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Nihongo Journey This blog is for chronicling the progression of my skill in the Japanese language. I started serious Japanese study on February 18th 2009 and have studied everyday since. My ultimate goal is near-native level fluency.

19 October 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Learning with Texts

Lately, I’ve been trying to improve my japanese vocabulary with a program called Learning With Texts. It’s quite similar to Lingq except that it’s opensource and free for anyone to use and make better.

The concept is basically to import a text into LWT and attempt to read it to completion. Along the way, any words you don’t know can be tagged as unknown, looked up, and have a definition added. Words you tag are highlighted with different colors depending on how much trouble you decide you have with that word. This is an important feature as it tells your mind to focus on this word when you see it in another text. It reminds you that you’ve seen this word before and you should know it which causes you to think harder than you normally would to try to remember it. If you still can’t remember it, you simply mouse over the unknown word and you can see the definition you added for it. This “oh yeah” moment is usually enough to place is firmly in my “long-term-mid-termish” memory.

Once you tag all the words you don’t know, you simply go back to the top and click “all words” known for the remaining words and LWT learns that you known these words very well and won’t bother you with highlighting them for you any longer as never-before-seen words.

For further study, you can add words you’ve been having trouble with to a Spaced Repetition System like Anki for quick results or you can simply keep plowing through new texts in a tadoku-like fashion until you see them in some other context. I’m going to try experimenting with both styles and see what works best for me.

You can also add an audio file along with the text you are studying to work on your listening comprehension. I don’t really use this feature too often for Japanese as it limits the materials you can use to only things you find audio with a transcribed text. However, if you do happen to come across a great text with an audio clip available, it’s very useful.

31 July 2011 ~ 1 Comment

Fun japanese learning plan to take you to the next level

Since a lot of people like some form of structure in their learning, I decided to write up a short Japanese learning plan that is fun and should take you to the next level. This plan is designed for intermediate to advanced learners of Japanese but would work for any foreign language you’re learning if you find the right materials.

Study Routine

1. Read a manga chapter. Take notes on new words or add them to your SRS program.

2. Watch the corresponding episode of the anime. (RAW of course)

  • This allows you to better follow the story and listen for the vocab you learned from reading the same story.

3. Read a very short news article while taking notes on new words.

4. Watch any random Japanese youtube videos you happen to be subscribed to or you see in the side recommended videos bar.

5. Review notes or SRS cards only when you’re in the mood. This ensures you spend most of your study time pushing forward and staying motivated while at the same time getting some review in as well. It’s a compromise.

You can limit your note taking or SRS card making to only 5 words per chapter or news article. If you enjoy it or find something interesting, do more.

I think this plan can take you to the next level in your language studies if you stick to it regularly. The biggest chunk is manga, anime, and youtube videos to keep everything light and fun. The small news chunk helps slowly incorporate that part of the Japanese language into your understanding. We do this  because we’re working from the premise that if the average native Japanese person can understand the word, phrase, or material, then we need to be able to do so as well.

The strongest part of this plan is the combination of the manga and anime. When the anime isn’t in filler mode, it sticks very closely to the corresponding manga chapter(s). Use this to your advantage.

02 June 2011 ~ 2 Comments

Moving away from SRS

Moving away from SRS: For advanced learners/basic fluency and beyond.

Let me preface this to say that I think using an SRS is one of the most efficient tools around for acquiring a language. If you’re new to Japanese or whatever foreign language you’re learning and you’re enjoying your progress with SRS, keep using it. It’s helped get me to the point I’m at now. I’ve used it almost every day for over 2 years and I’m finally ready to let it go. Below is basically what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks and I’ve noticed good vocabulary acquisition and stress-free learning since I don’t have that looming SRS number over my shoulder.

I’m also not claiming this to be a novel way of learning a language. It’s just input and some note taking but it’s how I’ve been doing it lately and I want to have a record of it.


This is obvious to people in the community but some still don’t use it. Do something, anything, in Japanese. Lately, in addition to just reading random stuff I find online, I’ve been watching a ton of niconico douga videos.

One type of video that I’ve had a lot of success with is 実況プレイ vids. These are videos of people playing video games and with them narrating and joking around while playing. Just search for 実況 and the video game you want to see or check out this link for a niconico community which has a lot of play lists to various games they’ve done or are currently doing videos for. You need a nico account to watch videos there so just google how to make one if you can’t read Japanese well enough to figure it out yet.

Obviously, use whatever type of video, music, books, etc that you are interested in.

Combine listening, reading, writing, and a  little bit of speaking

  • You’re listening to the narrators
  • You’re reading the game text and comments
  • You’re writing in your notebook
  • You can shadow what the narrators are saying

The memory notebook

An oldschool, but still effective method of learning, is making a notebook in order to reflect on what you’ve learned. One of the main reasons I’m enjoying using this method of memorization is that related material tends to be clumped in meaningful ways.

There are so many jokes that you see in comments, things that the people talking say that you want to remember,inside jokes, etc that are so much fun to have a record of. Although I don’t really want to add them to my SRS anymore, I still want too keep a record of my favorite parts of my journey of learning the Japanese language. That’s  why I’ve started compiling this notebook of stuff even though all the stuff I’ve written since 2009 would probably fill up 10 notebooks… I haven’t really kept good records of all that.

A lot of the stuff I’d written before was repetition of kanji when I was in the Heisig phase of learning. Those notebooks also had doodles and notes from other subjects in them and I’ve thrown some of them away as I thought it was pointless to keep such scattered notes. However, now I’m starting to save my notes because I’m in the phase of going through basic fluency and beyond and I want to have a record of this.

How to create meaningful notes for learning Japanese

Use your notebook to group things in meaningful ways. The picture to the right is a sample page I wrote up from memory to demonstrate different styles of note taking. The colored boxes are around the different styles.
Red = Words containing other words. Here I used as an example, 水溜り and 溜まる Puddle and the verb for collect or accumulate. So puddle is literally “water accumulation.” Having these two right next to each other helps reenforce that connection in my mind so I learn both words much quicker.

Blue = Similar looking kanji. I like to compare similar looking kanji right next to each other as well. This helps me recognize how obvious the differences really are that you might not notice when just quickly reading over a paragraph.

Green = Synonyms or words with an almost identical meaning. This is a quick way to get monolingual meanings down in your notes. We want to make it as easy as possible.

Orange = Short monolingual definitions. Here we have the word オウム which means parrot. For the definition I simply wrote 鳥の一種 which means “A type of bird.”  Since I created the notes, that’s all I need to recall the meaning.

Yellow = Interesting quotes or sentences you find. This one is from a recent Gaki no Tsukai special. It basically says “If your life has 10 hearts (like video game hearts or health) how many hearts would be left?”

The unboxed ones are just random words or really short snippets in the case of 傷んだ碁盤

Furigana modification: The notebook picture shows the furigana written directly below the kanji. The other day I decided to write the kana version of the words at the bottom of the page sort of like a word bank. This way you can test yourself reading the kanji without having the kana directly in your vision. If you forget, the answer is still conveniently found on the bottom of the page.

02 April 2011 ~ 0 Comments

Japanese Progress March 2011

Current Card Count: 5272

March was a slow month for me. I had to have surgery and I had been feeling bad for a long while before that so I haven’t added many new cards. I focused on maintaining what I had instead of learning a lot of new stuff. I just didn’t have the energy. Hopefully now that I feel better, I’ll be able to resume my 10 new cards a day pace starting in April.

Tadoku is here again. My goal is to beat my last score of  838 pages of Japanese read in one month. I think this is the best way to set a reading goal because it forces you to move forward and become faster and faster each time. Moving backwards or standing still should only happen when you reach the place you are with your native level language(s). Then it only becomes a balancing act between other forms of media/entertainment.