Posted by Tracy Poff on April 29, 2010
I was a little optimistic in my last post, when I said it shouldn’t take more than a day or so per chapter. Not about the difficulty of the book–I’m pretty sure it won’t take more than a day per chapter–but about my own desire to use said less-than-rigorous book. In the ten days since I wrote that I’ve progressed by zero chapters. I have, though, kept up my kanji and vocabulary study–according to Anki, I’ve done 49 kanji and have 240 vocabulary cards. Each kanji represents four cards, so that’s about 300 new cards in ten days, which is a fairly good rate of progress. As mentioned previously, I’ve been pretty much learning kanji by year, though
I’ve only got about a 75% success rate both on first tries and repeats, but those failures are (very) disproportionately taken up by the readings of the kanji. I have very little trouble with remembering the meanings or how to write the kanji given its meaning and readings, but for those kanji for which I know no words in which they appear, I have quite a bit of difficulty remembering readings. I have seen recommendations to just ignore the readings, and Heisig’s method does this, apparently to great effect, so my failures in that regard don’t bother me much. I’m trying to work around this difficulty by adding–as soon as possible–vocabulary cards using the kanji I’m studying, in hopes that by knowing some words using the kanji, I’ll more easily remember their readings. I think it’s a pretty sound hypothesis, and, anecdotally, it seems to be working.
As far as vocabulary goes, I believe that it will be easier than I had originally anticipated. Remembering random words from my textbook was pretty much an exercise in rote memorization, since the words are all written in kana. Words written in kanji, however are often much easier to remember–at least their meanings are easier, though it does still take me a little time to read them. Currently, it goes something like “大人… big… person… ah, adult, おとな”. I guess with sufficient practice I’ll recognize these more immediately.
My difficulties in reading quickly aside, though, I’m finding it much more fun learning the vocabulary when they’re written with kanji rather than kana. It doesn’t just make them easier to remember, it’s also amusing. For example, I have just discovered that ‘fireworks’ is written 花火–flower and fire. Trivial, but I rather think that it’s the little things that will help to get me through this. So, here’s to trivia.
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Posted by Tracy Poff on April 19, 2010
Lately, I’ve been trying to learn Japanese. My proximate goal is to be able to read the first volume of Sailor Moon, which I judge to be a fairly easy target (indeed, I can understand perhaps half of it already, with a bit of dictionary use), since most of the kanji have furigana and it’s aimed at children. I’ve been through a few pieces of software trying to find a good one to help me memorize kanji and vocabulary. I was using Mnemosyne, but I’ve just switched to Anki, which has some better features for this purpose.
To aid me in my struggle, I’m using Adventures in Japanese 1 by Hiromi Peterson and Naomi Omizo. It’s aimed at high school students, so I’m rather less than satisfied with the grammatical rigour, and furthermore it’s full of pointless illustrations and group activities (Wow, so the word smile means a smiley face? Neat! Oh, so we should go around the class and have everyone say his name and grade level–in Japanese? That’ll be awesome the thirtieth time I hear it!), but it’s the best I’ve got right now. Actually, I do have a couple of other books which should be more useful (All About Particles and A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns, both by Naoko Chino), but they aren’t precisely aimed at the beginner, so I’ll probably find them more useful once I’ve learned enough words to begin reading.
For now, I’m learning the kanji in order by year. Once I can begin reading a bit, I’ll mix this approach with adding the kanji I encounter, but I don’t imagine I’ll be up to reading anything but my textbook for a while yet. When I am ready, though, I should have a fair few things to read–I’m storing up likely candidates in Evernote; I’ve got various short stories and a translation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Since they’re electronic, looking up unfamiliar kanji should be easy, so I’ll be able to start on them a little sooner than if they were on paper.
I’m making decent progress, I guess. According to Anki, I’ve currently got memorized about a hundred vocabulary words and ten kanji, though that under-represents my actual vocabulary quite a bit (and my kanji knowledge a little, too). I’ll be through my textbook in a few weeks, probably. I’ve completed four of fifteen chapters, though the later chapters will probably take longer, it still probably won’t take much more than a day per chapter, on average. After that I’ve got to either continue my education strictly online, buy a better book, or use the mediocre books that the library has. Decisions, decisions.
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