Taking the world less travelled

Your Learning Style… Learning Japanese as Effectively and as Quickly as Possible!

Posted by on Jul 28, 2007 in Language | 1 comment

learningjapanese_bysmallandroundIn my previous post in this series I talked about what was involved in learning Japanese. It’s considered one of the most difficult languages you can learn for an English speaker, and can take considerably more hours to learn compared to other languages. That being said, you could argue that it is more rewarding when you make a step forward in the language, and when you break it down it isn’t as difficult as a lot of people can lead you to believe.

In this article I am going to be talking about different learning styles I have observed and how by knowing what your learning style is, learning Japanese (and anything else) can be easier, more fun and less frustrating.

What Do You Think Your Learning Style Is?

How do you think you learn best? Haven’t really thought about? Not many people do. I know I’m a-typical because I analyse way too much! Which is why I’m here to help.

Think back to your school days. If you’re still in school, lucky you, you don’t have to think too hard. Who was your favourite teacher and why? What classes did you learn the most in? What things did teachers do that you really hated? What class activities did you like?

For me, I really loved hand outs and filling in sheets. For me this meant something I could take home, look at later. I hated it when teachers would cover up an Overhead Transparencies (OHT), only revealing a bit of a time, same with PowerPoint Presentations that only reveal itself a line at a time. I really don’t like group work. I need to be doodling while listening, or taking notes.

There is a lot of learning styles to consider. Here are some:

The Big Four

I think the big four ones are listening, writing or reading, speaking. I use all four methods to learn, and I think this is a good method, but my trick is to work out which one is the most effective means for my memory and use it with all four. What I mean is, the way I best learn is through writing things down. I need to write things down to get them into my head.

So I listen to podcasts. And I take notes. I write what I hear. Transcripts are usually a must, and then I like to copy from the transcripts to really solidify my knowledge.

I read books, but I like to write down what I’m learning, take notes.

And of course, I watch dramas. But I’m writing down words I think I’m hearing, later to be checked in a dictionary for correct spelling.

All these methods are great, listening, reading, writing, watching… Hearing something in a song, for instance, is a great way to learn a new word as it can become associated with the song. I have learnt lots of new words this way. But for me I had to write them down first, it’s just the way I work. You should see how many note books I have… infact I’m planning (with the help of my new scrapbooking job!) to post some of my journal entries on line, so you can all laugh at how bad my scrapbooking skilz are, and how horrible I am at Japanese :)

My method of writing everything down is all well and good, but what if you are an aural learner or a visual learner? Well, if you are an aural learner, I would recommend getting yourself a voice recorder. Speak your notes out and then later listen to it. Visual learner? Browse the web for images that you can incorporate into your notes. Don’t know what on earth you are? Try it all until you get it right!

Do You Get The Big Picture?

Are you the type of person who has to take pens apart? I am. I just have to! My partner is ten times worse – he pulls apart play stations and computers and tvs. At least the things I pull apart aren’t as expensive!

I like to know how things work. For me to really understand something, I like to pull it apart, put it back together and really see the nuts and bolts of it. It applies to most things I encounter. I like to know the ins and outs of webpages, I love knowing the techniques authors use to cleverly create a fantastic book.

But I know other people don’t need this, or don’t even want to do this. To some people, knowing the ins and outs ruins movies, or just in general ruins the fun of something. Since fun is a big motivator in learning a language (or hell, in everything we do – who wants to do something that isn’t fun?) knowing what type of person you are in this regards may be crucial to your language learning experience.

Now, I would have to say that learning a bit of grammar when learning a language might be a help to some. But as you know, I’m a nuts and bolts girl, so perhaps I’m not seeing the world as a non-nuts person is. So, for people who are nuts like me, get out those grammar books, start learning everything there is to know about everything. In case you can’t tell, I read a lot. I’ve got so many books on Japanese (and a thousand other subjects), and many more on my wish list.

For other people, perhaps it would be best to just just straight into it and start learning, not worrying about what means what, what tense something is or whatever. You’re just going to learn it the way it is. One way to start is Pimsleur, and audio course. Another method highly recommended is Assimil, which is short for “assimilation”, to absorb the information. This sounds pretty cool to me, so I’m going to check it out. I’m thinking, as a nuts girl, I’m going to somehow modify the method to marry my need for the bolts with this method. I’m excited and can’t wait for it to arrive!

Basically, some people think that you don’t need grammar to learn a language, that it will all come to you unconsciously. I think they are right – for some people. Other people need them and I am one of those types of people.

Do You Fly Solo?

What’s your flying style? Do you hate group work or thrive in it? Personally? I can’t stand to work in a group, especially in an academic situation. I always find that I’m the one who takes on too much responsibility and that it would have just been easier for me to do it all on my own. I hate meetings where nothing gets done, I hate having to please a group when I’d rather just please myself – or hell, not please myself and I’d be less frustrated. No, group work is not for me. I fly solo.

On the other hand, I love teaching people. If I’m teaching people something, it often solidifies my own understanding of something. I guess I like being a leader in some sense.

I know other people love group work, so find yourself a class or get a group of people on the same level as you an work together to learn!

Another thing to think about is your motivation levels. Are you the type of person who gets things done right away or do you need a push? I’m someone who definitely needs a push! To counter this, taking Japanese at university gives me deadlines – I have to learn by a certain time or else I fail. Also, another method I’m using is this website. This website keeps me accountable. If I don’t work on my Japanese, I’m going to have to show that to the world. I plan to show more of my Japanese progress on this website for this very reason.

Peace and Quiet

kanjionthego Think of locations. Where do you work the best? Where are you more likely to get distracted?

I do most of my work at my desk, which probably isn’t the ideal situation for me as it is easy to get distracted. I have everything here, from books to internet to distract me. However, it has been the best place for me to learn, I find I do get more done than if I was at university, which I know is ironic as there isn’t much distraction there! I find it is because I can have music playing or a movie going in the background. I find I work best with noises in the background, but only certain types of noises. Dogs barking, people talking, not so much. But if it is music, it some how puts me in the zone. Other people I know need dead silence.

Some people like to work on the go. Other people don’t. I find I don’t work very well on the go, but if you do, buy yourself the tools to make yourself able to learn on the go – get your self mp3 players, palm pilots and other gear that will enable you to study easily anywhere.

Other Tips

  • Use Coloured Pens – different colours can make it easier to study. Plus they are way more fun than just black and blue
  • Study a little each day. It’s much easier to retain information this way than cramming it in once a week.
  • I know my learning style, yet I’m still stretching it, adapting it, pushing my limits. I figure, the more material I can have access to, no matter if it is audio, visual, or written, the better. I try and adapt everything to my own particular learning style to get the most out of it. You don’t have to follow instructions to a tee, they are only guidelines really, everyone is different.

As you can see, I don’t have any sophisticated terminology here, as everything here is all my own observations about learning styles. I am actually taking a course at university this semester about how second languages are learned, so I will definitely be talking about what other people have researched and discovered in future articles. However, I hope you all get something out of this article. My next article in this series will be about where to begin when starting to learn Japanese; what I think and what others think.

Images used in this post are:
Learning Japanese by smallandround
Palm Proxy by Ric E Ette


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One Comment

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  1. john turningpin

    If you’re a nuts-and-bolts person, then — if it isn’t already a part of your Japanese language-resource library — I would highly recommend 日本語文型辞典, which (as you can tell from the title) is a grammar dictionary with plenty of grammatical notes and sample sentences. It’s all in Japanese. A bilingual resource would be the Duo series of books, which consist of sample English sentences, breakdowns of the grammar and vocab, and then finally a Japanese rendering of the sentence. I’ve found both to be great resources.

    Thanks for the recent well-wishes, and hope all’s going well on your end as well!

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