Things have been hectic.
I decided to start taking JLPT exam prep classes offered at the NC Japan Center, and I find that that has been helping me to focus on acquiring new vocabulary and grammar. For some reason or another, I had gotten a bit bogged down doing the self-study thing. Maybe it’s just a matter of having too many books and too many distractions.
A class is good because it focuses me on doing just one thing at a time, rather than scattering my efforts all over the place.
The other good thing about the class is that I have access to a native Japanese speaker once a week for two hours, and I can share my toils with 3 other kindred spirits who are at roughly the same level, ability-wise. (And of course I have discovered where my Japanese language abilities lack. No surprises there, really.)
I prefer taking a class with adults over a class full of college students. No offense to college students, but adults are, well, adults. We’ve all been “out there” and “seen stuff,” so it makes it easier to socialize. Sitting in on college classes always felt kind of weird because of the age/experience gap.
Intermediate Kanji Book
Book-wise, we’re using “Intermediate Kanji Book, Volume 1” by Bonjinsha. It’s a good book for working on vocab, because it’s full of vocab exercises. Like any book, it’s only useful if you use it thoroughly. We’re using it pretty thoroughly. The only downside is that the book is kind of expensive. My copy was around $50 at the Japan Shop.
As the title implies, it comes after “Basic Kanji Book,” volumes 1 and 2, respectively. The first two volumes will net you around 500 or so kanji, and this volume promises another 250 or so. There’s a volume 2 with another 250 in it as well, which will get you to the magic number of 1,000 for the level 2 JLPT.
Or you could just do Kanji Odyssey books 1 and 2, and that will net you 1,110. But I never did get started on book 2, because things got too hectic. I’ll probably snag some material from it as I go through IKB1, though.
I’ve been putting my earlier entry on word lists to use for the early reps of grinding the new vocab. I created a Photoshop graphic page that divides a 11″ x 8.5″ (so it’s landscape, not portrait) sheet of paper into six columns. Then I just print or photocopy the “master” page to make a bunch of study sheets.
I use the 5 lines as guides to fold the paper, so I can hide columns I don’t want to see, making it easier to study. Then I just study from Kanji with kana underneath it -> English -> Kanji + Kana -> English, and back and forth until one side is full. If I’m still feeling insecure, I fold over one side, use it as a prompt for the far right side of the back, and keep going until I feel comfortable. I decided to just put the kana under the kanji to save time and space, rather than mess with adding a separate step for kana. Really, if I need to know one, I need to know the other, so I might as well knock both out at the same time.
Otherwise, my rules are simple:
- Put a few hours in between repetitions.
- Don’t fill the column until you can get everything right. So that means test it, see if you got it right. If you didn’t, then set it aside for 20 minutes, then test it again. I can test other stuff in the meantime. This way, I can get multiple short lists of 5-7 vocab words going, and juggle them.
I’ve started cutting the pages down the middle lengthwise to save paper, too. So I can take one sheet of paper, and create two long, short, six-column study aids. I can fit 7-10 words on each one.
Once I feel comfortable, I use the list as a guide to grab sentences from online sources like dictionaries and dump them into Anki for long-term retention (and context.)
The class also uses the Kanzen Master level 2 grammar book, which is very good, but also kind of tricky, because it’s all in Japanese. In my case, I have to go to my reference books a bit to figure out what some of the entries mean, because the explanations are a bit terse.
We’re going to plow our way through it at our own pace. In the meantime, I’m picking up the level 3 grammar book to help me review all of the things I’ve probably forgotten by now. I love the Kanzen Master series for its thoroughness… 3-A makes great books in general.
Just a few random things. Japanese by CodefromTokyo is on sale at the iTunes App Store until 2/3. 20% off, so it’s $16 instead of $20. It’s a good app that does a lot of things. My only beef is that it uses EDICT, which is free (as in Free Beer), and it wasn’t written by professionals. (Well, at least not professional lexicographers.)
You can get EDICT for free if you download Kotoba, and that’s free. Japanese does have a lot of other useful functions, though, like stroke order diagrams for most (not all) kanji, JLPT word lists, a simple flashcard program and other things that enhance the experience, but dictionary-wise, I’m not a huge fan of EDICT, and I already have Anki for flashcards.
So if you already have a robust study framework with Anki and better dictionaries, I’m not too sure where this program fits in yet. I’ll keep poking at it to see what other tricks it can do. I’d say it’s good for beginners to maybe lower intermediates, perhaps?
I prefer my 研究社 dictionary for the iPhone (even though it runs ~$30) as a Japanese-English, English-Japanese dictionary, simply because it was written by professionals. It doesn’t have some of the features of Japanese, but the new version is pretty strong for just a dictionary.
Same goes for 大辞林, which is an excellent 国語 dictionary. (That’s a Japanese dictionary which is all in Japanese.) The 大辞林 app even has a 四字熟語 dictionary section in it now. Cool stuff. It also runs in the $20-$30 range.
Finally, I managed to solve a long-time vexing problem with my iPhone. At some point, my iPhone started telling me that I couldn’t sync my applications anymore. It wanted to overwrite the applications it had with the ones on my iPhone. That would not do, so I stopped syncing my apps.
Naturally, this made me a ball of nerves, because I was walking around with a bunch of $30 dictionaries in my pocket, worried that they’d get accidentally zorched. And I never could seem to find a way to make iTunes sync with my stupid iPhone and rescue all of my expensive apps that I had downloaded straight to the phone.
Until I found this link to an article about transferring apps from your iPhone to iTunes. All I had to do was right click? Seriously? That’s it? Gah! I thought Apple didn’t believe in the RMB.
I’m starting to lust openly at the Android phones now. I’m getting tired of the Byzantine OS that is all things iPhone and iTunes.