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About this blog

Oh wow, I posted the blog entry as the blog. Already off to a good start! Anyways, this will contain some of the blogs I plan on posting in regards to learning techniques for picking up Japanese. Hope it helps!

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Kenshin_sama

For those who suffer from any sort of mental health issue, you are probably going to have the worst time staying committed to studying. But with the right kind of mindset and a practical approach, you may find yourself well within reach of your goal. While this guide is not a suitable replacement for real treatment from a specialist, it may give you a few ideas on how to deal with your own issues. But everyone has their own unique issues and complications, so there isn’t a single correct answer for everybody.

 

Oh and be very careful about self-diagnosing these types of illnesses. Mental health is a complicated subject that requires a lot of training to make the correct judgment, so please seek confirmation from a professional before you decide to take on that kind of baggage. Sadness and fear, even on a regular basis, are normal human emotions. It’s only when they affect you in an abnormal way (which, again, needs a proper diagnosis) that you need to be concerned.

 

Okay, so some of you may have noticed I’ve been severely behind on updating my blog. Well, as it turns out, the solution I had in mind for anxiety didn’t pan out very well. I had gone through another bout of anxiety, lagged behind on my homework, and was left with virtually no time to put out another post. But I’m actually really happy I delayed it since I’ve gained so much valuable knowledge about anxiety since September.

 

When I initially started writing this entry, I had written about the success I was having with positive self-talk. At the time, I was extremely focused on repeating a single line to myself in order to stay motivated, and it was working for a good while. But see, once the idea had lost its novelty after a couple months, I wasn’t getting any kind of benefit from it. I did feel a sense of confidence I hadn’t felt in a long time, and it was making me more productive, but it wasn’t the answer I was looking for. What I’ve learned since then is that I need more than false confidence to drive me forward, and I think I may have come up with a more reliable way of coping with my emotions. I’m still using positive self-talk in order to combat negative thinking, but I’m doing so in a much less specific way.

 

For my most recent episode, I was unable to pull myself out of it, but I had managed to escape after two whole months of misery by focusing on the more crucial flaws with my mindset. I happened upon a simple, yet insightful comment on Quora that helped me ground my thoughts and properly outline my path to improvement. One of my key takeaways from this was to focus on what could happen rather than what has happened already. If your mind is stuck in the past and all you can do is think about is how much you haven’t accomplished, you won’t have much to look forward to. Additionally, you need to accept the problems you have in front of you and see them more as opportunities for growth rather than as barriers. If you can find a solution to the problem at hand, then you’ve exercised the part of your brain that solves problems. And if you can’t find a solution, then your accomplishments will be much more meaningful because you had to jump through extra hoops to succeed.

 

Another issue I’ve had the most difficulty with is blaming my problems on everything. I can’t get good sleep because of my noisy surroundings, I’m not losing weight because of all the sweets around the house, I can’t concentrate well because I’m under a lot of stress, I’m unhappy because I can’t afford to support my emotional needs, my life sucks because society sucks, my parents are the reason I’m not that smart, and so on and so forth. I was always thinking about how much crap I had working against me, and yet I never wanted to see myself as the source of my misfortune. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to preach personal responsibility or anything as mundane as that. I do understand that the human mind is easily susceptible to influence, and that we aren’t in full control of our decisions or circumstances. However, I do think there is something to be gained by taking ownership of your problems. What this does is take you out of a state of hopelessness and entrapment, and empowers you to pursue your goals further. When you decide to take life into your own hands, you can then mold it into something you want it to be.

 

Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to accept myself for who am. I am a nervous wreck. I freak out whenever I set out to do any kind of improvement. Having to make major life adjustments always puts me on edge. I will panic even as I’m handing in a homework assignment, terrified of how the professor will grade it. And my response to these dilemmas has been to either pretend the fear isn’t there, convince myself that I can’t keep living this way, or beat myself up when I let my nervousness get the better of me. But instead of just working against my anxiety, I decided it was time I started working alongside it and let it be. What I’ve come to understand since then is that fear hurts my motivation a lot more than it does my performance, so I don’t even need to acknowledge it as an obstacle. I eventually came to the conclusion that it’s better to focus on resolving issues that I have immediate control over rather than the ones I can’t do anything about. There is still chance I’ll be able to find a fix eventually, but I have no way of knowing what that is at this very moment. And you know what? I’m perfectly fine with that.

 

And to wrap things up, I’ll jot a few quick tips you may have heard about already, but are still important to know. There won’t always be an ideal time to get something done; do it anyways. Try to focus on what went right rather than the opposite. Don’t be afraid to work hard; working hard will generally give you advantage over others. Finish what you’ve started, even after it loses its novelty. Don’t ever feel discouraged if you can’t solve a problem in a timely manner.

 

Afterword:
So, did anyone miss me at all? Yeah, this one was a real doozy. I was putting myself through even more stress trying to find time for this blog during college, but I wound up having to wait until Winter break to finish writing this entry. Thankfully I won’t have any more classes to take until next year, so I’ll have all the time I need to keep this blog up and running… and to get caught up on all the dust I’ve let accumulate in my room and bathroom. Oh and I started my Japanese studies back up again yesterday too! I’ve been kinda behind on them up until now due to excessive stress (to the point of neck injury) and my scramble to get homework turned in on time, but I’m 50% sure I’ll be fine in the near future.

 

Next week’s topic will be on living a healthy lifestyle. Once you’re able to find proper coping methods, the next step toward building momentum is figuring out how to best optimize all the other factors that impact your brain’s performance.

Kenshin_sama

Index

 


Part 1: Obligatory Introduction
Part 2: How to Anki
Part 3: Productivity Apps (current)
 

Disclaimer: I am not being paid to promote any of these apps.

From here on out, I’ll be shifting the focus of this blog to the more indirect methods of improving learning efficiency. While these techniques aren’t designed for learning Japanese specifically, they can greatly enhance your ability to retain information and study consistently. Sorry I won’t be able to write more posts like the one from last week, but I’m still learning at a snails’ pace due to college-imposed time constraints. Hopefully I'll be able to write another post like that in the future as I continue to study.

 

Pomodoro Technique

The pomodoro technique is an effective learning method that can not only improve your concentration and motivation, but help you manage your time more reliably. The way this technique works involves setting a pomodoro duration for somewhere between 20 and 45 minutes (25 is recommended), taking a short break (typically 5 minutes) between each pomodoro, and taking a long break (typically 15 minutes) after finishing a set of 4 pomodoros. Concentrating on any kind of learning material is going to be taxing on the brain, so you’ll want to let it cool down at times to make studying more productive and enjoyable. It’s thanks to this technique that I can study for 8 hours in a day without getting a migraine, and I am finding it easier to not get lost in thought.

 

There are specialized pomodoro timers you can use that will give you a timer for both the study and the break duration, and they'll be able to keep track of when you need a longer break instead of a shorter one. You should be able to find one just fine in Google Play or App Store, and you can buy a physical pomodoro timer on Amazon if you don’t have a smart phone (a kitchen timer and pen and paper can work if you don’t want to buy this). I don’t know much about the options for App Store or physical timers, but I do like Pomodoro Timer Lite on Google Play since it has a minimalist design, decent customization, and only shows a single popup ad asking you to buy the pro version once per day (it's a minor annoyance, but can be removed for just a few bucks (USD)).

 

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Habit Development

One of the most effective ways to commit yourself to studying Japanese is by making it a regular habit. It takes roughly 30 days for something to become a habit, and 66 days to become fully committed to it. The key to making this work is setting realistic goals for yourself and overemphasizing the importance of following through with them every day. You’re free to choose whatever method fits you best, but I like to take a baby steps approach by setting small goals that only require a trivial amount of time, and gradually building on them by increasing the duration after a successful 66-day commitment. Even on the most miserable and depressing days, I can bring myself to study Japanese for one Pomodoro duration at the bare minimum, and aim for three pomodoros when I’m not down in the dumps. While going for the minimum may not produce the most optimal results, it’s still better than doing nothing.

 

I recommend using a habit tracker app so that you can reliably measure the number of days you commit to a habit without the frustration of noting everything on paper. For both App Store and Google Play, I recommend using Habit Bull since it’s ad free, gives you reminders to update your habits, and provides a good interface to work with. I’d advise staying away from the pro version since you shouldn’t be tracking more than 1-3 habits at a time (anything more than 3 is difficult to sustain), and I’ve come across several reviews and posts from their in-app forums talking about how the devs aren’t very responsive when it comes to purchase issues.

 

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Developing habits can also serve as a useful method of measuring success when learning Japanese, and being able to measure progress is an excellent way to keep yourself motivated. As I mentioned in the introduction post, learning Japanese will take years of commitment, but developing a habit is something that can be done in a matter of months.

 

Daily Routine Checklist
It’s never a bad idea to give your lifestyle some form of structure, especially when you have issues committing to tasks you want to do. Even though I’ve been doing it for years, making lifestyle changes has always been a struggle for me because I didn’t have a good point of reference to look to. But that has changed drastically since I started writing down the steps to a workable daily routine using a checklist. That’s not to say I didn’t at least try to follow a routine before, but oftentimes I would either add too many changes to adjust to or I would forget to do something I wanted to. Given how unreliable the human brain is when it comes to extracting details from memory (usually), it’s much better to see the steps you need to take written out for you. Doing so can also make it easier to adjust to whatever changes you may need to incorporate.

 

For this particular task, I can really only recommend ColorNote on Android. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find a reasonable alternative on iOS for managing a daily routine, so I’m afraid you may be out of luck if you own an iPhone (if anyone has suggestions, please let me know). And managing something like this without a smart phone is probably more trouble than it’s worth. As far as ColorNote goes, it has an easy-to-work-with interface that allows you to add checklist notes from the top or bottom, uncheck everything on the list through menu commands, rearrange notes using an edit mode, and organize a list of notes through color coding mechanisms. That way I can write down my entire routine and check each item off as I go through them. That’s not to say I’ll spend the whole day looking at a checklist; I mostly find myself using it during transition periods. Another neat aspect of ColorNote's list design is that you can skip certain tasks when you're not able to do them and come back to them later when you're able to.

 

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Distraction Management
Unfortunately, many of the methods you’ll use to learn Japanese (especially as a beginner) will require a computer to use. This means that you’ll be subject to a number of potential distractions a computer can provide. Thankfully there are a couple solutions available to help you stay focused.

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely have some kind of obsessive compulsion to browse through various social websites, hoping to find that one voluptuous post that caters to your lust for immediate gratification. Thankfully, LeechBlock provides a solution to that. This addon is surprisingly well-designed, given how it allows you the freedom to block specific web pages at specific times and days, and even prevents you from accessing the options to change settings when it meets the conditions you set. Oh, and did I mention it has different block sets for multiple conditions? Yeah, it’s sexy. Unfortunately this plugin only works with web page loading on Firefox, so you’ll want something like Stay Focused (which isn’t as good, in my opinion) for Chrome if you’re ever inclined to use that. Since I’m mainly a Firefox user, I only use Stay Focused to keep myself from switching browsers when my blocks go up. I haven’t found anything for Microsoft’s browsers, but I would like to think no one is desperate enough to fall back on those.

 

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Now for any applications you have installed locally, you’re going to need something that can directly interact with your OS, which is where Cold Turkey comes in. As with LeechBlock, you can have this set for specific times and days, but it works for applications in addition to web pages. Sadly, this does come with a $25 price tag, but at least you’ll have the option to try it for a week before buying it, and you only have to pay for it once (not a bad deal, really). Once you’ve entered a time period you’ve set for a program/webpage, Cold Turkey will terminate the program or block the page on the spot, and it will kill blocked programs immediately if you try to start them back up. That way you can keep yourself from accessing distracting games and desktop apps and focus more on your studies. Unfortunately, you are still going to need some semblance of discipline to not distract yourself with something that isn’t on your computer, or find a workaround to get to your blocked content. But at least you won’t be as easily distracted as you were before.

Afterword

Thanks again for your continued readership! Ya know, this article was a lot shorter before I started editing it, which is unusual since my edits mostly involve cutting content. But yeah, this time I wanted to add in a few other applications I didn't have originally since they were also very helpful to me. Also, if any of you are wondering why I kept the title as is despite the nature of this post, it's mostly because I consider the Learning How To Learn series a documentation of my own personal development in the form of a guide. It's definitely not the most conventional way to write a guide, but I think there are more than enough of those already, lol. I'm just going to keep writing what I want to and hope someone finds them useful.

 

In part 4, I'll go over some methods of coping with depression in order to keep it from significantly interfering with your learning goals. Hope to see you there!

Kenshin_sama

Index

Disclaimer: This guide is mostly for learning Japanese grammar. If you haven’t memorized the kana yet, please do so before proceeding. If this is your first time reading a guide to Japanese, and you’re not sure where to get started, please read this. Also, the method of learning I'll be going over is only optimal if you can’t spend more than an hour each day learning Japanese. As stated in the guide I linked to, it’s usually better to just read through Tae Kim’s guide and memorize the grammar by reading visual novels since it makes the process more enjoyable.

Thankfully, for anyone like myself who needs a structured learning method to make up for a busy work schedule (combined with a lack of motivation), there is an Anki deck for learning Japanese grammar available that you can download here. The way Anki works is quite intuitive as it allows you to select certain options based on how well you retain information, and it keeps retesting you on the cards you have difficulty with. It works well not only long-term retention, but also provides a reliable way to prioritize certain aspects of grammar.

 

Learning Method:

The way these cards work is they show you a line of Japanese from Tae Kim’s guide without exposing anything else, and you’re expected to read the line in Japanese and interpret it in English. After you’ve made your guess, you will then prompt Anki to show the answer so that you can compare it to your own. Your English interpretation doesn’t have to match the answer word for word, just make sure it’s mechanically correct (see examples below). The way I approach Anki is I select Again if I got the answer wrong; Hard if I struggled to get it right; Good if I answered it just fine; and Easy for anything trivial. While you're using these cards, make it a point to analyze each part of the sentence so that you understand the sentence structure better, and do not memorize the translation to interpret the Japanese text. Memorizing the translation may help you with understanding individual lines, but it won't help you learn Japanese in the long run. Essentially, you should only gloss over the translation to check for mistakes. This may be hard to do for most of the shorter lines since they're easier to retain subconsciously, but do at least try to spell out each grammar point even if you don't need to for that specific line.

 


明日、映画を見に行く。
Originally translated as “Tomorrow, go to see movie.”
Can be interpreted as “Tomorrow, go to watch movie.”

 

Anki Mechanics:

Before you get started on Anki, you will want to read the first of the four major sections of Tae Kim’s guide (Basic Grammar, Essential Grammar, Special Expressions, Advanced Topics) due to how the deck is broken up. Once you run out of cards and Anki tells you, “Congratulations! You have finished this deck for now,” go ahead and start reading the next section. Don’t get hung up on memorizing each point while you’re reading; just try to make sense of each sentence in the exercises. I recommend using something like Word Pad or Open Office on the side of your PDF for copy/pasting the vocabulary if you want to avoid scrolling up and down for it. You don't necessarily need to make sense of the exercises either; simply exposing yourself to the language and seeing how grammar is used will be more than sufficient.

 

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One of the things I love about this deck is that the text is taken right from the book. This allows you to copy sentences from Anki and paste it into the search bar on a PDF reader to look up the associated grammar rules. If your PDF reader does not have an easily-accessible search bar, I’d highly recommend downloading and installing Sumatra (it will make your life easier, trust me). Do keep in mind that the text in some of these cards will be different from the PDF (probably due to updates), but you should be able to find it with fragments of the sentence. If pasting the English line doesn't work, try using the Japanese line instead.

 

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This is where I’ll start to get a little more technical with the Anki program. It’s not particularly difficult to figure this out on your own, but it did take me a while to even consider using Anki instead of a standard word processor to take notes. It wasn’t until I started paying more attention to the definitions area of the cards and contemplating ways to use them that I came up with this method. This method will save you a lot of time and frustration navigating a notes document or book every time you forget a grammar point (which, for me, happens frequently).

 

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In order to add these notes in, you’ll want to press the “Edit” button on the bottom right of the window in order to bring up that set of options. Then you’ll see the “Definitions” field in the area I have circled, which is where you’ll want to add in your notes. Click “Close” at the bottom right to go back to the card you edited.

 

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(Optional Step)

You may be wondering how to fix your interface so that your notes aren’t poorly displayed in centered format. Sadly, this is a little difficult to pull off without left-aligning the whole card, and you may be inclined to keep that particular section centered for aesthetic reasons. Since the Anki website did not provide the answer I was looking for, I’ve had to make a few trial and error alterations to figure out how to format the layout myself (I guess that web design class I took last Spring actually paid off, lol). In order to open the appropriate interface, click “Edit” at the bottom left and “Cards” at the top. Copy the code below and overwrite the code in the area I have circled in red.

{{furigana:Reading}}<br><br>{{Kana}}<br><br>{{English}}<hr id=answer><div style='text-align: left;'>Definitions: <br>{{Definitions}}

 

Afterword:

Hello and thanks again for keeping up with this guide series. Sadly, it seems like I'll have to make due with a weekly release format since college is keeping me busy this semester. I want to gun for straight A's this semester to pull my GPA up from a 3.6, so I'm trying to avoid cutting time out of that. No need to worry about my motivation though since I do enjoy writing these guides. Speaking of which, what do you all think of this guide in particular? Unlike the last entry, I felt that there was even less fluff content I could edit out. That's probably due to my obsession with small details and a compulsive urge to go over every observation I make, but I do think it's important that I explain these details in depth. If that's not to your liking, please let me know in the comments. In part 3, I'll be going over some useful productivity applications that can make the learning process even easier. Hope to see you there!

Kenshin_sama

Index

 


Part 1: Obligatory Introduction (current)
Part 2: How to Anki
Part 3: Productivity Apps

Hello and welcome to my Learning How To Learn Japanese guide series! My name is Kenshin_sama, and today I’d like to go over a basic overview of what these guides will be about. What I aim to accomplish with this series is share some of the observations I made while studying in hopes that they aid you in finding a sustainable method for yourself. While many of the techniques I discuss can be applied to almost any area of study, I’ll be writing these guides specifically for those who want to learn Japanese.

Guide format:
After dedicating several hours to writing this guide, I came to the realization that I’ve put in far too much information to consume all at once; and after some deliberation, I decided to break my guide into a series of smaller guides to provide moderate break points and make it a little less intimidating. Each guide will be dedicated to certain lifestyle aspects or learning techniques that can make the process of learning Japanese easier. Every time I create a new guide, I'll add a link to an index at the top of each entry for convenient navigation.

What you should know before you start learning Japanese:

Gaining proficiency in any new language is going to require a substantial time investment throughout the entirety your life; make sure you can justify that kind of commitment to yourself before getting started. There are plenty of reasons you might want to consider learning Japanese other than for increased enjoyment of your hobbies, but make sure they’re enough to keep you motivated.

The key to studying effectively is studying consistently. In the wise words of James Raymond Watkins, “A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” If you can spend more time studying, great, but it is imperative that you take the time to study almost every day, even if it’s only for a short duration.

I’m not sure if this is still a commonly held belief, but I think I’ll go ahead and address this argument in case you get the wrong idea. It is not impractical to learn a completely new language as an adult. You may have heard it said on occasion that the best time to learn any new language is at a young age. I’m not willing to verify the accuracy of that statement since it’s not exactly relevant to this guide (I’m not writing this for 5-year-olds), but I can say with some certainty that it is never too late to get started. I’ve heard plenty of stories about people who’ve started learning their second language in their late 20s or older, and have achieved fluency in that language with enough practice. Just know that it’s perfectly normal to suck at learning a new language at first; your age is not to blame.

Afterword:
Thank you very much for reading. It was not my intention to make the introduction post this long, but I wanted to be sure I made some of my points as clear as possible. I'd greatly appreciate it if any of you would be kind enough to share your thoughts on this guide. In part 2, I’ll be going over a certain method of learning Japanese grammar through Anki. I'm almost positive that this method won't take over as the primary go-to for learning grammar, but I figured it'd be worth sharing anyways since it's working well for me and I haven't seen it brought up in any other JP guide (at least the ones promoted on this site). Hope to see you there!

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