Spring Into Focus

New season, new growth.

New year, new season, new growth.

I’ve always felt that spring should mark the new year. It is after all the first season of the year, and one that marks renewal and freshness. March is the month that spring begins, and what better time to develop new ways to focus on your goals. To find out what turn in the path to take next, I first looked at my greatest weakness: kanji readings. It’s one thing to know what a set of characters means, but how is it pronounced? I find knowing this really adds to the fluidity of reading things like stories or articles. In the past, I’d turned to Read The Kanji for this, but eventually stopped because of a few drawbacks. The biggest thing was trouble with long or short vowels. I may have actually known the reading, but not always if it was じょう vs. じょ for example. This lead to a lot of frustration and repeatedly seeing the same compounds despite more or less knowing the word. So it may surprise you to find out that ReadTK is exactly what I have come back to in order to practice my kanji readings. It’s all thanks to realizing the power of the IME…


An IME, which stands for Input Method Editor, is how Japanese is typed with a regular QWERTY keyboard. You just type in the romanization of whatever word you want, and the popup list you see above gives you all the words with the same spelling. Normally ReadTK has its own built in Japanese keyboard, which does not bring up a list like the one above. But unlike iKnow.jp for example, it will still accept input from your operating system’s IME. In the image above, I typed in 情報, which is pronounced じょうほう. Had I typed in じょほ, じょうほ or any other incorrect reading, then 情報 would not have turned up. So while the IME won’t tell me what the answer is on ReadTK, it can certainly tell me what it is not. This has taken a lot of headache away, so I’m really back into it full swing! Looking further down the path, there was something else I wanted to include…

610Ij6-W5sL._SL500_I wouldn’t say grammar is one of my weak points, but there is certainly a lot more I need to know, especially if I want to carry out my summer reading plans (more on this later.) In addition to using Nihon Shock’s grammar sheets, I’ve started using grammar flash cards in Anki, based on actual published books. I’ve started with this one based on the JLPT-N3 level of Nihongo So-Matome, and once that’s completed (which is soon) I’ll add a deck based on the ever-useful All About Particles. I already find myself picking up on these grammatical elements when reading manga or playing video games.

Zoo August 2008 141

As I mentioned earlier, what I want to do over the summer is really focus on tadoku (extensive reading) and even get more into monolingual studies, so I think polishing up these two skills will go a long way to get me moving with even more vigor. For now, it’s time to spring into focus!

10 Responses to “Spring Into Focus”
  1. Cassandra says:

    Hello! I came across your blog while looking for Japanese study methods. I’ve had fun poking around your website. 🙂 I’ve heard about the Tadoku challenge but have not yet participated. I’ll be interested to read more about your summer reading plans when you post!

    • Delenir says:

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy it 🙂 there are currently 3 writers for the blog. Where are you in your Japanese studies right now? 🙂

      • Cassandra says:

        I am finally at the point where I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone. 😉 I’ve been a beginner for ages and I’m trying to break into intermediate level. It’s been three years since I started but I’ve been taking it easy for too long (too much review, not enough new material). I’m strongest at reading Japanese and am starting to exchange emails with a girl in Japan who is learning English. Listening comprehension is so-so and I’ve had no practice speaking.

        I’ve heard great things about monolingual study and hope to take that plunge sooner rather than later! Good luck with your switch over to monolingual!

    • mikotoneko says:

      Hello! Thanks for visiting our blog, and hope you stick around. the Tadoku challenge is a great way to start branching into monolingual. The more you do it, the more you’ll naturally come across words (like srs) and it will reinforce in your memory a lot more than random SRS reps would. Another great thing about it is, it allows you to take in grammar a lot more. We don’t remember doing these things with English, but it is how we did it. As for you wish to go monolingual and improve your listening and speaking, I recommend a few things. Going monolingual seems scary, you can branch into this by learning a lot of smaller descriptive words, you can start to see a trend of words that are commonly used to explain other words, and will help propel you forward. Just like in English, if you looked at a definition, and didn’t understand a new word, we looked that one up too, so much work! But worth it. BlackDragonHut is a great twitter user who can testify how great Tadoku is for Japanese.There are great ways to get listening and interacting in. you can go to a site like Verbling, you can find Japanese speakers through Skype and Google Video too. There is nothing like sitting in a conversation and listening to a lot of people though, and for listening, especially if you like gaming, there are tons of users that talk in groups when playing games like Minecraft together. Youtube is awesome for that. (Hope this wasn’t to long a read!)

      • Cassandra says:

        Thank you so much for the advice! I do want to switch to monolingual but it is very overwhelming. I read a definition and only understand a small part of it. Look one of those words up and only understand part of that definition. lol. When you suggest learning words commonly used to explain other words, is there an “easy” way to go about identifying those more common words? Or would Core2000/6000 be a better approach to learn vocab?

        Also, one more question if you don’t mind. 🙂 For the Tadoku challenge, do you read without looking anything up? Or do you make notes of what you don’t understand to look up later? I think right now, in order for me to read without a dictionary in hand, I have to stick with children’s materials and even then it’s not 100% comprehension.

        I love knowing some Japanese while knowing that I still have a LOT to learn. lol

      • mikotoneko says:

        Monolingual is very daunting. Lots of people, including myself, have feared it, because we’ve been using English as a saftey crutch for so long. As for the words commonly used, think about english for a moment. Look up a word like running, smile, happy and so on, and you’ll notice the use of words over and over, especially descriptive words. Perhaps I’ll write an article for a mid between of the two, how to make the transition over a little less scary. One thing to remember is though, you will make mistakes on understanding, but we did that in English too, so cut yourself some slack! hehe, as for tadoku, the idea is to look nothing up. some people do, but I personally do not. I usually read elementary stuff and below if I want to really understand what’s going on, otherwise, I do read way to advanced for me manga, but I just can’t help it, its to damn good. I also tend to read a lot of websites, using a randomizing site. ultimately though, I will say this, when I started using Japanese to propel Japanese, I found myself far more motivated and found so much more to watch, read, and listen to.

  2. Delenir says:

    It’s difficult to get past, I think I’m finally climbing that wall myself. I’m able to read stuff like Yotsuba& and get a good deal of it.

  3. Cassandra says:

    “Perhaps I’ll write an article for a mid between of the two, how to make the transition over a little less scary.”

    Yes, please! 🙂 This is something that I would eager to read about!

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  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
    Total read for Tadoku:
    __433.3 pages!__
    Placement: 115/188
    October 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 97/120
    End Tally: 59.2
    July 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 86/142
    End Tally: 195.6
    April 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 62/106
    End Tally: 154.5
    January 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 84/99
    End Tally: 24
    August 2010 Contest:
    Placement: 20/41
    End Tally: 160

  • Read Or Die 2013

    Goal: 600
    Total: 906.26
    blew my goal outta the water!

    March 2-Week:
    Goal: 125

    Goal: 250
    Total: 314

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