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Getting Back on Track with Japanese (and Japanese Words)

Closeup portrait of a young woman holding a st...

Over the last month I have been pretty busy with a number of things including the holiday season, working as a volunteer diver to remove おにひとで (devil starfish) to protect the coral, and just work in general that have kept me away from my Japanese study. It has also caused me to write less on Japanese Words. Though I hate to admit it, I have barely touched Anki in over 3 weeks (at this point I am almost afraid to look).

On the good side, this is actually a good topic on Japanese study to cover.

I have mentioned before that it is best  if you can study at least a little bit every day. However, no matter how diligent I am, there are times when I tend to miss my study for one reason or another. So what should you do when you get off track?

The first step is to realize that you will get off track. Once you realize this you will be able to plan for it. Basically, create a back up plan. If you miss a day you will study an additional 10 minutes each day for a week. Or if you like, and can find the time, you could do a longer intensive session. Study an additional hour tomorrow. Just be careful not to burn yourself out.

If you are unable to study for a longer period of time, then try to substitute your regular study with something you can do. Watch movies in Japanese, read Japanese on the internet during your break, download some Japanese podcasts to play in your mp3 player or listen to them while you drive to work.

In my case, I am living in Japan and use Japanese on a daily basis. And while I prefer to study each day, I do get a lot of “Japanese time” even if I am not studying. By volunteering for the diving I have exchanged some study time for some speaking practice.

One last piece of advice is to continue to put Japanese words in Anki (or whatever you are using to learn new words) even if you don’t have the time to study. This will help make sure that you don’t forget and keep growing your list.

And of course, if you have been putting off your study, then there is no better time to start than now! I guess that goes for me too!

Let me know if you have any special methods that you use to keep yourself on track and how they work out for you.

Reading Japanese Words in Style

close up on keys of old  typewriter

So you finally figured out how to read and write Japanese on your computer (if you haven’t, do this right away). The problem is that the standard fonts for Japanese aren’t very good. In addition to just being plane bad looking or difficult to read, there may occasionally be characters that don’t show up. Since you will see Japanese words written in all different kinds of fonts and handwriting, it is also a good idea to get used to lots of different ones. But don’t worry. This post is all about choosing a new font.

Michele Romanini (the same person who turned the 1000+ common Japanese words into an SRS list) has found a great list of fonts that can be downloaded. Since there are quite a few different kinds of fonts, you should be able to find something to your liking.

Installing fonts will vary depending on the OS you are using, but there is a a lot of documentation on the web. Simple type “installing fonts in (name of your OS)”.

You can find the Japanese Fonts at the link below

Japanese Fonts

Remembering Japanese Words And The Importance Of Frequency

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This post will be very short since I have made this point a coupe of time. I will make it again however, because how often you study is an important part of learning Japanese and especially remembering Japanese words quickly.

In the last few months I have been learning to play the sanshin (shamisen in mainland Japan). Over the last few weeks I haven’t had the chance to play much due to a number of friends visiting on vacation. After not playing for just a couple of days, the instrument feels strange in my hand. I can’t hit the chords smoothly and I have to make a consious effort to play.

Now if I pick it up, even for 5 minutes a day and play, each time I get a little better and it doesn’t feel foeign to me. This is the same thing with Japanese. It is better to study 10 minutes each day (preferably more) than 2 hours only once a week. To really learn the Japanese language and the words you need to use them often. Deciding a “set time” usually work best for me, but do what works best for you. The important thing is that you study everyday!

Tips On Using Mnemosyne To Study Japanese

This post was originally about how to best use Mnemosyne as a study tool to help you learn Japanese faster. They say the best time to review something is right before you forget it. Mnemosyne is a flash card program program that uses an algorithm to help you do just that. Increasing the speed that you can learn new Japanese words and phrases.

Unfortunately, I had a hacker attack my server and have lost a few posts. On the good side, I am currently trying out a very similar program called Anki. Once I have spent a little more time with it, I will review both and write another post on how to best use them. In the meantime please feel free to sign up to my rss feed to make sure you don’t miss the post!

You can also sign up for the Japanese Words newsletter to get additional helpful tips and deals on some great Japanese materials.

Study Fewer Japanese Words, Learn More

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Let’s face it. You can only remember so much. The more you study the more you will remember, but you only have so much time. When it comes to learning Japanese, or any language for that matter, there is a lot to learn. You need to remember hundreds and eventually thousands of Japanese words, grammatical structures, and pronunciations. Not to mention kanji for those who want to be able to read and write. It can all seem a bit overwhelming at times. Especially if you are just getting started. The key is to be selective in what you learn.

When I decided I wanted to study in Japan, I tried to learn every single Japanese word and phrase I could. I figured I would tackle learning Japanese through pure quantity. This was a huge mistake. Having a large vocabulary is very important to speak a language fluently, but I wasn’t very selective in my learning. I would study every word that I came across regardless of how rare or useless it might be. I spent a lot of hours studying, but my level of Japanese didn’t improve very much. Basically, I had learned a bunch of Japanese words I couldn’t use. Since I couldn’t use them often, I also forgot them quickly.

So what should you do with words that you are unlikely to use or at least don’t need to use for a while? I recommend two options. The first is to skip them completely. This will help you free up time to learn words that will help you get speaking sooner. The second method is to write them down as you come across them in a dedicated notebook. You still won’t study them, but you will have them written down to study them at a later date when you decide you need to learn more advanced words.

When I first started doing this I felt guilty. Like I was taking the easy road, and that I wouldn’t get good at Japanese if I didn’t learn all I could. What if I needed this word down the road or couldn’t communicate well because I didn’t now advanced vocabulary. Luckily, I was completely wrong. Since I was studying less material and had more time to practice material I would actually use, my Japanese improved much faster. There were times (many times) that I couldn’t understand certain words, but it never stopped me from communicating well. Once I had the basics down strong, picking up new words as I came by them naturally was pretty easy. The confidence I gained in my Japanese ability helped me even more.