Japan-ize Your Schoolwork

For many people, December signals the end of a semester and that means big projects, final papers, and final examinations.  I’m willing to bet those of us in education (and many others) are pretty busy, and it can often feel difficult to keep Japanese in our daily lives when we’re getting overwhelmed by schoolwork

I recently moved to a new country and started grad school.  “Overwhelmed” would be a good word to describe how I have often felt.

When obligations take over, it’s easy to forget how simple it can be to keep Japanese a part of our lives.  So, here’s a reminder:

Japan-ize your activities in any way practical.

  • Keep it simple, you want to add fun and learning, not more stress.
    (As your stress level increases, your ability to learn decreases!)
  • Get Japanese in on your school-related tasks. Even if you’re not studying Japanese, there are plenty of creative and non-intrusive ways to incorporate it into your school learning.  There are even cases where incorporating Japanese may improve your learning! (ie: If you’re studying anatomical terms, the Japanese words for the same terms may give clues as to their location/structure/function through their kanji. Take the Japanese for “pons”, the part of the brain that connects the medulla oblongata and cerebellum with the midbrain, it’s: 橋(きょう)Look familiar?  It’s the kanji for はし/bridge. Brilliant!)  

I’m studying clinical animal behavior. One of my assignments involves analyzing behavior in videos. No reason I can’t pick out Japanese videos: searching, reading, and listening all in Japanese! How can you mix your subject with Japanese? 

And don’t forget, little things add up!  What if you can’t dedicate hours a day?  Doing a few minutes a day will keep you afloat far better than no minutes!  Use it or lose it, baby. (Going to the grocery store: Why not write up your list in Japanese?  Got a few minutes on the bus?  Challenge yourself to a few short rounds of SRS reps.)

How do you fit Japanese in when you’re busy with school?  Have any habits to share or ideas you want to try?  Tell us in the comments!

PS: Check out this old post for an intro to using YouTube as a way to immerse yourself!


Taking a Break: Helpful or Harmful?

When I embarked on my AJATT-style Japanese learning, I was set on never taking a break.  Sure, I had waves of more and less activity, but I never stopped.

I often felt my “less activity” periods hurt my learning.  It was extra difficult to get back into a steady pace, as it felt like I’d been stagnant and not fulfilling my potential.  Horrid for my motivation. But I always pushed on, even when things were busy or stressful.  No stopping.


However, I was forced to prioritize things for the past 3 weeks or so.  My senior dog (who, by the by, is the best and most awesome dog in the world) became very, very ill.  While caring for him and coping with the idea that he will likely soon take his leave, I had to finish my graduate school application, move, and change jobs.  It was crazy.  Something had to give.  Reluctantly, I chose Japanese.

Surprisingly, taking a break seems to have done me good.  In some ways, anyways…

The Pros

  • Re-invigorated my passion for the language.  Almost like it was new to me again.  Much easier to remember all the things that fascinate and interest me, and why I started learning in the first place.
  • Gave me a chance to step back, clear my head, and reflect on what I’ve been doing.  Nice to evaluate what’s been working, as well as what might need to be tweaked.
  • I’m more excited than ever to get back into studying.  And with the fresh perspective comes new ideas as to how I can do things differently, and maybe even better.

The Cons

  • Use it or lose it!  Words, kanji, phrases, lots of things I was once somewhat familiar with are all but lost on me now.
  • – 2 in Writing, -2 in Reading, – 4 in Speaking  (Listening skillz still seem to be uneffected, hoorah!)
  • Mad SRS reps due.  But it’s all good.  With my new perspective, I feel confident I can and will tackle them in manageable chunks!

All in all, I’m glad I took this break.  I think the benefits outweigh what it’s cost me.

Have you ever taken a break from Japanese?  Why?  Do you think it helped you or harmed you?

Here’s what some Tweeps had to say!

(Also from Kanjiwarrior)

From @e_dub_kendo

Song of the Moment #2

Here’s another “Song of the Moment” for you!  This one’s a good bit more advanced than the first, sure, but you can learn from it no matter what level you’re at!

Bump of Chicken’s ダンデライオン

Like it?  Click here to see more Bump of Chicken vids on YouTube!

Song of the Moment #1

Learning songs is a great way to learn new vocab, new grammar, and have fun!

I thought it’d be fun to post a new “song of the moment” here and there.  Hope you enjoy!

Here’s メロンパンの歌 in all it’s glory, with captions!  Good luck not getting this stuck in your head.

I doubt it’ll have the メロンパンの歌, but here’s a great site to get lyrics to your favorite Japanese songs.

Escape Games FTW!

I’m hooked and I can’t stop!

The Japanese キッズ@nifty site has a set of puzzles, categorized as “脱出 games. (Escape games.)

The basic premise is that you are trapped somewhere and need to escape the building/area.  You must rely on your intelligence, uncanny detective abilities, and Japanese skillz, to get out.


Don't let the childish look fool you, this game is challenging!

Search rooms, find hidden objects and clues, and interact with the environments to get out…or not, muahahaha!

Don’t let the ”キッズ” in the title fool you, these are pretty tough!  (I think, anyways.  Maybe you’ll think they’re cake.  Just don’t tell me, or I will be a saaaad panda.)

They require a good chunk of reading, great for immersing and not so much that you’re overwhelmed.  (And if you’re into it, it really motivates you to want to understand!)

Whatcha waiting for?  Check them out and see what you think!  I recommend starting with the easiest one (エコナライ・スケープ!) first, to get the hang of it!)

The キッズ@nifty site has lots of other great games for kids that happen to be great for immersion and learning, too!  Check ’em out!

Got any favorite online games?  Share them in the comments!

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.

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…

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