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.

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 Volume Update: Dropping Korean

Yesterday was day 22 of Korean, and Day 4 of Japanese.

I want to say thanks to those who commented on the last post.

I did some thinking and after a few days of doing both languages I have to say doing both languages at the same time is quite stressful. Ain’t gonna lie.

The good news is, my Korean writing seems to have dramatically improved. My writing has gotten a lot faster and a lot more accurate. I’ve been keeping it up with at least an hour a day with the German Volume Method, and a half hour with Pimsleur.

And now with great regret, I know that I have to focus on one language. I dearly love Korean and it is extremely useful to me now. However, I can’t pretend that I am going to continue on with the volume method throughout the year for Korean. My plans are to be in Japan next August. I’m going to need Japanese. In Japan Korean is almost useless. And knowing a very basic level of Korean is even more useless.

It is like Clugston said, this German Volume method is not for people who want to play with the language. It’s for serious people who have the time to put in to achieve serious results. It is like taking an intensive course at a University program like Yonsei. (The Yonsei Program is of the famous ones, but there are others just like it all around Korea).

I did finish 2 hours of Japanese with the Volume Method last night, and 1.5 hours of extensive reading. I was a zombie at the end. I have to start reading earlier.

I just realized that I did 5 hours of studying Korean and Japanese yesterday. And the previous day I did 5.5 hours. And I went to the gym. And I went to work. So… All of my energy just went out. The next morning I woke up on the floor feeling like an old rusty bicycle that hasn’t been picked up in years. It was hard to get moving.

My Study Space

Here is my study space. As you can see no computer. So no distractions. On the shelf you can see my textbooks on the left and my graded readers and easy reading material on the right. On the desk is Heisig’s RTK 1 and 3. And the textbook on the bookstand is Genki 1. 一生懸命頑張ります!

On top of this, I have to somehow figure out how I’m going to get back on studying Kanji. I have some very powerful books to start learning. I got my old copies of Remembering the Kanji 1 and 3 sent over from America last week. And I also have the new and beautiful KanjiPro book.

Chances are I’m going to get started with Kanji Pro and after a few months, I’ll start on Heisig’s RTK1 and finally move on to RTK3.

I also need to increase the volume that I’m getting from my Japanese textbook. 3 hours if the Volume Method with with an extra 2 hours of extensive reading should work pretty well.

I’ve already seen some amazing results with my Korean in the very short time that I’ve applied this method. Most of all, it’s gotten me to focus and to track my process and what I’m doing. That’s something that a lot of “youtube experts” don’t really talk about much in detail. And honestly, I see why. It’s not the sexiest thing to talk about. Unless there’s this cool hip productivity app everyone is tweeting about. 😛

I love Korea and the Korean language dearly. And I look forward to using it everyday, even at a very limited level which is painful for me. But what’s even more painful is being in Japan and getting my butt kicked in Japanese. 😀

So that’s the final nail. German Volume Method with Japanese only. Not recommended for two languages at the same time if you enjoy your sanity.

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.

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…

 

Korean with German Volume Method; Sixth day update.

Okay, so I’m using the german volume method. I still have some planning to do on my end. I’ve been doing this for six straight days. my tracking has been good, but it needs to be better. I see myself taking lots of breaks and getting distractions here and there.

I also haven’t been using Audacity much at all, as I just want to get through these sentences. But then I started to do something. I started to read aloud when I was writing. I can only imagine this is good. Because I caught myself pronouncing vowels wrong and getting tongue tied at times. then I just stopped to work it out in my mouth and in my head.

Zebra Mechanical Pencil Orange

My hands hurt and now my eyes hurt a bit. I bought a good mechanical pencil with a thick grip so my hand doesn’t hurt so much when I write for so long. It’s working. I’m not sure if it’s the pencil or if it’s because my hand is getting stronger. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.

First thing I need to do is to set up a goal for myself. I haven’t really thought about this. Should I have a time or page count? Or even a chapter count?

I think with a time limit I could get lazy and drag out the time. Therefore I should have both a time and page number goal.

I think I can do 3 pages and 4 hours of Korean study during the week until I get my Japanese textbooks. That’s including taping my voice and translating the playback. That’s about 90 pages a month.

So I would finish this textbook in 2 months? Maybe I should push myself to go through more pages… I’m no sure yet. We’ll see how well I do. Maybe I’ll get faster the more I do it.

This is why more exact measuring is so crucial. I need to see where I am and where I need to be. But most importantly I need to focus on the processes while I track my progress. Tracking really helps me keep on track. 🙂