More on studying, because that is pretty much all I’m doing lately. Other than work, and practice for the Tosaben Musical. I am inspired by several people who have had great successes with studying and learning Japanese and other languages and were able to attain a high degree of proficiency in a relatively short period of time, as in 9 or so months. One of them runs a website called All Japanese All the Time another is a JET friend who lives about an hour north of me. From these folks, other friends, famous quotes, and NaNoWriMo I learned three extremely important things about learning: A.) It takes a lot of time, so use your free time wisely. B.) You need a goal and a deadline, otherwise you’ll never find the motivation to make significant progress. C.) It has to be fun. If it’s not fun, you won’t want to do it, and if you’re learning yourself, no one’s gonna force you to learn.
To these effects, I have established my goal (JLPT 1) and my deadline (December 2011). That gives me a little less than two years, combined with all that I have already studied (it seems trivial compared to where I’m headed), so that’s my large quantity of time. Last and the real point of this post is the bit about making it fun. I have developed an array of study materials that is very multi-media, interests me, and reinforce each other naturally. Here’s the list:
Smart.fm – This is an on-line learning social network. In its most fundamental form it’s a smart flashcard program that spaces out your studying for you. It’s got some other extremely nice features, like searchable shared content and professionally designed study lists. On smart.fm I’m studying 4000 intermediate Japanese vocabulary words, 2000 daily use kanji, Japanese geography, vocabulary I come across in reading (see below), as well as some other world geography (keep up and improve my international knowledge).
Textbooks – JET offers a language course in four sections: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and translation. The beginner course would be a joke for me, and the intermediate course is largely review but the review is useful and I’m learning a few new things along with firming the old topics in my head. I’m fairly sure most of the advanced course will be difficult, I’ll be taking that next year after I finish the intermediate course I’m presently working on. I’ve heard the translation course is extremely difficult, so we’ll see about that one after I get through the advanced level. I’m also occasionally using my old Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese textbook. It’s full of content like reading passages and vocab. It’s not perfect for grammar or kanji but it’s great for getting the reading practice in.
Anime: Right now I’m watching Nodame Cantabille the anime. I rent them from Tsutaya (an omnipresent media rental store in Japan). Watching anime provides me with listening practice and helps slowly with grammar understanding and vocab retention. It’s nice because it puts words that I may have seen once or twice into a context that I can remember them. I also love anime, there are some fantastic and extremely creative series out there and I’m trying to watch as many as I can.
Drama: 華麗なる一族 havn’t really started watching this yet, but it is on the list of live action Japanese TV shows I plan to watch. Helps in most of the same ways as anime, but potentially gives me a better idea how to read Japanese body language. In general I favor anime over dramas because Japan is better at anime. However apparently this and a few other dramas are really good and actually worth my time.
Books: Right now I’m reading a book about Sakamoto Ryouma. It’s taking me a long time, but I’m learning a lot of history, kanji, and vocab as I go. The story is also pretty engaging from the get go. The book is written for middle schoolers and as such has the readings for all the characters beside them. This point is critical for me. I can’t enough kanji yet to be able to read most books without a dictionary, and looking everything up on a dictionary takes enough time. I am liking it so far and I’ve learned a lot, only six pages or so in.
Games: I’m starting to play some Japanese video games. The professor Layton series was recommended to me, and I’m considering getting a good RPG for DS too. Again I have to translate a lot of these words, but they just go into smart.fm as vocab study items. So far my retention has been really good.
News: I’ve set my homepage to a Japanese news website. My goal is to read the headlines everyday, with the help of rikai-chan. I’m learning to associate a lot of kanji I don’t know to words I already do this way. This also helps me keep up with what’s going on in the country, which hopefully will let me tap into folks conversations around me a little more. Maybe it won’t but my thinking is I might have the context necessary to bridge a few gaps, or strike up new conversations at the very least.
Radio: At least half the time I’m in the car I have the radio turned on. It’s actually only rarely music on the one station I pick up. Most of the time it’s either a radio talk show or an interview with a musician or band. Again, good listening practice, this time without the visual cues.
Blogging: I made a blog for writing practice. I don’t write in it nearly as much as I use this one, but it’s there, and I plan to use it in conjunction with grammar study to get more comfortable with patterns that I don’t use much in conversation. I also have another blog that shares content with my journal entries in the village newsletter.
Kanjibox: KB is an application designed originally for facebook users to practice for the JLPT exams (the same ones I’m studying for). It’s not particularly good by itself, but since it uses the JLPT word lists for its quizes it is a great self-check and evaluation tool.
Other: I havn’t started this yet, but I’m planning on getting a notebook to carry around with me all the time to write down kanji I see that I want to learn, or vocab that I heard or learned while I’m out and about. Afterwards I can include these in blog posts or study lists.
Things I’m not doing:
Reading Manga -unless you can find me a manga that catches my interest from the cover and holds it all the way through, overcoming my dislike for the manga/graphic novel style (Watchmen did this) then I don’t give a crap about them, I prefer real books.
Watching TV – I know this is a pity, because it’s supposed to be great listening practice, especially watching the news. I do occasionally watch TV when I’m out somewhere and a TV is on, but I don’t watch it on my own. I don’t like TV programming and haven’t watched it in the states for a long time either.
Listening to Music – This is a blatant lie, I am listening to Japanese music. But I’m not doing it to study. I just don’t really pay any attention to the words when I listen. I might start studying music more for the purpose of singing karaoke, my repertoire is really small and mostly limited to Disney songs. I have no firm plans to begin this though since I barely ever go to karaoke.
I am open to suggestions if you have any for other ways of having fun with/studying Japanese. Especially interested in digital resources.