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Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Pkmn Trainer Abram » Sat 02.02.2008 3:09 am

Hi, last year I took an interest in learning Japanese and after learning Hiragana and Katakana, and a few words, I stopped. Foolish, I realize now all too well.

I picked it up again about a week and a half ago and decided to study a little everyday, just like do with my artwork. However, I've run into a bit of a problem learning, or rather HOW to go about learning. After reading several threads on here, I REALLY do not want to waste time learning using inefficient methods.

With my art, I practice drawing from life, imagination, and breaking everything down into simple shapes. Using one of two of these methods at least one a day has granted me improvement, to the point where even if I don't feel like it, I'll at least focus on one aspect and complete it.

When I started studying Japanese again, I brushed up on my kana and started using sample sentences out of books, mixing up words in sentences to learn new vocab by taking it into context, imagining it in my mind. To a certain extent, this has worked.

I tried learning Kanji using flashcards. I'd write the onyomi and kun readings on the front of the cards, and write 4 or so words on the back of the cards using those kanji, with the pronunciations in hiragana, along with the English word next to it. The layout is like this:

(kanji word - hiragana translation - English word)
*no romanji

Here lies the problem, using this method, I seem to learn the pronunciation of the kanji rather than the meanings, and even then it's going at a slow rate. I have learned more kanji for words using the first method more than using flashcards.

I have read some of the PDF file of "Remembering the Kanji" and seem to get the gist of what the kanji mean, even for those I don't know. For example, I can write and understand the kanji and kana for "book"/hon just fine after using the sentence method, but cannot remember the meaning for kanji like "ichigatsu", in which I have not learned using the first method, but instead used my flashcard method.

Furthermore, I am unsure if my sentence structure is correct, thus I tend to use short phrases like "watashi wa abaramu desu", "doku ka? abaramu ka?" Even still, I seem to learn more using this way, while using RTK to get stroke order and memonics.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, is there another way of using flashcards that I should use, or am I doing something wrong altogether with my learning?
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Wakannai » Sat 02.02.2008 3:39 am

Don't use Flash cards for learning kanji. Use flash cards for reviewing kanji.

as for the rest, get a good textbook, your textbook should introduce kanji so you don't need a secondary kanji book. One good textbook should introduce grammar, new kanji, and basically create an in-depth learning environment. There is no more inefficient way to study Japanese than "supplement hell" where you have 10 different references any not enough time in a day to make significant progress in all of them.

Try reading Selecting a Japanese Textbook and try to find a textbook that closely fits your learning goals. We set up this page specifically for people in your position.

After that, just do the lessons in order and you will find yourself progressing.
Last edited by Wakannai on Sat 02.02.2008 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby saraLynne » Sat 02.02.2008 3:40 am

IMHO, your study methods are awesome supplements. I feel that they should be used in tandem with a structured course like a textbook, learning software, a formal class, etc.

I use flashcards for words I learn in my textbook. The reason I think it works well for me is that the textbook then uses those words in dialogs and exercises that give them -actual meaning-.

It's difficult for me to explain what I mean by 'actual meaning' though. :P I guess I mean practical application. Words in context. I'm more likely to remember that 'ryuugakusei' is 'international student' when it's in a sentence, but not when it's a random vocabulary word. Does that make sense? I hope so. ^_^

With a coursebook, you can also include grammar points and common sentence structures on your flashcards. There's a lot to be said for memorizing sentence patterns! Think back to the early readers in English: "See Dick. See Jane. See spot. See Jane run. See Dick run. See Spot run. Run, Spot, run!" That's all pattern reinforcement, and adds to your ability to anticipate what's coming (enhancing both speed and comprehension).

There's lots of debate about RTK and Heisig's method. But I suppose as long as you don't take his keywords as the concrete, end-all and be-all of the meanings for any given kanji, you should be OK. :P

After you're past a lot of the basics, I think finding your own easy-ish materials to read, picking them apart and studying their structures, you will find more vocabulary and grammar points to add to your collection (with some help from forums like this).

EDIT: Gosh, Wakannai beat me to it by a minute.... meh. That'll teach me to type slow. I think "supplement hell" is an accurate term. :P
Last edited by saraLynne on Sat 02.02.2008 3:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 02.02.2008 11:01 am

I use flashcards for words I learn in my textbook. The reason I think it works well for me is that the textbook then uses those words in dialogs and exercises that give them -actual meaning-.


QFT.

If you learn everything in isolation and then try to combine everything you know to make sentences, what you come up with is unlikely to be idiomatic Japanese, and it may not even be understandable to a native speaker. There's very little point to learning a word if you don't also learn at least a little bit about how the word is used.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby furrykef » Sat 02.02.2008 11:47 am

Wakannai wrote:
Don't use Flash cards for learning kanji. Use flash cards for reviewing kanji.


Eh, why not? It works fine for me. Pretty much all my language learning is done by flash cards. I find new words (or grammar) that I want to learn, make flash cards, and there I go. The only exception is for declension and conjugation tables; the former does not apply to Japanese, and the latter I haven't studied in Japanese yet, so I don't yet know how I'll approach it in Japanese.

- Kef
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Pkmn Trainer Abram » Sat 02.02.2008 12:10 pm

Thanks for that textbook link man. And thanks to everyone else.

The current grammar book I have, "Barron's Japanese Grammar", has been helping me with sentence reinforcement, however it uses mainly romanji, which I've developed an intense distaste for, so I write out the words in hiragana in the book, of course that does nothing for kanji reinforcement unless I look it up in a dictonary and write it out.

On that subject, would it be better to just learn kanji as they come word by word, instead of learning each separate pronouciation and then the word?

I gotta go now so excuse me if this post feels rushed.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby yukamina » Sat 02.02.2008 1:58 pm

Don't study kanji readings apart from vocabulary...it's pretty useless information and hard to remember.

For learning words, this is what works for me now. I write down words I don't know from what I'm reading(stories and games, but you can use textbooks or whatever you can handle). Then even if I study the words in isolation, I remember the context and I learn them more easily. And I know they aren't words I'll never need.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Wakannai » Sat 02.02.2008 2:20 pm

Eh, why not? It works fine for me. Pretty much all my language learning is done by flash cards.


then you're shooting yourself in the foot. There is more to learning a word than simply the word, the writing, and the English counterpart (or whatever your native language is) You have to also learn the context it is used, in a way, the context is even more important than the definitions. Besides, every sentence you memorize is a mini grammar lesson it itself.

Also, counter intuitively sentences are far easier to remember than words. If you want to learn a word, you should memorize a sentence you found that uses that word whenever possible. Then, after you've memorized the sentence. Add a flash card with that word to your pile if you feel the need. So if you are memorizing sentences instead of words, you are quadrupling the efficiency of your study time. Instead of learning one thing, linking a word to it's definition. You are learning context, supporting grammar, and improving your speaking proficiency as well. If you study the words in isolation, even when you try to speak, you will find yourself constantly fishing for words you know you know, but can't remember for some reason.

On that subject, would it be better to just learn kanji as they come word by word, instead of learning each separate pronunciation and then the word?


Yup, learn the words. You will find yourself learning the readings naturally. If a kanji starts giving you trouble though, that's when you bring out the supplement and try to identify the parts to make it easier to memorize. You'll find yourself turning to the kanji supplements less and less as you go.
Last edited by Wakannai on Sat 02.02.2008 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 02.02.2008 2:28 pm

It is possible to make good flash cards, but most people who use flashcards are falling into the usual trap of trying to memorize mounds of out-of-context information, which will never work. It's also possible to avoid flash cards entirely; I've barely ever used them.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby furrykef » Sat 02.02.2008 3:28 pm

Wakannai wrote:
Eh, why not? It works fine for me. Pretty much all my language learning is done by flash cards.


then you're shooting yourself in the foot. There is more to learning a word than simply the word, the writing, and the English counterpart (or whatever your native language is) You have to also learn the context it is used, in a way, the context is even more important than the definitions. Besides, every sentence you memorize is a mini grammar lesson it itself.


But there are so many words that do neatly map to a concept in English. Now, these words may occasionally be used in different idiomatic ways, but a sentence that demonstrates the basic meaning won't help you there either. Take the names of food items, for example. For the most part, if you know how to use one, you know how to use them all. Occasionally there are interesting questions ("Does one 'eat' soup or 'drink' it? Might one use a different verb for consuming ice cream?"), and the answers should be noted (along with whatever interesting usages one might encounter), but for the most part, it should be straightforward.

Also, sometimes things don't quite overlap between the two languages, but it's usually not that difficult to handle. Suppose a language, let's call it Somelang, uses different names for an apple depending on whether it's a green or red one. I'd just create a card that says: "In Somelang: apple", and the answer will say, "If it's a red apple: blahblah. If it's a green apple: yaddayadda."

All this applies mostly to nouns. Verbs tend not to translate nearly as well as nouns do. I think adjectives and adverbs might be somewhere in between. If a word doesn't fit well into a simple definition, I won't try to shoehorn it into one and I will find a better way to deal with that word.


Also, counter intuitively sentences are far easier to remember than words. If you want to learn a word, you should memorize a sentence you found that uses that word whenever possible. Then, after you've memorized the sentence. Add a flash card with that word to your pile if you feel the need. So if you are memorizing sentences instead of words, you are quadrupling the efficiency of your study time.


I haven't yet applied this to Japanese, as I'm not really at that stage yet (I'm doing Heisig Vol. 1 first), but I have found this difficult to apply to Spanish. What I've done is I just put the sentence in my flash cards and I say what it means whenever it comes up, and I grade myself on how well I understand it. Often I end up recognizing the sentence and answering correctly, but still not actually learning the words and I'm then unable to recognize them in other contexts. The fewer clues the context gives of a particular word's meaning, the more likely I am to remember it, because I'm forced to use my memory more. That sort of defeats the purpose, though!

What I usually do is I recast the sentence into active production instead of passive recognition. For example, I give the sentence and put a blank in place of the interesting word (with a gloss in English next to it so I know what sort of word goes in the blank). Unfortunately, this isn't always possible since sometimes there are synonyms and there isn't a clear best choice among them, but it's great when it's possible. I generally only do this if the sentence is interesting in some way, though. If the word easily fits into a simple vocabulary item and the sentence is very straightforward, I still don't really find a need to turn it into a sentence item.

By the way, I usually emphasize production in my simple vocabulary items, too. I strongly prefer this:

Q: en español: spider
A: la araña

to this:

Q: español: la araña
A: spider

I find that active vocabulary translates to passive vocabulary much more easily than the other way around.

- Kef
Last edited by furrykef on Sat 02.02.2008 3:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby chequer » Sat 02.02.2008 3:47 pm

I would advise on being very cautious about learning 'vocabulary'. I think that it leads to a longer path of Japanese learning.

A method that appeals much more to my 'brain-training' type mentality is the following:

1) Take the words/phrases that you want to learn (and the kanji etc)
2) Put them in a sentence - preferably one picked whole from a text/song/grammar book (with the correct script etc)
3) Imagine/visualise yourself in a situation where you could use it
4) Role-play the situation over and over while repeating the visualisation
5) Repeat it as often as possible, while you're in the shower, doing the dishes, washing the car etc especially with a range of 'funny' voices
6) Make a note of the sentence and come back to the visualisation from time to time

I firmly believe that this is more effective because:

1) it places the language firmly in the situation where you will need it
2) it associates it with the internal feelings that might prompt you to use the phrase in real life.
3) the vocabulary is linked to the visualisation and is therefore more likely to be remembered.
4) the vocabulary is embedded in a correct grammar structure and therefore you are internalising the grammar patterns that will eventually allow you to swap in other vocabulary/verbs/adjectives etc to produce new, correct, sentences

It is a lot messier than having a lovely stack of crisp flashcards but works better within the bounds of what is known about how our brains learn.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Wakannai » Sat 02.02.2008 4:38 pm

Now, these words may occasionally be used in different idiomatic ways, but a sentence that demonstrates the basic meaning won't help you there either.


The point is, a sentence is easier to memorize than an isolated word. I kinda get the drift of what you are saying though. I think you are not memorizing unique sentences. When I was first told to write my vocabulary words in a sentence my sentences read like this: This is a pear. This is an apple. This is an orange. Etc, and thus I really wasn't understanding the benefit of using sentences to learn vocabulary words. But you need to use unique and interesting sentences. Example: An apple fell out of a tree into my lap, so I ate it. When my friends couldn't find a baseball they substituted an orange--much to their mother's chagrin. My friend's sister looks like a pear; just don't tell her I said that.

See what I mean? Also, it doesn't have to be one sentence if two linked sentences are easier to remember.
Last edited by Wakannai on Sat 02.02.2008 4:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 02.02.2008 6:03 pm

It's even better if what you memorize is a short dialogue. The main problem with that is that if you don't practice the dialogue with someone you may not be able to remember it well, and you definitely don't want to make up your own dialogues without having them checked by a native speaker who you know will give accurate and complete corrections.

As Wakannai says, "kore wa ringo desu" is not going to help you remember "ringo", but ideally you can do more complex things than that.

Unfortunately memorization seems to be looked down on or ignored by a lot of textbooks, which I always find strange. I think some people have the idea that if you memorize a sentence or a dialogue, then you'll be stuck with that exact dialogue and if someone doesn't talk exactly like it, you'll be totally lost. This definitely is the case if you memorize sentences or dialogues as groups of words without understanding the structure (e.g. if you know that "kore wa ikura desu ka?" means "How much is this?" but you have no idea what each word's function in the sentences is). But if you understand the structure of the sentences you are memorizing, and think about where substitutions can be made (and practice those substitutions), you should be able to put them to more general use.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby OitaFish » Sat 02.02.2008 8:09 pm

I think people have different ways of learning and what works for one person may not work for another. I personally think memorizing a sentence is much harder than individual vocabulary words.

I work at a Japanese company. I get loads of reading material every day -- either e-mails or technical presentations. What has worked for me recently is this:

● Find words I don't know in the e-mail/presentation and add them to my vocabulary list.
● Study the vocabulary list for a few days (I use flashcard style)
● Periodically go back and re-read the email/technical presentation

By going back and re-reading the original text, I can see how well I am learning the vocabulary and also get the context in which it was used reinforced in my mind. It also helps me understand how much grammar I do (err, do not) know.
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RE: Recommended study plan for my learning process?

Postby Wakannai » Sat 02.02.2008 9:28 pm

I think people have different ways of learning and what works for one person may not work for another.


To an extent, but it's really a difference in degree not in kind. If a learning aid works for one person, it works for everyone unless they suffer from a severe mental handicap. But some people might find another method more efficient or enjoyable, and thus easier to stick with.
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