Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Few Things I Picked Up While Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese

Hello everyone! I've been learning Japanese for a good amount of time now and have made little progress. Before I thought learning focused on memorization of certain words and phrases, but I realized that's not the case.

I've been doing some reading, looking up a lot of Japanese learning sites, and it's hard to get much guidance on where to start. So many places to learn, but are they really teaching you the right thing?

I just took Japanese wherever I could get it. The site might be shady or fan made, but I desperately wanted to learn.

Yeah, that obviously wasn't a good idea. I didn't learn much, and the few things I did learn were either rough phrases or incorrect.

If you're stuck in an area like mine, there aren't many opportunities to study Japanese under an instructor. Most of the things I learned have been through anime or my own teaching. Visiting the local Barnes and Noble was also pretty useful.

Yet with all of these resources, I still wasn't learning. What was stopping me? Was I too old to learn or was my memory too bad?

My studies were soon put off due to busy schedule, laziness, and other excuses.

You might be thinking that I just gave up, and figured that English would be my only language. Sadly, I was on the verge of throwing my hands up, but I regained my drive.

Now I've been learning faster and more efficiently than ever. It's like a miracle, or some sort of blessing. However, everything doesn't come naturally. I still need to put in a lot of hard work and I'm only a novice at the language, but that's not going to stop me. For my fellow learners I want to let you in on a few tips that helped me out.

Don't Just Learn, Experience

While expecting to hear a new language and learn it immediately is great, it's near impossible. I'm sure a select few are that gifted, but for the rest you'll need to work hard. I found it was easier to learn when I read into the culture, and studied the history behind the language. Okay, it may sound a bit boring, but test it out. If you decide to move to or visit Japan someday, you should probably learn about their culture. It's not all anime and video games.

There's actually a specific book that I found immensely helpful. It's known as The Japanese Mind. Not only do you gain an insight of culture, it offers a few vocab lessons. It's a very good read.

Ah yes, there's more to experiencing than reading. Get outside! Even if you are Otaku, go to anime conventions, Japanese restaurants, and other hotspots of the culture. Try using your Japanese by speaking to others, it's one of the best ways to improve.

Focus on Recalling, Not Memorization

Don't give up Tenma!
Yes, schools may teach you to read down a list of Kanji until the characters are burned into your mind, but is that really helpful? Whenever, I tried to memorize Kanji, Hiragna, or Katakana I ended up forgetting the next day.

The secret is to recall, not memorize.

Basically, whenever you try to recall something you've heard or seen your brain works harder to remember it. The more you recall, the more the thing you're trying to remember is ingrained into your mind. 

Picture yourself digging for a treasure chest. You keep digging deeper in the sand, yet you can't find it, but you know it's there. By the time you hit the chest you remember where it is, and if you were to bury it again you'd be able to find it with ease.

One of my favorite ways learning with recalling is through quizzes that randomize questions. Even if you start knowing nothing, eventually you'll be able to recall all the answers. I learned basic Hiragana using this test in a hour or two.
Have Fun While Learning

Who said school was boring?
I think this also goes in hand with recalling. Anime is one of those methods. Have you ever tried watching anime raw? (No English Subs.) Were you able to point out a few words you heard? If so, that means you're learning. 

Aside from anime, you can also learn through music. There's specific songs that teach you different parts of Japanese, and they're extremely catchy. (No seriously, they'll get stuck in your head forever.)

Ending Notes

That's pretty much it. I've been using all these techniques, and I feel myself learning and having fun! There's also a few interesting things I'd like to try such as:
  • Teaching a native Japanese speaker English, and vice versa.
  • Setting my computer to Japanese and trying to navigate.
  • Typing with a Japanese keyboard.

Good luck future Japanese experts!

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