Project Learn Japanese | Update no.2 | Feb 2018

I’m FINALLY getting into the self-study that I had talked about earlier. It’s taken me a bit longer to finally get “to it.” I’ve had so many other competing priorities this year and a lot of external pressures, so it’s been difficult to fit this in. But, I’ve squirreled away a little dedicated study space in my house (my kitchen table), and am now getting down to business! […to defeat… the huns…]

03.03 messy studying

I’m saving the vocab review for April. Until then, I’m going through all of the chapters in my two volumes of Minna no Nihongo. I’ve got the accompanying grammar and notes book, which I’m using to fill a blank notebook. It’s laid out really well for my needs. (but overall I don’t actually recommend this book unless you’re using it as a class text)

I’m writing out the grammar point & highlighting it, writing their example sentence(s), and then creating 3 or 4 of my own example sentences using the same point. I’m not taking much in the way of actual notes though. Seeing the constructed sentences are sometimes enough to get the point across.

I’m also going through the book and creating flashcards for all of the vocab that I don’t know, or might get wrong if I hear the word out of context. I’m hoping that I’ll be done going through these books by the end of March, and so April I will start officially studying for the JLPT, studying the flashcards I’ve just constructed, and reviewing the kanji.

At this point, I’m not sure I’ve learned anything new. But, I’m glad to be getting this much-needed review!


New Japanese Materials:


I had to replace the Kodansha’s furigana Japanese-English dictionary. On my first day of classes I accidentally spilled pop all over my bag which ruined my original dictionary. I’ve had that dictionary for years… and absolutely love it. If you’re in the market for a Japanese-English dictionary, this is THE one you want. (there’s also a reverse English-Japanese dictionary available which can be useful too)

You will need to know how to read kana to look up any words. But, you really should be doing that before you start learning Japanese anyway.

I’m just so glad I was able to replace this!

Hopefully by the end of March I’ll be on track to start studying for the JLPT. It’s been going really well for the last few weeks, so hopefully this is something I’ll be able to sustain for the long term and actually achieve a decent level of fluency…


Project Learn Japanese | Update no.1 | Jan 2018

I’d mentioned earlier that I’m hoping to learn Japanese this year. I’m going to be doing periodic updates on my progress; mostly to keep me motivated but also, some of you might be interested… (If you’re not, just ignore me.)

So, January hasn’t been as productive as I had originally hoped. I was originally planning to have started into the Leitner Box method, with daily vocabulary review. I was also planning to have finished reviewing my first intro level text book. Unfortunately, I just haven’t had time to do what I’d planned.

But, I did do a few things:

First. I have FINALLY begun scripting my “essay” for Japanese school. Our “final project” assignment is to write a short essay about any topic and present it to the class. It’s of course best to use the grammar we’ve been learning all along. I’m struggling to fit some of these grammar points into my essay. But, maybe we haven’t learned enough grammar yet? I’m also not decided on my topic. I’d like to talk about manga, because I have no lack of words when I talk about manga. But I’m still wondering how “nerdy” I should make it. Unlike just about anywhere else, I feel weird talking about how much I like manga at Japanese school…

51OBMkbzS1LSecond. I have begun going through my N4/N5 Japanese vocabulary book. I’m mostly transcribing the vocabulary and some phrases into my note book. I’m not using any English at this point in my notebook; I’m not sure how long I will be able to manage doing this. At this moment, I’m hoping to avoid English as much as possible. I’ll be using these same words when I finally get into constructing my Leitner Box – anything I can’t recall when I review will go on a flashcard.

Besides being busy, the reason I haven’t started my flash card/Leitner box plan is that I wasn’t able to buy the word cards or flash cards I was interested in. I think I’m going to have to place an order on Rakuten – since wasn’t letting me buy from them. I have a bit leftover of my old stock, but I’ll need to buy more soon if I don’t want to run out.

Speaking of, I did pick up some other new things. Mostly new study materials. Or, what I am hoping will be study materials. Because buying study materials is always a good idea… especially when you’re not actually studying… [this is me being sarcastic].

I ended up picking up two new N5 study guides:


They’re not the prettiest, but they both look really useful. They seem to be mostly JLPT practice tests and study techniques. The first one (日本語能力試験 完全模試N5) on the left concentrates a lot on listening skills since that is a big part of the exam, and comes with 3 CDs. The second book (合格できる日本語能力試験N4・N5) is primarily practice and review problems, and includes notes like “study these phrases” and “know this verb conjugation” etc. I think they’ll both be really good.

I also experimented by buying a few “cute” looking study books. Or…maybe not so “study” and more so “just for fun”, but I wanted to give them a try:

The first two are activity books – mostly word games. I had thought they were going to be all crosswords, but there are lots of different kinds of activities in them. I’m not sure they’re entirely intuitive to a non-Japanese person, so this will be interesting trying to figure them out. The last book on the right is entirely crossword (or similar) games focusing on grades 1-3 kanji. It is divided by grade level. By July, I have grand ambitions to be at least able to read grade 3 kanji, so I’m hoping that a few activities like these will help. I was trying to complete the first grade 1 crossword in the kanji book, and I was able to get a few of the answers before even studying (or looking anything up in a dictionary), so I’m super happy about that!! These are going to make studying so much more fun!


小学全漢字おぼえるカード  9784053046741


The last thing I bought was a grade-school level kanji study “book”. I’ve since discovered that it is actually a book of flashcards that you rip-out. It comes complete with key rings. The flashcards seem to be really instructive in how to remember how to write the different kanji. I actually think this will be really invaluable to me. I’ve been wondering how I was going to study kanji.

I’ve got a handful more books and activities on their way. But, at this point, I really just need to clear a space on my desk for “studying” and get down to work!


How I Will Study Japanese in 2018

One of my major New Year’s Resolutions this year is to study Japanese. I want to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) in the summer.

I’ve been thinking about my Resolutions for several months now, and the thing that I keep coming back to is what I want out of my “manga-reading” life. I’ve become frustrated with the lack of titles in English that I’m actually excited to read – and find myself settling on things that I’m less interested in.

51JNWB37QFLI’m ravenous for 60s, 70s, and 80s shoujo manga! But, we’re lucky if we get 1 or 2 titles a year in English. It’s entirely frustrating.

I NEED to learn Japanese in order to read the books and series that I actually want to read.

That’s what this year is for! I’m going to spend the next 7 months studying for the JLPT in July. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll try for the N5 or N4 exam yet, that’ll come later. But, I figure the JLPT is the FIRST step that I need to take in order to become reading-fluent. I’d love to also be speaking and listening-fluent… but reading is my ultimate goal.

I’ve decided on a few study strategies that I will employ to study over the next 7 months… and beyond.

  1. I will keep going to Japanese classes for the listening and speaking practice.
  2. I will review my old textbooks. Just enough to get my grammar back to where it needs to be. It’s always a good idea to review old grammar… otherwise it’ll be impossible to learn new grammar.
  3. 51fOzhuUUbLI will go through the JLPT practice and study books that I’ve purchased over the years. This isn’t the first time I’ve considered taking this test. I’d actually registered a few years ago, when the testing was in December. It was blizzarding here that week… and I decided to stay home rather than take the chance driving on a treacherous highway to another city.
  4. I will study vocabulary using the Leitner box method. You can check out tutorials on YouTube about this. But basically it’s a particular technique to help you learn new words and concepts in a reasonably short period of time. It will take quite a bit of my free time to do, though. I’m not super thrilled with that. I don’t have that much free time to begin with.
  5. I will write key sentences as well as construct my own to help solidify the meanings of words and the use of grammar.
  6. I will memorize the required Kanji. I have a few ideas how I’d like to accomplish this, but I’ll have to test them out before I commit to anything.
  7. I will translate manga. My ultimate goal is to be able to read manga.

51OBMkbzS1LI might as well get some regular practice in… even if it is incredibly difficult to translate manga when you actually don’t know the language…

I would also like to start listening to some Japanese podcasts, Radio programs, YouTube videos, and Japanese dramas. I need as much practice to listening to Japanese as I can get. If you have any suggestions of good and interesting titles/shows/etc. to listen to in Japanese, (without English subtitles) I’d love to hear about it!

Non-Fiction Review: Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner

Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget ItFluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It

by Gabriel Wyner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s difficult to rate something like this without seeing if it works first. But, I do think that the author is at least giving you a very practical approach to self-language study… and he certainly doesn’t sugar-coat how much work it’s going to be. I’ve been stuck in my Japanese language study for a while — I think Gabriel Wyner’s approach might be the answer to get me out of this rut.

Also, I would highly recommend the audiobook of this to listen to while you read the book. He seriously has one of the prettiest narration voices. Plus, with so much discussion about foreign words and pronunciation, it is such a bonus to actually hear (rather than read and guess wrong) the words properly spoken. And, with how much he repeats his example words, my vocabulary is now 5-6 words larger.

Non-Fiction Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of EverythingIs That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything

by David Bellos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

He starts off the book by defining translation, the other solutions to dealing with language barriers, and whether translation actually exists (just because we’ve given it a name). Brilliant! It reminded me of my “Modern Art” history class at university — I put it off for several years because I took the stance that everything has been done before — it’s just a rehash. and what were the first words out of my prof’s mouth? “I’m going to take this semester to explain to you that Modern Art Does Not Exist!” YES! I know there were at least a few students who were NOT happy with this remark. For me, that was the best modern art class I ever could have hoped for!

Anyways, I don’t have much to say about this book — except that I’ll probably buy it and read it again. I kept wading through the text and was excited by so many passages. I kept thinking to myself, “I need to write this quote down…” This doesn’t happen that often to me with non-fiction works. I can’t explain it. All I can say is, I’d love to read some fictional works translated by David Bellos, his explanation of the how’s and what’s of translation were fascinating.