Monday, March 7, 2011

Biting the bullet and changing my methods

So, I've been learning Japanese for quite some time. I do have quite a bit of work to show for it under my belt. While I'm not the best at forming my own sentences, I can comprehend and write pretty decently. I do study diligently, and I study daily, but there's one problem I've had really. My approach to learning is the "learn as you go" method, which is what I thought was more logical at the time, despite the fact that pretty much everyone that's actually made it far with the language have taken other approaches. I figured it was better for me to do it in the way I imagined. While it certainly hasn't gone fruitless, there are certain things I have a deeper understanding of that would have taken longer to get (I think) if I took a different approach, I do notice that I do move along rather slowly compared to everyone else. 

I don't like comparing myself to others when it comes to language acquisition, because doing that usually just makes you try to push yourself until you burn out, and that's not really good. What's important is not to rush past all the information and try to cram it in, but to actually understand it and actually keep it stored in your head. Of course, I studied Japanese before I started taking Japanese classes, and I can see why people usually put down Japanese class as a means of actually learning the language. But I use it more as a means of cementing some of the core grammar a bit more in my head, for foundation, rather than relying on class as a full blown means of learning the language.

But I'm digressing a bit from what I really felt like posting. I've known it for a while now, but never took the plunge. I've known that my way of learning is rather slow. I've always had thoughts in the back of my head that maybe I should have given the AJATT dude's advice another look before thinking it's not what would work for me (I disagreed with some of what he talked about, but some stuff I did agree on and actually incorporate into my study habits). But I looked at many different methods of learning, and picked up one I thought sounded more logical. That was, pick up kana first, take some grammar from Taekim, and learn vocabulary with kanji. I did try the kanjidamage thing at first, but decided it was too much information to take in at once, and it'd be better to learn the kanji used in words that are used within real sentences for better understanding of context. This is what I've based my studies on. It works nicely, but I can't help but feel I should have thought more about the alternate study paths.

So, I decided it's best to do it now. Everyone says it's easier to learn vocabulary and easier to read if you just get your kanji over with before anything else. Or at least, everyone that's actually made it somewhere decent in their learning. So I decided I'd put my current methods on hold for a bit. I'll go through the kanji first. At 25 a day I should finish in about 3 months, and then I'll start picking up where I left off, assuming everything goes smoothly and I don't bump into any unforeseeable hills on the way. I'm already familiar with a lot of kanji, how they're formed, what the stroke order should be (even for kanji I've never seen before, simply by following rules I already have in my head). Hell, I may even just go through with the AJATT method after that and do that 1000 sentence SRS step so I can get a better feel for more "natural" Japanese. 

As it is right now, I over think too much when it comes to forming my own sentences, and that's not very good. It's not as if I thought his methods were "too extreme" like most people think when they read his stuff. I do some of the stuff he talks about, but I don't even have to force myself into doing it. I just didn't think his method made sense at the time. Learning grammar without actually picking up a grammar resource? Just naturally letting it sink in by learning sentences? What the hell is that? I still think it sounds a bit strange, but at the same time I feel it makes sense, in its own way. Obviously, it's not good to follow the guy's stuff as if it was a bible, but nice to take some of his advice and adapt it into your own way. 

So, I'm just doing a reform of my learning a bit. It's not as if it wasn't working, I just thought over my options a bit more and felt that changing the way I learn might better benefit me. As it is now, I do notice myself relying heavily on furigana for kanji I don't know, and only taking a slight glance at them to note their radicals and going "oh, okay, that's nice" before completely forgetting them. If it's a word I know, I'll probably write down the kanji for future reference, but if I did this for every single kanji I came across and didn't know, I wouldn't be able to read without multiple interruptions. So, I've decided I'll take the plunge and just learn them all. Learn the kanji, even if I don't know the readings for them yet. At first when I thought about learning kanji separate from their readings and what words they're used in, I thought of it as a waste of time, because you'd still have to just learn them over again to learn how they're used. But I realize that it probably is for the better to have a great understanding of all of the most commonly used kanji before digging deeper into the language. I do notice that if there's a word that uses kanji I already know, I tend to learn the word much faster, and memorize it much better; and when I bump into a word with a kanji that's new to me, it takes longer, mostly because I have to write the kanji over and over to memorize the kanji, then memorize the meaning and reading, etc. It's a lot of work to cram in.

It can't hurt me really. Not having to deal with learning kanji at the same time as vocabulary seems like it'll make things run smoother. And no more completely ignoring kanji I don't know when I bump into them. Unless it's a oneshot web comic or something, I usually don't try hard to learn new kanji I bump into while reading, and that's something I hope to avoid.

And just because I feel he deserves a mention, I want to thank
 Seriously. I feel like it comes off as me kissing your ass or worshiping you for your knowledge, but I really just find a lot of your posts rather inspirational. I really do have an interest in a lot of the recommendations you've been making recently.It was some of your posts that helped give me a push in trying to go down a different study path. So far it seems to be going pretty well.

Though, I do realize it's a bit strange to do something like this when I'm supposed to be studying for a midterm next week that I still don't know much on. At least I looked up videos for one of the topics! Eh, doesn't really matter too much to me. My primary focus is what I really want to learn, and I don't think I should take away from that determination right now. 

So, wish me luck.

~ Kirari ミ★

9 posts:

Jerry said...

It's funny that you're talking about this right now because I've been neglecting my Japanese studies lately. It's great that you're taking a different approach in learning. The method shouldn't matter as long as we get to the final goal, right?

>And just because I feel he deserves a mention, I want to thank Tigoris.

Me too, looks like we're both kissing his ass. His posts give a lot of inspiration to those who are learning.

>So, wish me luck.

Good luck!

SugoiSugoi said...

>I've been neglecting my Japanese studies lately.

Me too. ;_;

>25 a day

Isn't that a lot? Whenever I see this mentioned on /jp/, people usually recommend 10 or 15 a day. Don't burn yourself out.

Good luck!

Tigoris said...

>Learning grammar without actually picking up a grammar resource? Just naturally letting it sink in by learning sentences?

If you want to be a good writer or to sound truly natural, I've got to admit that you'll need grammar instruction of some sort. The "absorption" thing is really just about getting an intuitive feel for Japanese, just like you did with English as a kid. Ever remember taking an English class as a kid and sentences not "feeling right"? That's what it is, you instinctively knew from experience that the sentence was not correct, even if you didn't know the rules for it. In taking this Japanese course now, I've been learning the actual rules of grammar, which have really helped to cement what I already knew. Probably gonna make a post on this at some point now.

>As it is now, I do notice myself relying heavily on furigana for kanji I don't know

It sounds to me like you need to move on to things that don't have furigana. Learning all of the kanji will definitely help, but reading things without a kana crutch will really put what you know to the test and help you to grow.

>25 a day

That's a good number to set. Just make sure that you always add at least 5 or something per day - never completely stop. We all have those days where we just don't want to work, but make the effort to keep adding anyways.

>I really just find a lot of your posts rather inspirational

Aw shucks, you're making me blush.

Good luck with the new study method!

Kirari Star said...

>Isn't that a lot? Whenever I see this mentioned on /jp/, people usually recommend 10 or 15 a day. Don't burn yourself out.

Well with my current method I usually do at least 10 vocabulary words a day, and a lot of times those have me learning the reading, different usages, and kanji (if it's a new one), all at once. It's usually more work than remembering just kanji and attaching a name and mnemonic to it. If I feel myself tiring out I'll turn it down a notch, and like Tigoris said, everyone runs into those days where they just feel tired, but it's important to at least do something every day to keep the train rolling. Nothing's more off putting than opening up Anki and seeing you've been slacking off and have a ton to review.

I encourage everyone that's been neglecting their studies to at least do something every day. Even if it's just reviewing previously learned stuff, it'll keep you rolling along. Stopping is poisonous, I know because I've been studying for quite a long time, but most of it has been on and off learning because of how lazy I've been. But eventually I knew just how bad it is to stop for just 1 day. topping one day breaks the flow and makes it a bit difficult to get back on track. I don't have the problem with "on and off" learning anymore, because I realized this. I keep going, even on days that I don't feel like it. I push myself even just a little so that I keep momentum.

>It sounds to me like you need to move on to things that don't have furigana.

Yeah, I have a few books on my shelf without furigana, and those help me realize how much I use them as a crutch. I'm hoping my kanji study will help me pave that road to reading fluency. Right now i have a ton of vocabulary words at my disposal, and a lot of the kanji to go with them, but I hit a roadblock when I come across a kanji I don't know.

LoneIslander said...

At least you have some sort of dedication to it.

Diorf said...

Good luck!

I was learning it a couple years back, took a break, and just couldn't get back into it.

RetroSpider said...

Whatever pace you go at its at least important to be diligent which you seem to be. I as many others have been neglecting studies but I also don't have much time or urgency to do so. I envy your progress. Keep it up and good luck.

serenity said...

>Stopping is poisonous

So true. I've been completely neglecting my studies for weeks now that uni's started back up and every day I feel even less like getting back into it ;_;

Good luck to you with your new method, you sound dedicated enough to pull it off.

LainIwakura said...

Stopping is horrible. When University is over I'm going to be studying Japanese all I can.

One of the things I like to remind people is not to "become a professor". Your goal is to learn the language, but don't feel obligated to know it so well that you could teach it at a university =P

Another thing I recommend is picking up an average Japanese book that would be read by an average Japanese person, I did this by going on and picking the best seller in 2010- I got this book ( and I must say I haven't been disappointed. When I find something I don't know, I look it up with the resources I have- it goes pretty nicely =)

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