Turning Japanese, Day 1 – 3

January 22nd, 2009  | By: Daichi  | Categories: Learning  | Tags:

So a few days ago I decided to make a quest to actually brush up my limited Japanese knowledge. I’ve taken two years of High school Japanese before, but that was years ago. All I remember is my kana and some basic vocab. This is going to cover my last 3 days, so I do warn you that this might be a bit lengthy. I feel the need to document it, because it gives me some motivation and a chance to reflect on my progress.

I tried to get back into things with “My Japanese Coach”, but it’s really too limited for what I need. I was never able to drill myself in what I wanted, not to mention the fact that the writing recognition was a bit broken for almost 15% of the Kana. It really feels like MJC was rushed to the market without enough thought put into it.

After a few weeks, MJC left my DS, for some other games. It seems hard for me to flip back and forth between various games and software. So I have a large problem of putting a cart in my DS, and leaving it there a long while, till something else deems worthy enough to replace it.

So, on Monday, I remembered about a rather negative review of MJC on Gamefaqs that I read while I was using the software a few months back. While I wouldn’t rate it as bad as that guy did, the one thing that has stuck in the back of my mind since I read it was “SRS”, which stands for Spaced Repetition System. A little Googling brought me to here, and then most interestingly here, where I learned about Sentence Mining. Sentence Mining really sounds like a neat way to learn things.

So, for the lazy that don’t wanna jump on the links. (I strongly suggest you give them a read, since I’m only going to pick out the key points.)

A Spaced Repetition System, or SRS, is a program that lets you review flashcards. But here’s the catch. Each time you review a flashcard, you rate yourself on it, based on how easy or difficult the card was. The program uses all kinds of advanced calculations and sophisticated algorithms to determine the optimal possible way to show you those cards.

Two of the choices for free SRS software I saw recommend were Mnemosyne and Anki. Looking at both options, they both seem rather good. After trying them out, I decided on using Anki for myself, it was a little more aesthetically pleasing on the eye and it seems to be getting rather active updates. Since I started using it, I’ve already hit one update.

And Sentence Mining is basically a more natural way to learn language, by extreme exposure to sentences.

Sentence Mining is the process of making flashcards, where the “Question” side of the card is a sentence in the target language. To “answer” the card, you don’t try to recall anything from memory, instead you merely try to comprehend the sentence, by any means necessary. It doesn’t matter whether you parse the sentence using your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, or whether you just somehow know the sentence’s meaning because you’re familiar with the book it came from, or whether you memorize the sentence’s meaning outright. All that matters is that, somehow, you comprehend the sentence. If you comprehend the sentence, rate it based on how easily you comprehended it. If not, fail it (rate it “Again” in Anki, or “0” in Mnemosyne).

The “Mining” part of “Sentence Mining” is the part where you go forth into the world and collect these sentences. Every book, every video game, every website, every textbook, every movie in the target language, is a goldmine waiting to provide you with linguistic fluency.

As far as MJC goes for learning Japanese, it is currently the only electronic device I have that is portable, aside from the DS Kanji Dictionary, I might still load it up on the road to try to get to the later lessons, which I hear get much better. Maybe grab some of it’s vocab to move over to my Anki deck.

Day 1 (Monday)
First I Researched and discovered what SRS and Sentence Mining was all about, as you can see above. Now I needed something to Mine from. I decided to go over to the bookshelf and pull anything that was easy pickings. The first book to come off the shelf was Breaking Into Japanese Literature, This book contains old Japanese Literature with a running dictionary at the bottom of every page and a full translation on right page. Not only that, the website for the book provides MP3 Audio files that I can break up for use in my Anki Flashcards.

Apart from that, I got another text, titled Total Japanese Conversation 1, which is full of rather basic Japanese conversations, and apart from the first few vocab sections it is romaji-less, which is great.

Apart from these two books, I decided I need something more fun to Mine. I went to see what raw Manga we had lying around the house, most of which came from my oldest brother’s last trip to Japan. Specifically I was looking for stuff we already have in English. Also it was Game night, I went to a friend’s house to play Dominion. Before I left, I grabbed the first 3 volumes of Yotsubato from him. So by the end of the night, here is what I have.
Learning Japanese

To split up my audio files, I’m using Aegisub, a subtitling software that is big among the Anime Fansubbing community. I’m basically subtitling the audio file, then saving each separate line to it’s own file. Aegisub does have it’s problems with this method, you got to manually save each line. Thankfully what I’m subtitling is fairly short. It only saves out as wav format, rather then MP3. So I do have to recompress things as mp3 if I want to save on space. Audacity is probably another choice for chopping up audio, but I think my subbing method is much easier overall, despite it’s problems.

Over the duration of the day, I mined the first four paragraphs from Japanese Lit book complete with audio. I decided to also mine a little bit of vocab from the first few sections of Total Japanese. Thinking back on this, maybe I should be mining full sentences instead. Oh well, I don’t have a deadline, I’ll figure out what works for me.

For a quick experiment, I tried mining sentences from random websites using Google to find sentences for particular words. I didn’t do this for very long, as I quickly found it to be quite difficult. While I got a couple of sentences, it was hard to find something with basic enough Japanese to make a good sentence. I didn’t want to have to look up each and every word to form some sort of comprehension of what is being talked about. I also read a few pages into Yotsubato and mined a couple of sentences from that.

To end my day, I read the first three or so days of Glowing Face Man’s “The French Revolution”. His quest to learn as much French as possible in 30 days. I think this has become my main source of inspiration and is also the reason I am writing this now. This is a very interesting read, it’s from the perspective of a Polyglot who starts off knowing no French. His native language is English, and he also knows Japanese.

Day 2 (Tuesday)
I reviewed my cards today. It was a little slow going through the sentences, I started to add some more Vocab words based off the sentences I was reviewing. This was so I could understand what exactly it was that I was reading. Based on something I read from Khatzumoto’s “All Japanese All The Time” site, My vocab “facts” have two cards to them. On the first card, the Question side is the Kanji vocab, which tells you the English and the Reading. And the other card shows you the Reading, in which, I need to produce a meaning and write down the Kanji.

Paper seems to be a problem. I don’t have any lined paper around me, nor a clipboard to write upon. I’m a bit too lazy to look for anything. After trying a few things around my room, I ended up with a small hardcover library book as a writing surface, and an envelope to cover what I have already written. I just used blank scratch paper to write on, manually adding some makeshift lines as guides. I only had horizontal lines at first, which was a little problematic to get proportions right. After burning through a full piece of scratch paper, I made the next sheet more or less a full grid.

I decided I needed something different to Mine from, I needed something I could search through easily and find a meaning for the sentence without too much trouble. I decided a Visual Novel would be a good place to try, my friend’s over at mirrormoon helped me get my hands upon a Japanese and English script for Tsukihime. I don’t particularly care for playing through this game, but I am a big fan of the Melty Blood Fighting game, which is based off Tsukihime. I’ve also seen the Anime, which, while is highly disregarded, I rather enjoyed. :P

The Japanese and English script for this game don’t perfectly line up, line by line, which is a bit of a problem when I’m looking for the English translation after I find a sentence that seems like it is good. A bit of Regex searching helped a little, I managed to pull out twenty-eight sentences. Two of which, I have since suspended from my review. I found these a bit too hard to comprehend. I think I was a bit too quick to copy and paste these sentences into my Anki Deck.

Same as I ended my first night, I read the next couple days worth of “The French Revolution”.

Day 3 (Wednesday)
I noticed I was having a hard drive problem so I decided to reboot my computer and run chkdsk. Thankfully it was nothing major. While shutting down, I realized I had fifteen instances of notepad open. I think I open up notepad way too often. But I do like it for it’s simplicity. For example, If I’m copying and pasting a quote from someone on IRC, I paste it into notepad, so I can remove the timestamps and condense it. Then it just kinda stays open for a while after I forget about it. Other things make me open up notepad, like the need for jotting down ideas, working on one of my GameFAQs, and probably several other things. Anyway, I decided I needed to install Microsoft OneNote, which I have had sitting around. Thinking this would solve my dozen plus instances of notepad.

I have to say, after one day of using OneNote, this program Rocks! I don’t have a single instance of Notepad open anymore. I started with the beginner’s documentation and converted some of my old notepad documents, so I could get a feel to how it all worked. Then I created a new Notebook called Study and added a new Subject for Japanese. After figuring out how to change the Rule Lines to a square grid, I grabbed my old Wacom Graphire 1 Tablet and moved to a paperless writing system which solves the problem I had yesterday. I’m already fairly used to using a tablet, not looking at where you write, but rather where your drawing too. It’s not as accurate as writing on paper, but I think it’s good enough to get the job I need done. No way I can afford a Cintiq right now, and so far I haven’t had to spend any more money, with all the crap I have laying around the house. Plus I’m saving some paper, so I can feel extra special.

Anki + OneNote. Check out my horrible tablet handwriting on the SideNote.

Anki + OneNote. Check out my horrible tablet handwriting on the SideNote.

I didn’t do a lot of Mining today, but I did practice my Anki flashcards a lot. I’m realizing I was a little too generous with my ratings the first two days. I need to fail the cards until I understand them enough to burn into more then just my short term memory. Well, I’m figuring this out as I go and I’ll see the ones I was too easy on, in a day or two anyway.

To end my day, I’ve read up to Day 8 of “The French Revolution”. Glowing Face Man is now starting to Mine sentences from the French fan translation of Chrono Trigger. I love this idea, I think I might have to go find the Japanese version of this game to go mine for myself. Thinking about other games, I have both Disgaea 2 and Disgaea 3 in both English and Japanese. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to a PS3 anymore, so Disgaea 3 is out of the picture. However Disgaea 2, I also have a access to a more literal translation on the Akurasu Wiki, courtesy of Ziggy. Since my fourth Japanese Study Day isn’t over yet, I’ll blog about that one later.

Thank you if you read this far.

Oh and by the way, welcome to my longest post yet, Word count: 2244.

  1. theonlymegumegu
    January 22nd, 2009 at 22:04
    Reply | Quote | #1

    Dude, your handwriting looks fine. Have you seen *mine*? I think one of the things that amazes me the most about the DS Kanji Dictionary I have is how well it can sometimes interpret the CRAP I write that apparently can pass for kanji XD

  2. thor piliger
    January 27th, 2009 at 21:56
    Reply | Quote | #2

    Did someone say “I need a PS3″? I just so happen to know where two ambiguously docile PS3 systems are located at this very moment. Hint, hint, wink, wink

  3. Daichi
    January 28th, 2009 at 16:37
    Reply | Quote | #3

    @thor piliger
    Har har, I think that would make some people upset if you did that.

  4. Bjelle
    July 23rd, 2009 at 04:46
    Reply | Quote | #4

    makura..lol. it’s not even a jouyou kanji, are you this advanced? hehe