Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Challenge - Day 25 - Half of Phase 1

I have been looking forward to writing this all week.  I have been through 25 days of trying to find time to work on my Japanese, and have barely made it some of the time.  One night, I was up until 2 AM.  I've been spending 2-3 hours a day on this.  In these 25 days, I've moved from version 1 to version 1.3.1 of the Challenge.  Has it been worth it?  Very much so.  Just 675 days to go.

25 days.

500 kanji.
Halfway through phase 1.

The last couple of days, I've been spending 2-3 hours reviewing.  I have about a 60-70% first pass rate (getting the kanji correct on the first try).  The last two days, I've had about 125 reviews each.  I still have 2500 kanji, 1000 beginner J-E sentences, 1000 intermediate J-E sentences, and 10,000 J-J sentences left.  That's almost painful to write out.

How do I keep track of where I am?  I have a few tools.  The first tool I made was a printout of a page-size calendar of this year.  Every day I complete my studies, I mark out that date.  A second printout has a grid of 25 x 28, giving me 700 boxes.  I just finished filling in the first row within the last hour.  Only 27 more to go.  A third printout has two section.  The first has 5 x 12 boxes, giving me a box for every 50 kanji.  A similar grid below it has 5 x 8 boxes, a box for every 25 beginner J-E sentences. 

Within Google Docs, I have a spreadsheet with the dates for the next 700 days along the first column.  The second column isn't really necessary, as it contains the number of the day of the Challenge; this number is also found as the row number.  The third column contains a simple formula: if the date found in the first column is less than the current date, place an X.  This tells me exactly which day of the Challenge I'm in, and it updates every time I open the spreadsheet.  The fourth column gives me the phase number of that date.  The fifth tells me how many kanji I'll have learned on that date, the sixth the number of beginner J-E sentences, and the seventh the number of intermediate J-E sentences.  I'll fill in the rest later.

How am I going to keep up my studies as I add more kanji to the review list?  As I add sentences at the same time?  I've already taken some simple measures to either increase the qualities of my reviews as well as reduce the quantity.  When I first started, I would add the radicals and mnemonic to the card and set it to review four days later.  It worked out fine for a bit, as I knew those kanji from earlier attempts to learn Japanese.  As more reviews came up, and more time was spent each date reviewing them, this stopped working.  Earlier this week, I decided to mark a new kanji to be reviewed ten minutes in the future.  If I got it right then, I would see it four days in the future.  If not, I would see it the next day.  This increased my reviews at first, but helped me remember them far better.  Today, I remembered about 18 of the 20.  Another change was to not repeat the kanji until I got it right.  If I got it wrong the first time, it was marked such.  The second time, whether or not I got it right, I marked it to be reviewed the next day.  This shaves off about 20-25% of the review time, as there are always a handful that take my five or six tries to get.

What is the major advantage to these two changes?  Momentum.  Today, the first day I reviewed each kanji no more than twice, I had my highest first pass rate since a few days in.  I also got through faster.  Even better, I got the kanji correct on the second time more often than I have been.  It may be that I had easier kanji today, but I think it was the momentum that kept me going.

I foresee the remainder of the phase to be more of the same as what I've already been through.  I'll spend hours each day doing somewhat boring reviews.  There really isn't much I can do to make it more fun, unfortunately.  Sometime, I'll have a Japanese TV station playing in the background.  Other time, I'll have Rainy Mood and Coffitivity playing.  I'll reward myself my taking a 10-15 minute break after 20 or so reviews, though this really just makes the review session take a bit longer.

As for my future phases, changes will occur.  I don't even know if I'll be able to get the entire 1000 card intermediate J-E sentence deck in time to use them in phase 4.  I have nothing planned, really, to practice my speaking skills.  I have the idea of posting videos of myself on YouTube, or maybe simpler podcasts, but nothing definite.  I might even stretch the entire Challenge out by adding more phases and pushing a few things further out.

Time will tell in how well I pull off the Challenge.  As I continue to say, your words of encouragement, bits of advice, and occasional jokes help drive me forward, for which I am very grateful.  I'll continue to update the Challenge page (link below) and post a status update every 25 days or so. 

The Challenge Page


  1. I'm curious, how is the Japanese challenge going for you?

  2. I'm at the end of a five year project at work, and have been working long hours and weekends. As such, I've been trying to maintain where I am without progressing in order to not burn out. I'm not doing very well in that regard, but the project is nearly over. Once I'm working normal hours again, I can get back into this, which I am really looking forward to.

  3. Thanks for the update. It'll be interesting to read your future updates when work slows down again.