Friday, 25 January 2013

Short hiatus

I'm sorry, I know I was very excited about starting this blog but I've recently returned to my student house and am getting used to the uni rhythm and it's proving harder than I thought.
So bear with me for a week or 2 and I'll be really starting the blog then.



Monday, 21 January 2013

Learning Strategy: Flashcards

First things first:
I'm not a professionally trained teacher, but I base this blog on my own learning experiences.

You can not learn a language without proper practice and time, don't expect to be able to master Japanese at the same rate as I'm explaining in this blog with only 2 hours a week of practice. I do between 1 to 2 hours of practice a day. I would advice to do at least 6 to 10 hours of practice a week.

Mondays will be my "anything about learning/studying" post and might be about studying tips or just about what I'm doing at that moment.

On of the best things I learned back in the first years of high school was one trick to learning a language, flashcards.
Some people like to learn by going word by word on a list, repeat and repeat. Soon I got in trouble with my tests in English, German and French. I was tested for dyslexia, which I don't have, but I still got some help with creating a learning strategy that would work for me.
My problem was that I could remember exactly where something was on a list of words, I never failed at that. But what the word said, no clue. I could even remember if the words around it were shorter or longer. This of course was useless when learning lists of words and you get them in a different order on the page.

That is why I was taught flashcarding, I created the cards myself and I could study with them for a couple of hours a day. Plus, the rewriting of the foreign words etched it into my brain better. I'm more of a practical person than a theoretical person. My grades went up a lot after that (even though I've never been that good at French or German, but this is not high school, so I don't need to worry about that ;) ).

Flashcarding works for me because of a few things:
- repetition without ever getting the same order twice, this way I can not remember the order of the words, just the words and their translations.
- calm way of interacting, since you have to shuffle a deck every once in a while it's easier to stay calm and not overwork yourself.
- lots of repetition of the word in random order, like you would on tests or in regular use of the language. This keeps me from only remembering lists or words that are closer together.

And there are many more reasons why they work but those depend on the types of practising I do with the cards.

A while ago I made a post on how to make flashcards on a different blog, to see how to create them, check out that page: Flashcarding, not as dirty as it sounds rather useful even
And I also did a post on how I practice with it: Flashcarding, how I play the game

 Today I want to explain a bit more on how I practice and the method behind my ways of practising.

It is important to remember a few things:
- you need regular practise to master anything (this includes languages).
- a few hours a day gets you very far.
- repetition, repetition, repetition.
- repeat bad words again and again.
- don't cheat (I'm pretty prone to this, and I know that from experience).
- don't rush.
- repeat something you've done last week again this week and then next week.

I practice about 1 to 2 hours a day, each weekday. During this time I first repeat what I've done before and then either keep practising or add something new to the list. What I do depends mainly on how I feel about what I've just gone over and how much time I've got left at the end of my repetition moment. If I only have 20 to 30 minutes left I don't start something new, I then rather do another repetition round or just stop for the day. But I don't stop within an hour, I keep myself to at least an hour of practice a day.

This morning I spend 1,5 hours practising. This started with a round of romaji-hiragana, which I can do with only 1 or 2 errors. Hiragana-romaji I only do a round of every few days because I can do that without any errors. I then did a round of katakana-romaji and a few reps of romaji-katakana. This was because I'm at the end of the first deck. I started a new deck today, I did the N and H/B/P rows today. This meant a couple of repetitions of the N row and then the H row (since B and P are only modified H rows). I then did a couple of repetitions of the new deck.
That was my practice for the morning, this took me about 1,5 hours.

The reason I only did a couple of repetitions of the new rows was because I can do katakana-romaji pretty well already because I was lazy a few weeks ago and only practised katakana-romaji and not the other way around. This was a stupid mistake because I now need to learn those, which doubles the 1,5 week I spend on Katakana-romaji the first time around.
This is also why I didn't practice katakana-romaji a couple of times before doing romaji-katakana.

I have split the whole set of hiragana in 2 decks and the whole set of katakana in 2 (because by then I had gotten more used to practising a language again and there are some katakana that look like hiragana). This was I can practice in smaller batches and don't have to worry that much about forgetting parts of it. I'll show more about this when we get to the different decks. As the planning is now we'll do 1 deck a week for the first couple of weeks.

This is what my practising normally looks like:
- repeat old stuff (this depends on what you need or want, this can be a recent deck you've just ended or something else you need to keep in practice of).
- repeat current deck
- add something new

Since I practice this first thing in the morning, usually either right before or during breakfast/tea it means that I'm not that awake yet and I find it comfortable to repeat something I know (at least half decently) and ease back into the rhythm of the language.

Repetition is what makes a new language easier to grasp. This is also why you need to write the word down when you learn the language "own" to "foreign" (or in this case romaji to hiragana/katakana). If you get comfortable writing something it is easier to remember, and don't cheat, be honest when you make a mistake. "Own" to "foreign" and the other way around are two different links in your brain (at least they are in mine), they are two different skills to master and by mastering them in one go you save yourself a lot of trouble (like I got myself into at this moment).

Just a few pointers when working with decks:
# Try to get a list of at least 10 or so cards when you start a new deck, less than that and the repetition interval is too small.
# Don't make decks bigger than 40-60 cards, this is a comfortable deck size to handle usually and keeps the repetition rounds small enough to manage.
# Add 5 to 10 new cards when you add new cards, this means that it mixes in well with the old cards.
# When adding new cards, do a few rounds of "foreign" to "own" and then do "own" to "foreign" and practice the writing. This makes sure you at least have an idea of what you're supposed to write.
# You don't need to repeat each deck every day, mix them up a little so you keep time to do new stuff, but don't wait too long or you'll forget them.
# Keep decks numbered if you're using multiple decks to get through one list (my hiragana deck is numbered 1-3 and katakana 1 & 2), I don't do this for kanji.
# If you get a word wrong put it at the end of your stack and repeat it until you get it right, this works well because you will keep coming across it. The same goes for when you're writing it, but don't cross out the wrong word, this way you can

Well, that is it, I think this is enough to read before Wednesday ;)
If you have any tips of your own, add them in the comments.

Study on!


Friday, 18 January 2013

Resources for this blog

Here I'll keep track of some of the resources I'll base this blog on.

The first thing to mention is that I'll use the Japanese foreign learning system as a base for the blogs, this means that I'll be using the N1-N5 ratings and the guidelines for those tests to work from.
Not all websites seem to do the same things in N5 level, but over all they are 90% the same when it comes to the list of words you need to know.
The Japanese-Language Proficiency tests works in 5 levels, where 5 is the lowest and 1 the highest level. They are more explained here:

I'll use the word lists from these pages, they have slightly different ways of study and information that is why I show more than one: This webpage also offers lists you can put in Anki and other things. You can grab a list for all the hiragana, katakana, kanji and vocabulary you need, plus some grammar. Has an easier page to check everything though I had some trouble navigating the menu at the top.

Apps and programs:
Human Japanese Lite(android app) I only learned the hiragana from this as it guides you really well how to write them, since some can be quite tricky.
Anki This is a flashcard program, I started using this recently, tough I'm not convinced of the way it works, it's too easy to cheat.
Teach 2000 This is also a flashcard program, this program I used back in highschool, no way to cheat in this one.

If you want some exposure to the Japanese language, you can watch some anime on Crunchyroll or some drama shows.
I like to listen to music and have listened to a lot of Japanese music in the past year, my favourite music is Visual Kei, which is a music/clothing style, I've compiled a list of music I listen to a lot, here is the list (the western equivalent of the bands ranges from metal, to rock, to pop, to electro, just click through some of the songs and you'll see the diversity in them):

The list is constantly changing as I run into new bands and stuff like that, it's not always the same list.

Okay, those are the base websites I use and will be using for the blogs.

Next week starts with Hiragana part 1.

Study on!


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Interview 1: Ashley Wade

Here is the first of the interviews I'll be running, you can sign up if you want by going to the interview tab on the top of the page.
Well, here it is:

Name: Ashley Wade
Country: USA
Age: 29

Original language: English
New language: Japanese, ASL
Proficiency in new language: Japanese: Elementary, ASL: Elementary

How long have you been learning the language
: Japanese: 10 years (off and on), ASL: 4 years
Other languages you speak: I know how to say "I don't know your language" in quite a few languages
Why are you learning the language: For the sake of learning something new
What do you find the most fun part about learning the language: Learning the culture behind the language
What do you hate about learning the language: Learning in a classroom setting for more than a couple of months

What is your tip to other people learning this language: For any language:  have fun with it

Do you have a tip for everyone learning a new language: For any language:  have fun with it

You can also find Ashley on her webpage:

Thank you so much for doing this Ashley!
That was it for the first interview, I'll be trying to host someone new every Thursday!

Study on!


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Plans for this blog

I already talked about what my own plans were, today is a bit about what I'll be doing with this blog.

I'll try to keep to a regular schedule (I've already planned a couple of weeks ahead) and I'll be starting from the beginning. My own experience with the language is mostly hearing based so most of this will be reading/writing based as to get a better grip on the language. Since Japanese has a limited set of sounds that make a lot of words and since multiple ways of writing something can be said the same way  I think it's important to also be able to read a lot of things.

My Fav anime, Gravitation, I can actually speak along to parts because I've seen it to often ;)

When you're following this blog to not just follow my experiences but to learn I expect that you listen to a lot of music/band interviews/tv shows/anime and that you have a feeling for the language when it comes to recognising the language. If you can sort of get a mood or emotion from just listening/watching without reading subtitles all the time you're in a good spot.
I think the funniest thing is when you can just read subtitles from an anime and already know what the character will say as you can recognise some of the common phrases (which can also mean you might have seen the anime too often, but that is a different problem ;) ).

Even though I've already mastered hiragana and am almost there for katakana too I'll be starting from scratch on this blog, this gives me some time to be ahead and create a plan where to go next before sharing it with you all. The first few weeks I'll be talking through how to master hiragana (3 weeks) and then katakana (2 weeks) and things like sounds (pronunciation and writing) and other conventions that have to do with the two kana sets. After that I'll start with the first of the 80 kanji you need to know for N5 level grouped by one theme each week.
The planning for now (as it is scheduled) is to do new vocabulary (hiragana/katakana/kanji) each Wednesday and to do grammar and other things that need explanation that goes well with the vocab of the week on Friday.
Mondays will be free for me to talk about whatever I like, this might be about learning Japanese or something funny I found, or some music or something else. This is also the moment I can openly answer questions I get on the Wednesday/Friday posts that might be of interest for more people.

I'll also be posting interviews with people. The first one will go up tomorrow. If you are learning Japanese or any other language or if you already speak more than one language think about maybe filling out an interview form (which you can find in the interview tab at the top). I like to hear from other people who speak or are trying/learning to speak more than one language.

The posts will be in English for most of it, though I might use examples of other languages too if it is more appropriate.

Study on!


Word list for today:
kana = the syllable "alphabets" the Japanese language uses, there are two types, hiragana and katakana.
hiragana = used to write Japanese words and is used for grammar. This kana is used for words that are Japanese in origin and in some cases to represent kanji.
katakana = used to write non-Japanese words (like English terms they may use) and things like foreign names (like Kia is written in the header). They are also used to write sound-words (onomatopoeia) which I'll talk about in one of the coming weeks.
kanji = "words" of the Japanese language, these are not just used as words but can also be used as sounds like the kana and they often have more than one way of reading them. I'll explain it better when we get to them.
anime = Japanese cartoons, there are anime for all age groups and both genders and are far more common than cartoons are in the west. There are special cartoons for children, teenagers and even adults.

Monday, 14 January 2013

こんにちは! Welcome to my blog.

I'm setting up this blog to help me keep track of my own studying of Japanese but also to get in contact with other people who are learning new languages.

I'm not a professional teacher so these are only my own experiences with learning a language and I'm not linked to any of the programs and books I might link to in this blog. The only interest is that they helped me or didn't help me in my studies of Japanese (and other languages).

 Who am I?

I'm Kia, a 24 year old girl who originally comes from the Netherlands but now studies at university in the UK. In highschool I never had much interest in learning new languages and even my Dutch wasn't up to the level of most of my classmates.
Around the age of 13 I really started writing more and my language skills improved greatly. These days I write books in English (you can find a link to my blog about that on the side of the blog).
My level of English is now close to native level and I couldn't have done that without the help of tv, music and the internet.

At the moment I'm trying to learn Japanese, I'm doing mostly on my own but I'm also part of a couple of G+ groups that are about learning Japanese and other languages. I think that being part of those might help me out a lot so I won't get stuck at some point.

My practice pages when I started out learning hiragana

What are my goals?

My first goal is to learn all the hiragana, katakana and kanji (and vocabulary and grammar) that are required for N5 level Japanese. These are about 80 kanji and 500+ pieces of vocabulary.
Right now I can sight recognise all the kana (hiragana and katakana) and can write all the hirgagana (haven't started yet on katakana for writing).
To reach this goal I'll be practising 1,5 to 2 hours of Japanese every week day morning and after a few weeks I'll see what works best for me in practising Japanese. Studying hiragana and katakana is slightly different from kanji.

Apart from talking about studying Japanese I will from time to time talk about English and Dutch since it might be that other people will find that useful for their own studies. Questions are always welcome about those two languages.

I'll stop here for today.

Learn on!