Pre-Made SRS Cards = Fail (For me)

I’m always tweaking my learning methods to see what works best for me.
Here’s a recent tweak that didn’t work…

I love me some SRS’ing, and I’ve been hand-picking sentences for my main deck for a couple years now.  I’m usually in some sort of “phase” with my SRS habits, but a few months ago I thought…

Who came up with this gem? (Not me!)

“Gee, I would really like some audio and pictures with my sentences.   But that’s a lot of work on my own… I think I’ll add a pre-made deck to my sentence deck!  Yeah, yeah, good idea, Liz!”

Even though I’d read recommendations from numerous other learners not to use generic sentences, I couldn’t resist the urge to try them out.  After all, it’s always best to take the advice of others with a grain of salt, and I’m on an adventure here, people, I’ve got to try things for  myself!  I downloaded a couple shared Japanese Core 2000 decks, neutered them of their single-word cards, and integrated them with my sentence deck.

“Yay listening and pretty pictures!” For the first week or so I was all about my new cards. I enjoyed having the audio and photos with every sentence.  I loved the ability to replay audio over and over and definitely noticed an improvement in my listening comprehension.

After a few weeks, the novelty wore off and I was slacking on my reps.  And I slacked more and more.  It took me a disturbingly long time to realize…

The pre-made sentences were “I’d-rather-wash-dishes”-boring to me. (And I flipping hate washing dishes.)

I probably didn’t like 98% of them.  And some of the sentences were just…ridiculous, and not in a funny haha way. (See example.)  I could feel my SRS’ing mojo being depleted.  For some reason, I thought I should continue this unnecessary self-torture until I’d finished the first reps for all for all of them.

As soon as I finished, the new picked-by-me cards started showing up for reviews.  What a difference!  It was like I snapped out of a coma.  I loved SRS’ing again.  I felt like I was making progress.  I decided that for me:

Hand-picked cards…

  • are more effective. I learn them more easily and quickly.  My recall is way better.
  • are more fun. And fun = motivation to SRS .  Win!

This is more like it. From the Wiki article on Chuck Norris (日本語で)

As long as it works for you, work it!
So, pre-made cards aren’t my thing.  Maybe they aren’t yours either.  Or maybe you do get giddy over the thought of learning things like, “There are 8 clocks in that house.”  Whatever works, I hope you go for it!

As for picking SRS sentences, I know what’s worked best for me so far.  Maybe it’ll work for you, or help you figure out a way that works for you!

The most HARDENed criminals are the OLD ones PENT IN jail for a long 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 🙂

Japanese on Japanese: SRS’ing without English

When I first started using an SRS for Japanese, my cards looked like this:

This got me into the habit of translating into English in my head.
At some point, I realized I was crippling my learning!  I’d been trying to avoid translating into English in my head, like craaazy, driving myself nuts with it, and here I was with these Japanese-English cards in front of me every flippin’ day.  No wonder I was struggling.

Long story short, I ended up with my own little system for creating Japanese-Japanese cards.  Here are…

3 Easy Ways to Do 日本語-日本語 SRS Cards

Readings Only

Just the reading, no def needed. From よつばと!

When I use it: When I’m good and comfy with the sentence- know or can infer the words from just the context or kanji.  ie: When I made this card, I didn’t know the reading of 牧場 well, but I could gather the meaning from the kanji.

Japanese Definition

Add an easy Japanese definition. From あの子と僕の家

When I use it: When there’s a new vocab word (1 or 2 max!) and not enough context in the sentence to infer the meaning.  I try to make the definition as simple as possible.


Add a quick explanation of the context. From アラジン

When I use it: When a sentence is from some memorable moment in a show/manga/movie etc.  Helps me get a better sense of the meaning and/or the context in which it’s used naturally.  Especially handy when I can’t find a proper and easy-to-understand Japanese definition.  This is probably my favorite and most-used way of doing Japanese-Japanese cards at the moment.

That’s it!  Pretty easy, right?

Don’t forget to make it easy for yourself!
If you torture yourself with complicated definitions and sentences with 20 new vocab words in them, SRS’ing just in Japanese will be painful.

For tips on picking good SRS material, check out this post.

That’s all for now.  Got a way you like to do J-J cards?  A question?  Share in the comments!

Hack a Uni Library

Did you know many College and University libraries have Japanese books?
No, I don’t mean books on Japanese (though they have those too), I mean books in Japanese.  Yes. Win.

Free-Japanese-reading-material win.

(“But I don’t go to school right now!” Chill out, dude.  Me neither.  Keep reading.)

You can hack your local Uni library and find awesome Japanese books.

In  my never-ending quest for more Japanese reading material, I found that my old University’s library has an “Asian Languages and Literature” floor.  After much tweaking out and celebrating, I went there.

And it’s not just old, musty Japanese history books!  An example of the goods: This last visit, I got a couple of the Spirited Away manga, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time manga, Charlotte’s Web, and the Tale of Peter Rabbit. (千と千尋の神隠しのマンガ、時をかける少女というマンガ、チャーロットのおくりもの、ピーターラビットのお話)  Hey now, don’t hate on the kids’ books, I read what I dig, and so should you!

Get in On the Free-Book Action

Do you go to University now? Awesome, check out the library!  Don’t be afraid to ask librarians for help finding stuff, University libraries can be a little more overwhelming than local libraries, and it’ll be worth it.

Don’t despair if you’re not a student, many uni libraries will lend books out to community members and/or alumni.  That’s how I got mine.  Give the ones near you a call and find out if they do.  (Gotta be proactive, party people, get to it!)  Even if they don’t loan books, you can always be ultra-cool and hang out at the library while you read them.

How do you read?  What do you get out of it?  For tips to help you get the most out of your reading, check out my earlier post, “Get  Your Read On”.

Non-disheartening disclaimer: My alma mater is a fairly large University and the library is semi-massive (25 floors).  Not every uni or college is going to have the same selection, of course, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding out what’s in your neck of the woods!  Especially if they  have a Japanese program!

Top 3 Must-Do Computer Settings for Japanese Learners: #3

This is the final of my top 3 must-do computer settings for Japanese learners.

All of the settings are ones I super-extra-highly recommend Japanese learners of all levels try out.

#3: Use Rikaichan like it’s your job (and accept that it’s not cheating….unless you use the English)

Rikaichan being used on the blog of あずまきよひこ,, author of よつばと!

Rikaichan is a Firefox add-on that allows you to hover your cursor over Japanese text to see the reading(s), parts of speech, and translations.  You can now surf the web in Japanese with no fear or frustration! And you can also copy and paste things not online into your browser to Rikaichan that text, too!  (So yes, you’ll need to use Firefox as a browser if you’re not already.  Fear not, Firefox is pretty awesome, and it’s free.)

Wait, Liz, isn’t this cheating?  It’s too easy, I won’t learn if I don’t look things up myself the old-fashioned way!

No, I promise it’s not cheating.  And it’s likely you’ll learn just as much, if not more, by using Rikaichan than by looking each unknown word/kanji up in a dictionary (online or otherwise). Why?  Rikaichan makes it easy to get the info you need fast. No opening a new tab, going to a new page, or flipping through anything.  Move the mouse a few inches, and bam, you’re good.  Done.

Less time looking up stuff = More time spent engaging with material + Longer studying stamina + Increased likelihood that you’ll be willing to look stuff up!

That's right, no English! Srsly. Turn it off, you'll be better for it.

For maximum benifit, download the beta version.  Why the beta?  You can easily turn off the English definitions. This helps a TON.  Your native-English (assuming that’s the case) brain wants to do things easily, and the English is riiiight there.  If you’re not careful, your brain will take full advantage of that and it’ll slow your learning.  (If you reallllly need to, you can easily toggle it back on.)  Give it a try for a week and see if you don’t learn your readings faster and faster.

I’ve heard there are other similar programs out there, but I love Rikaichan and I’m sticking to it.  (Especially now that I can turn the English off.)  Have you used another and really liked it?  Preferred it to Rikaichan?  Share in the comments!

And that wraps up my top 3 Must-Do Settings!  Of course, these settings are all just important in my own humble opinion, and you should do what you find works best for you!

Top 3 Must-Do Computer Settings for Japanese Learners: #2

This is the second of my top 3 must-do computer settings for Japanese learners.

All of the settings are ones I super-extra-highly recommend Japanese learners of all levels try out.   Really, it would be silly not to at least…

#2: Set your browser’s preferred language to Japanese

Sure, you’ve probably already set your browser to be able to display Japanese, but is it your preferred language?

When you set your preferred language as Japanese, your browser automatically displays the Japanese version of any website, if one is available.  (Well, for the most part…sometimes you still end up with English even though the site is available in 日本語).  Lots of pages, even ones you maybe didn’t know about, have Japanese versions.  Sites like:

  • Web mail (GMail, Hotmail, etc.)
  • Search engines
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • All the many Google pages (Including maps!  Bring it on!)
  • Many, many more!

This is a really simple change that can give you much more exposure to Japanese on a daily basis, especially if you’re as internet-dependent as the rest of us.

And as you know, more exposure = more reps = more learning = WIN

If you don’t already use your favorite websites in Japanese, make this switch now! You’ll be surprised how quickly you pick up on new words and phrases.  I bet you can’t use YouTube for a week without learning 再生 (さいせい).  And if you use Facebook, you’ll learn not to “Like” your friends’ statuses, but to “いいね!” them.

If you’re doing AJATT it’s also super-convenient and helps you get max L2 exposure without extra effort.  No more having to manually set each site to Japanese each time.

Coming soon….the third and final post in the series!  This one will help you out with tackling all those sites you’re now using in Japanese!

As usual, comments and questions are welcome!  I always love to hear about your own ideas and experiences!

Top 3 Must-Do Computer Settings for Japanese Learners:#1

Here is the first of 3 (in my humble opinion) totally and super-completely necessary settings for your computer if you’re learning Japanese.

A lot of you will already have these and be using them, but I keep running into fellow Japanese-learners who aren’t.

These settings can and do make a HUGE difference in your ability to take advantage of the many ways to learn via your computer and there really is no reason not to be using them.  Srsly.  None of them are that difficult to do, either, so if you’ve been putting them off, the time to change is now!

#1: Set your OS to display and type in Japanese.

Setting your operating system to be able to display and type in Japanese is super-essential.  How else will you read and write in non-romaji?  (Srsly, you can’t do romaji forever.  Not only will you slow down your ability to read kana, you will irritate the ever-loving-bejeezus out of 95% of the people you type to.)

Most OS’s will have the ability to add Japanese as a display and input language under the “Keyboards” or “Languages” option in the Control Panel.  Check yours out, and if you can’t find it, Google how to do it.

Extra Tips

  • Make Japanese your default input (See above)
    Japanese should be the first (top) language in your input language list.  Makes it easier to get down to business.  (To move it to the top, just click Japanese in the list once and then click the “Move Up” button until it’s at the top.)
  • Learn the keyboard shortcuts
    Makes using IME much easier and more efficient.  Most IME’s will have them, but they can differ from one to the other, and OS to OS.  Save yourself lots of unnecessary hand movement and frustration.  (Expecially handy if you have Windows 7.  ctrl + caps lock switches you between kana and alpha-numeric input.  No clicks required, no having to switch between input languages.)  Once again, Google how to do these for your specific IME and OS.

That’s it!  Not much to it, right?

Got more to add?  A great tip?  Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned for the #2 post, coming soon!

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