 。””The stock market is severely depressed”

So as you can see, simply going to these sites and plugging in an English word of a sentence that I want to convey, I found more and more sentences than I would ever need. There are so many sentences to find this way. Of course, I’m assuming that if you’re monolingual, you can do the same by going to google and just typing in the word you want, and finding sentences straight from Japanese sources themselves, but if you’re intimidated and still multilingual, then this method is a great way to up your vocabulary and use that vocabulary daily.

So now to the listing of sites that’re out there that do this.

Tatoeba: Collecting example sentences, various languages, ability to export to anki, and the supplier of sentences to tangorin.

RhinoSpike: Foreign Language Audio on Demand – it has sentences and audio, and you can put in sentences for natives to record. Not as easy to find sentences like Tatoeba, but surely useful in this sentence mining.

Read The Kanji: Learn how to read Japanese Kanji – This site is all about plugging those known kanji in and finding sentences, collecting sentences, and all sorts of goodies. It’ll help you once you’re out of Heisig, and maybe give you a little more focus if it seems like the thing for you.

Denshi Jisho: It has a sentence section where you can plug in words and find sentences, pretty straight forward as well as a dictionary attached.

SpaceALC: This site is one of my favorites, as it pulls from website pages. I find myself best using Japanese in the search query, but it works both ways.

Japanese – English Parallel Corpus: I don’t have experience with this site personally, but its the same setup of parallel sentences.

Tangorin: Over 1,000,000 entries and 150,000 example sentences. A feature you can do on this one is save vocab words/sentences as well as export them to anki, which is a major helper for us lazies

While you can pull tons of sentences from things like Tae Kim’s Guide or your handy dandy text book, these sites focus on specific word to sentence look ups. Any more sites you know of, link them below! Any questions, Let me know! And if you made it this far, them my off the wall rambling today didn’t bother you 🙂

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Comments
11 Responses to “What is a Language and How to Find Sentences”
  1. Lan'dorien says:

    Very good post 🙂 another excellent source I’ve found is the http://tangorin.com/ dictionary. You can create vocabulary lists on there and export them to anki too, which is a nice touch.

    • mikotoneko says:

      So true, can’t believe i forgot to link this one. I suppose its because it was in my link folder for dictionaries and not in the sentence mining one. Oh wells, I’ll add it to the post once I’m done feeding the ol’ baby baby.

  2. アヤナ says:

    This helps me a lot. I had no idea of these sites. I’ve been looking for sites to go on to help me put sentences in Anki. I just started using Anki seriously since I got it on my iphone now. Thanks a lot.

  3. Simon Allan says:

    Hi, I’m one the admin of tatoeba.org , just to say that most of the 150 000 sentences of tangorin come from our project 🙂 http://tangorin.com/about/

    @アヤナ In tatoeba you can create list of sentences and then export them directly into an anki deck 🙂

    • mikotoneko says:

      Oh, I didn’t know you could export them into anki from tatoeba. That’s cool, thanks for letting me know, I’ll update it in the article, though I don’t see how, do you have to be a registered user before those options show up?

      • Simon Allan says:

        You need to be registered only if you want to create your own list.

        Otherwise :
        Step by step

        on the top menu

        Browse -> browse by list (click)
        you will see some (well, a lot ^^, it’s a bit messy we need to make some clean up as it list all users list, )
        choose a list (let’s say JLPT 1 Grammar Examples )
        http://tatoeba.org/eng/sentences_lists/show/174
        then download button (the big green one)

        and then you choose the option you want (with or without translation etc.)

        If you have other questions let me know 🙂

        by the way the main strength of tatoeba is the fact it’s community based, so you can add your own sentences, ask for translations, correct others etc.
        and you also can browse by tag, for example english proverbs http://tatoeba.org/eng/tags/show_sentences_with_tag/proverb/eng
        anyway glad you like it:)

      • mikotoneko says:

        Thanks for the info! that’ll really make things faster once I get the hang of it.

      • Simon Allan says:

        Oh and by the way, as tatoeba.org is a free / open source project, with the same free licence as Rhinospike, it’s totaly possible to ask Rhinospike’s users to record a sentence of tatoeba, and in the other way, to import a sentence of rhinospike in tatoeba to ask for translations (I really like when you can combine website to make usefull combo :))

  4. Suisei says:

    Sorry for posting a lot of questions on your blog but I’m new as a beginning learning on my own. ^^;

    So, would you recommend a beginner to do sentence mining? I mean, I’m still at the beginning at RTK and haven’t even worked on memorzing all my kana. I’m not sure if I should sentence mining right now and if I did make SRS cards, I wouldn’t be sure on what formats to use at first. 😦

    • PandaChan says:

      My opinion is to focus on your kanji for now. Perfect your learning method for the kanji. If you’re having trouble remembering the kanji, I don’t think sentence mining would be good yet.

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