Summer Reading: Enjoying books with the AC on!

Lately I’ve taken up some good advice on reading. The advice is to read more and read at your level. I’ve started doing this, and it’s been very rewarding. Off and on I’ve had spurts of extensive reading in Japanese, and each time, I’ve greatly improved my reading and understanding abilities. But I still have a long way to go. I must read more. It must be extensive!

Last year it took me a few months to read through ‘Sayonara Aruma’. It was a few hundred pages long. I was super happy to finish the book. It was great, but I read it off and on all while starting a new job.

But this August, I went down to the bookstore and bought myself the book ‘Hontou no sora iro’ or ‘The Real Sky color.’ It’s fantastic story by Béla Balázs. This one is about 150 pages long.

The short novel takes place in Hungary. A boy makes paint from magical flowers that shows the real color of the sky. But in the real sky color, real sky elements emerge. The sun shines and burns like the real sun. The thunder storms blast and the rain pours from wherever the paint is used. That’s where the story takes an exciting turn!

Now I’m reading a more modern Japanese Children’s novel called “Ame Furu Honya” (雨ふる本屋) or, “The Raining Bookshop.” By Hinata Rieko. (日当理恵子)

I’ll write more on it when I have read a good chunk. Back to reading! 😀

雨ふる本屋

Reading to achieve fluency.

Reading and reading alone is enough to achieve fluency in a language if you’re living in the environment. But when you read, you must do two things. You must understand what you read. And you must read a lot.

I just read up on this case study about a man who read for at least an hour a day for about 6 months and significantly improved his TOEIC score.  He had a 220 point gain. If you don’t know much about the TOEIC test. That’s actually very significant.

As for myself, I have been reading off and on in small spurts. It’s really just pleasure reading with the added benefit of acquiring Japanese.

Right now, I’m at the last chapter of my first chapter book in Japanese. It’s called “Sayonara Aruma.” It’s about a young boy and his sister who raise a dog to train for the war. Their father is a away at war while the children help their mother and raise the dog.

I’ve read a lot and I’ve learned a lot so far. I’ve also gotten tangled up in some sports mangas too. I normally think that sports channels and sports are generally boring to watch (fun to play, of course.) But I really love these sports manga. It’s so much more interesting with a story attached. Sports Manga and Japanese Chapter Book

So, I’m going to have to track my reading here.

I’ll track tonight’s reading later. I usually get very good results when I track myself.

-Zach

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.

YouTube. 

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:

どんな時どう使う日本語表現文型辞典

That’s all for now.

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.

 

Tracking

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.

Japanese New Plan Tracking: Day 7

Another not so intensive day…

Vocabulary:

30 minutes of studying.

Grammar:

0 hours… might do it before I hit the hay…

Reading:

1 hour.

Read a level 3 book from the graded readers. Extensive reading only.

Skype tutor: 1 hour lesson. We made a story. She said I typed really fast today. I didn’t think I typed any faster… but then I realized, I was thinking faster and more smoothly due to all of the reading and listening and stuff… so that’s pretty cool.

The story was about a monkey with a red butt who lived on an 遠島. (remote island)

Summary:

  • Vocab: 0.5 hours
  • Grammar: 0 hours
  • Reading: 1 hour
  • Real Person: 1 hour

Total: 2.5 hours.

That was a good week. つづく