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Zealous's Blog

August 14th, 2009

Thanks Windy.
Posted by Zealous | Aug 14, 2009 5:22 PM | 0 comments
May 23rd, 2009
I'm not sure how necessary this is, but I thought it might be a nice feature if there's anything worth posting. This is kind of my own way of solving the issue of, well, clubs not having a blog (which I asked for in the suggestions forum).

So, feel free to make suggestions on what I could write about.~ ^^

Posted by Zealous | May 23, 2009 5:15 PM | 0 comments
May 13th, 2009
Anime Relations: Cardcaptor Sakura
Well, first off, I'd like to give a bit of an update on all the things I've done since the last post. Which, I think is a lot!

First off, I've read five other manga entirely, I read the first couple of sentences to a novel (夢十夜, for anyone interested), a bunch of song lyrics, and have started rereading Cardcaptor Sakura. (I'm picking up a lot more the second time around). わいはケロベロスや!

Oh, and I almost forgot that I read some short story / dialog as well. I've been collecting sentences from all of these things and adding them to Anki. I'm almost to 1,000. I'm sure that once I finish putting the sentences from my books in I'll have about 950-970. And, I learn new ones every day, so I'm thinking that this weekend will be the 1,000 mark.

This first thousand has taken me a lot longer than I would have liked, but I think it was because I was still trying to hang on to perfection. And, to clearly define what I mean here, I'll explain. What I mean is that I was trying to know every Kanji by meaning and writing, but how could have I expect myself to do this without connecting them to real life things. It's not that much trouble to look them up again if they slip my mind.

I was also bent on trying to cram the mechanics of writing, reading, understanding, listening, and shadowing (speech imitation) all in one moment during my SRS reviews. This was way too much and was exceptionally painful with poor sentence choices with no context. So, simplifying the process down to simply reading and understanding the sentence has increased my confidence. Afterall, reviewing is just that, reviewing. It's not meant to be the main course. And, luckily, I found this out before Khatzumoto posted about it.

I'd also like to talk about how I've been going about this sentence-picking. Well, basically, when I'm reading something on the computer, direct entry to the SRS and dictionary lookups are much easier, so I do that. But, when I can't be bothered to switch between the computer and a book in my hands, then I just use sticky-notes to mark up my books. This isn't really a new thing with me, but it's good context for what I'm going to get into next.

Something I haven't quite utilized as much as I should have is the monolingual dictionary. (What? Didn't I give up on those things because I spending too much time on them? Yeah.) What I was doing was completely wrong. I thought that maybe by spending all my time with the dictionary, I'd be able to get better at using it. But, it doesn't help if you're using it wrong. The dictionary is a tool. Nothing more. Just like the SRS, it is not the main course. The main course are those actors, seiyuu, and news anchors. They're the ones that give you real life contexts to attach to words that build up your MIFs (http://algworld.com). MIFs are what's called Mental Image Flashes, and when language comes from these, even if it comes out wrong, it will not damage your ability with the language like careless output will. If it's based on a MIF, it can be refined and refined. But if you're balancing a formula every other word, you're setting yourself up for bad habits.

Anyways, getting back to that dictionary. So, after my failure in using the dictionary, I decided I'd just read and hope to pick up things from context. This was an important step in that it opened me up to fun things. But, after spending a couple weeks doing this, I came to realize that I could be looking up words that maybe I had a slight idea about and just needed confirmation, and thus, getting more out of each source. So, I started using the dictionary again. But, one piece of advice I hadn't quite utilized was Khatzumoto's advice to look up words you already know to make the transition to monolingual dictionaries. Although, when I first tried this, I was looking up random words that I already knew. But, now I utilize this feature of the monolingual dictionary even futher by looking up words that I learn in context, so that they're words that I already know, but didn't know until I encountered them in a meaningful context. What this has done for me is that it has increased the number of words and sentences I can get out of a single manga, movie or website.

The best thing is, is that, even if I don't get anything out of the dictionary, I still have the sentence that contains the word I looked up!

And, as a final bit of ranting, I'd like to mention this "source switching" I've been doing. This last week, I read some advice on Antimoon about picking a different task to do each day instead of the same thing. And this, was certainly my issue with manga. Manga is great, but just like any human activity, too much can lead to boredom. Especially with a limited supply. (I buy mine, so I only own a couple). So, I've began to make use of lyrics, stories, and online content. Something I'd love to get into is reading random people's blogs about their life. What's so interesting about that? Well, maybe the idea that it contains everyday speech in it. I'd say that's a good reason. And generally, that kind of content is going to be better written than random forum posts. And in the near future, I'm planning on buying a copy of ムーラン(Mulan), ジャングルブック(The Jungle Book), and ラストサムライ(The Last Samurai) in their Japanese versions. The disney movies are ones that I'm particularly interested in watching again, only this time in Japanese, and The Last Samurai I just saw recently in the primarily English version, and would like to watch it dubbed into Japanese. I'll probably be buying these on a monthly basis since that's all my paycheck is going to allow for it seems.

However, spending a month on one movie is probably a good thing in that it's going to allow me to loop through the movie several times (daily even!) and start imitating the speech in it by ripping the audio and listening to bite size pieces (about 90 seconds each) of the film. And, this is even a hands fee thing, I can do it on my way to school if I wanted. And, of course, I can use the Japanese subs for sentence picking. And, since movies are pretty managable pieces (90 minutes thereabout), it's going to be a lot easier than say.. the entirety of a drama or anime (especially on the level of Dragonball).

So, that's all for now. :)

真の姿を我の前に示せ!
Posted by Zealous | May 13, 2009 10:21 PM | 0 comments
April 12th, 2009
I've finished reading just a few moments ago the first volume of Card Captor Sakura (raw). This is the first raw manga I've completed reading through. It took a lot longer than I wanted, but it has given me a lot of confidence.

That's all I wanted to say. :)
Posted by Zealous | Apr 12, 2009 3:20 PM | 1 comments
April 9th, 2009
You may not have realized this, but when you read, no matter what language it is, you are improving your ability with that language. I somewhat knew this before taking on Japanese, but didn't realize how powerful it was until I actually sat down and started reading voulentarily.

In under an hour, I learned over 19 new words and phrases. This was only 23 pages of manga. And, what's more is, I didn't use a dictionary aside from one word that I wanted to doublecheck. (夕飯 for those that are curious). And, even that was pretty obvious by the context later in the book.

And that's just it. Context. It's what connects you to your language. Why do you think you know what words mean even though you might not be able to give a clear definition of select words. And then.. even when you do know the definition, for example, "Dog" is an animal that barks, likes to chew on bones, eats meat (carnivor), and is considered "Man's bestfriend." The only reason we know these things is because we've heard that dog bark, chew on bones, and eat meat. In fact, we've all got a different idea of what dogs are, but we meet at a common ground. For example, when you think of a dog, you've probably got an image or two of different dogs you've seen, but they're probably not the same dog as I would think of or someone else for that matter.

As far as foreign language is concerned, some say that learning through context should be reserved for people that are advanced in their study. But, then, I barely know how to follow basic conversations, and I surely don't understand that much of what I read. But, that's precisely why I do it. Because eventually my mind will start to make connections to the language through context.

If you're studying Japanese, indeed any language, then you best start reading. The folks over at http://antimoon.com have stories of people who became avid readers of English and surprised the people around them with their knowledge.

I believe that through reading, even at the early stage, one can become fluent in a language without ever cracking open a dictionary. But, dictionaries are a useful tool that you can use to provide additional context. And, when I say dictionary, I'm speaking of a monolingual dictionary. For Japanese, that would be a Japanese-Japanese dictionary. Bilingual are like Japanese-English dictionaries. Bilingual dictionaries are the devil's spawn. There are words that I "learned" from there that I feel are corrupt, meaningless, and dry. At least, for now. I'm sure that lots of exposure to Japanese will build that feeling for each of them.

By the way, don't be like me and spend all your time mining your way through monolingual dictionaries. It only leads to despair. If you look up a word and can't figure it out, or the definition is just too long and looks terrifying, then skip it. If you want you can look up a word or two that you didn't understand from the definition of the word you looked up. But, if you don't feel the meaning, then just skip it for now. It'll come to you eventually. As they say, if a word is important enough it will present itself to you many times in order for you to learn it. And when you do finally understand it, you'll have such a strong connection to it that it'll be yours, and that part of the language will be a part of you.

Posted by Zealous | Apr 9, 2009 3:19 PM | 0 comments
April 1st, 2009
I believe I've made a grave mistake. It's fixable, but it did waste more time than I would have liked. First, I'd like to explain the pace at which I wish to progress through Japanese.

Ideally I would have finished Remembering the Kanji volume 1 in no more than two months, and then keep a consistent pace of 30 sentences a day until the 18 months are up. Then, sometime during that 18 months, an additional month would be an additional 965 Kanji learned via Remembering the Kanji volume 2. This would result in 3007 Kanji and 13,725 sentences learned.

Unfortunately, my approach went through a series of tweaks because I started off on the wrong foot. It wasn't so bad in the beginning of sentences because pretty much anything is good and interesting at that point. However, I can distinctly remember telling myself something like "I can't use this sentence because I haven't learned this word yet." And it's like, well heck.. why don't I just learn it and put it in. It was just stupid. So after that minor phase, I started working through the example sentences in Tae Kim's guide. Which, if one considers that ideal pace, I should have completed the entire thing rather quickly..

But that didn't happen. Why is that? Well, because grammar guides, no matter how great they are, are just that.. grammar guides. And, I didn't know enough of the language to benefit much from reading about grammar. It was helpful in learning the basics like は、が、の、で、and basic conjugations. It was also helpful in getting some basic vocabulary in my head. But much beyond that, it became irrelevant. Although, I didn't want to admit that because I was afraid that using native sources would be way too slow or would result in me not learning anything at all.

Then there was my first dip into monolingual studies using the dictionary. I don't know whether it was worth as much trouble as it was (which was all my fault really). But, I feel comfortable learning Japanese from Japanese given the help from previously acquired vocabulary and knowledge of Kanji meanings.

But, as I was getting more and more into monolingual dictionaries, I found myself forgetting Kanji! It was a disaster. I thought I had them all down. I mean, I completed Remembering the Kanji and reviewed them everyday.. But that wasn't enough.

So, on I went trying to correct this fatal mistake. I didn't want to go back through RTK no matter what. Another three months of that wasn't going to be worth the trouble. It would be boring and lead me to burnout.. fast!

I tried things like looking for new methods to relearn the Kanji with their Chinese readings. But the method wasn't as solid as Heisig's so it wasn't within my comfort zone. Then there was RTK vol 2. I tried working through this because it was 1. more time with the Kanji learned in vol 1, and 2. I'd be learning the readings.. But then, the way the book does it is kind of awkward and isn't as complete as I'd like. I tried different approaches involving this. But then there was the question of learning "too many sentences" with a bilingual book. This served as a major problem for me, and I still think it does since I think of ways I can use the book even now.

So, now I know better than all this. However, it seems I've digressed quite a bit. The real issue is whether it's more important to learn new material or review old. Or rather, not so much whether one should review but the quality of that review. If adequate time is put into learning something the first time, then one shouldn't have to "relearn" it a hundred thousand times through SRS reviews.

Which brings me to the conclusion that, it's OK for me to focus on learning new material over reviewing the old. Which means a change in the way I do things.

The old way was something like this, which normally worked because I like to over do things. My sentence cards were audio that I had to write out in full perfectly as well as understand and mimic the speech that I heard. Now, this is great in terms of quality of review. However, the time that it 1. takes to listen to the audio, 2. write it out by hand perfectly, 3. voice it out at the same speed with the audio (shadowing), and 4. check my answer, and then sometimes 5. check definitions of definitions of definitions to relearn something if I forgot. We're talking about over 60 seconds per card. This, my friend, is hell. At best I can get 12 reviews done in 10 minutes.

The plus side? It sticks pretty much the first time I recall the sentence from memory and my writing and listening skills are great. The down side? I only know that small amount that I know really well. When there's thousands of words to get into your head, being stuck memorizing a couple of them through SRS reps is not fun. However, it is fun to review those things you learned before. In other words, it's fun to get those reminders of what you have learned so you don't forget. What isn't fun is shoving all this new information into your head 30-100 times a day.

So, my remedy to this is to change the format of my cards to minimize review time and maximize open time for reading, watching, and having fun. After all, without new material, you aren't getting anywhere.

So the point of this is, go find new stuff and only "review" the old. Don't get bogged down with that old material. And, if it really sucks, delete those items.

So not my repetitions go like this: 1. read sentence and understand it 2. check answer. Done. Checking my answer would be something like checking my understanding, checking if I read it correctly, and that's probably it. This increases the amount of reviews I can do almost 3 fold. So that hour of review just got cut down to 20 minutes, and that means 40 minutes of learning new stuff.

And, I've also decided to do this with Kanji. I'm finding that recognizing them for their forms and meanings is more important than writing them given the meaning. Why? Well, because 1. I'm certain that with a single glance I can write any Kanji out by hand, 2. Handwriting is a nice skill, but reading books in Japanese is a skill I value more and sacrificing handwriting quickens the road to reading Japanese, 3. Because when I read, I am not given the meaning, I'm given raw Japanese text that I need to figure out what it means, and quick recognition of Kanji helps in this a lot. I was finding that even though I could write it given the meaning, I couldn't give the meaning given the character. :(

So.. that's all for now. I'll let you know how it all goes. And, hey, there's always time to learn handwriting later once I know lots of Japanese. It'd probably be a lot easier to learn then too. ^^
Posted by Zealous | Apr 1, 2009 2:58 AM | 0 comments