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japanese | 日本語

Translation Requests?

So, in an effort to get myself more reading/comprehension practice, I’m opening myself to JP->EN translations.

Feel free to leave a comment or message me on twitter with links to text and/or images you want to be able to read!

Please understand that I’m not interested in undertaking any major projects just yet (read: I will not translate an entire game or novel. I’m not there yet ^^; ) so I may turn down your request due to it being too long or difficult.

Things like Yahoo! Japan auction descriptions, text on websites, and short blog entries are all okay!

(P.S. I’ve updated the October Arrivals list with a couple new images!)

short update

JLPT in one week.


once that’s out of the way, I’ll have to figure out what my next top priority is (might be driving).
maybe I’ll blog more. (yeah that’s not going to happen XD)
new laptop coming soon, estimated ship date is this coming Wednesday. It probably won’t arrive until week after this, however, since I chose standard shipping.

2009 has just one month left in it.
2010 should be the year everything changes.
scary, but exciting.




もっとブログしようかな~(なんてね。 笑)


Pushing Through

The number of times I’ve restarted kanji study is rather ridiculous. Ostensibly, this was because the previous methods weren’t just right – something was off so nothing was sticking. In class, I’d always just memorize what I needed to for the tests and then forget it shortly afterwards. You could say I’m a good procrastinator about that kind of thing; I can cram the knowledge in and do well on the test, but in reality what have I learned?

I’m smart, and I’ve come to realize over the years that this, combined with traditional public (and even some private) schooling, is not as nice a thing as you might think. I’m also incredibly lazy. I think I became this lazy because I was allowed to be – if I didn’t study, I’d still do well. In fact, I never really studied at all, save for a couple cases (one of which lead to me eventually giving up on the subject all together and I STILL passed), until I got to college. I like to think I’m one step above some of my friends who wouldn’t do homework, wouldn’t go to class and still did well because at least I actually went. Well, for most classes. Despite being able to do decently without any effort, Japanese was actually the first subject I felt like I did well in, and understood. I suppose I understood other subjects, like English, Algebra and Calculus, but I often didn’t feel like I consciously understood them. I was apparently also decent at French, but I never felt like I understood it, either.

So, feeling competent with the language, I initially put a lot of effort into learning it. This energy eventually declined until I was back in my pattern of study-right-before. I never put as much effort into learning kanji as I should have. I just learned what I needed to learn for class. I ignored my brain telling me nothing was going to stick this way. I was getting As, wasn’t that enough?

No, it wasn’t enough. This didn’t really become clear until I arrived in Japan, and my teacher called me out on it. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was really behind in Japanese, that I might actually do poorly grade-wise. In fact, I think I failed a few tests. It was a steep learning curve – the way we were learning and being taught was completely opposite of how I’d been learning back in the US, but it was the way I knew I should have been learning it all along. By the last month, I was starting to get comfortable with this new system, and felt I could really do well. In retrospect, it might have been really beneficial for me to stay another semester, but practically speaking it was difficult to organize.

I returned home, and returned to my old study habits, since that’s all that was required. Graduating with a bachelors in Japanese, I felt like it was almost a joke. I wasn’t anywhere near fluent, although I felt more fluent than I had previously. After graduating, and lacking any real purpose, I took up attempting to fill in the large gaps in my kanji knowledge. I was at a loss as how to achieve this. I tried japanese-kanji.com, which focused on knowing the readings and definitions for each individual kanji. I got to about 400 or 500 and then stopped. That’s about where my natural ability falls out – I didn’t know more than a handful of characters beyond that, and it became difficult. So, I lost interest.

I tried again later, using a similar method and a book I’d owned since I started learning the language. I wrote the characters out, over and over again, saying the readings each time. I think I made it to about 300-400 this time, mostly because the copious amount of writing was really difficult to keep up. I have some peculiarities in the way I write due to teaching myself as a child and no one correcting it, so constant writing is something I have trouble with. Just saying the readings wasn’t going to cut it, and I couldn’t continue writing that way, so again, my energy decreased and it got pushed aside.

In another fit of determination, I tried the flashcard approach. I could bring them everywhere with me, it was perfect! I even managed to finish writing up a whole set of 1945 kanji flashcards (not a small feat!) but studying them was another matter. It’s too hard to learn something like kanji without words to place them in (frequently when people are describing how to write names, for example, they’ll mention the kanji based on the common words they’re found in), so this method was a bust.

I was insistent to not lose to yet another failed approach, and while looking for information about the JLPT, I stumbled across nihongoperapera.com, which I’ve mentioned previously. I bought the recommended Kanji in Context books, since a learning system designed for the intermediate to advanced speaker of Japanese seemed more suited to me than crashing through elementary school style repetition at this age. Shortly after this, however, I discovered Otona no Kanji Renshuu, the DS software that helps you remember kanji by practicing readings and writings, so I left the books aside for the most part. OKR is a great tool for drilling knowledge, but since it’s all in Japanese, if there was vocabulary I didn’t know, I wasn’t learning it (the short phrases given in the tests are not nearly enough to give context for definitions), and as I said above, no meaning = no remembering.

So, I pulled out the KIC books, and started to make flashcards… on my computer. This was a really time consuming process, to the point where I’m not even done with all of the lessons even now, but I think in the long run this is an excellent approach for me. But this alone isn’t going to cut it – self-rating allows for short cuts and laziness, so OKR will be my backup review, along with readthekanji.com, which has the benefit of helping me learn vocab for the JLPT levels as well.

I certainly have additional studying to do to prepare for the test, but kanji is the foundation for everything. If I can’t read the test, I can’t do anything! XD I periodically update my twitter with OKR/RtK scores, so keep an eye out if you’re curious how I’m progressing without waiting for another blog update.

{ started 2009-06-07 06:53:18
published 2009-07-14 10:45:18 }

Early June Kanji Update

Okay since I haven’t done one of these wrap ups in a while, I thought I’d comment on my current progress.

I’ve been slacking a bit with inputting cards to Mnemosyne, but I’ve completed 86 lessons out of 143 total.
This doesn’t mean I’ve learned all of those, though.
My study progress with memorization is about 63/143, at least, for the moment. For the curious, that’s about 2000 words. It’s 2377 cards, but some are duplicates (using the words in different contexts) so it’s hard to calculate exactly.
Lesson 63 covers up to 858 kanji, so that gives you a better feel of where I am.

I have yet to start actual 1kyuu-specific vocabulary study. I figure I’ll have a better time of it if I can already read the characters and just worry about the combinations and definitions.

I went back and started Otona Kanji Renshuu from the beginning and have been slowly working through it from lesson 1. I didn’t realize you could chose which level you started at, and level 7 was clearly well beyond where I was at the time so I wasn’t using the software as effectively as I could have been.

I ordered a bunch of 1kyuu study books from amazon.co.jp about a month back and haven’t done much but flip through the openings to see how they’re supposed to be used. Again, kanji knowledge takes precedence because if I can’t read, it’ll just take me that much longer to get even the most basic information down.

My personal feelings on weaknesses to strengths:
Kanji, #1 weakness
Reading comprehension, least amount of practice
Grammar, pretty good understanding but don’t know the more complicated stuff
Listening comprehension, most amount of practice
Vocabulary, mostly on the same level as Listening, I feel like I pick up new words pretty quickly (although my current overall vocab level is kind of low for a 24 year old)

美文字トレーニング & 大人の漢字練習

Let me start this post by first reminding any new readers of my Japanese language background: I have a BA in Japanese Language and I spent four months living in 千葉市, 千葉県, Japan. I have yet to take a JLPT, but if I had to guess I’d say I could probably pass 2級 without too much trouble right now, if I prepared for the test (as frequently knowing the format for such things is just as important as knowing the material). The main reason I haven’t taken one yet is mostly because I keep forgetting to register in time, and the closest test location to me is in NYC where I do not live.
However, I do plan on taking the JLPT 1級, the hardest level, in December 2009 for two reasons:

  • 1. My theory is, if I study all year, I can get up to 1級 proficiency
  • 2. Beginning in 2010, 1級 will be even harder than it is right now.

With this in mind, I’m making good use of the internet and am continually searching for resources to help me strengthen my weak spots, most notably, kanji literacy.

Today, I’d like to make a quick post about two DS software programs I’m trying out, and my impressions of them so far. The first relates to the image above – 美文字トレーニング | Bimoji Training produced by Nintendo. The purpose of this software is to teach you how to write kanji more beautifully, a side effect of which I hope to be remembering how to write various kanji. It does seem quite good so far, but it appears to fall along the same lines as Brain Age in the sense that this should be daily training – you can only try so many per day. I’d prefer an infinite training mode (and there may be one I haven’t discovered yet) although the feedback you get from writing characters is pretty thorough…. providing you can read the feedback. This is going to be something I will say again and again about using DS software to learn Japanese – most are not made for English speaking learners of Japanese. They are made for the Japanese speaking public to practice with. Beginners will not really benefit from this, and intermediates might need to pull out their dictionary for a while until they learn the general vocabulary used.

The second software has a slightly longer and less obvious name: なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習完全版 | Nazotte Oboeru Otona no Kanji Renshuu Kanzenhan, which, simply translated, means “Trace and remember – Adult’s Kanji Practice, Complete Version. This one is more immediately helpful for me, and for any intermediate-advanced learner who lacks kanji knowledge. The kanji are broken down into levels, and sub-levels, so you can test yourself in small chunks of either 読み方(readings) or 書き方(writing), and to graduate each level, you get tested on both, chosen randomly. Since, again, this program is not designed for non-native learners, there are no English definitions, the words and phrases used may not be immediately obvious to foreign learners, but a dictionary and some persistence will earn you both kanji proficiency and a more robust vocabulary.

I imagine the example words and phrases might be obvious and everyday to people living in Japan, but to me many are new. You may be wondering where the “trace” portion is incorporated, and in fact if you aren’t paying attention it might slip by you at first. During revision and initial learning, if you don’t already know how to write a kanji, you can choose to have it give you the answer. After you’ve done this, and before you give the now obvious answer, you can choose to have it show you how you should write the kanji, and, even beyond that, you are given the chance to write it a dozen times over. I think my favorite part of this software is that it allows you to review just the kanji you were unable to read and/or write. This way you can strengthen your weak spots without dragging through reviewing ones you already know!
I’d more highly recommend Otona no Kanji Renshuu to intermediate to advanced learners of Japanese for kanji practice, as readings are more prominent. Bimoji will become more useful after the kanji themselves have been learned.

Time to get serious again!

So, in random burst of determination, I’ve decided it’s time to get serious about Japanese again. Of course, it’s two months too late to register for the JLPT, but at least now I have a whole year to prepare for 1級?
I’m taking my cues from nihongoperapera.com right now, as he (she?) recommends the Kanji in Context books, which I’m finding to be ridiculously helpful and well-organized – and I’ve only just started! Books full of the kanji by kanji, one at a time system really were not getting the meaning across to me well enough. Not that the mnemonics offered in A Guide to Remembering Japanese Character aren’t interesting, but the lack of kana and dictionary-like approach are really only good as a reference, I think. I stand by what I said before, about japanese-kanji.com being a good practice website, but that’s not the place for me to really learn the characters either.
My plan is this:
– complete the two Kanji in Context workbooks (which should take me a good few months)
– once I’ve mastered at least most of, if not all, the 1945 common use kanji, I’ll move onto JLPT 1級 textbooks for test-specific study
– at the same time, when I get sick of doing test problems, I’ll read manga and light novels to increase my general vocabulary
– take practice tests at various intervals to track my progress
– REMEMBER TO REGISTER FOR THE JLPT IN 2009 (this one is going to be the hardest, somehow XD I always forget…)
– figure out a way to be in NYC for the test Dec 2009 (since the NYC location is the closest one to where I live right now)
– pass the test? XD ideally, anyway.

But to be honest, right now? I’m harvesting fruit in Animal Crossing. XD


So after looking up events that happen in the summer in Japan, I think I’ve decided I want to be there for 隅田川花火大会 which takes place on the last Saturday in July. I’ve asked one of my friends in Japan to help me find a pretty 浴衣 for the event (^ ^) I’m excited! With a solid date in mind I can really start making plans now~ I need to figure out who will be around to see, for what, and when. Of course I’ve got to go shopping, and probably see Tokyo Disney Sea again, go to カラオケ (B’s already agreed to go with me~ hee :D), take プリクラ….

Other than that, I’ve mostly been studying 漢字 like it’s my business XD Somehow I’ve suddenly become really serious about it! Although N told me writing it is something even Japanese people are bad at these days, so I won’t worry so much on that end (although it would be good to know anyway). In most of my free moments lately I’ve been testing my 音読み/訓読み knowledge of characters, as well as meaning. A great place to practice these, if you’re interested, is Japanese-Kanji.com which has a java based flashcard applet that allows you to test your reading and meaning knowledge easily anywhere you’ve got internet XD There’s a French version on the site too, if you’d prefer! Although right now they only have 1740 of the 1945 常用漢字 available, that’s definitely sufficient for most students – if you know 1740 you can probably study the last 205 yourself… XD The characters are broken up into sets of 60 which might seem like a lot, but when you don’t have to write them out it’s not so bad, I think.

I’ve also been practicing my written conversational skills through my mixi! (No, that’s not my specific url – if you want to know it you have to talk to me directly) I’ve made a few new mixi friends that I message with relative frequency which is nice. Although it was difficult for a bit because I suddenly became popular! XD and I had a backlog of messages to go through. I still don’t really read the journals much at the moment, but I’m working up to it!

Okay, back to studying! :D

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