Updates and Things I’ve Learned from My Mother-in-Law

What’ve I been up to?

I’ve been off of Extensive reading for quite some time now.

It’s been quite hard. I’ve done a little bit of intensive/extensive reading here and there in Japanese, but I’ve mostly been focused on other things. I got really caught up in playing Magic the Gathering over the past few months, and I did extremely well considering jumping back into it after such a long time of not playing. There are quite a few Korean and foreign players here in Ulsan and Busan. We meet up almost every Saturday and play Commander.

I picked up the special Japanese edition Chandra vs. Jace duel decks. And I’ve learned quite a bit of Japanese by reading through the cards/translating and playing in Japanese. In Japanese I feel the language is much more logical. It’s very similar to Korean Magic cards, but even more logical/step by step.

I’ll do some more postings on MTG here and there on the blog.

Other updates:

I started the Kanji book and Grammar book almost over a year ago, and I haven’t touched them much since the summer. I’ve been mainly trying to keep up with Anki. I don’t know how else I can progress with this unless I just keep on tracking it here on the blog. Those have been the times when I’ve seen the most gains.

Hangeul Type Attack

A few of you have been asking about Hangeul Type Attack, and it’s down for now. I know those of you who’ve been asking for it and who’ve been really sad to see it gone. I’ve been working on learning more Javascript and recently Python. There are plans to make a downloadable cross-platform python version with updated graphics and videos. As I’m still teaching in Korea, I can’t sell this software or have advertising to fund development. So this is just a hobby/project where I can’t sink much money into it. I’ll post progress on this item as well. It could very well be an open source project which could help further development.


A few years back I tried to do a learning Korean Vlog where I said I’d be fluent in a year. This was mainly to keep me in check so that I could learn Korean with some motivation. But it was hard work keeping up a channel and I was starting to realize that it would take more than a year without significant help from other people and study time. In other words, I just burnt out and spun my wheels. Nowadays I still use Korean in daily life for simple functional things and sometimes in the workplace. I have barely any accent, which is tough because the native speaker thinks I know more vocabulary than I actually do.

I’ve decided to give video making a try again. Over the years, I’ve gotten more confident in my voice and presentation working as a teacher. I have a lot of ideas to share, and I might as well share them on YouTube.

Studying for the JLPT

I’m planning on taking it next December instead of July, but I should aim for being ready by July. That means more vocabulary and grammar drilling with Anki.

I know, this is the opposite of Extensive Reading. Studying vocab involves a lot of translation and takes a lot of time and processing power in my mind. But I’ve seen great gains in my ability by doing this for extended periods of time. I noticed a dramatic increase in my proficiency last spring and summer going to Japan and speaking with my in-laws, and people around in Japan.

Also, I could read a lot more Kanji. The meaning and reading would come up in my head, and I didn’t know how I knew it! Obviously I had studied it (but I didn’t remember explicitly studying it).

That’s what it’s like to progress. You go through so much that you don’t even know that you’re acquiring language. That may also be why I’ve been off and on for so long. I’m just not feeling the fruits of my labor as much. I think it also might be due to the fact that I’ve been involved in other activities and not been into Japanese media as much as I used to be. (but I really want to get back into it!!!)

Back to Basics Extensive Reading

I had a realization the other day while talking to my dear mother-in-law. I talk with her once a week in English so she can get some English conversation practice. She’s been recently following an NHK radio program (or TV program? I don’t remember). It comes with a magazine that you can buy for the program to follow along and study at home.

And you know what? It’s quite difficult!

It’s almost native material with big words and so-called “real” English. Which is fine. But… she takes a long time to read through these things. She said to me (in Japanese) that she knows what each individual word means, and sometimes what each sentence means, but the whole paragraph or article is much harder to understand.

And I said, “Yeah, you studied many words individually in school and in other places using the dictionary. You have a great proficiency. But you don’t know the language deeply.”

My father-in-law (who speaks pretty good ‘Business English’) said to me, “Maybe she is a 5 year old in English? Or 4 year old in English?”

And that struck me as being just plain wrong. My mother-in-law is not a 4-year old or 5-year old. If you listen to the speech of a 4 or 5 year old. It’s very fast. It flows. They are fluent. But they don’t use big words like the ones in the NHK English program.

Not only do they not use these words, they don’t understand complex concepts. They don’t even know about the concept of GRAVITY! They are still trying to count to 100 and tie their shoes the right way. I remember when I was very young, I thought that things fell down because they had nothing to support them. I didn’t think there was an invisible force pulling things toward each other. The concept hadn’t even occurred to me at 5 years old.

And yet, they are fluent. Kindergarteners can talk to each other and play house. Some can even read picture books! They know the language deeply and they can process simple language fast. They even make up language! Sure they make mistakes in grammar and understanding, but boy do they quickly learn and grow out of those ‘little kid mistakes.’

My mother-in-law is not fluent. It takes her time to process words and for words to come up in her head. But she knows lots of words and their meaning. She doesn’t always know how to use them. When she comes across a bunch of big words, she still has to process them and translate them in her head. That all takes time and mental effort. By the time she’s done reading and understanding a page of text in English she is exhausted! And she has the right to be! She worked hard!

A little kid will be processing language much faster and simple language at that. They will socialize with adults and peers as well as receive input from media. (usually children’s media).

So I told my mother-in-law all of this. She wants to improve her listening comprehension. And in order to do this, she needs to improve her processing speed. How can we do this?

Simply through extensive reading. Getting a lot of understandable English that is interesting and engaging is crucial to growing the mind. All the stress and hard work by going through these NHK English programs isn’t harmful, but it’s far from optimal. Those are designed for those with a decent ‘business’ fluency who can pick up an English teen novel and read it within a week or two without much use of the dictionary. It’s not suitable for my mother-in-law.

Which is why I did a little more reading up on the research that supports Extensive reading and decided to start and track it here again. Starting over from 1 isn’t a bad idea, either. Also, I’ve acquired many simple readers that I can safely jump into after all of the extensive readers are run through.

That’s the update for now. Check back here soon for more updates.

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.

New year post, diet, exercise, and study

Happy 2014 everyone! This year is gonna kick butt!

Today I did 1 hour and 3 minutes studying via the Volume method, and 25 minutes extensive reading.

I seem to be doing it late at night. I’ll try to get an earlier start tomorrow.

I’m going to be tracking a new diet that I’m on. It’s called the rice diet. Basically it’s what I’ve been doing last summer for most of my meals. It’s low salt and low fat, but high in carbs. I’ll track this with my weight over the next few weeks with a cool app called Cron-O-Meter.

Cron-o-meter screen Grab


As you can see, I ate pretty simple. I had 9 bananas, a cup of dry rice (cooked) and a cup of oatmeal (then cooked). I also ate 4 clementines. And I rode my bike to the beach this morning. Yay!

German Method: Japanese and Korean Plans

Genki I and IISo, Genki came in last week! Yay!

So now I have the chance to study both Japanese and Korean via the “Eastern Bloc Volume” or “German Volume” method.

I have to decide which is more important to me. As I write now, my plans are to go to Japan next fall. I need to prepare myself rigorously for this if I want to have as many opportunities as possible. When I’m there I’ll also want to study for one of the proficiency tests which will open up even more opportunities in the future.

I also need to really bring up my level in Korean while I’m here in the country. Korean is becoming more and more important economically.

The past two years I acquired a lot, but hadn’t really used much of it, and sadly have lost a lot of it. Only the words that I need for the school and classroom management do I really know very well. These are words and phrases I hear and work with everyday.

칠판앞에 나오세요! Come up the the blackboard! 

오늘 공책이 필요해요. Today you need notebooks.

Korean Study Plans

I’m going to study Korean for at least 1 hour via the German Volume Method. No more than 2 hours. On friday, I almost burned myself out on a little over 3 hours.

I’m also using Pimsleur Audio that I purchased on Itunes. It’s been going well. It’s really helping me with my speed for basic things. They also start out with formal expressions which of course are the hardest in Korean just because they are so much longer. Sadly they only have I and II right now. But when I finish two I feel I’ll have a very strong basic foundation since I’m using it with the Volume method.

Japanese Study Plans

With Japanese I need a minimum of 2 hours each day with a maximum of 3 with the German Volume method. Again, I need to bring up my level even more intensively with Japanese. Especially since I’m not in the country. Japanese is going to take longer, even though my level of Japanese is still far above my Korean in many respects.

I also need to restart extensive reading with Japanese. I have to get the Japanese running through my head as much as possible.  With extensive reading, I’ll have to do at least 2 hours a day minimum with a maximum of 3 hours a day.

Study Totals

This brings my total Japanese study to 4 –> 6 hours a day.

My Korean study will be 1.5 –> 2.5 hours a day.

Total language study will be 5.5 -> 8.5 hours per day.

Wow. That’s a lot. Is that possible? I think I’m going to have to start off at the low end of plan for now. I don’t want to burn myself out on this stuff. I realized it’s so easy to do. Even today, I only spent an hour on Korean, but yesterday I did a little over 3. After 3, I was a zombie.

Okay, so gotta start off low and work my way up. It’s just like weight lifting; You can spend 3 hours at the gym and not go back for a week because your body needs to recover from all the crap you put it through, or you can go to the gym for 30 minutes for the day and continue to go every day of the week.

We’ll see what happens tomorrow.



I’m going to be tracking in my paper notebook and on an spread sheet on Google docs. Along with that, I’ll be tracking my exercise and eating habits. I really have to pay attention to those too. Because I know it’s going to affect my study so I need to be on top of that. Eating right and doing some daily exercise of some sort is and important part of the language learning process.

Cheers for now. Look for further updates coming soon.

14 Days of the German Volume Method for Korean

I thought I’d post an update again, even though I posted one on Friday.

German Volume Update for Korean

I did the calculations and it looks like I’ve been doing a little under 2 hours a day on average. Last night I did 152 minutes which includes half an hour using audacity and practicing describing family members.

Family members have different names depending on their relation to you. It’s not as crazy as Chinese. You don’t just have an older brother. If you’re a woman you have an 오빠 (older brother). If you’re a man your older borther is called 형 (or 행 where I’m living)

I knew all of this before of course from living here and studying Korean before. But I couldn’t remember simple things like 여동생 (younger sister). Probably because I just don’t hear it very often and If I do hear it, I wouldn’t be able to recognize it unless the context was very apparent. Also Koreans just use first names for younger siblings usually, whereas they use “big brother” and “big sister” a lot more often.

Using Pimsleur for Korean again

I had purchased the Pimsleur Korean 1 and 2 on ITunes about 10 months ago with the intention of using it, but at that time I was doing too many other things such as training a tutor to do TPRS, and lots of extensive reading in Japanese among other things.

I had used Pimsleur for Japanese with great results. During that time I was in Boston going to weekly Meetups for the wonderful Japanese/English group. I was also using a textbook called Japanese from Zero. It’s probably one of the best textbooks out there as it has lots of examples, exercises, decent explanations, and it doesn’t make you feel stupid. This is put out by a guy who’s a translator in Japan and also runs his own school and website.

Aaahh the nostalgia is really setting in. This was fall of 2009/ winter of 2010.

Anyways, back to Korean. I’ll be using Pimsleur Korean again starting today. It makes sense to me to use this with what I’m doing now in the German Volume method. I really have to nail the basics down and build up that foundation. Especially the functional foundation. I’m still pointing and pantomiming for silly stuff that I should know how to say because I can’t quite remember the right words. Not good. Example “I’ve got to run to the ATM because I left my cash card at home, I’ll be right back.” this is when I’m in the supermarket about to pay for groceries.

Where am I in the book?

I’ve just finished the 3rd chapter in a 20 chapter elementary textbook. Around chapter ten I’ll start to implement the right brain techniques. I don’t have enough of a base to use the techniques yet. Even though I’ve studied Korean before and know quite a bit, I’ll hold off until chapter 10 for now. I really need to concentrate on the basics before I do anything else.

Chapter 4 is 어디에갑니까? This is about going places, directions, and describing what you’re going to do. It’s still very simple and basic. The language is still very honorific. Honestly I need more practice with the honorific cuz I just don’t get enough exposure to that unless I’m watching the news in Korean. (way above my level)

I’ll probably be working with the dialogues tonight in Audacity like I did before. It proved very helpful last time I did it.

What happened to Hangul Type Attack?

I’ve got to put up the typing app again. It’s been down for way too long. I just didn’t keep it up to date and let it go. Can’t do that. It was helping too many people. There are other applications out there, but they were all complicated and/or not free to use. My app was very simple. It got you to ramp up your muscle memory and increase your speed. People were asking for whole words instead of just the character elements and timed sentences and all sorts of junk.

I say just pick up some Korean text, switch your keyboard to Korean mode and start typing once you’ve got the keys in your muscle memory. That’s how I did it. You need to get off the training wheels eventually.

Okay, so that’s another project I have to get back up and running. Stay tuned for more updates on that.

Diet and Exercise

Well, It’s too early to post updates on that. I will say that the water-fast is going well. But I only just started. Stay tuned.


12 days of the German Volume Method with Korean

My hands don’t tire so much from writing, and I’m writing faster now. I’m just filling up pages and pages of notes fast from practice.

One thing that has really helped me realize what I’m doing is more exact tracking. I’m tracking time more precisely now. And I can see how much I have improved thus far. it seems that as I learn new things, I’m slower, and then I get faster as I over learn it. This would seem obvious, but tracking it helps me stay motivated.

It also helps me see what 3 hours feels like and what 1 hour and 2 minutes feels like. Today I’m proud to say I did 3 hours and 4 minutes of korean study. That excludes the little breaks I took in between. So it’s 184 minutes straight!

I know what it feels like, and I know what I need to do to take that to 4 hours. That’s the goal. I want to fill up at least 4 hours of straight study a day.

And yes, it’s hard. It’s extremely intensive to do what I’m doing for 4 hours straight every day. But I can do it. I see myself doing it. I feel the foundation slowly getting stronger. Though I’m only on chapter 3 still. After 12 days, I guess that’s not bad. A chapter every 4 days. But I should admit that everyday was not the same amount of time so a day is not accurate enough. You can’t simply go “Did I study today?” That is terrible.

The one thing I feel great about is that I’ve been keeping it up everyday for at least an hour.

When I get my Japanese books in, I feel confident that I can keep up with the study for both languages. That is as long as I am tracking tightly what I’m doing. I’m learning a lot about myself and my habits lately just by tracking.

And now it’s time to go to sleep as I see myself babbling on and on in circles…