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kanji | 漢字

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)


I am not a patient person. But I am trying to be better about it.
When I want something, I want it now or not at all.
Well, not always.
The kanji progress feels slow sometimes, but I know it’s impossible to learn all 2000 immediately, even if I do know about a quarter of those already.
But I’m still working, and that’s the important part right now.

Kanji update

Just a small entry right now, to update you all on my kanji learning progress. I’ve been using Otona Kanji Renshuu for about a month now, pretty steadily, and my progress is this:

Completed through Level 3
520 Kanji learned out of 2261 total (17%)
11% completion of the entire program (this includes, I assume, the side tests about things like opposites, kanji compounds, etc)


(つまり: May Sickness Came Early)
Well, it’s not May yet, but I’m already feeling the lethargy kick in, my kanji studies are starting to slack, after a remarkably productive week (I could’ve sworn it was more than that but)… but I’ve been doing pop culture research. Er, by that I mean watching series that are either often referenced or are likely to be referenced in the future XD For the purpose of understanding things. For example, while watching らき☆すた there were quite a few Suzumiya Haruhi references (more than partially because they were made by the same animation studio…) so I had to watch that, which I’d been putting off. It was totally different than I was expecting! Somehow I managed to mix up the Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi with… some other show that was actually melancholic and dramatic. The weirdness of it is almost on a Murakami level, but with a difference sense of humor and a lighter tone overall, I think. So I’m looking into the light novels (well, actually I already ordered the first two from Sasuga but they said they were backorders so I probably won’t see them until May… ε=(~Д~;))
Actually, part of the reason why I’m slowing down the kanji study is because I’m trying to catch up with and surpass the reading only portion. I got up to 300 on that, but I’m only up to 240 on written. Ideally it should be written then reviewed for readings but that’s not the way it is yet. So I’m catching up. But it’s slow because writing too much at once hurts my hand and I don’t want to end up damaging my wrist or anything… (it’s true we’re on break this week for handbells, but if I just write until I can’t feel my fingers it’s likely I’ll be completely out of commission for just about everything for a couple days at least which defeats this little-by-little study strategy)
Since I’m up to 240 written kanji, that means I’ve graduated elementary second grade and am now in third (^ ~)v So that makes me… 8 years old? XD

Cooking, “fried chicken”

So I suddenly had a craving for chicken 唐揚げ yesterday and decided I should try to make it XD I already had chicken breast meat to use for something else so I lucked out on that end. The recipe I found was pretty simple, just soy sauce, ginger, garlic, salt & pepper for the marinade, and then flour and cornstarch for the batter. Since I’ve never made 唐揚げ myself, I figured it would probably come out mediocre at best, でも大成功でした!It was really good! And the chicken didn’t dry out either!

Been watching らき☆すた lately ♥♥♥ I can’t lie, the OP drew me in 100% even before I understood what kind of show it was XD I will learn to sing that, no matter what XD (and do the dance, at karaoke… !) Out of everyone I’m definitely most like Kona-chan… if you don’t know why I’m not going to spell it out for you~ (Speaking of, I wonder when Clannad will end up on the PSP… I could just play the PS2 version but I’d rather PSP somehow… both Kanon and Air have made it onto that system.)
Still studying kanji pretty dutifully, a little stuck on readings for 241-300 but I’m nearly there! Writing is up to 140. As a treat, I bought myself kanji graph books from an online shop – they’re much better proportioned for this sort of thing; writing in normal graph paper I either have to make it too big or too small (@__@) there’s only 15 spaces across but that’s probably enough. I picked 20 because a mixi friend said she remembered how to spell English words by writing & saying them simultaneously 20 times XD It seemed like a good idea~

あ~ぁ watching らき☆すた makes me want to go back to 秋葉原~ 池袋, too, for the Animate. I really miss being able to go when I wanted to & had free time…. 一時間過ぎるかかってもええのよ~

漢字 progress

Since I’m sure none of you are curious, I’ll post my current re-learning progress:
240 kanji (starting from grade 1) sufficiently learned for 音読み/訓読み/meaning
60 kanji written 20 times saying 音読み/訓読み out loud while writing~
Exciting, right?! (なんてね。)
The writing goes slower because my hand hurts eventually… haha. Flashcards on the net only require typing numbers and enter.
Ideally, I’d like to get up to 1500 before I visit Japan this summer, but I don’t know if that’s possible. Once I pass about grade five the learning is going to slow down for sure… ( > >)

I think I’ve finally found a way to have cute ギャル系 hair – but it would require me to sleep with curlers on a regular basis… but it comes out pretty nice and full without having to tease it (^ ~) which makes me really happy. I’m also getting the hang of eyeliner. 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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