Saturday, August 27, 2011

Learning Japanese, Four Weeks In

Sorry about the shortness of the previous post.  There really wasn't much going on at that point.  This week is a bit different, in a good way.

All of the 'advice', as the program calls it, has been centered on shadowing, listening, writing out new kanji, and adding older kanji to my SRS system.  Last week, I was behind with just about everything.  Now, I'm closer to even, but still a bit behind in somethings. 

One piece of advice that is repeated is that we're not competing with anyone and that there is no deadline.  I somewhat agree, but have one minor disagreement:  I'm behind where I choose to be.  I have redecided (re-re-redecided?) to apply to join the JET Program after all.  If things go well, I'll be there two years from now.

So far, I've added 60 kanji to my SRS system.  Fluency, as defined by the Japanese government, requires me to know a certain 2000+ kanji.  These are the first that I'm learning, but the program I'm in goes beyond that.  We continue learning more and more kanji even as we move into sentences.  It's as we learn sentences (and the kanji contained in them) that we really learn to communicate.  Right now, we're focusing more on writing the kanji and knowing its English meaning instead of how to pronounce it.  Learning sentences also teaches us grammar.  The focus on sentences is supposed to help us learn the words in context.

I'll be pushing ahead in kanji today and tomorrow, attempting to reach where I want to be.

In other news, I received a package from Japan yesterday.  In it was the Japanese version of Star Wars (the good ones) and the first two Harry Potter books, as well as the first two books in a series of Japanese history.  I don't want to live in a country and be regarded as an idiot, after all.  The history series has 26 books in it, and it looks like they're about 500 pages each.  I have a lot of reading to do.

And finally, a quick note on ordering something from Japan:  It's a pain.  I mentioned the large charge by in a previous post.  I then joined a program that gives me a Tokyo address to ship things to.  Then they ship to me.  That's how I got my latest acquisition.  Sadly, there wasn't a total given and it ended up costing me $75 anyway.  Yes-Asia offers free shipping internationally, but the items cost a bit more ($30+ for a Disney movie in Japanese).  I'm routinely thinking about ordering a $40 or more movie and end up not doing it.  I'll order something in a couple of weeks, maybe a full season of a TV show I enjoy.  That'll put me back about $100, not even including the shipping, but I get many hours of video for the price.

If anyone knows a cheaper way to get movies and TV shows in Japanese, I'm all ears.


  1. It's nice that Japan has an actual definition of "fluent". Fluency is such a vague concept for most languages. Some people will say fluency in a language takes a decade of living that language; others will claim to have it after they can carry on a conversation without "too many" problems.

    Hmmmm can't you watch Japanese shows online? (Apparently will come into existence later this year...)

  2. The Japanese have a series of tests called the JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test, with Level 5 being the lowest and Level 1 being the highest. Two years of Japanese at college (four classes) seems to get you to about Level 5. Knowing all 2000+ common kanji is one requirement of Level 1.

    The program I'm in, SilverSpoon, gives you ways to multiply what you're learning. First and foremost, have fun. Having fun makes learning easier and makes you want to do it more. Second, learn Japanese with material that you find interesting, such as movies, books, comics, and TV shows. Third, learn things in the right order so that they support each other.

    As for TV shows, I can find Japanese TV, but I want western shows, like Lost, Star Trek, Firefly, and so on, so that I can focus on the language and not the plot.

    Though I have found a few resources for watching Japanese TV as well. Mostly it's news, shopping channels, and amine, though.