2009年1月20日火曜日

Starting out? Suck really bad? Here's some advice.

After four months I spit at JLPT grammar points and read books like a mad man. I can read an entire manga series without once opening a dictionary and understand the entire thing. But I wasn't always this awesome, when I started out I sucked. I sucked really bad.

Why'd I get so good? Because I busted tale and exposed myself to more Japanese than English everyday. But what I consider unique about my experience, is that I didn't know I was busting tale. I didn't 'study', I didn't think "I want to learn Japanese, better break out the flashcards, dictionary, and get the best guide to grammar I can and slog through it". In my day we didn't even know what an 'iknow' was!

But even then, there was a time before when I thought textbooks were the answer. That you had to get the right sentences in to Anki and study everyday. And for a month after completing the Movie Method, that's exactly what I did. For that month, I sucked badly. I didn't learn shit about Japanese during my first month, everything confused me.

But eventually, I began to realize that didn't work. I began to change my approach. When I finally stopped being a sucky beginner who didn't know anything and started to put things together was when I dropped the mindset of 'study'. I threw away the sentence spreadsheets I had collected from the forum and found some manga that I really enjoyed. And you know what? I STILL SUCKED. I didn't know shit about Japanese, of course I wasn't going to understand crap from what I was reading. For all the Japanese I had 'studied', I still sucked badly. Because study does not equal real life.

But that was the best decision I made. I was no longer 'slogging' or 'plowing' or 'mining' my way through something, I was reading! And it wasn't boring crap, it was fun. (In fact, I hate those words. I hate it when people say they're going to 'mine' a game or something for sentences. It's like saying "I'm going to mine sentences from 'cool game x'" translates to "I'm going to take away the fun from 'cool game x'".) I learned more from a week of reading a manga I got totally addicted to then in my entire month of 'study'.

But still, people tell me I'm a 'genius', or that I have a unique 'mindset'. The only unique thing about me is that I rejected perfectionism. I didn't assume that I had to 'slog' my way through something to learn from it.

To go back to Stephen Krashen, when the learner focuses on what they can understand, and not fight with what they don't understand, in communicative input, i+1 items will be found in little bits and knowledge will expand, and expand in a natural, predictable order.

So that's my advice to you beginners out there. Dump the 'study', get on board with the play and exploration. Trust me, it's so much better.

8 件のコメント:

  1. Damn well said. After having mined the first 400 words in iKnow, a small chunk of Kanji.Odyssey, sentences from half a dozen other sources and then some, I'm now making the transition from mindless mining to monolingual J-J dictionaries and as many JRPGs, books, drama and manga as I can get my grubby mitts on. Besides, it's just a lot more enjoyable this way, rather than forcefully cramming another "Are you free on the 1st of next month?" sentence into my brain for the billionth time.

    My Anki deck is just under 700 cards currently. I've stopped worrying about quantity completely, focusing instead on quality from sources I actually WANT to be exposed to, stuff I actually enjoy.
    To an extent, I think the early parts of language acquisition might be best spent in the more mechanical sentence mining fashion, but once one reaches a level of familiarity that allows them to "leave the nest", it's certainly time to venture outside of the confines of textbooks and explore the real world of that language.

    Now let's see, back to Chrono Trigger, Voice or 我輩は猫である?

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  2. My friend is starting out in Japanese. You had previous exposure to Japanese grammar and such in a fashion that was explained to you, so do you think it is necessary that he do that before jumping into real Japanese? If so, what do you wholeheartedly recommend he reads or does?

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  3. Actually, the most I'd had Japanese grammar explained to me was in a high school class years ago, of which I pretty much forgot about. From what I do remember was mostly the maybe that the を went with a verb and that the は 'marked the subject', whatever that meant. I still thought the only way you could say a verb was with the ます form.

    What I did during my month after the Movie Method was also not direct grammar study, I had actually imported the bulk of the sentences put in a spreadsheet from "Understanding Basic Japanese Grammar". I went through them learning based on the English translations (which weren't direct translations). Which resulted in comprehensible input without grammar or the '=' for vocab.

    I personally believe that your friend wanted to learn Japanese at the same level of intensity as I do, he would be best off finding things that capture his interest and going from there. Picking up a long manga series that he really liked and reading it straight through would the do most good.

    If you're friend is still at the "I don't know the kana very well, I don't know how to learn kanji, I don't know what a です is." level, then I'd recommend he read through All Japanese All The Time before anything. Then maybe read the Basic Grammar section and some of the Essential Grammar on Tae Kim's site and figure out the really super basic stuff.

    To say learning how to learn Japanese is a long, personal journey is understating it. It takes hours upon hours before you'd even feel like you have a grip on what you're doing. The most important advice is: Do it everyday and enjoy it.

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  4. The Tae Kim link is wrong. It's:

    http://guidetojapanese.org/

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  5. So would u say to read articles, manga's even though you dont understand the vocabs ?

    when i try to read manga's i can't make any sense out of anything bieng said.. especially when its all hiragana..i can't tell when one word begins...But i did find myself enjoying something i understand..Few days ago i read a children's story http://www.geocities.co.jp/HeartLand-Gaien/7211/ ( in jp ofcourse the one about the red and blue demon) Majority of it i understood and i enjoyed reading it. But then i tried reading another story and i didn't understand any of the vocabs.. so that was'nt much fun at all. But now and then i go to a jp game site's and go read through stuff using this http://www.hiragana.jp/ja/

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  6. I say, don't let your lack of ability in the language get between you and something you enjoy.

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  7. Alyks, you say you don't mine for sentences anymore so what do you do? Do you puts sentences in an SRS? Thanks, Mvino

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  8. I don't think I ever said I don't mine sentences, I still do. When I come across interesting sentences that have things I want to know I'll put one in my SRS. Because, you know, forgetting sucks. I get anywhere between 5-20 sentences a day depending on my mood.

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