Kanji Progress Update II

kanji update 30.8.9

I was doing pretty well for a while, but since coming home I’ve slacked off a lot. I haven’t added any new cards in two weeks now. It’s tough enough to keep up with reviewing.

605 down, 1437 to go.


Kanji Progress Update

RTK 15.7.9

I’ve just finished Lesson 18 of Heisig’s Remembering The Kanji 1. It was an absolute monster of a lesson with 80 kanji.

As for the SRS reps, I’m finding it really tough to keep my percentages above 80% correct. As in, I can’t. I’m consistently in the 70s. I don’t think I’m going too fast time-wise, but maybe I’m not spending long enough making the story for each kanji.

Anyway, 475 down, 1567 to go.

1000 Fails

My 30 days of Japanese project isn’t going too well. It got rudely interrupted by a 2-day hangover last weekend. I have come to the conclusion that I am old and that my days of drinking mystery cocktails in alleyways are numbered. I wasn’t even that drunk. At no point did I lose my inhibitions. I remember everything. But I was in a state of serious disrepair for a good 36 hours after I was technically sober.

Anyway, I’ve kept up remarkably well with the kanji, iKnow and listening. I’ve added at least 10 new kanji a day (excluding hangover days) for a while  now – I’m up to 279. My excel spreadsheet (I’m a closet spreadsheet evangelist) tells me that if I want to finish by December 31 I have to do 8.859 new kanji a day.

I’m chugging along with the iKnow. I’ve nearly finished the first 200 words in the Japanese Core 2000 set. I’m unconvinced as to how useful this multiple choice thing really is, but when I finish the first stage of the set I’ll re-evaluate. Right now the words seem to be sliding out of my brain as soon as I shut the program.

Where I’ve really fallen down has been doing the textbook work (Minna no Nihongo 1). I always seem to leave it til too late at night and by then I just couldn’t be bothered.

The one thing that’s made the most difference is definitely the kanji. It’s so satisfying to look at things I see every day and have the meaning leap out at me. Product packaging, billboards, road signs, menus – I can now pick out almost 10% of the words! It might not seem like much, but considering that I was totally illiterate a few months ago, I feel good. I feel like a bloody genius when I can understand my students’ writing. They often write notes to each other right in front of me thinking I can’t understand. Fools! It was something about a boy!  And liking! And a dog!

Last week I was playing Monopoly with some Junior High School girls. They’d never played before so I had to explain everything. One girl drew a card that said “Your stocks mature, bank pays you $50”. Last week I would have been stumped. The kiddie dictionaries do not include the word “stocks”. It would have been a load of stick cartoons, miming and blank faces (I’ve played this game before). This time, I was able to write the kanji for stocks. I felt like a freaking queen.

The process of kanji learning seems so slow. I have failed literally thousands of SRS flashcards over the past ten months – Anki, iKnow, kanji.koohii. This is my second attempt to tackle the Heisig method. I can wholeheartedly say though, that it works. With iKnow and other methods I feel like I’m only holding the kanji in my short-term memory for the duration of the repetition set. With Heisig, I can recognise kanji I see out on the street and recall the meaning after having only written it once, sometimes twice. My stroke order is almost perfect. I’m not saying this to brag. It’s the method, not my all-round awesomeness that has caused this.

So, 1000 fails isn’t a bad thing. I’m looking forward to racking up thousands and thousands more fails on this journey.

30 Days of Japanese Update – FAIL


The subheading for this post should be “Little Kids Are Gross – Part Two”. I’ve already had a rant about this here, but I need to re-rant. Apologies for repetition.


I was doing pretty well on my 30 days of Japanese, but then I got sick. One of the many downsides of working with children is that their standards of personal hygiene are low. I’m continually swatting little hands away from noses and ears, removing hands from underwear (their own and others’), instructing kids to cover their mouths when they cough, returning kids to the bathroom to wash their hands and generally being the hygiene police. 


As well as their filthy habits, kids come from 11 or 12 different schools, from different classes and all crowd together into one big germ-happy cloud. These horrid little clouds of skank want to hold my hand and touch my face. I just have to rein in the old gag reflex and be nice. Bleurgh.


I wash my hands all the time. I keep my own little mini towel in my bag so I don’t have to use the kids’ one (sounds weird, but a lot of Japanese have their own little towels). I even use hand sanitizer. But still. It’s gross. 


Anyway, the point is that I got some kind of stomach problem. So I haven’t been keeping up with all the tasks. Just keeping up with the SRS reps is tough enough, adding new kanji is too much. 


Yesterday I got back on track and did all my things. Since I’m trying to do 30 days in a row, what should be Day 10 or so is now Day 2. 


Wish me luck.


PS – I don’t actually hate children. I just wish their parents would show them how to use a nail brush.

How To Learn Japanese In 30 Days


Even though I’ve been living here for nearly ten months, doing bits and pieces of Japanese study, lately I feel like I’ve hit a wall of sorts. I’m just not making as much progress as I was at the start. I usually pick up one new word a day, mostly from my students. That sounds good, but 365 words per year? That’s pathetic.


I’ve been making all sorts of excuses – Japanese is too hard, I’m too old, I’m not smart enough, Japanese babies are special… etc. etc. But really, I’m just lazy. There’s no magic cure for illiteracy. I just need to do some freaking work. 


So, I’ve decided to go all US military on this goddamn language and beat it into submission using every weapon I’ve got. Shock and awe! Attack! Blitzkreig! (Not US, but whatever, it fits.)


I’m going to execute a 30-day invasion on Japanese. Every day for 30 days I’m going to do some serious work. Apparently 30 days is long enough to establish a good habit, while short enough not to be too scary. Every day for a year? Yikes. Every day for a month? Still kind of eeep but manageable. 


The Challenge

30 days of Japanese (language)-thrashing.


The Method

  • Learn at least 10 new kanji per day. 
  • Do all required SRS repetitions for kanji.
  • Max out SRS repetitions for the kana.
  • Do one chapter per day of a vocab/grammar textbook.
  • Listen with concentration to at least 30 minutes of adult spoken Japanese per day.


The Weapons

  • Kana – embarrassing as it is, my kana recall is far from perfect. I use iKnow.
  • Vocab/grammar – I’m using the book Minna no Nihongo. This book is entirely in Japanese. There is no English whatsoever. There is a translation/grammatical notes book available, which I have. I’m not endorsing this book, I have no idea if it’s any better or worse than others out there, but I got this one for free. Free! That’s why I use it. 
  • Spoken Japanese – I listen to children speaking Japanese for five hours a day. Even though I’m actively trying to figure out what they’re saying, they’re speaking kiddie Japanese. This isn’t really good enough. I also listen to adult Japanese while I’m driving around or doing household chores – the radio, online tv, stuff from youtube. I’m not really concentrating though, it filters in and out. 

Listening with concentration is different, I’m really trying to figure out what they’re saying, hunting for words I recognise. Right now I’m watching a Japanese TV show called Kimi wa Petto. It’s based on a really popular manga comic and was made in 2003. I’ve already watched the series (10 1-hour episodes) on youtube with the subtitles on, so I know what’s going on. I don’t have a copy of this without the subtitles, so I put the subtitled version on, and then minimize the screen. I tend to watch the same 10-minute clip 2 or 3 times in a row. Each time I pick up more words and figure out more patterns. I also watch whatever movies I can get my hands on. Previous favorites have included The Incredibles and Mean Girls. I must have listened to The Incredibles 50 times (mostly while doing other things).


The Support

  • I read at least one “motivational” blog post per day. Mostly I read Steve Pavlina. This guy is one of the most popular personal development blog writers in the world. I think he’s great. Some of his posts veer into new-agey spirituality, but I just ignore those bits and stick to motivation/time management/productivity. It really helps.


I’m posting all this stuff here partly to help other people and partly as a public declaration. I’m going to do this. If I don’t do it, I’ll… well… be ashamed. 


Wish me luck!



Oh, did I say learn Japanese in 30 days? Sorry, I meant FOR 30 days.

Learning Japanese Part Three – New Stuff


Since writing the previous two posts about learning Japanese (click for parts one and two) I’ve changed tack a little. 


I’ve continued with Heisig’s Remembering The Kanji, but sheeeeeeeeeet, the going is slow. It’s tough. I can still see that it’s an excellent method, but it can get very frustrating. Honestly though, I haven’t really been plugging in the hours necessary. I went home for three weeks at Christmas and it all went to crap then. I haven’t quite managed to get back on the wagon yet. Now and then I go to a practice website Kanji Koohii (kanji coffee) and watch my progress melt away. 


If you’re using the RTK system, the kanji koohi site is bloody brilliant. In an earlier post I mentioned that I was using anki. Don’t bother. You have to manually insert all 2042 kanji and their meanings. Sooooooo tedious and boring. The koohi site is already set up for the RTK system with all the kanji already put in, and crucially, in Heisig’s order. Really good. 


I also said to switch on the tv if you’re in Japan or download buy stuff from amazon.jp if you’re not. I don’t have a tv. I have no intention of getting one. Instead, I use livestation. You can watch live tv online from a program on your desktop. It’s kind of crappy, but I mostly watch the shopping channels. You can see that they’re talking about clothes or flowers or cookware or whatever, but mostly you just get the sentence patterns over and over again along with a load of oohing and aahing. I keep it on in the background. 


I only have two Japanese dvds, The Incredibles and Mean Girls. I’ve watched them in Japanese about a hundred times. Actually, I don’t watch them exactly. As in, I don’t look at the screen. I just have them on in the background. 


The other source I use is JapanesePod101.com. The actual site is really freaking annoying with constant popup ads trying to get you to sign up so I avoid it at all costs. I use google reader to read blogs so I just signed up to their RSS feeds. They have a whole bunch of different lesson plans (newbie, beginner, intermediate, advanced) which are pretty badly organised on the site so the best way to do it (and the way I do it) is to stick it in the reader (click here for the link to the right page) and then run a search within the reader for “newbie” or whatever. (If this is confusing, send me an email.)


The last thing I use is software called iKnow. This goes against the AJATT method (as does JapanesePod1o1) but I live here and I need to be able to speak to/understand the kids so screw it. It’s really damn good. The 3 courses I’ve signed up to are hiragana, katakana and Core 2000 (2000 most important Japanese words). It has pictures and audio all wrapped up in a damn sleek package. This is something I’d definitely recommend. To sign up go to smart.fm. It takes a bit of clicking around to cop on to what’s going on but once you get used to the layout it’s really good. 


So far, my Japanese is improving but still shoddy. I still can’t read a menu or a website. I still often get stumped by basic questions. I’m slowly getting better though. Baby steps. 


Good luck!

JLPT Update

I didn’t take it. I drank the All Japanese All The Time kool-aid and went in a different direction. I learned a rake of kanji that weren’t on the JLPT 4 list and left out over half that were. I learned words and phrases that I needed to learn for teaching and daily life rather than the ones on the list. 


Yet, I still really wanted to take it. But then I actually looked up the exam centre’s location and realised that there was no way in heck I was going to get there by the time the exam started without a car. So, what with not wanting to have to book a hotel, the decision was made for me. 


I still kind of wish I had taken it, but since I knew I wasn’t going to pass (and I’m not being modest here, I genuinely hadn’t looked at well over half of the things that would be examined) and was taking it “just to see” how I was doing, I decided against it. 


I’m realigning my goals and planning to take the JLPT Level 3 next year instead. The plan is to continue on the AJATT/Remembering The Kanji path and then do some grammar/vocab cramming before the test.