Turning Japanese, Week 3 – Changing Focus

February 9th, 2009  | By: Daichi  | Categories: Learning  | Tags:

This is week three on my desire to enhance my prior lessor knowledge of Japanese. I have been trying to learn Japanese using the high tech methods, SRS and Sentence Mining. SRS or spaced repetition software is a super effective flash card tool. Using the “honor” system, you rate yourself on how well you understood a flashcard. The software will use the rating you gave it to optimize the frequency of how often you will see a card. If you mark a flashcard as easy, it will space that card out longer and longer before you need to see it again. This way you can focus on the cards that you are having trouble with. Sentence mining is a way to optimize your language input. You need a crazy amount of exposure to a language before you build the brain power to understand and output it with accuracy. So with sentence mining, you make flash cards based on sentences you have collected together. You rate how well you understood a sentence, and you let your subconscious do most of the work based on this optimized frequency.

This week will be a little different, mostly because I decided to change my focus of study. Between Monday (Day 15) and Sunday night (Day 21), I’ve been mostly focusing on my Kanji study. I have practically stopped reviewing my sentence mining and vocab cards.

Why? (Hop to the very bottom for the moral of this long story.)

Well, let me digress a little, one of the books I was searching for when I started my quest for more language, was Heisig’s Remember the Kanji I, however this book was lost in my brother’s room till the end of week 1. Heck, if I knew that you could get a good portion of part 1 of the book for free on the publisher’s website, I would of done so a long time ago. (Go check the pdf out at the bottom, this small portion is a great way to get started.) Let me go more in-depth about what the book is all about.

Glowing Face Man summarizes and clarifies the Remembering the Kanji 1 better then I wish I could. But let me try to pick out the key points from it’s introduction. First, Heisig gives each of the ~2000 kanji in the book a unique keyword as generalizations to the actual meaning of the kanji. Then stories will be given to you, usually something that uses the keywords and is vivid enough for you to recall the known primitives which make up a kanji. This is to build on what is known as visual memory, a very powerful way to recall a mental image of the primitives, so you can recreated it in it’s written form. One of the best parts is the logical order in which kanji are introduced. He teaches you a couple of primitives, then you learn all the kanji you can build with the primitives you know. Then when you run out of kanji with your current knowledge, he adds a new primitive, and you start learning more from where you left off. Because of this logical order for learning of kanji, you are not going to learn in the order of usage that the Japanese use, but this is not important. You need to remember a kanji regardless of how common or uncommon it is. Also, you will not actually learn any real Japanese, the book has an intended lack of readings. This allows you to more quickly memorize the Kanji and not distract you from learning with your visual memory. Once you have beaten the final boss in RTK1, learning the readings should go fairly quickly. You will not even need the companion book RTK2, which focuses on the readings for all these kanji. You can grab yourself a good dictionary and just learn while doing your sentence mining.

Okay, back to the real reason why I stopped sentence mining. AJATT says don’t do sentence mining till after you have learned all your kanji and kana. Obviously I did not catch this my first week of studying Japanese. Sentence mining is a fantastic way to learn a language. However, it’s only so good when you can only read a small percent of what your looking at. Specifically, I was having trouble with a lot of the kanji. I resorted to building “vocab” flashcards based on my sentence mining. These “vocab” cards were to help me recognize a kanji and how learn to read it. Trust me, this was very very difficult. My second week, I was working on my sentences, my vocab, and my kanji… This was beginning to get too confusing. I guess it’s my fault for not paying attention to what was recommend to me.

So I have since taken a step back and tossed my old flash cards to the side. Now I am only working on my kanji, at an incredible rate too. On Monday I finished lesson 6 which starts on kanji frame 95. On Sunday, I finished lesson 9 which ends on frame 194. That is about 100 kanji in a week. A bulk of this was done on Saturday. Which I think was half of it, around 50. If I somehow managed to keep up a rate of around 50 Kanji a day, I would be done in less 2 months. A small price to pay to make sentence mining more worthwhile.

Of course during all of this I’ve been still working on my listening input. I started listening to more conversational stuff, rather then music. I’ve been listening to Japanese audio drama and raw anime that I have already seen subtitled, and even just plain raw anime I’ve never seen before.

Even though it’s week 4 now, I don’t think I’m going to be changing my methods soon, but I have a lot more to talk about for this previous week 3, which will have to wait till I get myself some sleep. I’m a bit of an insomniac, I decided I have till Friday to work my sleeping schedule backwards to a more reasonable hour. Also, sleep is essential to the learning process, something I should not ignore. Heck, here is a random find on Google that I did just now for extra proof more recent proof. This article talks about non-gamers learning to play Quake.

Oh yeah, moral of this story.

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Learn your fracking kanji first.

However, it is okay to make mistakes, less people can make the same mistake that way.

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