2009年2月1日日曜日

Sucky beginner advice 2

Ok, so maybe my last post for beginners wasn't enough. It's not easy to communicate this, because it makes sense to me, even when it doesn't make sense to others.

So first of all let me say, I understand what you're going through. I know what your feeling. Let me tell you something, everybody feels it. I still feel it from time to time, my friends do, Khatzumoto does, everybody does. It's the feeling that you just don't get it. The feeling where you want to pick up that manga, that book, that series, and just read it and enjoy it, but you can't. You're wondering "When will I get past this crappy beginner stage?", "When can I start learning from things I like!?", etc. Let me tell you, you will get there. It will happen, but very slowly.

Like- you ever go to a restaurant and they still have the old fashioned Heinz ketchup glass bottle? You just want some ketchup for your fries, because fries suck without some ketchup. But the damn ketchup won't come out. What do you do? You shake the ketchup until the tomatoe goodness falls to the opening. It takes a lot of shaking, but it eventually gets there. Your arm may be tired, but it was totally worth it. After all, french fries and ketchup rock.

But I'm getting off topic. The point is that Japanese takes a lot of time and a lot of shaking to get anywhere.

So I can understand your feelings completely when you tell me you want to learn some vocab. Do some Kanji Odyssey, some iKnow or textbook. It's perfectly innocent to say that the more you learn from these sources the more you're able to understand from, and in turn enjoy, authentic Japanese sources.

But I have to ask, why not just learn from authentic sources anyway? It seems if you're spending all this time learning how people say “Please rewrite this document.” or some such thing, why not just switch over to an authentic source and study from that?

I can think of several reasons, but the most important one is that people hold themselves to a much higher standard when approaching authentic sources. It suddenly becomes something that if you don't understand things, it's at too high a level, and it's not fun because you can't understand all of the story. But let me ask you something, how can you tell me that it's not fun to not understand a lot of the story when you feel nice and safe to be understanding sentences that essentially tell you nothing? Why would you feel content to learn from sentences like “兄は音楽を聞きながら寝るのが一番好きです。” when you could give a flying about some guy's brother?

When you read, you cannot hold yourself to a high standard. In fact, you cannot hold yourself to any standard at all. You need to open that book, that manga, and not see a list of words for each sentence you need to look up. You need to look at that book and find the little bits you do understand, the little bits you genuinely want to look up. You may not understand anything at first, but that's ok. Just skip anything that's too hard. Got it? 'Cause this is important. Skip everything that's not easy, and look up stuff you really want to look up. Totally lost on a sentence? Skip it. But does that sentence have a kanji you want to know the reading for (like 闇 or something badass like that)? Look it up and get a sentence.

Here's a little trick I like to do. I like to think as my Japanese ability 'upgrading'. Everyday my Japanese ability will be just a little bit better. What I like to do is everyday think “I wonder how much more Japanese I'll be able to understand with my new abilities today?”. And it does happen. Words I learned yesterday show up the very next morning in a completely different place. Then I'll think “Good thing I found that word yesterday.” with a smile on my face.

5 件のコメント:

  1. Ewww, ketchup. I'm more of a mustard kinda guy.

    At any rate, I agree entirely on the prospect of learning from authentic sources right from the start. I certainly don't REGRET the time I spent with KO and iKnow, but it's gotten to the point where I just... can't... stand reading about work documents and school commutes and looking for a lost bag and days of the month (curse thee, counters!) anymore. I'm likely going to end up deleting a lot of those more boring ones, even if I still have vocabulary to learn from them - oh well, if they're important I'll learn them again sometime down the road.

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  2. Having just left the 'I don't understand anything' stage, I can tell you exactly why it's better to study iKnow than torture yourself over books your can't read:

    Neither are 'fun', but iKnow is a LOT less painful.

    Yotusba& is the easiest manga I've found so far. When I first got it, I didn't understand by maybe 1 in 100 words. That meant looking up every single word. And if the word appeared again, it was forgotten, so you had to look it up again.

    Using iKnow is basically the same (looking up every word over and over) except that the interface is very streamlined. There's no dictionary to flip through, etc. Everything is right there and takes 1/100th of the time. In addition, it schedules everything for you so that your learning is optimized.

    After doing the first 400 in iKnow, I was able to read 2/3-3/4 of Yotsuba&. It's enough to understand most of what's going on and give good guesses at the rest... And it's fun.

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  3. With the advent of that Video to Anki file parser, your desires may be closer to reality for the lazy gits like myself.

    Right now, I'm one of those that feel I build my vocabulary and grammar a little bit each day via controlled methods. As I enjoy it, it's cool. Then I get more enjoyment from watching Japanese stuff so that's even better.

    Yeah, it would be best if the guided lessons came from stuff I like to watch. At the moment it does not (look above about that video parser), but damn if what I got is not working like nothing before. Remember, it is about fun, so if mining real sources is boring the stuff out of you, then don't do it.

    With iKnow, Anki, and the video parser, we may soon be at the cusp where one can almost automatically mine sentences from stuff you enjoy. Not only that, but you get the sentences that has stuff that the system KNOWS you haven't studied before. Best of all, you, will have veto power over everything.

    Like Burrito, I'm not knowing UBJG, Tae Kim, iKnow, or KO2001. I'm getting more mpg from iKnow and Tae Kim so I'm sticking with them for that little bit of guided studied. Others will make their own call.

    What I regret is not actively listening/watching Japanese. The passive listening only, and going to English websites (my main flaw in all this) has hampered fast advancement. Again though, it's a happy medium I found that works for me. And ultimately I've got to be the one that decides what's best for me and my life situation. Just give me a shit load of options to choose from :^D

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  4. William, interesting you should mention the "first 400" in iKnow, because that's where I (essentially) stopped as well, and it's a figure I've seen come up more than a few other times in the RevTK forums. Just enough to cover the basic vocabulary and prime a learner for real material (gotta love Yotsuba&!). I personally found most of those 400 quite enjoyable in iKnow, as well. (It was the next set in Step 3 that broke me, haha)

    I think the important thing is to reach a level of Japanese where you're able to remove the training wheels, so to speak, and iKnow is an especially awesome resource for this. I really appreciate all the great work folks like Nukemarine have put into compiling spreadsheets and iKnow lists, which should absolutely help learners get to a point where they no longer need to rely on those training wheels.

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  5. William, I just realized what you meant when you say "Having just left the 'I don't understand anything' stage," I mean, I agree, to some extent. Somebody who doesn't know a です from a ます from a だ definitely needs to have kind of beginner help. The people I refer to when I say "sucky beginner" are people who are like, 500 or so sentences in and can understand maybe half of Tae Kim's Essential Grammar section and stagnate with the learning resources. That's about where I was when I jumped in to manga and stuff.

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