Taking the world less travelled

Posts Tagged "vocabulary"

Breathing Again

Posted by on Mar 16, 2010 in Writing | 3 comments

There is a common saying out there for writers that writing is like breathing. It’s just apart of who you are, it’s something that you have to do… There are many people out there who are like, “oh yeah, I want to write a book.” I don’t get those people. I don’t understand how you can be nonchalant about it. For me, writing is something I HAVE TO DO. I have an urge. It drives me…

Well, it did until about 2007. I’m not sure. Maybe I was burnt out? Maybe I just needed a break. But suddenly the cravings, the drive went away.

This is when I started learning Japanese. Japanese was my new drug. I don’t think I pursued Japanese with the lust and desire that I did with writing, but I kept up at it, and it filled my time.

Lately…. lately I feel the hunger return in me. I am still studying Japanese – although at the moment it is more of a back burner approach – I’m reading books and “studying” new words in Anki. That’s about it. I’m wanting to once again tackle the Nihongo 500 Mon / 日本語500問 book that I talked about in my Best of 2009 article. It’s going to be school holidays and I think I just want to race through the book and see what holes I have left in my basic understanding of Japanese.

Never the less, in the past couple of days, I’ve been breathing again. I don’t know where this will take me, but I’m in the planning stages of writing a book, and the characters are beginning to really jump out at me. I am still trying to work out some WHYs, trying to add in some conflict, but I’m building a solid beginning and have some ideas about the ending. I hope I will continue to work on this one with hopefully having it finished by the end of the year.

No rush. I’m just enjoying the air. I’m breathing again.

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Why books for 10 year olds are easier than books for 5 year olds

Posted by on Mar 1, 2010 in Language | 20 comments

Previously I’ve posted about Japanese children’s stories and also websites intended for Japanese children. At the time I was experimenting with children’s books but the experience ultimately left me a bit frustrated. The vocabulary (both content and the fact it was mostly hiragana) was difficult and the content was a bit juvenile (while stories about shrinking and flying on the back of a bug through a forest may sound interesting, for me I want to read more in depth stories where I get to know characters). And of course the fact that these stories are for five to seven year olds is a bit disheartening – they can read it but I can’t?? type feelings.

But don’t worry. There is something better out there! And easier. Yes, easier. Even though the books are intended for older children, I have found stories aimed at around 10 year olds (guessing from the age of the main characters being around 9 to 13 years old) are actually easier.

Why are they easier?

  • More kanji, less hiragana. While you may not know many kanji, it is still ten times easier to read a book with kanji than without. The good thing is that all kanji in books for 10 year olds have furigana – the only kanji I’ve seen without furigana are numbers, and if you don’t know your numbers you probably can’t read the book anyway.
  • Longer and more complex stories. How is this easier for you? Well, they take more time developing the characters and setting the scene. This is good because if you can only understand the book at a surface level it is easier to follow the story along. I found my books for younger children dove right into the “action”, things happened, and then it was over. Where are books for older children, you get more of an idea of setting, there is more dialogue (which I find easier than prose having been exposed to a lot of dramas) and the story is more enticing.
  • More enjoyable. This goes with longer and more complex stories. I have never been one to enjoy short stories, with few exceptions, and I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that the same is true for Japanese stories.

Another great point is the start seems exceptionally easy because it deals with introductions. While the stories for younger children went right into the action, longer stories seem to start of with a self introduction of the main character, and then early on the character meets new characters which means more introductions. I don’t know about you, but self introductions was one of the first things I learnt in Japanese, and now I’m a pro at it. A self introduction scene in a drama is a scene I understand. Same with books. It is very encouraging opening up a book and understanding it at the start. It is better for your moral for something to start easy, giving you confidence to tackle the harder stuff.

Reading improved my English. I am a big reader and I know that I have a better grasp of grammar and punctuation than most (those who don’t read) even if I leave little evidence of that on my blog! I think that lots of reading will improve my Japanese. It’s harder to get into than dramas because with drams you have so much visual guide to help you. However, the advantages over books is you can go slower, look up unknown words and thus actually understand more than you do of the quick spoken dialogues in dramas. I am excited to finally be able to read REAL Japanese and hopefully soon I’ll be able to move up the age groups and into books without furigana, eventually onto books for adults.

Look out on my blog soon for tips and techniques to get into reading real novels so you can get into it faster than what I have. Learn from my mistakes (or at least, be able to evaluate what I went through and get some ideas on how you can adapt them for yourself!)

If you are interested in my other reading adventures, check out my manga reading adventures, and more specifically reading Hana Kimi

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Don’t Review Sentences in Your SRS

Posted by on Feb 24, 2010 in Language | 14 comments

After a brief love affair with smart.fm (who look like they have actually improved a lot since I last used them – good to know for if/when I go back!), I’ve been back with anki a little while now.

One thing I haven’t done in a gazillion years is reviewing sentences. I think perhaps reviewing sentences has its merits but it has never worked for me. I am too focused on trying to remember unfamiliar vocabulary than the really pay attention to how the sentence is put together. In other words, I may remember the vocab and know how to read the sentence, but it doesn’t help me much with remembering/noticing what particle was used, for instance, or how to put the sentence together as a whole.

What it does do is take a lot of time.

OK, so it has never been promised that reviewing sentences in Anki passively would help with actively producing sentences (where I would need to know what particle goes there etc). However, reading and understanding sentences – I can do that by reading books. I can do that by reading manga. I can do that by reading websites, etc. I can even do that by reading textbooks. In other words, where was the source of the sentence? That’s where I can read it…

What is stopping me from reading it there? For me it is a lack of vocabulary. So, I need to work on vocab. Therefore, I review single words.

What are the advantages from reviewing sentences? Is it to check that you can understand a whole sentence, with each individual word in context? Sure. But… you can check that while you are reading the original source. If you don’t understand a sentence… why? Is it vocab? Is it grammar? Is it something else? That something is what you need to study, not all the extra information as well.

Simple Is Easy

Supermemo’s guide to formulating knowledge in learning is a great resource to look over when you are building your SRS deck. One point is that simple is easy. You learn faster with simple things because you only have to focus on one thing.

Another thing to think about is why Remembering the Kanji is such a popular method. It’s because it breaks learning the kanji down into baby steps. You learn how to write the kanji (with a simple idea of meaning) and nothing else. You then learn how to read and pronounce the kanji using other methods. By breaking down the process into small steps it is easier to climb the big mountain that is Japanese.

This is why I review vocab in my SRS.


What do you review in your SRS?

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Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Goals of 2010

Posted by on Jan 6, 2010 in Life | 4 comments


I’ve been keeping a record of my Japanese progress since the end of October 2009. It’s been a very good motivator, and also good to see where I devote my time. Or where I don’t. I may be (am) weird, but I enjoy trying to reach my goals and beat them in this very visual way.

With that said, I want to set some over all goals for the new year. So that I can kick them in the butt! Or fail miserably…

Let’s see…

GoddessCarlie’s Goals of 2010!

  • Have a large passive vocabulary in Japanese and be working on turning that into an active vocabulary.
  • Vocabulary. It feels like my biggest weakness right now. Has been for a while. And there are many problems with learning vocabulary. For instance, it never seems like a fun thing to do. The results can be rewarding, for sure, but the act itself is never fun. Right now I’m using smart.fm and I’ll continue to do that until that method becomes tedious and I’ll find a new way.
    Another problem is that there isn’t really a good way that I’ve found for me to get things into my active memory. I have to come across words in several different ways before they really stick. Sometimes words are easier than others, but other times I find myself looking up words that should be easy again and again. The only thing I can do is to just keep exposing myself to the language and when the words stick they stick…
    As for a specific number, well I figure as I get closer to that elusive number it wont matter so much – the number is the number I need to understand what I want to understand. However, a specific number gives me something solid to aim for, so right now I’d like to aim for a passive amount of words – 10,000. We’ll see how I go!
    As for a starting point – right now I’d guess my number of words known is about 3000.

  • Work on my listening skills
  • My listening skills have definitely improved since moving to Japan. I want to further take advantage of the situation I’m in right now and really work on my listening skills. I plan on working from books/CDs, as well as from “real” Japanese – podcasts, tv, movies, and people. I hope that by increasing my vocab and developing my listening skills I’ll be able to work my way up to understanding 99% of simple dramas like My Girl, and hopefully 75-80% of fast speaking dramas like Tokyo Dogs.
    As for something quantifyable – I hope to build my listening skills up so that I can understand JLPT level 2 dialogue. I’m secretly hopeful I can exceed that but at the same time I don’t know if I am asking too much in a year or not…

  • To be able to read fantasy novels for adults
  • It’s my favourite genre in English and I love drams like this too. I want to be able to read novels aimed at Japanese adults, even if they are only light and fluffy (hell, they are the best kinds of books!) I don’t know what else to say about this… this is one of my ultimate goals in learning Japanese and I hope that I can fulfil this wish in 2010!

    As for non Japanese related goals:

  • Live healthily. Live happily
  • Live with no regrets. Most people regret the things they didn’t do rather than the things they did do, so do everything I get the chance to do!!

Talk about your goals in the comments area! Remember, aim high! Expect more and you never know where you may end up!

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Going Gung-ho – November 2009

Posted by on Nov 29, 2009 in Language | 14 comments

Progress Where did the time go? It’s been over a month since I last posted, and I’ll tell you where I’ve been. Right here on the computer! Since the 19th of October 2009, I’ve spent 89 hours studying Japanese.

Some of you may know nanowrimo – an event which takes part in November where you attempt to write 50,000 words in a month. My goal of November was something similar, I wanted to see if I could attempt to study for 100 hours during November. The outcome is I’ll probably just be a little short of 70 hours, but I’m pretty happy with that! Next month I’m aiming for 80 hours – it might be a bit harder because it’s the holiday season but we’ll see how I go!

What follows is a long breakdown of what I’ve been up to during November!

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