Studying Japanese Grammar

Okay, so what can I learn from the previous book’s study?

  1. I gotta keep track of my studying.
  2. I study better in the morning when my brain has had some rest.
  3. For this grammar, I think I will need a minimal amount of translating. I should only really point out the grammar and the simple explanation if needed.

I’ll keep track of it everyday. In a notebook. And also on the blog. But the blog posts must be kept short and sweet. I can’t spend an hour writing a blog post and another hour editing it. 😛

Also I want to combine it with extensive and semi-intensive reading. I should also keep track of this as well. The reading can be done in the evening. It’s simple and relaxing. My brain doesn’t need to be working that hard at night after a long day of work. 🙂

And again, here’s the book I’ll be using:


That’s all for now.

漢字単語のドリル Kanji Vocabulary Drills: After thoughts

Okay, so I’ve finished the 漢字単語のドリル book. Now it’s onto bigger and badder things.

But before that, let’s just take a look back at what I did.

I didn’t keep great records of exactly when I did this, and when I started, so much of it is from memory. I think I started somewhere in the beginning of February and finished this weekend.

日本語単語のドリル 2級

Why did I do this?

I know that I had been aching to improve my vocabulary for quite some time. I had been going over the extensive readers, but I wanted something more to really expand my proficiency in Japanese. My fluency is pretty smooth… until I come across something I don’t know.  This is why expanding my proficiency is so important.

So what did I do? I wanted to look for more ways to increase my proficiency. That meant getting some materials for grammar and vocabulary. So I started looking for how people passed the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).

Luckily I stumbled upon this great article about how he passed the JLPT 2kyuu using SuperMemo. It’s a good read. I got a few of the books that he used. This includes the one this blog post is about. And now I’m looking at it again for the next step (improving my grammar).

What did I do?

I added all of the vocabulary into Anki. And then I translated and added the example sentences into Anki. And everyday I would review that as well. So a lot of grinding, and translating. In fact, It took me a painstakingly long time to finish the Kanji-Vocab book.

What took me so long?

Why did it take me so long? Good question… Now thinking about it, I would say it had to do with:

  1. Grammar was out of reach for many sentences. Imagine trying to translate long sentences when you haven’t seen the grammar before. You have to translate somehow. And sometimes there’s not a great way to translate. You’re always losing something in the translation, or it comes off as strange and hard to read if you translate everything literally.
  2. There was just a lot of Japanese that I hadn’t been exposed to. It was all new for me.
  3. I translated each one as best I could mostly by myself, with some help from other people. (Thank the stars for my patient fiance).
  4. It was mentally exhausting.
  5. I had no set schedule or anything. I just did as much as I could until I got really tired. And then I burned out.
  6. My schedule didn’t revolve around my studying. It was the other way around for the most part.
  7. I got really behind on my reps and didn’t do them for a few weeks. Maybe three weeks? I didn’t really keep track.
  8. I didn’t really keep track, until the end.
  9. I was doing all sorts of other things. My focus and attention were in other places.

I guess you gotta be honest with yourself in your evaluation. There were times where I just got burnt out and didn’t really add any new ankicards.

I for sure wasn’t consistent. But I made sure to keep up with the reviews, except for that time where I didn’t as mentioned above.

That grammar, though. Sometimes I couldn’t understand the meaning of the sentence at all. Sometimes the example sentences had vocabulary that was not in the book (but still kind of rare to see) or the vocabulary was featured in later chapters in the book. (sometimes much later, near the end of the book!)

Maybe If I had had formal training or taken classes in Japanese at University, I might have gotten through this thing faster. Obviously my Japanese foundation is haphazardly put together. With a formally built up foundation, perhaps thing would have been different.

But it doesn’t matter. I’m just really glad I went through the book and continue to review the cards in the deck. Sometimes, I’ll just forget a word by itself, but in context It’ll be there for my brain to bring it up. Although slowly. Very slowly.

Also much of the vocabulary is very intangible. You can’t point to things like 復習 or  調整 or  次第.   You can describe them well in context, but it still takes time to acquire these, and much more time and experience to really master the meaning of these words out in the wild. When do I use 復習する and when should I use 勉強する? Are they interchangeable? I guess that will have to come with more experience, right?

What did I get out of it?

Okay, I have to say, I’m glad I stayed the course and plowed through this book. It greatly increased my understanding and my vocabulary. And I know that I still have a long way to go. There’s just so many words to learn. And there’s so many ways to use them.

I especially notice in my thinking and my listening skills. I will pick out words that I’ve learned in the book and understand them! Great! It’s working! But I still need to keep up the learning.  These things must be overlearned and over practiced. You need to build stronger experiences in order for it to come to the mind quicker.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been able to read things online more easily with the vocabulary and the kanji drilling. I’ve been able to read my extensive readers more easily. Anime and songs have been easier to understand. I can actually feel a difference. I can feel my improvement. There is a payoff that is somewhat satisfying.

And again, it only leaves me wanting more. I know that I must know more. The further I go, the longer the road looks to the top. But I know that I’m stronger now.

Onward and upward.

Why Ajatt is Half Wrong

For those of you who don’t know, there is a wonderful glorious site that I found when I was searching for exactly how to study Japanese. This was way back in 2010 when I figured that I needed to somehow get the perfect path to fluency in Japanese.

It’s a great site with great articles. I suggest you go and read some of them. It really helped me stay motivated and push through RTK1. It also helped me think differently about learning a language.

However, there are a lot of misguided views. These views have good intentions and they will work fine for someone who doesn’t really need to learn Japanese seriously. But, let me just address a few views from Khatzumoto’s (the author) writings:

 1.   “Learn from Anime and whatever you like and you’ll be fine.”

This is all well and good, but how much are you understanding? Sure you will be more motivated to learn from things that you like, but more likely than not it will be frustrating and painful. Unless you are absolutely brainwashed and strong-willed, I don’t see this working much for you by starting with only native materials that you like.

In fact, I tried it myself. Especially with photography books and magazines. And admittedly It’s great! It’s wonderful! I was one of those strong-willed people who could push through the pain. But only up to a certain point. I realized that I was slowly slowly plowing through the vocabulary trying to understand meaning. It was like hiking in shoes that were much too big for me. Sure I could do it, but it took time to climb up the mountain. And it wasn’t the best way.

Learning from native materials really disregards the main point about comprehensible input. You can’t acquire much language without understanding. You can’t stand without a foundation.

An anime that I used to watch almost every day when I was first learning was very hard to understand at first. This is even after I watched it with English dubs. But after a few months of studying I could understand bits and pieces here and there. And I said, “Hey! It’s working! It’s working!” All of that studying had paid off. The textbooks, and the language exchanges, and the sentence-mining. It wasn’t watching just the anime over and over again that was working, though. Did it help? Yeah it did, but it didn’t help that much compared to the other things I was doing. Mostly because I had no foundation to stand on.

Because I was doing things I liked, it made the language that I was learning more important to me. But because it was mostly incomprehensible, I didn’t learn much from it. Only after I learned those bits of Japanese from other places did I begin to understand and acquire the language.

You need learner materials to get up to an intermediate-advanced level before you can really advance onto native materials. Sorry, Khatz. You have to crawl before you can run in a marathon.

2. “Textbooks and classes suck. The real world is your classroom/textbook.”

This goes along with number one. A few hours studying from a textbook will give you better results than a few hours watching a Japanese drama without subtitles (or even with subtitles.)

When I was working in Boston, I belonged to a Japanese-English language exchange club. This is a great place to meet people and truly learn things. When we talked to each other we used simple language. Learner language. The way your mother would talk to you when you were 3. This isn’t full native language from a newscaster. This is CI. Comprehensible input.

It’s hard to get CI as an adult because most people don’t have the time or patience for you. Who does have the time and patience? Teachers, tutors, and also some people at language exchanges. 🙂

On some weeks I wouldn’t go to the language exchange, because I knew that I could gain more by going home and studying so I would have something to say at the meetups.

Sometimes I would go to the meetup with questions and books that I was trying to translate. But you can only ask for help so many times. Not everyone wants to be a free tutor.  And you just have to respect that. That’s why, often times the langauge exchange turns into free talking. And unless you’re better at Japanese than they are at English, it’s going to turn into a free talking English meet-up.

Here’s the thing. Ajatt is half right about learning from the real world. The real world tells the brain it’s more important to know and retain. So when  you’re learning from people or the real world, it may be slower, but it will be stronger. That’s why I think classes are still great. It’s people that you learn from.

And again, most language classes are taught poorly with little to no regard for CI techniques. Mostly, you’ll see some form of grammar translation, or even worse, a communicative approach based “learn this dialog and practice with your partner.” What nonsense.

It’s also hard to find good textbooks to learn from on your own. Even with a good textbook it’s far better to have a tutor or teacher helping you. Otherwise you’ll likely morph things like pronunciation, or grammatical things to fit your own English grammar.

So classes and textbooks don’t suck. Bad classes and bad textbooks suck.

If you find a good class and good textbook, then it will help you understand and learn from the real world much better. A good class and good textbook helps you tear down that wall of the outside world.

How do I know all this?

Because that’s what’s been happening to me. I started out watching things without subs, and just reading things without understanding anything and doing whatever I wanted all Ajatt style. But you know what? It sucked. It was slow and painful. It was like running a marathon without training.

And now, I’ve been training with learner materials. Drilling vocabulary and soon drilling grammar.

I’ll also read easy graded things for myself too. I have a huge set of graded readers. And lots of manga and other books.

And also, I talk to people. In Japanese.

Even though I’m here in Korea, I’ve built up my ability to hold a conversation for a few hours in Japanese with very little help. I can’t say the same for my Korean, though. My Korean is barely functional at best.

Other Suggestions?

During my time here in Korea, I have learned some excellent methods for learning languages.

1. German Volume Method.

Do a Youtube search for it. It’s very intensive and takes a while, but it’s great for studying with a tutor or by yourself. It focuses on really building a strong foundation. It is very “left-brained” and based on over-learning, but there are ways to add “right-brained” learning.

2. TPRS. Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling

It’s great if you can find a class or a tutor who can do this with you. It really focuses on being fluent first. I had the pleasure of taking 12 Mandarin Chinese classes with an excellent tutor. You start out with simple grammar and words, and build a foundation piece by piece with compelling stories that the teacher/tutor creates with you.

3. WAYK/Langauge Hunting.

This was developed to help revitalize endangered languages. It’s not really taught as much as it is “played”. I want to say it’s almost how a mother plays with a baby and teaches it language.  It’s very good for learning functional language. And there is very little translation so it is very “right-brained.”

Final thoughts

Now just to be clear, occasionally I’ll watch YouTube videos that are semi-comprehensible and fun to watch. I’m not saying don’t watch anime, or if you watch funny YouTube videos in Japanese you’re doing it wrong. Not at all. Enjoy Japanese. But if you do serious study, you give yourself the opportunity to enjoy those funny videos even more. And I can tell you that’s the truth of it from my first hand experience.

You remember that anime that I mentioned? The one that I watched everyday for months over and over again? Well, after going through vocab books, tutoring, textbooks, and other learner materials, I can say that I understand a whole lot more. There are many little phrases in the anime here and there that I don’t understand.

But that’s okay. The thing is I didn’t realize I didn’t understand it. Before when I was first learning Japanese I just kind of blocked those things out. But now I know what I don’t understand. And I know those things will come to me with more studying from learner materials, tutoring and talking to people in Japanese.

Okay, time for some more studying.

漢字単語のドリル最終の日をみえるよ!I can see the last day of the Kanji Vocab drill book!

I’m finding myself doing better and better.

I know I still need a lot more vocabulary, but this book has been a good starting point for me.

I’ll be quite proud of myself If I finish the book tomorrow. I have about 7 pages left. It’s doable, but I think that Friday is more practical depending on how busy I am tomorrow.

I’m wicked looking forward to the grammar book. The example sentences are not translated either. So it will take some more time, but the vocabulary isn’t out of my reach. Maybe there will be a word that I don’t know every 5th sentence or so. The main focus is on the grammar point.

The thing is there are like 5 or 6 examples for each grammar point, so there will be lots of practice. There is a simple explanation and a detailed one in the book too. And that is in English, which is nice.

And again, I know that I won’t understand a lot of vocab even after I finish the grammar book.

Again the plan is to do extensive and semi-intensive reading after I finish the grammar book. I don’t really have an estimate for the grammar book, but I don’t want it to take more than 2 months. I should be faster at this. Should I take the time to explicitly translate?

I’m thinking not. Just the words that I don’t know and the grammar point should suffice. If I really get stuck, perhaps I’ll have to explicitly translate the whole thing and throw it in the SRS.

Anyways, that’s all for today. Gotta get some sleep.

Almost there! Stay on Target!

I’m almost finished with the book. I got sidetracked a little bit, but still feeling good about my pace.

On Saturday, I worked at a special program in the morning, and then I hung out with friends at the beach until 10:30pm. Yeah it was just one of those kinds of days.

Yesterday, I just felt awful, but I still managed to study and add a few pages into Anki from the book.

Today was my best day. I got some good sleep the night before, and I exercised with a low impact fast paced walk before and after work today. It really got my energy and mind up in the right spot. I stayed focused and did my reviews while learning new words.

Now I have 13 more pages left to study from the book. If I take it easy, I should finish the book by thursday.

I can’t believe it took me so long. But I got sidetracked so many times, and I did other things too. There was a month where I didn’t do any reviews or anything and it just kept on piling up. But I’m glad I stuck with it and mounted it. Now it’s a sprint to the finish line.

After this? On to the grammar book! YAY!

Plenty of examples to get practice with, and it has all of the grammar that you’ll need for all of the JLPT levels.

After that book?

I’m going to take a month for reading all of the graded readers that I have. I’ll also be doing semi-intensive reading during that time too. Just with the easy science books for kids. I bought so many of them from amazon in January, and I’ve only made it through one of the books. It’s super interesting and fun to read!

After that month? More vocabulary. I’ll study with the book that my fiancee’s mother bought me in the book store. YAY!

Okay. It’s almost 9 and I’m tired. Nighty night, ya’ll!