A quest for more intellectual pursuits

January 29, 2008 at 6:54 PM (Language) (, , , )

A goal of mine starting a few months back was to study a new language. I began studying Japanese on my own with the aid of a language learning site and a textbook. I did that for a couple of months, but lost interest after a while, it’s boring doing it alone. =( I decided to start it up again after publishing this blog and give occasional updates on progress and stuffs.

I learned the Japanese hiragana after a week or so and then memorized the katakana in about another week. After that, I went on to the textbook and studied the chapters and did the exercises. For reading proficiency there aren’t really any shortcuts to this, I just read and re-read any kana I could find. Practicing reading not only helps you recognize the letters faster, but increases your vocabulary and reading speed, as long as you practice, that is. Of course, there wasn’t that many things for me to read written only with basic kana so I used the rikaichan firefox plugin to help me read those unknown kanji. This is way faster than using a dictionary and helps a lot with comprehension, I could at least figure out the gist of a paragraph if not all the words. These are the basics for self study, and you can have fun reading too.

Like working out, consistency is important. Studying hardcore isn’t really necessary, but I would recommend a spaced repitition system to help you in your studying. Go back to previous chapters and notes from time to time and review the material. Doing the exercises also really helped me remember things (homework isn’t always useless!). I also invested in the workbook for more exericises, but that’s really up to you.

A mistake some beginners make is to focus on learning kanji really early on. Kanji knowledge is not a shortcut to learning Japanese, it is really rather useless, unless you can put those vocabulary words to use, and the only way to do that, is to study grammar. Grammar is much more important for that purpose, and personally, I learned all the kanji  from the textbook exercises and workbook. Don’t get caught up with the numbers too much and just learn the kanji as you go along. I figure it’s easier that way, rather than counting each kanji you memorize and will never use because you can’t manage to write a simple sentence yet.

Grammar is the one of the most important parts of learning languages, so make sure you get it down. You don’t want to be a knuckledragger with broken naruto vocabulary trying to pick up Japanese girls do you? Of course not. You want to be the foreign guy who can display your wide array of gundam knowledge and sushi ninja powers to all that will listen. In Japanese! Well okay, maybe not. Still, a good word of advice, DO NOT LEARN JAPANESE FROM ANIME. Bad for your health, and makes you sound like a retard. Not even your giant foreign penis can save you, so learn japanese the right way. With a teacher in a classroom or with the magic internets as your mentor. When you get a good enough grasp of grammar, you can put all those months of studying to use and actually construct sentences! Saying where the library is or what color dog you like might not be all that impressive at first, but trust me you will get there.

So for all you current and future students, good luck with your studies. がんばって!

Right now I am on Chapter 6 of Genki I, going back to review past chapters because I haven’t touched it in a long time. Not very far along, but I’m going slow and steady. =[

それでは、 おたのしみに

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