Just a Little Win

The opportunities for me to use Japanese in interacting with others where I live are…nearly non-existent.  That maybe justifies how ridiculously excited I got last month when this happened…

I was in line at TJ Maxx, waiting awkwardly while I listened to some YUI (I told you I immersed on the go, remember?) and sniffing my new sugar cookie candle because it smelled much better than the woman in front of me, who smelled like she rolled in a pool of mothball perfume.  A mother and daughter got in line behind me.  The little girl, who was maybe 3, was babbling on as 3 year olds do, and every now and then her mother would chime in.  I thought nothing of it until I heard I word I didn’t understand, and then I realized they were speaking Japanese.

Being the coward I am, I decided not to speak and simply listened and got overly-excited that I could understand.  (Yes, yes, even on a toddler’s level, I was amped.)  I checked out, and as I walked out of the store, the little girl ran flying in front of me and out into the parking lot.  She stopped, suddenly looking quite panicked.  “Maybe she forgot where she parked.” I joked to myself.  Then, common sense kicked in and I realized her mom wasn’t with her.  I turned around to see said mother walking around in the store.  What a bargain-hunter, she didn’t even realize her child was out of sight, never mind standing in the road of the mini-mall parking lot.

“Hey.” I said to the girl.  (I’m really good with kids.) This got no response, and she continued toddling around in the road, so I tried again, this time a bit louder, “Hey!”  Nothing.  Oh!    “おい、お母さん探しているの?” I asked.  Immediately she turned, looked at me like I had ten heads (Or like I was being quite rude, which in my urgency to get her out of the road, I was.), and then nodded.  “まだ店の中に、こっち、こっち!”  She seemed convinced and started following me.  And so we spoke together in broken words and sentences until we found her by-then-panicked mom.  There was rejoicing, a quick thank you, and I left the store again.

While I wasn’t amped during the whole thing, I was on a crazy Japanese win high immediately after.  I used Japanese (albeit horribly) in real life, effectively.  Woot!  It was a mini-breakthrough for me.

Had any mini-breakthroughs lately?  (Or not so mini?)  教えてください! Tell me about them in the comments 🙂

PS: Sorry about the lack of posts.  It’s been crazy 忙しい lately, and I found out about a potentially serious vitamin deficiency that’s affected my memory and learning, among other things.  Hopefully I’ll be back in the game in no time, 頑張ります!Physical health isn’t something I thought about in relation to language learning before, but there’s an important relationship between the two…


Get your read on with the next 多読!

Books, websites, movie and video game subtitles all count for reading in 多読. Already started my book stack...

Looking for a fun way to up your motivation and get lots o’ quality 日本語 immersion?  The next round of 多読 (たどく) starts January 1’st!

What’s 多読?  In short, a challenge to read as much Japanese as you can in a month- in any format you like.  Compete against others and/or your personal best, and get updates on everyone’s progress in real time.

Registration and participation are quick and easy!  It’s all done via Twitter.  To register, tweet #reg to @tadokubot.   Here’s the homepage for more info.

Why do 多読?
Because it’s awesome.  Check out my posts on why 多読 rocked my socks the last time:

Play American PS3 Games in Japanese

American version of Little Big Planet (GOTY Edition only!) has Japanese text and audio!

Did you know you can play some PS3 games in Japanese without having the Japanese version?

Yup, even ones that don’t have language setting options in the menu. If your PS3 language is set to Japanese, any game with a Japanese version on it will play it.

There’s quite a few of them, though not enough to satisfy most avid gamers.  But hey, look at it this way…

  • You can save a pretty penny over buying import versions on a few games.
  • You might already have some titles that have Japanese.  Instant immersion!

Here’s a thread on TheJapanesePage’s forum listing U.S. games that have the Japanese version on them.  (Careful!  Sometimes only one version of a game will work.  ie: Little Big Planet only has Japanese on the Game of the Year Edition.  Found this out the hard way.)

Is this true for other regions? I’m not sure, but I’d imagine it is…  If you know, please let us know in the comments!

Many thanks to Travis of V10Japan for letting me know about this awesome immersion hack!

PS: It’s been a long time, I know!  Life’s crazy!  But more posts coming soon 🙂

Improving my immersion

I just can’t get over how awesome immersion is.  Srsly.

I spent yesterday in NYC, in my two favorite places there: BookOff and Kinokuniya. I spent several hours immersed in Japanese: reading signs, sifting through book and DVD titles, reading book summaries, scanning a few pages of books I might be interested in, searching for authors, using a computer to find out if specific books were in stock…

BookOff in NYC- a bastion of awesomeness

Seven hours of this and I left with my brain anticipating Japanese and thinking in Japanese.  (ie: When I heard something, my brain was listening for Japanese, when I read something, my brain was expecting it to be Japanese.)  Another thing I noticed was that I learned a ton!  Yes, new kanji and vocab, but more importantly, new skills for learning and getting the info I need without the help of English.  I was on Japanese-learning fire!  But why?

There were three elements of this that I don’t always have in my in-home immersion that I think contributed to better, faster learning…

1. No way out but Japanese.
All the things I set out to do, from finding the pet book and cookbook sections to the paperback  村上春樹, couldn’t be done in English.  No whipping out my jisho, no turning on Rikaichan.  Time to use real skills in the real world.

2. Through-the-roof excitement.
When I go to NYC for my book-movie-music hunting, I am giddy with excitement, just bursting to sift through and find as much as possible.  I love every author-hunting  moment, every”I can’t believe I just looked up and saw this book” instant, and every little victory I get to experience while I’m there (“I just read this summary and understood it!”, or “I just read a huge chunk of this page before I hit something I couldn’t read!”, or “I found the vegetable cookbooks!”.)

3. Lots of people I could look ridiculous in front of.
Nothing like a bit of social pressure to motivate you to do your best.  Not to say that I don’t regularly look ridiculous to strangers on a daily basis, but I felt extra pressure to really know what I was doing and understand what I was reading- or figure it out, lest I end up looking for ハリー・ポッター in the 日本者 section (Harry Potter in the Japanese authors section).  There was, admittedly, some “I can do this and I’ll prove it to you!” feeling in me too.

The NYC Kinokuniya- a more expensive but still awesome bastion of awesomeness

So now, I’ll work on incorporating these apsects in my at-home immersion.

Well, the first two anyways.  Time to figure out how to limit my English “outs” when I meet a challenge, and how to get more excitement out of my immersion!

What do you do to get yourself hyped for immersion?
Do you limit your English “outs” when you’re figuring out a kanji/word/sentence?
Leave a comment and tell us about it!




Translation 101

I was given a great opportunity to have a small group meeting with a Japanese → English translator yesterday.

I was by far the newbie-est of the group, the other attendee being a student in a translation program who has lived and worked in Japan.  The meeting was all I thought it’d be and more.  The translator was super helpful, honest, and informative.

I’m just delving into the world of translation and the idea of being a translator, so it’s all still new to me.  Anyways, for those interested…

Here are some highlights of what we discussed:

  • You can make a living as a translator.
    I’ve heard many people say it’s a side job, but it’s apparently quite possible to translate full time once you have the skill.  Woo hoo!
  • There are LOADS of different kinds of documents that need translation,
    and translators benefit from being naturally curious and interested in a wide variety of stuff.
  • The translator I spoke with learned Japanese largely from living in Japan and having private, native-speaker tutors.
    He had very little faith in classroom-based learning, citing someone (I can’t remember who/what) as saying that classroom-based language learning is effective for about 5% of the population.  This further cemented my own belief that I can learn Japanese outside of the classroom.  It was also a good reminder that if/when I teach, I’ll need to research and address the best methods of helping others learn a language.
  • Translators are usually paid by the word.
    So, speed and accuracy are huge factors in your success.  I had no idea!  Kinda nifty…
  • There’s debate about the usefulness of non-language-specific translation programs.
    While there are many commonalities between translating among different languages, every language presents its own set of unique challenges.  Some people think it’s important to have a program that focuses on just, say, Japanese to English translation.  But, lots of college/university translation programs don’t focus on a specific language.  I’m glad to find this out early on, as it’ll likely affect my decision of where to go for my education.
  • There’s a lot of support and help in the translation world.
    There are multiple ways that translators make connections with each other and offer support: from translation help forums to swapping and editing pieces to quick, “Hey, am I on the right track?” phone calls.  It’d be great to work in a field with this kind of support!
  • Reading patents, contracts, website localizations, and other documents in English is a great way to get a feel for how translated documents should read.
    Since a lot of what translators work on are documents like these, it’s an important (if not essential) thing to do.  It was recommended that we find some patents, read the “terms of use” box during software installations that nobody reads, and contrast and compare the Japanese and English versions of company websites.

Hoorah!  I learned a ton and it was really inspiring to talk to people who are in or entering the field!  I hope there are more meetings to come.

Are you a translator?  Interested in translation?  Got any words of wisdom?  Share them in the comments! 🙂

Why ReadMOD was Awesome

The Read More or Die contest ended earlier this week. I was sad for it to end, it was pure awesomeness.


#1. Got me into a great habit.
I read in Japanese regularly now.  Feels as natural as eating.

#2. Reading speed +4, Comprehension +6, Vocabulary +3
My reading skillz improved, a TON, and I could tell.  Flippin’ exciting!

#3. Improved my immersion skills.
Because I was so eager to read, I learned to fit more immersion into my regular (ridiculously busy) days.  It’s now also a habit!

Many, many thanks to  @LordSilent for creating and hosting the contest, and congrats to everyone who participated!

Wish you could’ve done it, too? Fear not, I hear there might be more ReadMOD contests in the future…

3 Tools to Immerse On-the-Go

When you’re out and about, doing the bajillion errands life requires we do, your day can quickly become very 英語だらけ (full of English, in a bad way).

I’ve taken to carrying a few things with me at all times to help maximize my immersion, even in the Englishy-est of times. Here are a few suggestions of things to bring with you wherever you go, based on what I’ve been doing.  If you like ’em, give it a try!

Take your immersion to-go. Pack your bag with things to listen to, read, and write on.

1.  A book

Carry a book.  A good one.  Or two.  (I carry a novel and a manga at all times.)

Whip it out whenever you get the chance. Long line at the store?  Got business at the DMV?  Awkward silence in the Jiffy Lube waiting room?  Need to sit and take a break from your shopping spree?  Awesome, read!

2. Music + Podcasts

Get tunes.  Get Japanese podcasts.  Whatever floats your boat.  Don’t forget to keep it fresh.

Don your headphones and listen whenever you can: while you’re grocery shopping, at the mall, whenever you’ve got a minute and don’t want to read.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not actively listening the whole time.  When your brain wants to listen, it’s going to get Japanese.  (And I doubt you’ll miss the prime musical selections played by most stores….).

3. Paper + Pen

Pack some paper and something to write with.  Fun stationary, post-its, a plain ol’ notepad, whatever will work.

Simple, of course.  And you can just practice writing when you take a break or have a spare minute on your errands, but there are more creative and motivating ways to get writing practice, too.  My personal favorite: leaving guerrilla notes in Japanese for other people to find.

What does this entail?  Writing on a piece of paper and leaving it somewhere.  Yup, that’s it.  You could write some lyrics from a song,  a line or so from the book you’re reading, a favorite quote, a secret, something ridiculous you just thought up on the spot…  Write it down, fold it up, and leave it somewhere.  The public restroom, the coffee shop seat you were sitting on, tucked into a park bench, peeking out from a book at the bookstore, between the tissue boxes at Target…you get the idea.

Knowing someone will find it can help motivate you to write, to make sure it’s relatively correct, and to use your best handwriting. (Even if it’s someone who can’t read or understand it)

And that concludes the post! 
If you like the ideas, get packing!  Got more ideas?  Share them in the comments!

PS:  I’ll have a post on guerrilla art in Japanese in the future, because it’s  just that awesome and fun.

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