Tsuyoshi's log

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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Wed Oct 14, 2020 1:48 am

Hi

I am currently studying Japanese. I have been studying, in one form or another, since 2005. I hope to eventually learn not only Japanese, but also Mandarin, Korean, Italian, and French. I intend to only study one language at a time, until I've reached an advanced level, before going on to the next one. My overriding goal at the moment is to be able to study urban planning and transportation policy in East Asia, and specifically in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

I've attacked Japanese in a variety of ways. I started by taking a intensive Japanese class at a language school in Seattle over the summer of 2005. I continued taking part-time classes there until 2007, when I went to Japan to attend a language school there. I only stayed there two months, before I realized I didn't want to teach English in order to stay in Japan, and that I couldn't stay, because Japan is not cheap, and I was running out of money. Language school in Japan is a solid option, but I recommend saving up maybe $50 thousand before you do it.

So, I went off to Southeast Asia for a couple years, during which time I finished Remembering the Kanji Volume I, and basically followed a low-intensity AJATT-style studying method (more on this below). I was intending to pass JLPT N1 before going back to Japan and finding a job. But I didn't really keep up my studying. I ended up bombing the test.

It was an interesting experience taking the test though, as I took it in Cambodia. When I went to sign up for it, at the Japanese Center at Phnom Penh University, I tried to speak to the people there in Japanese (as I know very little Cambodian), and they laughed at the novelty of a white guy speaking Japanese, and then did the whole transaction in English. And then when I took the test, they kept translating the test instructions into English just for me. So they would give the instructions in Japanese, then Cambodian, and then (only for me, as everyone else was Cambodian) English. I mean... my Japanese was not good enough to pass the test (not that they knew that!), but I could understand basic instructions just fine. So if you ever get frustrated that people in Japan don't take your language ability seriously - well, it can happen even far outside of Japan.

Anyway, I got married in Cambodia, and then I went back to Japan to look for work, but this was right at the start of the 2008 recession, and I bombed the only interview I could get (for a software development job with an American financial company's Tokyo branch office). I probably could have found an English teaching job, but it's honestly a low-paying, low-status, dead-end career. I did not meet anyone in Japan that was happy doing it.

So I went back to Cambodia. I stayed there for a while, doing a bit of remote software work, but decided to head back to the US after contracting malaria. At that point I had given up ever moving to Japan, and stopped studying Japanese.

In the meantime I discovered that I had Italian citizenship, and studied Italian for a bit. What I mostly learned is that Italian is super easy - using all the tactics that I used for Japanese, I felt like I could get to an advanced level in Italian in a year or so. But after researching life in Italy (and in Europe more broadly), came to the conclusion that I didn't really want to live in Europe, and especially not in Italy. Mostly for the same reason I gave up on living in Asia - good jobs are hard to find, and the pay is too low. Maybe someday, if the ECB comes to its senses and raises its inflation target... I still believe, as an Italian citizen, I have an obligation to learn the language, but it's on the back burner for now.

Recently I've become interested in studying Japanese again. I am interested in learning more about how and why Japanese cities got to be the way they are. I'm also interested in learning about the same topics applied to the rest of "democratic East Asia", i.e. South Korea and Taiwan, which as I understand it share a lot of similarities to Japan, as they were both formerly Japanese colonies during their initial period of industrialization. There are few resources on these topics in English.

I started studying Japanese again in August, after finding a bunch of my old Japanese learning materials in my parents' garage. I'm vaguely aiming to pass JLPT N1 in December 2021, but it's not too important really, as I'm not looking to go to school or find a job in Japan at all.

I've decided, for the moment, to go through Pimsleur Japanese. I was very impressed with Pimsleur when I tried it for Italian. It is outstanding for developing good pronunciation and speech. I already have an intermediate level of written Japanese, but my listening and speaking are not so great. I just did Lesson 16 yesterday, and I will do Lesson 17 later today.

Also, I've been trying to memorize more vocabulary. I guess I know a few thousand words, but this is not nearly what I need. What I've been doing is going through a Japanese cartoon that I enjoyed watching with English subtitles many years ago (Hikaru no Go). I use a method that has worked very very well for me in the past, but I haven't seen anyone else do it in quite the same way.

First of all I download the Japanese subtitles. I then play an episode on Hulu, recording the audio in Audacity. And I go through the script, line by line, adding words or grammar that I don't understand into a list. Then I go through the list, and look up the words in my Kodansha Furigana Dictionary, and make one card in Anki for each example sentence in the dictionary. I do the same for the grammar, except that I also look up the grammar in the Dictionary of Basic/Intermediate/Advanced Japanese Grammar, and copy all the example sentences from there. Every time I encounter a word or grammar I don't understand in the example sentences, I add those to my list, and repeat the process.

A side note here: for a while I was also copying all the sentences from another dictionary, the Kenkyusha New Collegiate Dictionary. But there's no furigana in this dictionary, and the example sentences tend to contain a lot more vocabulary and grammar that I don't know yet, so it was consuming too much time. I expect that I will do this again in the future, but for right now, it's too much.

Now, for each sentence card, what I have on the question side is the example sentence in hiragana. I replace the particle は (ha) with わ (wa) and the particle へ (he) with え (e), because that's what they really sound like. I don't replace を (wo) with お (o) though, because を is not actually always pronounced the same as お (seems to depend on the speaker, and on the sentence... but it's definitely different sometimes). For the answer, I put on the first line, the Japanese form of the sentence, with all the kanji and kana as it should be written, and then on the next line, the English translation.

So, for each card, I am given the hiragana form. I write down the sentence in kanji and kana. If I was able to write the sentence correctly (and understand it, supposedly, but honestly it has never really happened that I've forgotten the meaning of the sentence after making the card), then I pass the card. If I fail to write it correctly, then I fail the card.

So that's what I do for vocabulary. I went through a few video games and comic books doing this years ago, and now I'm going through some cartoons doing it.

For listening practice (and this is the part I've never done before, unfortunately), I take every line of dialogue from the cartoon, and I put the audio as the question, and the Japanese caption (with full kanji and kana) as the answer. I write out what I hear, and it should match.

What I seem to be doing quite differently than everyone else is writing everything down with pen and paper. It takes time, but it helps with remembering everything (kanji, vocabulary, grammar) tremendously, so I really recommend it.

Anyway... I'm going to keep going through Hikaru no Go, going through Pimsleur, and doing my Anki reps. I haven't been very good about doing all three of them every day, but I don't feel too stressed out about missing days... I have two kids, schools are closed, and life is hard right now.
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sillygoose1
Green Belt
Posts: 374
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C1: German, Italian, Spanish
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A2: Japanese
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Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=751
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby sillygoose1 » Wed Oct 14, 2020 5:45 pm

I enjoyed reading your backstory since it's similar to mine and look forward to more updates. Your Italian experience is relatable because I myself only knew a handful by the time I was around 18 (if you've ever seen The Sopranos, that was basically the extent of my Italian knowledge) then after getting a confidence boost from learning French I decided I also had some sort of "obligation" to learn it. Also like you, I'm not sure if I would ever want to live in Italy (as far as italophone regions go Ticino is another story!) but I'm glad that being part of the diaspora that I can speak it and even understand a bit of the main immigrant dialects which does not seem to be the case for many millennials and below with Italian heritage these days.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Tue Nov 03, 2020 8:28 am

Well, it's been a few weeks. Unfortunately it has been very slow going.

My wife is in Philadelphia, for... reasons. The ostensible reason is to fill in at her old nail salon for her friend, who is in turn off in Cambodia to visit her sick mother. But I think the real reason is that she just wants to hang with her old friends back there. There are more Cambodians living here in the Seattle area, but in Philadelphia we actually lived in Cambodiatown. Now we live on the Eastside, and most of the Cambodians are over down in White Center or Tacoma. So she hasn't made any Cambodian friends here yet. I guess she's also worried about money - she's been unable to find any work here due to the virus.

I go into that because... we have two children, 10 and 4. The 10 year-old is not too demanding (she spends most of her time either doing schoolwork or playing Roblox with her friends), but the 4 year-old is now absorbing almost all my free time. I play games with my 4 year-old, wash dishes, cook meals, goad my kids into cleaning up, vacuum, do laundry, take the kids to the playground, read bedtime stories, get the kids to sleep, go to sleep myself, then repeat, every day. I don't do anything else.

When my wife was here, I had about three hours a day of free time in the morning, while she watched the kids, and then I had the kids after noon. And as well, she was doing a lot of cleaning. My mother is very ill (failed kidney transplant, and about to have her foot amputated) and can't really help out - in fact, she takes up quite a bit of my time, because I have to cook and clean for her. My father could theoretically help out, but it's limited to occasionally playing some games with the kids. He's kind of used to having women do most of the housework. He spends a horrifying amount of time in his bedroom watching television. So, now there is no free time for me.

After about two weeks of no studying at all, I got the idea to start doing Pimsleur while I was washing dishes a few days ago. Seems to be working OK. People in the house are still trying to interrupt me while I'm doing it, but I just have to ignore them... Today I did lesson 18, and it actually introduced some new words and grammar to me for once. The first 17 lessons were all vocabulary and grammar I already knew. Which has been fine, because what I'm really doing it for is pronunciation (and somewhat for listening).

Anyway the words that were new were a humble form of "wife" (家内), and both humble and honorific forms of "husband" (主人 and 御主人). I believe I actually previously learned these words back when I was taking classes, but have long forgotten them. The grammar... I actually forget now what it was. I bet if I try to write it down I'll realize instantly that I do know it. I am so much better at reading than I am at listening. I guess I have to do that lesson over again anyway; I kept screwing up the pronunciation.

Japanese pronunciation deceptively seems simple. There aren't any sounds that are exactly missing from English, but it's really quite hard to get it sounding just right, especially at normal speed. I am not trying to pass as a native speaker, but all the same it's better to put in the effort to be reasonably natural, I think.

There were a few lessons where they were loading up the "r" sounds quite a bit, and that was tripping me up. They were using the word for "dollar" (ドル or "doru") over and over again, and I kept saying it in-between English "dollar" and Japanese "doru", sort of like "dawraw". Pimsleur is good like that, it makes you focus on the things that are hard to pronounce. Even if you don't really say "dollar" in Japanese very much. Japanese people don't say it very much, but I don't think they ever trip over it like I do.

Oh, and I had so much trouble with the potential conjugation (ーられる, "-rareru"). I didn't really have much trouble with it before... but I was saying it too slowly. I'm trying to say things at normal speed now, and those "r" sounds are brutal when you need to say them quickly in succession. It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss tongue-twister book "Fox in Socks". Hard to read out loud the first time, but after reading it a few hundred times to my kids, I can get it right almost every time now.

And actually, lately I have been realizing recently that I have been pronouncing "thank you" (ありがとう) a bit wrong all these years. I have been putting the emphasis on the fourth syllable, when I should be putting it on the second syllable. Also, the final "n" (ん) does not exactly sound like the English "n". In fact, sometimes it's more like a vowel. I've been correcting lots of little things like this while going through the Pimsleur lessons.

Anyway, pronunciation aside... Before my wife left, I was working on that first Hikaru no Go episode. (spoiler alert, although I'm only talking about the first episode here) The main character, Hikaru, who is in elementary school, is taking a history test, and he asks for help from Sai, the ghost from the past who has possessed him. He asks about Matthew Perry, who is the US Navy dude who forced the Japanese to open up to the outside world. Sai says, "yeah, I remember that! that was epic!" I'm thinking: wait a second, isn't Sai from the Heian era? That was hundreds of years before Perry came!

But I looked this up in Wikipedia, and it turned out I was getting the chronology a little confused. Sai was originally from Heian, but (as he explained shortly before Hikaru's history test), after he died, he inhabited the famous Go master, Honinbou Shuusaku. I had assumed that Shuusaku was also from the Heian period, but he was much later. He didn't live very long, but he was alive when Perry came.

Anyway... to make a long story short: as Wikipedia tends to do, it sent me in a whole new direction, and I discovered the so-called "Taiga Drama". This is essentially the Japanese equivalent of those historical BBC dramas, like Downton Abbey etc. NHK, the Japanese public broadcaster, every year does a historical television series, one 45-minute episode per week for 50 weeks. And these are awesome! Great writing, great acting, great sets, etc. Quite a bit better than the average Japanese television show, in my opinion. Most of them are based on the Sengoku ("Warring states") era, so medieval stories, kind of like Game of Thrones, except with samurais and ninjas instead of knights and wizards, and somewhat historically accurate. I don't know how I never discovered these before.

I started watching "Yae's Sakura" (八重の桜), which is from 2013. It's about this samurai lady who learned to shoot guns, defended Aizu during the Boshin War, and then later founded what is now Doshisha Women's College, one of the top schools in Japan. I started watching with Japanese subtitles, but then I switched to the English subtitles. I made it through three episodes before my wife left for her trip. I tried to watch it in the living room while my daughter was playing there, but it didn't really work; my daughter kept talking to me and interrupting the show, and I had to turn it off. So I don't really have time to watch it now, and I'll have to get to it later. Like when my kids are back in physical school again. But I think I will use it as study material after I'm finished with Hikaru no Go.

Speaking of Hikaru no Go: I've already watched it (with English subtitles) twice already, the first time probably around 2004, before I had any interest in learning Japanese. Now that I am using it as study material, I am finding it interesting in that most of the language is easy for me to understand (finding no grammar that I don't already know), but Sai, the historical ghost, uses a lot of archaic language. Actually it's the same with Yae no Sakura - at some points in that one there are even forced explanatory subtitles in Japanese, to explain the old language to modern viewers. Some people find this archaic language a superfluous thing to learn, but this is actually important to me. I'm very interested in learning about the Bakumatsu and Meiji period.

The other day, my grandparents' marriage certificate arrived in the mail. I ordered this a while back, for use in my Italian citizenship application. The marriage was not listed in the state or county indexes that you can search online, so I was afraid it might be lost, in which case I would have a hard time proving I am Italian. But they found it, so I seem to be on my way. I just need... 8 or so more documents. A couple of which I need to go to Cambodia for, and then go to Thailand, to get the nearest Italian embassy to authenticate the translations.

I am kind of putting off contacting the Italian embassies about anything though... from reading all the application stories, I get the distinct impression the staff are sick of dealing with so many non-Italian-speaking "Italians" trying to get their second passport. Which is what I am. But after I've worked on my Japanese enough, I want to get my Italian up to a good level. And then I can be, still an "Italian", but an Italian-speaking "Italian", trying to get my second passport.

Well, better to be studying rather than reading forums, so it might be a while before the next update.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Sat Nov 07, 2020 6:08 am

One more short update, on politics - but I swear this is language learning-related. It's not really about politics, it's about how to stop wasting time.

We had an election the other day. I was very interested in the results. If a certain politician got reelected, I was seriously ready to bail on this country (not an idle threat for me - I've done it before!). So I tried watching the results on television, but I soon realized why I never watch news on television: the people who talk about politics on television are not, generally speaking, hired for their intelligence. I had to go to Twitter.

Now, if anyone is going to ask me: how do you get anything done? There are not enough hours in the day! My answer is: you need to reevaluate how you spend your time. Nearly everyone wastes most of their limited time on Earth. Things like: watching television, playing video games, and following politics and sports. Cut that stuff out of your life. Nobody, on their death bed, wishes they spent more time watching television, playing video games, or reading the latest trending polemical Tweet.

You could argue that politics is actually important. Voting is important, and you need to figure out who you're going to vote for. But at least in my case... I've voted a straight ticket for the same party every time since the age of 22 (when I was 18, I foolishly voted for a third party). There is no piece of information that will persuade me to vote for the other party. Political news is simply not actionable information.

In that spirit, I have blocked Twitter (and several other web sites which I have found to be addictive, but enormous wastes of time, but Twitter was really the worst) on my phone and on my computer. But just this once, I unblocked it on my phone so I could follow the election results. This worked: I figured out by the morning after the election, that the politician I despised was not, in fact, getting reelected. My parents have been following the election results on television, and it took them a couple more days to figure out what was going to happen. So yay Twitter.

But then I kept reading Twitter updates on the election for another couple days. Even though it was already over, I ended up getting nothing done for three days, until I blocked Twitter again on my phone. Boo Twitter.

Anyway, then I did that same Pimsleur lesson 18 again. This is one of the lessons that needs three times before I really get it; most of the lessons only take one or two. I suppose it will become more common as I go that I will encounter vocabulary and grammar that I am unfamiliar with.

The grammar that I didn't know was the がる auxiliary verb. I found it in the Dictionary of Basic Japanese Grammar, and given that it is in the Basic rather than Intermediate or Advanced, I'm a bit surprised that I'm unfamiliar with it. It is simple enough though. Seems a bit similar to そう, although がる is only used with a finite list of adjectives. Much like そう, がる is only used in the third person, not the first, and Pimsleur is careful to not only make that distinction, but drill it repeatedly. This is one of those things that I really want to be working on with Anki too, though, because Pimsleur is really not going to be giving me enough examples.

In other news, my mother seems to have recovered from her surgery well enough that she has started washing dishes. This saves me a little bit of time each day. Which so far, I have squandered on Twitter. Maybe starting tomorrow I can start getting back into Anki, which I have neglected for months now.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Sun Nov 15, 2020 9:31 pm

I did Pimsleur Lesson 20 for the fourth time today. I did well enough that I will move on to 21 tomorrow. I haven't been able to do it every day, but I'm making solid, if slow progress.

As someone who is not a beginner to Japanese, one thing that has been bugging me about Pimsleur Japanese is the use of あなた ("anata"). A literal translation of this word is "you", but it is rarely used. If you're talking to someone, you will use their name, for example when you are talking to Kazu about his shoes, you would say かずさんの靴 ("Kazu-san no kutsu", "Kazu's shoes"). If you don't know their name, you can use a sort of role name depending on the situation, like 客さん ("kyaku-san", "customer"), 靴屋さん ("kutsuya-san", "shoe salesman"), お祖父さん ("ojii-san", literally "grandpa" but can be used to mean "old man"), etc.

You basically refer to someone as "you" in Japanese only when there is no other option, for example on a mass mailing, or in the instructions on a form to fill out. But Pimsleur uses it all the time. I get it; this might be a bit much to explain for beginners to Japanese, as the vocabulary to name everyone properly in situations where you don't know their name is too large to reasonably introduce in something like Pimsleur.

However, I think maybe they went too far this time: they had a woman calling her husband "anata". Being married to him, she presumably knows his name. This actually comes off as insulting, and I suspect most Japanese husbands would not like being addressed like this.

It's probably not a big deal, all things considered. If you're a foreigner with weak Japanese skills, for example if all you have done to learn the language is go through Pimsleur Japanese 1, I believe that anyone in Japan will be more than understanding when you call them "anata".

In other news, it looks like my wife, who has not yet returned from her trip to Philadelphia, has COVID-19. She is staying in a house with three other people, and it looks like everyone in the house has already picked it up. She will not get the test results until Tuesday, but she is showing all the symptoms. She was scheduled to fly back to Seattle on Wednesday, but I think we're going to be rescheduling that flight very soon.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Sat Nov 28, 2020 6:36 pm

When I tried to do Pimsleur lesson 21, it turned out my copy (ripped from CDs borrowed from the library a few years ago) had scratches. I found it was available for streaming via the library, but I had to put it on hold and wait a couple weeks before I could access the first volume. Later volumes have much less contention, even with fewer available copies, presumably because a lot of people drop out before they get to the end of volume one. So now I have volume one, scratch-free. It is a different edition than what I was going through already, but it doesn't seem different enough that I'm going to bother restarting from the beginning.

While I was searching through the library's streaming options to find Pimsleur, I discovered they had a recording of a Bolshoi performance of Swan Lake. I am a big fan of ballet, and I ended up watching it for 45 minutes... shouldn't have done that. Also spent a bunch of time the past few days playing old video games with my kids. Some of which were in Japanese (Sailor Moon and 究極戦隊ダダンダーン Kyuukyoku Sentai Da Dan Darn), but I don't think that really counts as studying.

Trying to get some studying done, I tried to do some Anki, but I really needed to clean off my desk first, and I didn't manage to find enough time to get that done, even over two weeks. I had piles of stuff 4 feet high. I did make a lot of progress getting it cleaned up, though. The piles are now only a few inches high. I should be able to finish cleaning it up today.

I was looking at getting a Japanese-Japanese dictionary (where the definitions are in Japanese, rather than a Japanese-English dictionary). I had one previously, but I don't know what happened to it... I might have left it at my mother-in-law's house in Cambodia. Using this page, I decided on 三省堂国語辞典 Sanseidou Kokugo Jiten, but this seems to be difficult to buy in the US. My previous source for Japanese-language books was Kinokuniya, but their online store seems to be closed. I could try heading to the physical Kinokuniya store in Seattle, but that's a bit difficult these days as my local bus route is suspended, and anyway the last time I was there, they had very little in the way of Japanese-language books.

Searching further, I found it on Yahoo Auctions, YesAsia, and CDJapan, but, including the shipping charges, it would have been over $50. Not sure if I can justify the expense at this point, especially since I don't expect my Japanese language skills to ever make me any money (at least not any more than I can make already). YesAsia has a deal where if you spend, I think, $95, you get free shipping, and I picked out some more novels that I'd like to read, but then I realized I was spending almost $100 on books that I wouldn't have time for anytime soon, and cancelled the order.

I really thought I would have been able to find some place in the US that had such a common book already in stock, even if it is Japanese, but no. I guess everyone but me has switched to internet-based dictionaries, and there's not enough demand for paper dictionaries in foreign languages to be holding stocks of them here. Too bad I'm not in New York; I bet Book-Off would have it.

In other news, I bought a countertop dishwasher. Washing dishes was taking up way too much of my time. As I mentioned, I was doing the Pimsleur lessons while washing dishes. Well, it doesn't take half an hour to fill up the dishwasher and start it, so today I just did it while I cooked breakfast. Tuesday through Saturday I don't cook breakfast - my kids eat free breakfasts provided by the school district, and I just eat whatever is left over when they finish eating. I guess on those days I can do the lessons while I'm cooking dinner.

My wife is scheduled to arrive back on Wednesday, but yesterday she indicated that she wanted to stay longer in Philadelphia, for reasons I won't get into. The doctor says she isn't contagious anymore, but she still has a cough, so I don't know if the airline will let her on the plane. She might reschedule the flight. We'll see what happens.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Tue Dec 08, 2020 9:43 pm

I did Pimsleur 23 yesterday. I will do 24 later today. I started this different Pimsleur edition at lesson 21, and I had to repeat that lesson four times, which was a new record. But 22 and 23 only needed a couple times. At this rate, I may be done with volume one by the end of the year.

Deciding to be less picky about the dictionary, I searched Ebay for kokugo jiten, i.e. the romanization of 国語辞典, or "national language dictionary", which is what you call a Japanese-Japanese dictionary in Japanese. I found a couple options: a child dictionary and an adult dictionary. Neither option had any example sentences, only definitions. I decided to buy the child dictionary, since it would have furigana. It was $27, shipped from Hawaii, apparently by boat, as it won't arrive for weeks.

What I am planning to do is something that I saw in a Matt vs Japan video. When I have an unknown word, I will first look up the word in the J-J dictionary. If I can understand the Japanese definition, then fine, I will stop there. If I can't, then I will look up all the unknown words in the Japanese definition in the Japanese-English dictionary, and add the example sentences for those unknown words to Anki. Doing this, I will eventually learn all the vocabulary I need to stop using the J-E dictionary, and use the J-J exclusively.

While I was looking for dictionaries, I also saw quite a few Japanese novels on Ebay, although nothing that I was particularly interested in. I think I will order some eventually, though, as they were very reasonably priced.

With my wife back, and the new dishwasher, my time pressure has eased considerably. I have, unfortunately, even started wasting time with television and Twitter again. Although all of the television at least is in Japanese, albeit subtitled.

Watched a couple more episodes of Yae no Sakura. The language is from the bakumatsu period, which means that I don't really want to talk like that. And at the same time, I don't entirely trust it to be totally authentic bakumatsu-period language. I think they probably modernize the speech a bit so that it can be understandable to modern Japanese people.

Also started watching a cartoon called Higashi no Eden. This one has totally modern speech. Every once in a while I stop looking at the subtitles, when I can understand it. And then usually the next line there's something I don't understand, and by the time I'm looking at the subtitles again, I've lost the line. Alas.

This may be some months away, but I'm trying to think of what I can do for speech practice after I'm done with Pimsleur. I never practiced speaking very much before, and I think it's helping even with my reading ability, so I really want to continue working on speaking. I'm thinking I can make up my own speech lessons, sort of like the Pimsleur lessons. I could make it from dialogues ripped from Japanese television shows. Character A says something, then there's some silence, during which I respond, then Character B says what I was supposed to say.

I'm thinking I could even add some spaced repetition to it. Either write a script to generate audio files with the repetition, much like Pimsleur, or, more ambitiously, I could make an Android application to do it. After the line of dialogue, I could have it wait for me to say something indicating whether I said the line correctly or not (a short phrase like "yes" or "no", or "pass" or "fail"), and feed that into some simple speech recognition to inform the SRS algorithm. That way you could do it totally hands-free.

In this vein, I was also looking at the DLI Headstart Japanese course (which everyone, for some reason, calls "FSI Japanese", but the textbooks say DLI, not FSI). I was thinking maybe I could take some of the audio from that and put it into my Android application. But after to listening to it a bit, there is so much overlap with Pimsleur, that I'm not sure it's worth it to me personally to use the DLI course. If it was a Basic course, rather than a Headstart course, maybe it would be more useful.

My plan, after Japanese, is to go on to four more languages in turn: Italian, Mandarin, Korean, French. I haven't investigated this too closely, but I think the FSI/DLI courses for all of those languages are more comprehensive than for Japanese. So those could be useful for me down the road.

I think if I make the Android application (which I would fully intend to release for free), I will include FSI/DLI audio lessons, just to help other people out. I can make my own lessons out of TV shows, but I don't think it would be legally sound to distribute them.

As for writing... I haven't done any Anki work in a long time now. I still need to clear off my desk. Maybe, if I can stay off Twitter and television, I can get it cleared off today. I have actually read some Japanese comic books though. I wasn't too diligent about looking up unknown words, though, so I'm not sure if it counts as studying.
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tsuyoshi
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Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Fri Dec 11, 2020 2:43 am

I was able to complete Pimsleur lesson 24 on the first try. Great, I thought, maybe this means that with my wife here, doing a little bit of childcare, cooking, and cleaning, providing me with a few hours free time every day, I can consistently do the lessons every day, and it will move very smoothly With that in mind, I moved on to 25 yesterday, but it was harder, and I did it again today, but I still couldn't pull it off. I will do 25 again tomorrow. Even at this pace, I might be on track to finish the first volume by the end of the year. Not that there's really any deadline, of course.

Even my new expanded free time is very fragmentary, however. In the middle of the lesson, my older daughter and wife tried to interrupt me. I had to ignore them, going into my bedroom and locking the door until I was finished with the lesson. This is sometimes necessary, because an uninterrupted half hour period doesn't usually happen in this household.

Even as I was writing this message, my father and wife came into my room and started talking about my brother's recent eye surgery. They weren't even talking to me, so I don't know why they had to come in here to do it...

As well, both my wife and my parents are openly disdainful about my language study. "Why Japanese? What is that good for?" My parents have five post-graduate degrees between the two of them, and my wife is former junior high school teacher, so they are not exactly anti-intellectual philistines, but my interest in learning about other places and cultures totally mystifies them.

Generally speaking, English is the most useful language, but not for the subject I'm interested in: urban planning. Almost every single one of the world's English-speaking countries has terrible urban planning. East Asia is where it's at.

Speaking of my wife, I should mention that she just finished her first quarter of ESL class at the local community college. She got 42%, and has to redo the same level. The low score was primarily from not doing the homework, which probably stems from her lack of interest in learning how to read and write English.

In other news, I was thinking about my project to develop an application or script to facilitate speaking practice after I am finished with Pimsleur. Specifically, I was thinking about scheduling - how to determine when and how often a specific dialogue should be performed. Reading the relevant literature on spaced repetition, the answer is, surprisingly: nobody really knows.

There have been some experiments on spaced repetition, but only two conclusions can be drawn so far. The first is that increasing duration between tests over time seems to help. The second is that adjusting the duration according to the difficulty a given person has with a specific thing to be remembered is more efficient than a uniform duration. An optimal schedule has not been discovered, and indeed, given the variability between individuals and things to be remembered, may be impossible to reliably determine.

Given that, simply adopting the spacing algorithm from Anki or Mnemosyne, along with the same kind of scoring system, is going to be the best approach, in terms of efficiency. The Pimsleur method of preset repetition embedded within repeatable lessons is, however convenient, not optimal, as it does not allow finely-tuned individual variation. I would probably just try to do it Pimsleur-style anyway, except I cannot figure out any good way to schedule the dialogues without doing my own experimental research. Pimsleur, perhaps, has the resources to do that, but I don't.

To achieve hands-free study, so I can do my studying while doing something else like cooking, cleaning, walking, or driving, I will have to implement a control system using voice recognition. I investigated the available voice recognition libraries, and it seems that PocketSphinx is my best option. There's another library, Kaldi, which is supposedly more accurate, but the Kaldi manual literally recommends taking a series of courses at a university to become an expert at voice recognition research before you can actually do anything with it. PocketSphinx is usable for a non-expert, and I don't need it to transcribe anything. All I really need it to do is recognize a small set of words. Perhaps "one" through "five", "pause", "stop", and "start" should be sufficient.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
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Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
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Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Tue Dec 29, 2020 7:04 pm

With the kids "out of school" for Christmas break, I am finding it harder to get things done. Even when they are "in school", they are at home, video conferencing, and the younger one only has class for 20 minutes a day, so I don't entirely understand the difference. Maybe it's just the attitude that this is a time to relax.

Anyway, I missed four days of doing the Pimsleur lessons. I did finally get back to it, and I did lesson 29 for the third time today. I will do 30 tomorrow. Almost done with the first volume.

It seems I don't need much practice with pronunciation as such anymore, and lately Pimsleur isn't providing much emphasis on the pronunciation anymore. It's all about the automaticity now.

In other news, I happened to be passing through the International District in Seattle the other day, and I stopped by Kinokuniya to look for a dictionary. They did not have Japanese-Japanese dictionaries, only Japanese-English and English-Japanese. Actually that Japanese children's dictionary that I ordered on Ebay arrived last week, so it's not such a big deal that Kinokuniya didn't have any. I picked up some JLPT workbooks while I was there, though.

Speaking of the JLPT, my original goal was to pass N1 next year. At the rate my studies are currently going, that will not be possible. I've been doing only incidental reading (occasionally reading Japanese Wikipedia, and only when English Wikipedia doesn't cover the topic sufficiently), and no writing practice at all. I need to step it up. I think what I need to do is do the Pimsleur lessons twice a day, morning and night, and I need to get back to doing Anki every day.

I did buy those workbooks too, although to be honest, I have some trouble even understanding the instructions. I think they will have to wait a bit.
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tsuyoshi
White Belt
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2020 11:58 pm
Languages: English (N), Japanese (?)
x 47

Re: Tsuyoshi's log

Postby tsuyoshi » Thu Dec 31, 2020 8:51 pm

I did Pimsleur lesson 30 for the second time today. I was hoping to have volume 1 wrapped up by the end of the year, but I need to do this lesson one more time. It is only of symbolic importance though.

Looking at my records, I have been doing every lesson at least three times lately, and sometimes four times. So it seems that completing the four remaining volumes will take at least 3 (days per lesson) x 30 (lessons per volume) x 4 (volumes) = 360 days, at my current rate. Many people seem to think one or two volumes of Pimsleur are enough, though I don't feel like one volume is enough for me. At this point I can definitely imagine doing all five without feeling like I'm wasting my time.

Like I said previously, I might try to do them more than once per day. From what I've read, this should have some benefit, especially if I take a nap in between lessons. I guess what I should do is run an experiment and see if doing it twice a day allows me to actually go through it more quickly. If I don't just end up repeating the lessons twice as many times, then it helps. It could mean that I'm trading time until completion for time used. For example, that I end up doing the lessons five times each, in which case I am using up more minutes per lesson (5 times x 30 minutes = 150 minutes, versus 3 times x 30 minutes = 90 minutes) but fewer days (2.5 days per lesson versus 3 days per lesson).

Anyway, I am finding lately that during the lessons, I make many of my responses without being cognizant of the response until it's already coming out of my mouth. Which is definitely a good thing! Up until now I have never experienced that, except with English.

I have been thinking back to when I used to take Japanese classes and have sessions with language exchange partners. I feel like I definitely wasn't taking the speaking very seriously. I don't much like talking even in my native language. I used to resort to English in classes, and the language exchanges were almost all in English. Now I am taking it very seriously, but I am doing everything I can to avoid doing the speaking with a real person! Teachers cost money, language exchange partners cost time, and I have little of either these days.

I was looking at my old Japanese textbooks. The very first one, Nakama 1, I seem to have no use for anymore, and I think I'll list it on Ebay. For the other two, Nakama 2, and An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, it seems like it might be worth going through them again.
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