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Frustrated by a long-term plateau

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Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby Fillanzea » Sun 09.20.2009 11:52 pm

It has been about ten years since I started studying Japanese.

I passed 1kyu of the JLPT in 2007, and I'm at a level where I can read a lot of contemporary novels (Murakami Haruki, Yoshimoto Banana, light novels, etc.) even if I don't understand every word, and I've read some slightly older literature (Soseki, Tanizaki) with lots of dictionary lookup. My listening comprehension is not quite so good, but I can manage in conversation, and I don't intend to move to Japan any time soon so I don't mind letting that go.

I'm just frustrated because I feel like I've been right around this level for the last four or five years. I had my last formal class in Japanese in 2004, when I was in college, and I've been on my own since then. I feel like I'll learn things and then forget them, or I'll get up the enthusiasm for reading for a few days and then move on to something else. I hate all the partially read books on my bookshelf, and I'm never sure if I should go in for more systematic kanji and vocabulary study, or more intensive low-level reading to soak up a ton of vocabulary in context, or more intensive high-level reading to challenge myself, or something else entirely. I don't want to still be here in another five years--so what should I do?
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby nukemarine » Mon 09.21.2009 2:36 am

You're beyond my level, so I can only offer vague suggestions that work in all walks of life:

1. Utilize a Spaced Repetition Software like Anki to reduce what you forget
2. Post milestones you achieve (books read, 500 new words learned, pages written).
3. Record your current levels at monthly (or even weekly) intervals. You'll be suprised how well you advance when you can see that you are advancing.
4. Get involved in Japanese discussions with other Japanese like 2ch, or Yahoo, or Yomiuri, etc. Best if it's in areas that are of interest to you.

For the more specific, well, there's the sentence method which works great with online dictionaries. Basically, for each new word you want to keep memorized, find a good sentence that the dictionary uses as an example. Use this in the SRS to keep it memorized.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby NileCat » Mon 09.21.2009 2:44 am

Fillanzeaさんのフラストレーションが、まさしく私のフラストレーションと全く同じなので、ちょっと笑ってしまいました。もちろん私の場合は、日本語ではなく英語についてなのですが。
そう、そうなんです。What should I do? --- 私も全く同じ悩みを抱えています。この膠着状態から抜け出すにはどうしたらいいんでしょうね? おそらく最善の道は、日常的に日本語(英語)を使うことだと思うんですが、自分がその国にいない以上、それは難しい。
いろんな方法を試してはいます。たとえば、ブラウザのホームページをアメリカのYahooにしています。テレビドラマを見ています。(先週は、"House M.D" のSeason1 を全部見ました。もちろん字幕はなしで)しかし、自分が覚える速度より忘れる速度の方が速いこともわかっていて、進歩している実感はまるでありません。
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby tōkai devotee » Mon 09.21.2009 2:57 am

Hi! I am in a similar position to you. It's now 11 years since I have lived in Japan. I lived there for 3 1/2 years and became quite proficient at Japanese, but since returning home, except for a few jobs where I could use the language, I haven't had a lot of opportunity to keep up my Japanese. Although I can still hold a daily conversation, I find I forget a great deal. I have joined a Japan Friendship association where I can meet with and talk with, Japanese natives. Although we meet only once a week, I find that my Japanese is 'flooding back'. If you have such an association where you live, join it! It may help you.

Also, watching Japanese movies (without English subtitles) could help. I had my friends in Japan send me some up-to-date TV shows, but you can rent movies at most DVD shops.

As for formal study of Kanji and grammar etc I find this really hard and haven't really got an answer for you.... sorry!! I've been studying calligraphy and this kind of helps, but I would like to find another method too.

Hope this helps! ANd good luck!
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby wccrawford » Mon 09.21.2009 7:14 am

I'm not at your level either, but you yourself said you have a problem with listening comprehension, so that seems an obvious thing to work on. 'More exposure' is an obvious answer, which includes watching TV.

But even better would be to get a pen- or phone-pal. When you absolutely have to understand something, it takes more priority to you and you're going to learn it faster.

I'm assuming, of course, that you can't simply move somewhere that nobody speaks English and you just don't have a choice but to get better.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby spin13 » Mon 09.21.2009 9:05 am

Fillanzea wrote:so what should I do?

For everything you did include in your post, you managed to leave out the most important part: what it is that you want to do with Japanese. Without clearly identifying that anything you do is going to feel like spinning your tires. I could tell you what I want to do with Japanese, but I can't speak for you and it would be silly to expect anyone else to.

wccrawford wrote:which includes watching TV.

Japanese TV? What a terrible, inhumane thing to suggest.
You're probably not as smart as you think.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby Fillanzea » Mon 09.21.2009 12:34 pm

spin13 wrote:
Fillanzea wrote:so what should I do?

For everything you did include in your post, you managed to leave out the most important part: what it is that you want to do with Japanese. Without clearly identifying that anything you do is going to feel like spinning your tires. I could tell you what I want to do with Japanese, but I can't speak for you and it would be silly to expect anyone else to.



I want to read literature. That's really the only thing I care about. I want to take a vacation to Japan next year and not embarrass myself, but if I'm just ordering in restaurants, checking myself into hotels--no problem, I've done that before.

I want to read Mishima and Soseki and Tanizaki and Kawabata and Mori Ogai, without being so hampered by the language that I give up all too quickly and feel like it's nothing but a chore. I want to read classical Japanese, eventually, but that's possibly a long way away.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby NileCat » Mon 09.21.2009 1:39 pm

Fillanzea wrote:I want to read Mishima and Soseki and Tanizaki and Kawabata and Mori Ogai, without being so hampered by the language that I give up all too quickly and feel like it's nothing but a chore. I want to read classical Japanese, eventually, but that's possibly a long way away.

This is only my personal opinion and I know you could find a bunch of objections to it though...

I recommend you to try to read aloud those novels.
Because they are classic, many of the words and expressions are not common today. That's why this method is not preferable for beginners. But since you have already passed 1 kyuu, I assume your comprehension of normal Japanese would be almost perfect except for uncommon terms you wouldn't hear in our daily life. So it seems to me that it would be a wrong way to "study" those novels by remembering every single word unless you have an academic intension.
The art of those great pieces of Japanese literature is mainly attributed to the beauty of their writing style. In order to "taste" the art, the simplest way I believe is to read it aloud as if it were an English sonnet. And when you find it sounds beautiful, I can assure you that your goal is no longer that far away.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby spin13 » Tue 09.22.2009 5:05 am

Fillanzea wrote:I want to read literature. That's really the only thing I care about. I want to take a vacation to Japan next year and not embarrass myself, but if I'm just ordering in restaurants, checking myself into hotels--no problem, I've done that before.

I want to read Mishima and Soseki and Tanizaki and Kawabata and Mori Ogai, without being so hampered by the language that I give up all too quickly and feel like it's nothing but a chore. I want to read classical Japanese, eventually, but that's possibly a long way away.

If you want to read, I don't know what's stopping you. If you want to have the vocabulary and kanji knowledge to read Soseki, you need to read Soseki.

At your level I can only think of a few stepping stones towards the final goal:

1) Read these authors through texts like Exploring Japanese Literature: Read Mishima, Tanizaki, and Kawabata in the Original and Breaking into Japanese Literature: Seven Modern Classics in Parallel Text with glossaries and/or translations.
2) Familiarize yourself with the content by reading the translation before or in parallel to the original.
3) Read while listening to audio books to help smooth out irregular and outdated character use. Though it's mostly just excerpts of much longer books and updates have fallen off recently, Japanese Classical Literature at Bedtime provides a decent range of well read literature for free.
4) Start with shorter pieces to maintain motivation. 我輩は猫である, at 475 pages, is understandably daunting.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby yukamina » Tue 09.22.2009 9:18 am

Audio books... you can listen to audio books by themselves or while reading along. Here's a bunch of short stories and a few full length novels, including Soseki.

http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... p?TID=6241
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby NileCat » Tue 09.22.2009 10:33 am

spin13 wrote:1) Read these authors through texts like Exploring Japanese Literature: Read Mishima, Tanizaki, and Kawabata in the Original and Breaking into Japanese Literature: Seven Modern Classics in Parallel Text with glossaries and/or translations.
2) Familiarize yourself with the content by reading the translation before or in parallel to the original.
3) Read while listening to audio books to help smooth out irregular and outdated character use. Though it's mostly just excerpts of much longer books and updates have fallen off recently, Japanese Classical Literature at Bedtime provides a decent range of well read literature for free.
4) Start with shorter pieces to maintain motivation. 我輩は猫である, at 475 pages, is understandably daunting.

No offence but, recommending to read short ones because "吾輩は猫である" is daunting because it is long to a person who can read 村上春樹 or 椎名誠 sounds just...ah...interesting to me.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby Fillanzea » Tue 09.22.2009 1:14 pm

No, I actually do think it's a good idea to read things that are shorter! Especially if I'm reading something older and more difficult, I might only be able to read two or three pages a day, and if I only read two or three pages a day it takes a ridiculously long time before I can get to the end of a novel, and it's very easy for me to lose interest or get sidetracked. If I can imagine getting to the end of something in a week or a few days, it's a lot less discouraging. As for 村上春樹, well, I never did get to the end of 海辺のカフカ because it was too complicated to follow by reading so slowly. I would forget too much of what was going on.
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 09.22.2009 1:18 pm

I thought ぼっちゃん was fairly easy and it's not too long. こころ has very short chapters. I had started reading that on a post a while back but I only did one chapter, of course...
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby NileCat » Tue 09.22.2009 3:10 pm

Wow, how fascinating it is!
Everyone in this thread has no difficulty with normal Japanese and discussing how we should read the classics!
As the proverb goes, there is no royal road to learning, that's for sure. But can I tell you something from a viewpoint of a Japanese who loves Japanese literature?

In general, at junior high school (age 12-15), we usually have to read こころ(漱石), 坊ちゃん(漱石), 走れメロス(太宰), and so on. It's not necessarily true but it was common at least 20 years ago.
At high school (age 15-18), 高瀬舟(鴎外), 山椒大夫(鴎外)and 近代能楽集(三島) would be popular.
But interesting point is that I don't think most of the normal Japanese students under 17 could pass JPLT 1 kyuu like you if they took it. In other words, those pieces don't require such ability to read. I suppose it would be similar when you read Shakespeare's. If you take it "difficult", it's obviously difficult. But if you take it as "fun", it's not a burden. And I believe anyone who have passed 1 kyuu can find "fun" in them even if you are not familiar with every single word. That's the Japanese literature. (Well, I'm just talking about those popular pieces.)

I read 吾輩は猫である for the first time when I was 11. I'm sure that I wasn't able to read all the kanji in it and it's doubtful if I could understand it. BUT, I remember I really enjoyed it. And I hated short stories because they ended so soon!

So, my suggestion/question is "isn't there any way for you to enjoy those pieces without 'studying' it?"
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Re: Frustrated by a long-term plateau

Postby OitaFish » Tue 09.22.2009 8:06 pm

I am reading 走れメロス now (junior high school book). The grammar isn't hard at all. I picked up on the first page that ね = ない (ならね = ならない) and I haven't ran into anything else strange yet. The hard part about reading the book is the vocabulary. I think that is where the native Japanese school kids have the advantage -- they may not be able to pass 1 kyuu but I bet they know a lot more vocabulary than non-natives that can pass 1 kyuu.
Last edited by OitaFish on Wed 09.23.2009 3:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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