Turning Japanese, Month 1

February 17th, 2009  | By: Daichi  | Categories: Learning  | Tags:

Wowzers, A month has gone by?

* Daichi double checks his calendar.

Well, a full four weeks or 28 days. I suppose A standard month is actually 2-3 more days.

On January 19th, I decided my lowly Japanese language skills were too poor and I took it upon myself to learn more. I think the number one thing I have learned from this experience so far, is that Spaced Repetition Software rules. These software programs should be more common, used in schools and for individuals to learn just about anything on a daily basis. SRS is flashcard software that schedules the best possible intervals at which to remember a certain fact. Apparently the most efficient time to try to recall something, is right before you are going to forget it. The harder you have to work to try to recall something, the better it will stick into your memory. I have mostly talked just about Anki as my SRS solution, mainly because it’s free and actively developed, but SuperMemo is the original SR Software. Check out the history of how SuperMemo came to fruition.

Month Review

When I started, I was not properly focused, I was trying to learn several things at once, then I added kanji to the pile of things to learn. After a full plate of this, I decided I needed to step back just focus on just my kanji study. Since I am in this for the long term, it’s easier to focus on just a few things well. There is only so much language you can learn in one month and I know my current weakness lies in my ability to read and write.

This entire month I have not gone a single day without doing at majority of my scheduled reps or without including several hours of aural input. My most optimum week was week 3, where I learned about 100 kanji in the entire week, but a majority of that was packed into just the one Saturday. As of tonight, I just finished up lesson 12 or all of Part 1 of Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji I, which was a little closer to 85 kanji for the week, still not too bad. I really wish I could pick up the pace a little, but I was out and about a little more this week then prior weeks.

One thing I have experimented with the past two weeks, is shorter interval times for Anki. I think this works out fairly well. I might be seeing some cards sooner then I need too, but kanji is fairly complex, it might be easy to remember the basic primitives that make up a particular kanji but some primitives are written a slight bit different when paired with something else. I believe some of this takes a little bit of practice. I would like to think that the shorter intervals allow for this needed practice. And when you try to cram  a dozen kanji in your head all at once and these shorter times between initial reviews seem to help. However, these short starting interval times can also be a little problematic on your schedule.

Having fun, elsewhere…

I seemed to be fairly busy on Thursday so I did not seem to get through all of my reviews. On Friday, I got out to see some friends, two of which I have not seen since about September. I did not get home till late and I had quite a number of reviews piled up. I think I had around 160 cards, which took me around two hours to trudge through. (It’s been a few days so I’m guesstimating a little.) If I had longer interval settings, I probably wouldn’t of built up this many cards. But I made a habit of doing my reviews periodically over the course of an entire day for the past week, which makes things a little easier, rather waiting a whole day. It’s a bit harder for me to review when away from a computer, since I do not have one of those fancy portable devices that work with Anki. I think I might tweak my Anki intervals again.

Learning with Friends & Family

One thing that helped a lot over the past few weeks, my oldest brother was also learning kanji from the same source.  He doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to SRSing but right now he is only about a lesson and a half behind me, I actually had to do some catching up to him in the beginning.  Since RTK1 requires you to use your creativity so you can build on your visual memory, it allows us to bounce some ideas off each other. Even just daily conversation reminds of kanji, we can check with each other on how it is written. Finding someone to work together with you on your language study isn’t a bad idea at all. It takes some pretty dedicated people though. I have tried to start someone else off with SRS and Japanese kana but I’m not sure how well that is working out so far. (If your reading this, get back to work on it. >.>)

On a side note, if your writing your kanji with a Wacom tablet like my brother and I are, I highly suggest you make sure your Screen Area is set to “Force Proportions”. I always remember to set this when I install my tablet drivers, but we just noticed the other day, that my brother’s tablet didn’t have this option turned on. So everything he was writing  was narrower then it should of been. >.<;

Challenge for the Week

I am not sure how practical it is, but my Saturday of week 3, my brain was able to absorb about 50 kanji. Starting Tuesday after I wake up, I would like to see if I can make a full week around this rate, say maybe 40 kanji per day. Which would put me somewhere into part 3 of the RTK1 book. I know for sure I’m going to have to lengthen my intervals for this, to make more time for learning, rather then reviewing. I feel like a good challenge would be good for me right now. Let’s see if I can also find some time to post about some of my other projects.

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