Saturday, March 26, 2011

Anki is great

If you aren't using an SRS, you're really missing out.  We all learn things, then forget them later on.  That is, unless we diligently review the material once in a while.  How often should we review?  What happens when we start learning, then reviewing, thousands, or millions of things?  Obviously some things are very easy while some things we forget.

That's where the SRS comes in.  It schedules cards for you, based on your answer.  If you mark it "easy" you won't see it for a while, but cards marked "hard" will be shown sooner. The benefit is that you save time and you will have a better long-term memory.

Ok, enough talk about SRS.

I just realized that Anki (a very popular SRS) supports the online syncing of more than three decks!  If you're a long time user like me, there used to be a limit on the number of decks.  It was also very difficult to set up the link between the website and the desktop version.

I highly recommend that you try it out again, if you've stopped using it because of the limitations, like I did.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Japanese Graded Readers from White Rabbit Press

Merry Christmas, everyone!  What did Santa bring you this year?

J, my wife, got me the Level 2 graded reader from White Rabbit Press.

Here's what's so cool about this graded reader:

  • All kanji have furigana!
  • There are five booklets inside, and it comes with a CD of all the text, read by native speakers.
  • It's perfect for JLPT N4-N3
I have yet to read through the books, but my initial impression after a quick glance through the text is that this will help immensely in obtaining new vocabulary, grammar, reading and listening practice.  If you decide to get this, don't forget to sentence-mine!

Update, March 26, 2011
I've read through three out of the five stories, and I can with confidence that if you've completed Genki I (maybe some of Genki II), then you should have the vocabulary and grammar necessary to understand these stories.  There may be some words here and there that you might not understand, but hey, that's a good thing!  Never stop learning!

The CD is great to listen to while you're reading, and you can transfer them to your iPod to listen on the go.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

AJATT and Japanese immersion in the US

About 1.5 years ago, I stopped attending Japanese classes.  The main reason was that the textbook for the next class was full of kanji and had very little, if any, furigana.  There was no way that I would be able to successfully participate in a class like that, although many of my classmates went ahead anyway.

I needed something different, and that was Heisig's book, which at first, I ignored and thought was stupid.  It wasn't until I re-read many of the articles at (AJATT) and really understood the learning techniques, such as use Heisig's book and an SRS, have fun, listen to music, etc.

One of the techniques outlined at AJATT is immersion.   I tried to find a Japanese equivalent for any site that I used to visit that was in English.  It worked out great for a while, but I felt like I was not keeping current with US news.

I thought many times: "Is there a site where I can read US news in Japanese?" Sure, there are plenty of Japanese sites covering Japanese news, but it was difficult, at least to me, to find US news.  I had given up hope, but found US Frontline. It's an excellent site that has world/US news, and you can even download full back issues in PDF format for free!

Now there is no excuse not to immerse yourself.  You can stay current with US and world events, and still learn Japanese.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Never forget anything with SRS

How would you like to never forget anything, ever again? With enough repetition, your brain will remember something so well that the time for you to forget it is longer than your lifespan.
An SRS, or spaced repetition system, is designed so that you review items at the moment you are about to forget something; no sooner, and no later.

So how does it help with Japanese? Well, you can add your sentences, vocabulary words, and kanji to it so that you save time by reviewing flash cards that you are about to forget, and optimize your study time. With over 2000 kanji, and 10,000 sentences containing many vocabulary words, I think you'll agree that it's wise to use an SRS.

Here's a few other articles with the benefits of an SRS:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All your kanji are belong to us

Nihongo Ninja fans: sorry for the lack of updates. I've changed my studying methods and I promise, I will have lots to share in the coming weeks.

As a student of Japanese, you eventually have to learn kanji; however, it's something that many of us are afraid of. You may have had thoughts like these:
"The scribbles mean nothing to me, and I can't remember them after a few days! Okay, go back and write it 1000 times again, and maybe it'll stick? When will I learn at least 2000? When I'm 50 years old?"

I used to have thoughts like these too. But not anymore.
Here's why.

It's all because of my experiences with the book, Remembering the Kanji, Vol 1. by James Heisig.

Using the power of imaginative memory, you can learn what he calls primitive elements and associate them with an English key word, and a "story." More complex kanji are themselves built up from other primitives and also have stories associated with them.

When you want to recall a kanji, you would use an SRS (another post to explain that will be written soon) and go from the English keyword, recalling the primitives and their related"story", and finally, you would write it out.

The method might seem a bit unorthodox, but it is really effective and makes sense when he tells you that he puts you on the same level playing field as Chinese and Korean students of Japanese who know how to write kanji, and their meanings, but don't know the Japanese readings.

What about the readings? Why shouldn't you learn it all at once? Well, it's all about divide and conquer, baby. Heisig starts with the simpler of the two, which is writing and meaning. Once you've got that, you can then tackle the issue of compounds, on'yomi, kun'yomi, etc.

Does it work? Based on my experience and many others (see the forums at Reviewing the Kanji), I'd say it does. I'm currently at 734 kanji, with about a 95% - 99% retention rate when I'm doing my daily SRS reps. 2000+, here I come!

If you found this article useful, please support this site by using the links below, so that I can continue to write more articles. Thanks!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Beginner Tips for Learning Japanese

I promised this site would be for beginners, and I intend to keep that promise. I've read many blogs that had some great ideas for beginners ( is one of them), and I thought I'd provide a few of my own.

Recently, I've taken a lot of beginner classes at a few different schools, only because each school uses a different textbook, and therefore, it's something I didn't want to miss. In doing so, I've noticed a lot of things that would make my classmates' Japanese a lot better if they would only do the following:

  1. LEARN hiragana and katakana as soon as possible. Romaji is fine, for the first few weeks, but you MUST wean yourself off of it as soon as you can for at least two good reasons: your pronunciation, and reading ability. Videogames, manga, and signs in Japan are not in romaji. :)
  2. Whether you study on your own or in a classroom environment, get yourself the CD accompaniment. I've noticed that those who listen to the CDs have excellent pronunciation, and those that don't, well, don't.
  3. Learn the patterns and internalize them. What do I mean? Well, for instance, one of the first patterns you learn is "X は Y です。”  (X wa Y desu). This example might be too simple for many of you, but for those of you that haven't learned it yet, once you internalize a pattern, you simply substitute the appropriate words into that pattern, and your Japanese flows much smoother. There are a lot more patterns than that, but each time you understand and internalize it, it makes learning a lot more enjoyable, and you won't stumble as much. (Perhaps I'll go over this in a future post.)
  4. Finally, be patient, but study, study, study. Studies have shown that at the college level, at least 2-3 hours for every hour you are in class. I followed this formula in college and got mostly A's, especially in Japanese. :) Try it for at least two weeks, and if you don't find that you are learning things a lot easier than before, then go back to your old methods.
  5. This last technique/tip can be used for any class you may be taking: READ THE NEXT CHAPTER, before class. Why? This gives your mind time to adjust to the new topic, perhaps form new questions you might want to ask, and makes the next class that much more interesting. If you read before the class, then you attend class, and finally, review your notes, you have effectively "seen" the material at least 3 times. It's much easier to absorb the material this way, instead of a cram session the night before a test.

I hope these tips get you started on your path to becoming an expert in Japanese!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

te-form, Part II: Basic usage

Okay, last time we went over how to obtain, or conjugate a verb into its te-form.

Today, we will go over two basic, but major, uses of te-form verbs.
1. Making requests
2. Linking verbs together, like "and" in English

Making Requests
To make a request to do something, add 下さい (kudasai) to the end of the te-form.
~て + 下さい

まどをあけて下さい。 [mado o akete kudasai]
Please open the window.

  すわってください。 [ suwatte kudasai]
Please sit down.

  テレビをみてください。[terebi o mite kudasai]
Watch tv, please.

Linking verbs together
In Japanese, you can not link verbs using と (to). You must use the te-form to link verbs.

For instance, if you were to say that you will go home and eat dinner, you could say:
じゃ、いえ に かえって、ばんごはんをたべます。
[ja, ie ni kaette, bangohan o tabemasu.]

Note that the te-form of a verb has no tense on its own; the tense is determined by the final verb in the sentence. In this case, かえて (kaete) is in the present affirmative tense, because of the last verb, たべます(tabemasu).

You are not limited to just two verbs in a sentence, however. You can link as many as you would like; just keep in mind that the last verb should not be in te-form, and determines the tense of the entire sentence.