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!

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