Thursday, September 9, 2010

Japanese Studies

As I sit here and settle into my new surroundings, I begin to realize that I revert back to my 'usual' behaviors as I would have in the U.S. What does this entail? Well, basically coming home from work, and becoming a hermit; spending lots of time on my computer, surfing the internet or telling all of my friends what I've been up to; you know, via social networking or even this blog. But what frightens me the most is that when I do all of this, like e-mailing people, and chatting, or surfing the web, is that all of it is in English. Very little do I actually come across Japanese online, or when I communicate with my friends. Oftentimes because what I want to say is most easily said in English; oftentimes I do not even HAVE the words in Japanese to say what I want to say. Especially in a blog post or an e-mail or a message or chit-chat.

That said, if I spend so much time using English, and so much time inside my apartment not interacting with those around me, I am afraid that my level of Japanese will regress. So, it is up to me to make sure that that doesn't happen. It is my duty to insure that I continue my progress with Japanese and not fall into yet another Gaijin Trap.

So, my methods for continuing my studies of Japanese are multifold: 1) Speak in Japanese as much as possible, with friends, co-workers, and even students [as long as it isn't affecting their learning of English]; 2) Immersion, which includes Japanese television, Japanese music, and hearing Japanese conversations in school and around town; 3) Formal studying of the language, including reading, writing, looking up unknown kanji, and learning new kanji.

The third one in particular is something that I need to work on more, as it has been quite sporadic. The amount of time I spend studying kanji daily is irregular, and I don't do a good job reviewing kanji that I recently learned. This will change, with the upcoming JET Japanese Courses that I enrolled in. According to the multiple practice tests I took, I should be enrolled in the Advanced Level (which is above Beginner and Intermediate). There are only these three levels. I'm a little anxious about it, because I only know about 400-something kanji (they recommend 500, I think; or was it 600?), and and the entire textbook is supposedly in Japanese. There are also a few grammar points that I am expected to know already but have never formally studied; but thankfully, there aren't too many. Lastly, I haven't completely mastered other bits of grammar which I have formally learned. But I guess all that comes with time, anyway.

To study kanji, I will attempt a two-pronged attack: use the infamous and highly controversial Heisig method, which entails learning the characters by parts and creating a "story" for each character, and supplement the stories with the traditional method of learning new kanji (see new kanji, learn readings and meanings, read example sentences, and practice writing it). According to Heisig, though, this should not be done; learning the stories will apparently be counterproductive to learning the kanji the traditional way. I am not sure why this would be true, but since he was the developer of this method, I am assuming that he is correct. So, my plan is to first use Heisig's method and go through the entire Book 1. Then rather than go to Book 2 (which is where he teaches how to actually pronounce/read the character), I will go through the traditional method using either the Kotoba! iPhone app or the Essential Kanji book.

Or maybe I could try the traditional method using the app, then Heisig, then the book? Anyway, just throwing around some ideas. I will leave you with this sweet video that I saw on TV today:

Word of the day: 言葉 or 詞 or 辞 「ことば」 "kotoba," which means language, words, or speech.
Second word of the day: 国語 「こくご」 "kokugo," which is what the Japanese language course is called in Japan (like "English Class" in the US). "Kokugo" literally means "country language."

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