Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

State of the Nation – July 26th, 2009

So I’ve thrown myself headfirst back into RTK, and thankfully it hasn’t atrophied as badly as I first thought. I’m just shy of 1800 in now, so the reviews are starting to blow out (265 on top of the 100 new cards today), but I’m trying to keep on top of them as much as possible. It was easier when I was solely studying kanji – it’s tricky trying to juggle it with Japanese sentence study. でも、今日から一所懸命勉強します。

Also, by virtue of Twitter (via JapanSoc, I think…?), I discovered Learn Japanese Pod earlier this week. How did it take a year of wandering around the Japanese-learning corners of the net to find this?! It’s by no means perfect (still, what is, really?), but it introduces really useful everyday conversational Japanese. Already, after only listening to about a dozen of the 94 podcasts currently available, I’m picking up more of what’s being said in dramas (yay!). And there’s plenty of everyday stuff you’d never think to ask about, at least until you get stuck in the konbini with a cashier asking if you want your bento heated : |I’m going to try and absorb as much of it as I can before heading to Japan in about 6 weeks.

LJP skews a little toward Kansai-ben, but I’m sort of liking that, because I know a lot of the Kanto-ben equivalents already and so it cements my understanding of ない vs. へん, ほんと vs. ほんま and such. All good.

What’s really started to become clear recently is the fact that relying on only one or two sources to learn a language is not the way to go. When I was doing that – and there have been quite a few instances of me falling into the One True Resource trap – it seemed like my learning stalled a bit. By changing things up constantly – Yotsubato!, RTK, UBJG, Learn Japanese Pod, Japanese Accelerator, various RPGs on my DS, heaps of dramas and music – it keeps it interesting, and stops me getting stuck on one track (e.g. all です/ます form, all dictionary form, all casual, all polite, all business, whatever). Repeating the same thing helps, too. I’ve watched Hana Kimi with (sadly unavoidable at the time) hardsubs so often that I know the gist in English of every conversation now, and it’s helping me pick up the Japanese. I was knitting with it on last night, and found that, even while intent on my work and not the screen, I knew what they were talking about and a lot of the vocab clicked into place. So, subs aren’t the devil, but relying on them can be. Here endeth my words of wisdom for today 🙂

Forgetting The Kanji

Okay, so as the links in the sidebar might suggest, I tend to lean towards the AJATT/immersion style of foreign language learning. And since I discovered Khatz’ site in September last year, I’ve been roughly following the steps he sets out – RTK –> Kana –> sentences (plus immersion the whole time).  Overall, it’s been going well. The progress, compared to five years of French in high school and university, is amazing. I’ve realised recently that I’ve botched something up, though.

Should I continue reviewing kanji after, like, finishing RTK? Definitely. Yes. Big yes.

(From here.)

Guess what I stopped doing when I started sentence-mode? Yep. “Oh, it’ll be okay,” I said. ” I remember all the 2042 kanji in RTK1 with near-perfect accuracy. So when I read them in the context of real Japanese, it’ll be all I need to reinforce them.” *cough*

Moving to sentences was a rocky transition. I tried grabbing random sentences from here and there like Khatz did. Comprehension? Nil. Frustration? Insanely high. Persevered for a few weeks before tossing it in. Tried Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide. Entered the sentences in to my SRS. Comprehension? Low. Frustration? Still moderately high. Boredom? High. (N.B. I’ve recently – after getting a grounding in basic grammar – re-read Tae Kim’s site, and it’s excellent. It just wasn’t what I needed at that point in time.)

Then I found Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar [insert triumphant music]. No book or system is perfect for everyone, but this was the one that clicked for me.  So I worked through it, and got a reasonable grounding in all the really common, standard grammar structures. There was only one problem: UBJG is very light on kanji. This is a twofold issue: firstly, it uses kana where kanji would usually be used; secondly, it uses the same kanji over and over, as it focuses on a university student mindset/lifestyle. Hence, there are a lot of 先生 and 学生, and a fair few 論文, 教室 and 研究室. I can read these without thought now, as well as a lot of basic compounds (今日、昨日、明日、時間、今晩、先ず、新聞、電車、電話、自転車、etc.). But there are a lot of joyo kanji that don’t get a look-in in UBJG. Without the reinforcement, they’re eroding from my memory. This is not good.

The problem I’ve hit upon now is that there’s a few ways to go from here: do I redo RTK in the original English keywork –> kanji? Or the Japanese keyword –> kanji? Or do the Movie Method? In the interests of avoiding paralysis-by-analysis, I’m going the original route to begin with. Mostly because I’m no longer confident of the meanings, and because ‘setting up’ the Movie Method is far too time consuming (especially after I tried to do a tally of all the movies I could use, and came up with a grand total of 31, even after including tv series’ and books – there are far more onyomi groups than that).

The moral of this story? Do not drop the RTK reviews before you can actually read the kanji, or you’ve just made a whole world of extra work for yourself.