Walhallavagen

Just an ordinary girl's life

Category: Self Learning

Japanese study resources

Underlying statement to this post is: I’m trying to keep things simple. Especially since I’m working on a very tight schedule now, I can’t waste time shuffling 10 or more different study resources. Also, from a psychological point of view is important to me to see progresses – something that becomes difficult when you entangle yourself in too many apps/textbooks/podcasts.

At the moment, my resources for studying Japanese are very basic:

  1. a good online dictionary, in my case Jisho.org. This is the number one resource for when I’m at my desk; if I’m out and about I use imiwa on my phone.
  2. Core 2000 Japanese vocabulary on Anki (free deck to download); I like this one in particular because it works its way through vocabulary via sentences, not just the single words. I think it’s supposed to have audio but that is not working for me at the moment (though I find audio for Japanese less essential than for Chinese, so I can live with that for now).
  3. Tatoeba for example sentences; I wonder if there’s anything specifically for Japanese (like Jukuu for Chinese), though it has worked just fine for me so far.
  4. Japanese Pod 101 for listening. I had the premium subscription 3 or 4 years ago but never really used it. Now I’m ready to work my way through all the levels, since listening is my main focus for Japanese at the moment.

At times I also like to download lyrics from songs that I like (unfortunately very few at the moment), and go through them for new vocabulary and expressions. I also use Netflix to watch Japanese shows from time to time, just to get used to how people actually speak.

I have quite a few textbooks that I’ve acquired throughout the years, but I’m not focusing on those at the moment. I can’t do everything at once anyway, so I’d rather stick to this routine for now and wait for some progress to show before taking the next step.

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First week of back to Japanese! (seriously this time)

I’ve settled down to this routine of alternating weeks between Japanese and Chinese (at least for the moment, you never know), and this is my first actual week of proper Japanese study. Yay!

I don’t know how many times in these last couple of years I’ve said that I truly want to start studying Japanese again. And I did made some efforts, I can’t deny that; but effort very often is not enough.

If you have a busy life, to only way to make things happen is to actually *schedule* and allocate time to them; otherwise they become just something you do a couple of times, but never really engaged with.

After having studied Chinese intensely (especially since last August) for the sake of HSK3, I felt like I wanted to do the same for Japanese. I’ve been watching a few anime/dorama lately, and listening to spoken Japanese rekindled my never really faded passion for it.

Which means that I made a serious mental note to *really* get back to it in 2019. And here I am.

The trouble I’m having at the moment with it is that I mix up hanzi and kanji a lot. Like, a lot. I’ve practice hanzi quite intensely for HSK so now I find it confusing to go back to kanji (especially with regards to pronunciation). Since listening is always my weakest skill [for all languages], I’ve decided that for the moment I’m going to push my Japanese studies towards the direction of mainly vocabulary and listening. It’s something I’ll have to get to at some point anyway, so the sooner the better.

My plan for this week was to watch Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories with Japanese subtitles. I’ve watched it already with English subs (it’s actually one of the significant other’s favourite TV shows πŸ˜³). For the moment I’m not pushing it too hard – I just watch it glancing at the subtitles from time to time, but I’m mostly trying to get accustomed to the sound of the language (especially on the difference between women talking and men talking). It is incredibly relaxing and I enjoy the plot even more!

This is just week 2 of my language learning experiment, but I’m liking it so far. I think it gives me enough space to focus on one language for enough time to get serious with my learning, while remaining engaged  and motivated for the other as well.

Study report #1

At the end of my first week at my new job and of my language learning comeback, I think it’s good to stop for a few minutes and reflect on what I’ve managed to accomplish in these last 7 days LL-wise.

First of all, my new job has a very different schedule from the old one. I now start quite late (9:45am) and finish equally late (6pm), which means two things:

  1. I can go back to have a morning routine (very much appreciated)
  2. I cannot count on my ability of studying before/after dinner because by the time I’m home my brain has already set itself on relaxation mode

This has required a certain organisation on my part, and even more a strong discipline in getting things done in the morning [because otherwise they won’t get done at all].

Let’s break my week down, shall we?

  1. Monday. My first day off since FOREVER. Went downtown to do some shopping in the morning and had noodles for lunch (a must). Did Duolingo + flashcards and characters review on Anki in the afternoon for both Chinese and Japanese.
  2. Tuesday. Second day off, spent at home in my new Friends jumper (love). Same as above in the morning; in the afternoon I dedicated myself to the much procrastinated tasks of reviewing some old printouts from Chinese Class 101 (and then discard them). Mission accomplished.
  3. Wednesday. First official day at my new job. I managed to do some Duolingo in the morning before work.
  4. Thursday. This is the day I usually start work at 10:45 so I decided to use the additional morning time to go to Starbucks and get some solid study there. I did a long character and vocabulary practice on Anki for both Chinese and Japanese, and took some notes on things I need to do next in my study.
  5. Friday. Only managed to do some Duolingo on the bus.
  6. Saturday. Same. I needed a slow morning.
  7. Sunday. Sunday is 10:45 start as well so I managed to both sleep a bit more and get some study done. The annoying thing about Anki is that even if you don’t review for a couple of days you immediately start to accumulate a thousands new cards to study. I guess I’m not the only one to complain about this.

All in all, I quite happy with the way I managed my time. My change of schedule has been huge so adjusting necessarily takes some time, and I could have done much much worse. I would like to be able to find even more time for language learning in my week, so I’ll probably try to do things a bit differently next week. I also have a lot of other commitments that I’m trying to carry on (too many?) on a daily basis, so balancing everything is definitely not easy. I’ll probably need to review my priorities a bit.

I’m finally off tomorrow and Tuesday, can’t wait to have some me-time for languages and books 🀀

Chinese study plan for busy people

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Time to do some language learning planning today. I was having a great time with Chinese and Japanese back at the beginning of January and my goal right now is mostly to built back my momentum.

I’m going to go back to my plan to focus one week on one language and the following week to the other, as it is even more imperative now to use my focus wisely. So this week is going to be about Chinese.

Daily Activities

  • Duolingo + index cards
  • characters review on Anki

Weekly activities

  • finish reviewing old vocabulary notes
  • finish practicing listening tracks on Hello HSK app

Of course these are not the tasks I intend to complete this week, but simply the things I’ll be working on this month and probably part of the next one. Having not much time to dedicate to language learning, it is essential that I at least have a very clear idea of what I’m supposed to do and when, or I may waste even more time simply trying to figure out what I should study (which is plain silly).

I’ll come up with a similar plan next week for Japanese as well. Let’s see how it goes!

Happy study week everyone πŸ˜‰

Language Learning weekly schedule

Studying both Japanese and Chinese at the same time, and as intensely as possible, is no joke. I’ve been wondering for quite some time now whether or not I’d be able to do that – as much as I love language learning, I also have other commitments in life and there’s only so much that I can to with the free time I have.

For the purpose of being intentional as well as realist with my LL study, I’ve decided to try and do some further planning in terms of how I want to structure my language schedule. I’ve basically divided my tasks into daily and weekly, and this is the kind of structure I’m considering to follow:

  1. daily tasks: practice with Duolingo and index cards + vocabulary and characters practice on Anki for both Chinese and Japanese. This is the bare minimum I’d like to do every day or on most days, as keeping words and characters fresh and constantly reviewed is the first step not to feel overwhelmed in the long run. Listening would be important too, but for now I’m trying not to overdo it.
  2. weekly tasks: one week I’m going to focus on Chinese, and the following week on Japanese. By focusing I mean studying the language more in-depth [studying grammar points, reading articles, listening to podcasts and YouTube videos, etc].

I’ve started last week right away with Chinese, and I already have my tasks to complete set and ready for Japanese. I don’t know how (if) well this is going to work, but what I know for sure is that there’s no chance I can fit it both C and J grammar/listening/reading/writing practice every week. It may not be much but it surely is more than trying to do too much and then get inevitably stuck.

If you have any tips on how to study two Asian language at the same time, feel free to share!

 

Duolingo + Index Card Workflow

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I’ve been working with this kind of setup for a while now, and since it has served me well I thought I would share it here.

I discovered soon enough that I wasn’t making many progresses by practicing Duolingo skills the traditional way. This is the kind of problem I’ve had with spaced repetition systems in the past as well – they work great at first but after a while they become a bit dry and my retention rate starts dropping significantly.

Active recalling is always best than passive memorisation, so whenever I can I try to follow this simple but much more effective system for both Chinese and Japanese:

  1. I create an index card for each single skill than I want to work on. On the top left I write ‘C Duolingo’ or ‘J Duolingo’ so that I can distinguish between the two languages, while on the top right I write the name of the specific skill I’m practicing (Activity 1, Food 3 and so on)
  2. on the index card, I write in English all those sentences I would like to try and actively remember
  3. I keep adding all new sentences as you usually don’t encounter them all at once

This is what may be considered the preparation phase. You do this once and then your index card is ready and you don’t have to add anything more. The proper study and recalling phase starts now:

  1. the next time I want to practice that specific still, I first take out my index card and start working with that. I first try to say the sentence in Chinese/Japanese out loud, then take a pace of scrap paper and write down the translation (this way, I also practice characters)
  2. I go on until I’ve translated all sentences on my card
  3. I fire Duolingo and check both translation and pronunciation

That’s basically it. As you can see is definitely nothing super long and complex, and it doesn’t require a lot of preparation. It usually takes me about 10/13 minutes to review a single skill using this system, but the retention rate is much much higher than simply using Duolingo on my phone or computer. This way I also feel a lot more engaged in the language and thus I enjoy myself much more while studying.

 

Language learning at the beginning of the year

Word of the year or my LL approach is: relax. No rush, no pressure, no drama. I’m taking it easy.

I think that’s the only possible way for me to fit in both Chinese and Japanese in my schedule. If I try too hard with one language, I’ll end up by neglecting the other (and feel bad about it).Β  I find it easier to sneak in bits and pieces of both when I don’t put too much pressure on myself. So that will do for the moment.

In terms of resources, I’m mainly using my Duolingo + index cards system for both Chinese and Japanese. I should probably do a separate post about this, as for now it’s proving quite useful.

Sometimes I also try to read a few passages in Chinese from my Confucius class textbook, to keep my vocab fresh and get familiar with new grammar patterns. I’m not doing specific listening exercises at the moment, but I’ve been watching ζ²³η₯ž (Tientsin Mystic) more regularly lately and it feels like a good practice to get used to different accents and inflections.

Switching to Japanese, I’ve watched Flavours of Youth on Netflix – and I really liked it. This format is probably better for me to get back to the habit of watching anime, rather than having 27-episode long series to watch. I also like anime with a more mature storyline, I’m probably a bit too old for school dramas πŸ˜…

 

/All over the place kind of post/

 

 

Language learning in the festive season

I used to love the Christmas season as a child (well, even as an adult), but in the last couple of years it has started feeling more of a chore than a festive occasion – and this is something that really saddens me.

Living abroad makes things a little more difficult in these regard, with travels to visit family and everything, but still. It’s like something has shifted in my brain and I’m able to concentrate my attention only on certain things and not on others. Like not having enough me-time, or language learning-time.

So yeah, Christmas is never the most productive season in terms of language learning. I get a bit anxious when I can’t study Chinese for more than one day – I know, it’s silly, but I really value the habit of studying a little bit every day.

But at the same time I can’t bring myself to focus on studying when there’s so much going on around me. I need a little tranquillity in order to be able to retain information, and tranquillity and Christmas definitely don’t go well together πŸ˜…

When did things get so complicated?

Post HSK3 reflections

Of all the things the I was expecting to happen for HSK, arriving late at the test definitely wan’t one of them.

Oh. Well.

πŸ˜…

Considering that I’m never ever late (not for trains/planes, not for tests, not for doctor appointments, again, never), this feels even more ridiculous. There have been a number of factors working against me and all independent from my control – but anyway, this is what happened. Which means that I lost the first 10 questions of the listening part.

I lost more than that actually, because by the time I was sitting in the class I was so angry and dumbfounded that I found it very hard to focus on the ongoing audio track.

So, yeah. That didn’t go well.

I won’t deny it, I was extremely disappointed at how things turned out – I’ve been talking about taking HSK3 for almost two years now, and this definitely wasn’t the way I wanted it to unfold. It was supposed to be a rewarding and exciting experience, and it was not.

Anyway. I’ll get the score that I get, and move on. The significant other encouraged me to consider whether it could be worth taking it a second time, but regardless of the outcome I’ve decided against it. Right now I don’t have the right mindset to prepare for it again, and I’d rather focus on the next target than sulk over it.

So, drama and incidents apart. How was the test?

Well, I can say that I found it exactly the way I expected it to be – doable but still challenging. Reading was ok, characters ok, writing ok even though there was a sentence to reorder that caught me slightly off guard (something that never happened while I was doing the mock tests).

Listening was hard, and I’m not surprised. Partly because as I said I wasn’t exactly calm and focused enough for it, partly because listening is always difficult for me. I’ve improved a lot, this I can say, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

In general, HSK3 is where things start getting serious. By this time I think people start to decide whether they want to keep studying the language or not. Since there’s no pinyin in the paper and you also have to write characters, you either are in or out. I noticed a lot of improvements in my language level while studying for this test – 600 characters is not huge but they definitely can bring you much further than the 300 of HSK2.

Overall I enjoyed immensely studying for this test and, even if the experience has been a bit unfortunate this year, I absolutely haven’t lost my motivation in keep studying Chinese. I’m getting close to feel more confident with the language, and I love it even more than before. I’ve been preparing a HSK3 study resources blog post for quite some time now – I don’t know whether I’ll be able to complete it before new year since I’m quite busy these days, but in case you’re interested wait for it because it’s coming out sooner or later.

Next target now is HSK4 in 2 years time. I’ll take care of getting to the venue at least an hour earlier next time, that’s for sure!

HSK3 -1 day

So here we are. The day before the infamous test πŸ™‚

I feel pretty relaxed about it, mostly because I’ve been doing a few mock tests these last few days and I know exactly were I stand. I also know what I need to work more on from, like, Sunday onwards. Well, maybe not Sunday. I think I’m going to take a day off from Chinese this weekendΒ πŸ˜›

As I shared on Instagram, I decided not to overdo it today – there’s no point really, it’s not like you can become proficient if you cram everything in the last week before the exam. Plus I honestly don’t have any kind of pressure – it’s just something I do for fun, because I like it and I want a system to evaluate my progresses (especially now that I’m self studying).

I made a lot of mistakes in this almost 2 years of preparation but I’ve also learnt a lot from them and this is what matters the most to me. I’m definitely going to do better for HSK4, it still won’t be perfect, but definitely better πŸ™‚

There will be posts on the overall HSK3 experience and HSK resources for study and preparation in the upcoming days/weeks. December is always a busy busy month for us Christmas-celebrating people, but I’ll make sure to find the time anyway.

For all of you who are going to take HSK, TOPIK, JLPT or any other language test during this weekend/month: good luck!!