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日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Fri May 27, 2016 4:29 am
by Sizen
I wouldn't consider myself the best at learning languages. I've had some good luck and I've put in the hours, so I've managed to reach a respectable level in French and gotten much further in my Japanese studies than I could have ever hoped. I've even learned to read Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Catalan to varying levels and dabbled, with modest success, in Mandarin and other languages. And yet, I can't shake the feeling that I'm not any good at learning languages. That I don't have what it takes.

This feeling stems not from some incapacity to learn a foreign language, as my experience is to the contrary, but rather from the fact that I have failed to evolve significantly as a learner since I first started as an autodidact. I have remained the same learner I was 8 years, at least intellectually, and I don't think this bodes well for my future endeavours in language learning.

I'm convinced that a major difference between top performers in any domain and everyone else lies in the way that the top performers think and approach problems. I've seen it and heard it a million times before: top polyglots don't seem to do anything different from a regular student. They might have a few tricks up their sleeves, but they often use the same techniques/methods as the rest of us. Yet they seem to get more out of those tools than the rest. Some might chalk their success up to genetic luck, and I'm sure that does play a role, but I think that another part of it is that their minds are simply more active when they're "studying". They engage every text or conversation in such a way that they retain more linguistic information than others. I feel that this is what I should be shooting for.

I'm not embarrassed to admit it: I'm a very passive person in mostly everything I do. I'm not proud of it, but it's who I've been since high school. It's quite boring, but it's also easy, especially since I seem to get by when I put in the minimum effort required to do so. In that way, it's a bit of a vicious cycle.

However! I will no longer stand for such apathy! Progress must be made! Things need to be done!

I have been back into Japanese since about mid-March, and in a big way. I've been on and off studying Japanese since I was 14, and I'm nowhere near as good as I could have been had I actually put effort into what I was doing. I passed the N1 4 years ago, can watch some anime without subtitles, and can get by reading manga and novels, but I am still far from an acceptable level of comprehension (at least in my books).

Since earlier this year, however, Japanese has become part of my daily routine. I read manga and watch anime sans subtitles almost every day in my free time. And I do it quite intensively. I pause for every unknown word or phrase, foggy phrasing, or linguistic quirk, rereading or listening until the mystery has been solved and then I continue along my merry way. A 20 minute episode of anime can end up taking 2 hours depending on the quantity of unknown vocabulary (I really do take my time), but other times I'll breeze through them in no time. The point is that I'm engaged and I'm actively trying to learn and retain what I come across. Something I can't claim to have done much before. What's incredible about all this is that I actually enjoy consuming media this way. I remember the stories better and have a more in-depth understanding of what's going on. It's fun to pay attention.

I've also abandoned SRS. Now I only use my noggin to learn vocabulary and I feel I remember much more.

So that's about where I'm at. I'm currently watching あんハピ♪, クレーンゲール, ふらいんぐうぃっち, はいふり, 迷家, パンでPeace!, Re:ゼロ, 聖戦ケルベロス, and 宇宙パトロールルル子, and I just finished reading through 聲の形 and am now planning on checking out the manga 僕街 for those who might be interested.

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon May 30, 2016 6:27 am
by Sizen
It's bound to happen now and then, but I've had a bad couple of days in terms of learning. I've been sleeping poorly and have had my head in the clouds lately. As a result, I don't feel I've been able to pay full attention to my shows. I've still managed to pick up lots of words and phrases, but I feel like I'm only half watching even when I'm trying. I suspect I won't remember much from these past two days a few days from now, but I'll just have to hope that the next time I encounter the words I heard today and yesterday I'll be pleasantly surprised when I already have a vague memory of them from elsewhere.

I shouldn't get down though since I know this just happens sometimes. Tomorrow I'll probably watch the 9th episode of リゼロ (which I'm enjoying more than I thought I would) and the 8th of クレーンゲール (which is dumb, but hey, the episodes are short and to the point), and things should go better. I just need to get a good night's sleep tonight.

In other news, I kind of stumbled on a YouTube channel, Goose House, that churns out covers of Japanese songs like nobody's business. I kind of like their arrangement of ラムのラブソング. The original song, OP of うる星やつら, is pretty much the definition of kitch, but I've come to agree with what my brother once sheepishly told me after I asked him why he kept listening to the song on repeat: "You don't want it to, but it grows on you." Maybe I'll borrow my brother's copies of the manga and read through them for the heck of it at some point.

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon May 30, 2016 2:40 pm
by Rotasu
-heavy breathing- Sizen starting a language log. Subscribed!

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 6:30 am
by Sizen
Rotasu wrote:-heavy breathing- Sizen starting a language log. Subscribed!

Happy to hear I'm not just speaking into the void. ;) I hope you like music, because that's all I wrote about today (accidentally).

It's been an exceptionally enjoyable last few days. It all started the other day: I was doing my usual thing on YouTube when I saw a video recommended for me that was indeed of great interest: 東京事変 Music Japan Tokyo Jihen Special スポーツ (with Japanese subtitles). It had been perhaps three or four years since I'd last heard a Tokyo Jihen or Sheena Ringo song, and this video has rekindled my eternal adoration for the two. There aren't many musicians or groups that I truly respect and consider worth listening to for the sake of listening, but these two perfectly fit the bill. To tell the truth, I don't like everything they've done, but the work that goes into crafting each of their songs always blows me away. It's hard for me to imagine a world without songs like 丸の内サディスティック (Marunouchi Sadistic).

Sadly, Tokyo Jihen is no more, as I just recently found out, but Sheena Ringo has continued to do solo gigs as she always has. It's fun to hear how her style has changed for the same songs over the years. Her recording of 浴室 (Yokushitsu) at 党大会 (Toutaikai) in 2013, for example, is radically different from all the previous versions of the song I'd heard, but the delicate, almost coy approach she's taken for the song only amplifies its charm, in my opinion.

Nonetheless, belatedly hearing the news of their separation was a shock to me. The group wasn't getting any less popular, so why would they split up? Well, I looked into it and the only reliable information I found was a couple of quotes from Sheena herself: 「私たちの役割は果たした」 (We've done our duty), 「やることはやり尽くした」 (We've done everything we had to do).

I've always thought that Sheena was a bit of a character, so this sort of fits with the image I had of her: a woman who flits from one gig to the next when stimulation is lacking. There's actually a video of her at a concert in 1999 that nicely sums up what kind of person she is. After a long night of singing and playing the piano, she gets up, briefly acknowledges the crowd without saying a word, grabs her coat and trundles off-stage dragging the coat behind her: (starts at 3:00). Can you imagine if you went to see your favourite artist and that's how the concert ended?

But the weirdest thing I found while researching her career was a strange promotional video (no subtitles, sorry) she did who knows when. It's so surreal, knowing who she is now. I'll admit I laughed more than once watching it, though. It's good to know she has a sense of humour despite the imposing aura she gives off nowadays.

I also read an interesting tidbit about Tokyo Jihen's bassist, Kameda Seiji, who wrote some of the group's biggest hits. From what I gathered, he's produced for many groups in the past, including a certain Hirai Ken, who's got some nice songs. In fact, Kameda worked on two of my favourite Hirai Ken songs: POP STAR and 大きな古時計 (Ōkina Furudokei). The latter is based off an American folksong, but I didn't know that the first time I heard it. It's quite the moving song, regardless. My eyes usually get a little moist when I listen to it.

Anyways, I didn't really intend to talk about music again. I had other stuff to talk about, but I guess I'll save it for another time. My apologies if you hate music.

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 5:14 am
by Sizen
日進月歩 (Nisshingeppo: rapid progress; lit. daily progress, monthly strides)

This about sums up how my studies are progressing right now. It's been about two and a half months that I've been back into Japanese, and it has been ages since I've had this kind of success with any language. And the best part is that I've been enjoying it as well.

Back in high school, I studied Japanese for fun in my free time. I didn't really have any set methods or goals, but I did somehow manage to learn enough to pass the N1. At about that time, however, something happened (I may never know what set off the change) and I started to become the person I described in my first post: passive, lazy, apathetic. As a result, I'd often think back to when I studied Japanese with a carefree attitude and ask myself what happened and how I could get back to being like that. I still don't really have an answer, but I'm happy to say that I'm feeling more and more like my younger, more insouciant self as I continue to work on my Japanese these days.

I find myself thinking about Japanese all day long, words rushing through my mind, the desire to take pen to paper and scratch out a few kanji more ardent than ever before. What started out as a simple challenge to myself, that of watching a single episode of anime without subtitles and doing what it took to make the entire thing comprehensible to myself, has become a daily habit that I look forward to every morning when I wake up.

My methods may be simplistic, but I've been noticing the fruits of my labour.

When the spring anime season started, I had a hard time keeping up with the nine shows I took up. I'd get behind because there'd be too much new vocabulary and my brain couldn't take anymore, or because I didn't have the time to finish an entire episode, but now I'm always caught up and waiting for new episodes to air so that I have something to do. I'm even tempted to go back and catch up with another series...

When I started, each episode felt like a puzzle: there would rarely be a single sentence I would get the first time I heard it, and now I find myself getting through longer and longer chunks of episodes without needing to stop. There are still tons of words I need to learn, but it'll all come with time.

At the beginning of 2016, I tried self-talking in Japanese and had a hard time remembering how to speak after four years of very little exposure to the language,. But just yesterday, I had a conversation with myself and I was honestly taken aback by some of the things that just kind of naturally came to me. I actually had to open a dictionary and do a few searches to make sure I wasn't just making it all up. Nope, they were real words, expressions and grammatical constructions that I picked up.

This obviously isn't the first time I've made major progress in a language as I've already taken a language up to a high level before, but I have to admit I'm much more proud of my progress in Japanese because, well, it's Japanese. :p

Anyway, I guess I'm just happy with how things are going and I wanted to share. I hope everyone else has been productive and having a good time!

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon Jun 13, 2016 11:30 pm
by Sizen
I've started running again. It's supposed to be good for the brain, but if I'm being honest, I'm just doing it because I enjoy it and because I've been sleeping poorly recently. I don't usually sleep all that great, but it's been worse lately because as soon as I hit the sack, my mind becomes a raging whirlpool of Japanese. I'm hoping that by tiring myself out physically, I might have an easier time falling asleep. ^^;

Despite my fatigue, however, I have managed to continue at my normal rhythm and make progress in Japanese. I'm still surprised by some of the words I remember after having only heard them once. Just today, the word 由緒正しい (yuishotadashii) popped up again and I remember the exact circumstances under which I learned it. It was in re:ゼロ episode 4, after Subaru wakes up and goes out to do his daily radio calisthenics and is asked by Emilia what exactly he's doing. His response: 俺の故郷に伝わる由緒正しい準備運動 (It's a sacred warm-up exercise that's been passed down through the ages in my homeland). Why I remember this sentence so clearly 7 weeks after the initial broadcast beats me, but I'm pretty happy that I do. The cherry on top is that this isn't an isolated occurrence: it happens somewhat regularly.

In older Japanese news, I've been looking at 変体仮名 (hentaigana. no, not that hentai) recently, and have decided to learn them. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, hiragana didn't used to be limited to the 46 characters used commonly today. It wasn't until the early 1900's that an educational reform mandated that only one character should be used to represent any one syllable. Before this change, any one syllable could be represented by multiple variants of simplified kanji. So, for example, the modern hiragana か, which is based on the kanji 加, could be written as broken down versions of 加, 可, 嘉, 賀, 閑, 駕, 我, etc. Each character often had multiple variants, so it wasn't unheard of for a syllable to be written in more than 10 different ways.

Anyway, I'd like to look at pre-20th century Japanese poetry at some point, so having a knowledge of hentaigana would come in useful for reading the original texts. But not gonna lie, I also just want to be able to read sings written in old characters, as well, like this sign that clearly says toufu or this one that says Shibuya. So in order to accomplish this task, I downloaded the Waseda Univeristy 変体仮名あぷり and found some non-exhaustive lists of characters. I say non-exhaustive because the Waseda app contains 331 individual characters, but I've already seen some not covered by the app on other lists and in the wild. The plan is to work through them at a leisurely pace and see where that takes me.

Once I have a better knowledge of hentaigana, I'll probably have to start looking for texts written in 草書 (sousho, a kind of Japanese cursive) to practice my reading. I might get a workbook like this one too, unless anyone has any suggestions for good books on the subject.

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 4:25 am
by Sizen
This week, I picked up an book I was given by my host parents in Japan some seven years ago: ちびまる子ちゃんのことば教室 (Chibi Maruko's Word Classroom). It's a book designed to grow children's vocabularies through short comics, explanations and fun anecdotes. I'd flipped through it in the past, but never really read through it entirely.

So as one does, I started my new foray into the book with the foreword, which discusses the importance of words and how the book will help children accelerate the learning process, and two sentences about learning words really stuck out in my mind: 『「こんなにいっぱい覚えなくちゃいけないなんて、大変だぁ。」なんて思わなくても大丈夫。言葉は、毎日生活している中で、少しずつ自然と覚えていくもの。』("You might think, 'I've got to learn this many words? Oh my god!', but don't worry. Words are something you learn naturally every day as you go about your life.")

As someone who has gone through intense periods of memorizing vocabulary in recent years, these simple words meant for the eyes of children were a bit of a wake-up call. They reminded me that I had learned much of my French through regular and prolonged exposure and that the same is true for my English. In fact, even the most esoteric words and idiomatic expressions that now, looking back, feel like they would have required outright study have, against all odds, stuck in my mind. The key is time and exposure.

The problem with me is that I tend to get fed up and jump from one language to another, willy-nilly, thus hampering my progress until I come back to the same language at a later date. I just crave change constantly. Or at least, that's what I though. But in all honesty, I don't think that that's a 100% correct analysis of the situation. I think that I get bored because, as I mentioned before, I'm apathetic. I don't go out of my comfort zone or try new things enough. I settle into a repetitive routine, to the point that it feels like a chore, and then I'm surprised when I get bored of doing the same thing all the time and start to slack. What's worse is that I tend to expect even more from myself when I get into that kind of state. I try to adopt a more rigorous study routine and learn so many more words than before, and before I know it, I feel like I need to make a change.

This is the kind of destructive behaviour that has held me back in the past, and to be honest, I could feel it creeping back into my life this past week. I was thinking of reintroducing anki into my life and forcing myself to read more often, even when I had no desire to do so, just to speed up the process, and it was starting to get me down a bit. Luckily for me, Chibi Maruko has slapped some sense into me and I've completely abandoned the idea. What I'm doing now is more than enough so long as I keep at it. There may be so much left to learn, but I'll get there. I just need to continue going about my life, and the knowledge will follow.

Anyway, the spring anime season is soon coming to an end, and it's both sad and exciting. My next post will more than likely be about my thoughts on the shows I watched this season and what I plan to watch in the coming summer season.

Until then, don't forget to learn something!

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 5:05 am
by Snow
Sizen wrote: What I'm doing now is more than enough so long as I keep at it. There may be so much left to learn, but I'll get there. I just need to continue going about my life, and the knowledge will follow.

This. I'm in the same boat, trying to learn Korean as much as I can quickly. But I realized that by doing so, it takes the the fun out of learning. I'd rather learn slowly powered by a desire to get better, than to learn fast and get burnt out.

You already passed N1 so just try to immerse yourself in as much native materials as you can. Sooner or later, things will click. But I also suggest tthat you keep practicing your active skills: speaking and writing. Get a language exchange partner, write short stories on lang-8, whatever works for you. Ganbatte! (Sorry, I already forgot hiragana. :lol: )

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2016 8:55 pm
by Sizen
Snow wrote:This. I'm in the same boat, trying to learn Korean as much as I can quickly. But I realized that by doing so, it takes the fun out of learning. I'd rather learn slowly powered by a desire to get better, than to learn fast and get burnt out.

Preach! These are words to live by.

I originally intended to only post a few days after my last update, but that didn't happen. I should maybe consider implementing a weekly posting schedule.

Anyway, spring is over; summer is starting. I actually stuck it out for three months without defaulting to my normal lazy self, so that's a win in my books. It's hard to estimate how much I learned because I don't have any statistics on my actual study time or the number of words I've learned, but I do have some numbers: I've watched 155 episodes of anime (including shorts) and read 103 chapters of manga since mid-March. It's a modest sum compared to some of our learners here on the forum, but I'm quite proud of what I've managed. I haven't been slacking either: it's all been intensive reading/listening.

Sometimes I regretted my decision to do everything intensively this season. Such was the case with High School Fleet, which contained exorbitant amounts of vocabulary relating to the navy and sailing that sometimes required in-depth research to understand as the words weren't always in any of my dictionaries. But now I know words like 航海灯 (koukaitou; marine navigation lights), 魚雷発射管 (gyoraihasshakan; torpedo tube), and 対潜迫撃砲 (taisenhakugekihou: anti-submarine mortar)! I'd probably need to watch another few seasons of this kind of anime before it'd become easy to follow, so I might eventually take the plunge and watch/play Kantai Collection if I get the chance. For now, I might take a break from the navy, though. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought, but it was a little trying at times. ^^;

On the whole, I get the feeling that pushing myself was a judicious decision. I'm more easily able to remember words without necessarily expending all that much energy, and attempting to remember 30+ words in a day no longer feels like such a daunting task. In fact, I'm considering watching more anime this season to up the ante a bit, especially considering that most of the anime I've seen so far this season have been less vocab-heavy than last season. Although, it all depends on whether there are enough shows to keep my attention, I suppose.

Other than that, I'd also like to read a bit more this season. I haven't read a Japanese novel since last summer, so it's about time I got back on that horse. Knowing me now, I'm probably going to end up reading excruciatingly slowly, looking up every word I come across, so I won't set my expectations too high. Maybe a book or two should do. We'll see, though.

Anyway, that's enough babbling for now. From now on, I'll try to be a bit more consistent with my posting.

Re: 日本語一筋 [JP]

Posted: Tue Jul 05, 2016 3:31 pm
by kraemder
I can't help finding it interesting that you abandoned Anki after using it and finding it effective. I'm always thinking of ways to improve my studying. I was doing Anki 3 hours a day before (I had no job) but now I'm down to about an hour a day. I think it's a good amount since I can squeeze in reviews on the commute and in free time but maybe I should cut it back some more to focus more on just reading/listening like you. Interesting blog.