Believe it or not, breaks are an essential part of a productive study session.
In our quest to master our target language, it is very easy to study in long intensive sessions. There is a lot of research to suggest that taking breaks is an easy way to improve your memory. We already know that sleeping is very important for good brain function, and this extends to our ability to learn new skills.
How are breaks beneficial for learning?
Taking a break gives our brain a chance to retain new information better. Doing an easier task such as having a coffee is known as wakeful rest and allows the brain to dedicate more of its power to process new information.
Breaks aid our creativity and problem-solving skills. Have you ever had an experience where you were stuck on a problem, only to take a break and suddenly find the right answer? Taking a break gives ourselves a chance to reset and approach tasks with a fresh mind.
Long study sessions normally lead to stress. When you try to learn a lot in a short time it is easy to get overwhelmed, making it difficult to actually learn anything effectively. Breaks help you to sustain your motivation, especially when tackling something difficult.
So with this in mind, there are a few easy things you can do to incorporate breaks into your study routine.
Tips on using breaks effectively
If your mind tends to wander a lot when you study, then try taking a break. It might be that your study sessions need to be broken down into smaller chunks. The Pomodoro technique takes advantage of our need for breaks. With the Pomodoro technique, you take a 5-minute break after 25 minutes of focus. After 4 focus sessions, you get a longer break of 20 minutes.
Make sure you do as little as possible during your breaks. Using your break to check your social media or do some chores might seem like a good idea, but you are not truly giving your brain a rest. Meditation is also a great idea to ensure that you switch off completely.
Try to go outside or for a walk. Physical activity improves oxygen flow to your brain and stimulates our hippocampus which is the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer break is pretty much over. You might have neglected your studies so that you can enjoy your holidays – I personally think that’s great! Don’t feel bad about taking breaks because they are critical to productive learning sessions.
When your study sessions don’t feel productive, there are a few things that you may need to look at. Here are a few posts I’ve done related to this topic that might help you:
The idea of having fewer ‘things’ has been on my mind a lot lately. This is mostly to do with the fact that I have moved house recently. However, this has also coincided with me finally watching Marie Kondo’s TV series on Netflix.
I thought that Marie Kondo was already fairly popular, but this show seems to have got a lot of people talking about decluttering. I believe that the Japanese word for decluttering is 断捨離:
Marie Kondo and her method might have a lot of critics, but it is obvious from watching her show that having fewer things makes her clients so much happier.
I’ve been on my own personal mission to declutter, which was very difficult at first but has gradually been getting easier. The vast majority of my Japanese books have survived my latest round of decluttering. Nevertheless, going through this process has got me thinking about why decluttering is a good idea both in general and when it comes to language learning.
The Power of Decluttering
I was watching a TV show about a Japanese minimalist called Fumio Sasaki (佐々木文雄). He realised that he needed to make a change in his life and decided to drastically remove the number of items he had. Through this process, he discovered that having fewer things improved his life in many ways. He’s since written a book about his experiences called ぼくたちに、もうモノは必要ない (the English title is Goodbye, Things).
His example is rather extreme but it did get me thinking about how decluttering can be beneficial.
Decluttering helps you create room for the most important things in your life. When you have fewer things, making decisions becomes much easier. It also means you have fewer things to worry about – for example, having fewer clothes means less laundry to do.
The Path of Least Resistance
I recently read about a theory called the Path of Least Resistance. In short, the path of least resistance means us humans will always do the things that it is easiest to do.
Let’s say I have some chocolates near my sofa and some fruit in the next room. I am more likely to eat the chocolate as it is physically closer to me, even though I know that eating the fruit is better for me. This concept applies to all areas of our lives.
It sounds like a very negative thing, but it is possible to use this aspect of human nature to our advantage. Going back to the food example, if I place the fruit near my sofa and lock the chocolates away in the next room, I am more likely to eat the fruit instead of the chocolates.
Ultimately, decluttering helps you to take advantage of the Path of Least Resistance. Fewer things to distract you means you can program yourself to make better decisions more easily. If I don’t buy any chocolate at all, then I no longer have to make the choice between chocolate or fruit – I can only eat the fruit.
How does this apply to language learning?
There are so many different resources out there for Japanese. Truthfully though, I think a lot of people (myself included) would make more progress if we restricted the number of resources we used. Choice is a wonderful thing, but just like when we have too many things it reduces our ability to focus on what we really want.
Take stock of the resources you use. Marie Kondo likes to get her clients to put all of their clothes in a huge pile before sorting through them. It’s a bit harder to do this with language learning resources (especially digital ones), so I write a list of all of the websites/ subscriptions/ apps that I am using.
Ask yourself a few questions about each one. Do you use it? Do you like using it? Is it helping to move you towards your language goals? If the answer is no, then you probably don’t need it anymore.
If you find it hard to identify which resources are holding you back, stop using one or more of them for a couple of weeks. If you didn’t really miss using the resource during this period, then it might not be as useful or helpful as you think.
Sell/ give away/ unsubscribefrom the resource.
The resources you have left should be the most effective in helping you make progress. What’s more, it should be easier to jump into a study session without having to spend time deciding what to use!
I write a lot about various resources on the blog, but in reality, I only use 3-4 at one time. If there is a resource that no longer serves a purpose, I stop using it. You should use the resources that are best suited to your goals. However, our goals and priorities can change, so our language learning should adapt to these changes too.
Sometimes I stop using something, only to go back to it later – I think this is perfectly fine to do. Whilst I believe that consistency is important, I focus on consistency in my habits rather than consistency in the resource I use.
Have you decluttered recently? Do you think it has had a positive impact in your life? Let me know in the comments!
The end of June is near, which means we are nearly halfway through 2019 already. I honestly feel like it has flown by! Now feels like a good time to review how much progress you have made so far.
My birthday happens to be in June so this is the time I naturally think to myself “what is it that I want to achieve by my next birthday?”. A mid-year review is probably familiar if you work in a corporate environment, but over the last couple of years I’ve tried to do a personal review. It’s really easy to think that you can only set and revise your goals at the start of the year, but of course you can do this whenever you want!
In my case, I don’t really need to do a long review to know that I need to make changes. I have fallen behind with my goals for learning Japanese and the blog, but I am making steps to get back on track. I wanted to share how I have conducted my own language audit this year. If you’re not sure how you are doing with your languages, this post might give you some ideas.
How to carry out a mid-year language review/ audit
1. Look at your goals for the year. Do you need to make any changes?
Are your goals still relevant?
Have you added new goals since the start of the year? Try to be as specific and realistic as possible
I briefly wrote about a couple of goals in a blog post last December. My two goals were to read 1 book a month and work towards sitting the JLPT N1 in December. I was doing pretty well until March, which is when I moved house and my priorities had to change a bit. Not having the internet for a while had a bigger impact on my study than I initially thought!
2. Evaluate your progress
How much progress do you think you’ve made?
What do you think has contributed the most to your success or lack of progress?
The benefit of setting clear, measurable goals is a lot more obvious when you have to review them. You can use quizzes and tests from textbooks or online resources to judge your progress.
Having said that, even if you have set smart goals it can be difficult to assess yourself, so you might need to take a different approach. Have a look back at the types of things you were studying at the start of the year. Have you developed a better understanding of grammar points? You can also ask the people that you practice your target language with if they have noticed a difference in your ability.
Work backward from your end goals. What steps do you need to take to get there?
Are you studying regularly enough?
Are you covering the right amount of material in each study session?
Knowing what your priorities should be is important to making progress. It is always tempting to focus on your strengths, but this isn’t necessarily going to get you closer to your goals. Being uncomfortable is part of the process!
Are your habits aligned with the steps you need to take to make progress with your goals? Are there any particular areas that you need to focus on?
Is your routine focusing on your weak areas?
Do you need to introduce some variety into your routine?
Sometimes it isn’t what we are doing but how we are doing it that needs improvement. If you were taking a proficiency test, then you might realise at this point that you need to accelerate your learning. You always want to schedule time to revise what you have learned too.
If you haven’t progressed as much as you hoped, It’s important not to beat yourself up too much and try to think of some positives to keep things balanced. You can’t change what you did in the past, so focus on what you can do now and in the future to improve.
On the other hand, burnout is a very real thing and you should take care not to push yourself too hard. Making time in your schedule to relax is essential.
What I’ve learned from my review
My mid-year review has made me aware of a few things:
I’ve covered a fair bit of my grammar textbook, but when I tried a mock test recently I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. I have realised that I need to spend more learning the difference in nuances between similar sounding grammar points. I am going to drill grammar every 1-2 weeks so that I can review gaps in my knowledge more regularly.
As I read a lot of fiction, I need to start reading more non-fiction as I feel that my reading skills are slower outside of novels (this could be due to a lack of vocabulary too)
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with how much I still need to learn, which hinders my progress. My aim is to focus more on what is directly in front of me, whether that be my Anki reviews or grammar note taking.
One positive I can say is that I’ve managed to finish 4 books that have been on my to be read like for months (even years!). I’ve also started reading a book that I bought years ago – the last time I tried to read I couldn’t make any sense of it (lots of relative clauses).
I’m not sure whether I will be able to take the JLPT in December, but I will keep working on my grammar and vocab and see where I am in September. My listening skills have stayed fairly consistent as I listen to podcasts in Japanese pretty much every day.
I found this a really useful exercise and it has definitely boosted my motivation. If you have any tips or resources for me then I’d really appreciate it!
I really wish you could put your spare motivation into a bottle to use when you need it the most. Getting into a new routine is difficult sometimes, but I have seen making use of a new trick to boost my productivity: The 5 Second Rule.
The 5 second Rule is often used to refer to this myth that if you drop a piece of food on the floor but pick it up within 5 seconds, it is still safe to eat.
American TV host and motivational speaker Mel Robbins has written a book with the title The 5 Second Rule. The idea of the 5 Second Rule is simple, but if you are keen to get a feel for the book’s content I recommend checking out one this great summary video:
The gist of the book is that in order to develop better habits, you need to reduce the time you spend thinking about an action you might take. When you get an impulse to do something, you have 5 seconds to take action.
So if you find yourself thinking something like: “I should read an article in Japanese” “I should do my Anki reviews” “I should turn off the English subtitles”
…You need to actually follow up on that thought in 5 seconds or less. After that point, you will most likely hesitate for too long and think of an excuse not to do it, especially if it is out of your comfort zone.
This works for reinforcing good habits and getting rid of bad ones. In fact, Mel used this method to tackle her bad habit of using the snooze button too much in the morning.
Apparently, the brain is very good at picking up on these impulses to take action whenever we are in close proximity to certain stimuli. For example, if you leave your Japanese textbook on a table that you walk past every day, you most likely have an impulse to pick up the textbook.
Acting on these brief moments of inspiration can have an extremely powerful effect, especially if you are a big procrastinator like me. Most of the time, it is the getting started that is the hardest part of my study lessons. Using the 5 second rule makes you feel much more in control of your habits, helping to reduce stress as well.
I started using the 5 Second Rule with really small things which made things feel much less scary. Together with making other changes like putting my Japanese books in easy to reach places has made a big difference. So far I feel like I have been able to make more time for Japanese study, mostly grammar stuff which I rarely look forward to starting. The truth is that I am using my time more effectively that I now feel like I have a bit more time left to focus on other interests.
What one thing has helped you to be more productive recently? Let me know in the comments!
ひさしぶり readers and apologies for the lack of posts/ responses to comments.
You might know from social media that I’ve had an impromptu break from the blog as I have been moving house. I was only planning on being away for a couple of weeks but I had some issues getting the internet set up. Thankfully these are resolved and I am mostly settled in my new place. I also took the opportunity to refresh the blog’s theme.
Being away from the internet for so long did give me a chance to reflect on my language learning. When I have had time to study I have been keeping things really simple.
I was appreciative of the break from the internet for the most part, as I realised that I spend so much time relying on the internet for just about everything. I certainly want to make more time for offline language learning in the future.
Naturally, as my daily routine has changed, my language learning routine is in the process of changing too. I have a longer commute which is ideal for Anki reps and podcasts. On the other hand, I have less time in the morning which is when I used to get in a lot of reading practice. I’m planning to spend more time doing some reading just before I go to bed to make up for it!
The great thing about moving is that I have my own desk for my study sessions. I definitely plan on hitting my JLPT textbooks more consistently going forward.
When I didn’t have the internet, the one thing that I definitely missed the most was the language learning community. Logging into Twitter and Instagram everyday is a massive source of inspiration for me (as long as I don’t spend too much time on it!).
This is a short post today but I want to end by saying thank you for your patience and expect some new posts very soon 🙂
Duendecat is similar to Mainichi, which I mentioned in my first post on Chrome extensions. This extension will show a random Japanese sentence/ hiragana/ katakana/ word/ kanji when you open a new tab.
Extensions that allow you to study when you open a new tab are a great way to get in a little extra practice. I’m a big fan of studying Japanese through sentences, so I really like that Duendecat has this option as the default.
Initially, the sentence will appear in Japanese on its own. However, clicking on the Japanese sentence will make the English translation appear. I’ve found that there is a wide range of sentences covering various levels of formality.
As you can see, furigana is provided above each kanji. Hovering over the kanji gives you the onyomi and kunyomi readings as well as a short English translation. If you use Wanikani to study kanji, then this is even more useful. You are able to set the difficulty of the sentence to match your Wanikani level. To set this up, just go to the options and add in your Wanikani API key.
By the way, the Duendecat website works in a similar way to the extension. You can study a range of sentences that are within your Wanikani level.
I think that the extension is a good one for beginners as they master hiragana, katakana and move on to kanji. I highly recommend it if you plan on using Wanikani.
I am a big fan of the Rikaikun extension, but I have found it less and less reliable recently. Fortunately, there is an alternative, called Yomichan. Having switched to this, I can say that this is one of the very best Chrome extensions for Japanese learners to have installed.
Like Rikaikun, when the extension is enabled, you can hover over a Japanese word to get its furigana reading and English meaning. Yomichan requires you to hold shift and hover over a word.
You can then click on any of the kanji you look up to learn more about it:
If you just want to look up a word, you can use the Search function to look words up and get the same information.
Yomichan has a few additional features that set it apart from Rikaikun. Firstly, native speaker audio is available for a lot of words. Secondly, Yomichan offers integration with Anki (using a plugin called AnkiConnect), allowing you to instantly create flashcards from the words you look up.
For Yomichan to work you need to install at least one dictionary from their website which is very straightforward. JMDict is going to cover the majority of words you might need to look up, and is available in a number of languages besides English. There are other kanji, slang and name dictionaries available to download too. You can also import your own dictionary files using Yomichan Import.
Clearly a lot of hard work has gone into making this extension and it is an amazing tool for Japanese learners. It happens to be free but donations can be made via the homepage if you are able to.
Dual language subtitles are really useful because it allows you to compare the differences in structure between the two languages. I had wished that you could enable two sets of subtitles on Netflix, and now you can with LLN: Language Learning with Netflix. If you are familiar with Viki’s learn mode, then this is pretty similar.
Subtitles are given in your target language with a translation into English. There are a few other options which this short video describes:
LLN supports a wide range of languages. Unfortunately at the time of writing, the integrated dictionary available for other languages does not support Chinese, Japanese or Korean.
This leads me to my alternative recommendation, Subadub.
Subadub is a bit different from LLN since Subadub provides enhanced language subtitles for your target language.
The subtitles in subadub are readable text, which means you can copy and paste them. You can also use this in tandem with Yomichan to look up vocabulary and then add it to Anki.
The subtitles can also be downloaded in full if you like to make flashcards to study with. I think Subadub is a great resource for an intermediate level learner as a way of getting used to only having Japanese subtitles.
So those are my latest discoveries when it comes to Google Chrome Extensions for Japanese learners. Are there any extensions that you find useful (related to language learning or not)? Please tell me in the comments!
As you might know from the blog’s Instagram page, I took part in Langjam last weekend. I thought I’d do a little post about my experience, even though I didn’t make as much progress as planned.
What is LangJam?
Language Jam, (often referred to as Langjam) is a challenge where people interested in languages sign up to study a new language for a weekend.
When you sign up, you input the languages that you already know and are then randomly assigned a language from the list available from the challenge. There’s a real range of languages covering all continents and various writing systems.
The language I was given to study was Swahili, which I was very excited about.
There is a prep phase for your language in the run up to the Langjam weekend where you have time to gather resources, read up on the language and start learning new scripts if applicable.
This was much needed as I basically knew nothing about Swahili. My knowledge was basically limited to the fact that it is spoken in a few different countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, and that Hakuna Matata is a Swahili phrase.
In my prep phase, I learned some interesting facts about Swahili. I didn’t know that Swahili has links to Arabic: Swahili can be written in the Arabic script and share some vocabulary. I also learned that there are a few other Swahili words referenced in The Lion King:
Rafiki = friend
Simba = lion
Pumbaa = foolish, silly, negligent
Nala = gift
I decided to join Langjam near the end of the prep phase, so I didn’t have much time to gather resources. In the end, I mainly used SwahiliPod101 and Duolingo as my main resources. I have mixed feelings about Duolingo, but the Swahili course seems pretty good.
My LangJam experience
Unfortunately I ended up being pretty busy over the weekend and didn’t get much time to study anything in depth. On the other hand, it has been really fun to follow how other people have been getting on with the challenge via the hashtag #langjam.
Swahili is a fascinating language and I hope that one day I will be able to develop some proficiency in it. I will stick with the Duolingo lessons as they are short and sweet, but my focus will remain on Japanese for now.
Doing the Langjam challenge reminded me of one very important thing; the joy of discovering new things about a language. Learning new words and phrases, sentence structures, writing systems, pronunciation can all be a lot of fun at the start.
That feeling we get from all of these new discoveries is so important for sustaining motivated in your target language. Sometimes even though we are settled in our language learning routines, we can be lacking that little spark that keeps you engaged. This is something I have tried to embody in my learning since finishing the challenge.
I love discovering new Japanese music and getting engrossed in Japanese dramas, so I am now trying to dedicate a little bit more time to both of these fun activities (not forgetting the ‘boring’ stuff too!).
If Langjam sounds interesting to you, keep an eye on the website and the social media channels to be notified of the next challenge (it gets held a few times a year).
Have you started any new languages recently? How have you found it so far? Let me know in the comments!
The singer intended to get a tattoo meaning ‘7 Rings’ (the name of her latest single) in Japanese on her hand. She posted an image of her new tattoo on social media last week.
However she may have been relying a bit too much upon Google Translate, since the tattoo she ended up with doesn’t quite mean what she intended it to. It turns out that the kanji compound she opted for is read as shichirin, which is the name for the small barbeque grills you find at yakiniku restaurants.
Soon after being shared online, a lot of her fans were quick to look up the meaning of the tattoo and were pretty confused. Ariana then quickly got her tattoo changed to try and get the meaning closer to ‘7 Rings’.
Aside from not giving her future tattoo a quick search online, I think a lot of people studying Japanese may have seen the tattoo and not immediately thought of a barbeque grill.
Why does this happen in Japanese?
One reason for this is ateji (当て字). Ateji is the name given to words borrowed from other languages (mostly Chinese), where the kanji for that word were chosen based on their pronunciation rather than their meaning.
However, you may see it in relation to the names of various countries, particularly in newspapers. For instance:
Name in Katakana/ Romaji
えい / ei
イギリス / igirisu
ふつ / futsu
フランス / furansu
どく / doku
ドイツ / doitsu
せい / sei
スペイン / supein
ごう / gou
オーストラリア / oosutoraria
か / ka
カナダ / kanada
いん / in
インド / indo
い / i
イタリア / itaria
Sometimes these ateji readings are used in words in literature and TV to give them an artistic flair. If this is something you want to learn more about, I recommend checking out BuSensei’s social media feeds as he regularly posts about interesting kanji usage.
Another reason for this is that modern words are contractions of old sayings or idioms, which there are some examples of below.
Seeing the story about Ariana inspired me to look up other words which have a different meaning to the sum of the component kanji.
Here’s a few other words in Japanese which fall into this category.
馬 (horse) + 鹿 (deer) = 馬鹿 baka (idiot)
This is probably the most famous example amongst Japanese learners (although often written in hiragana), since we see it so much in the media.
The etymology of baka is contested, but there are two main theories. Baka could be a word derived from an old Chinese idiom (meaning ‘to point at a deer and call it a horse’, ie. deliberately misleading someone) or a loanword from Sanskrit.
Like baka, sushi is thought to have two different origins.
The first is that it comes from the word 久し (ひさし/ hisashi), meaning long lasting (as in 久しぶり). This is why the kanji compound is made up of the kanji for longevity and the kanji for servant.
The second (ateji origin) is thought to be from the word ‘酸し’, (すし, meaning sour) which refers to the vinegar mixed with rice to help preserve the fish it was served with.
皮 (skin) + 肉 (meat, flesh) = 皮肉 hiniku (irony)
The origin for this compound is said to come from a longer phrase 皮肉骨髄 (literally meaning “skin meat bones marrow”) attributed to Buddhism in ancient China. ‘Bones and marrow’ were thought to show essential understanding, in contrast to ‘skin and meat’ which represented superficiality.
Consequently, 皮肉 was used as a way to criticise those who were unable to understand the true nature of something. This then developed into its modern meaning of irony.
This word too comes from Chinese. There is a story of a man who was selling spears and shields. He said that the spear and the shield were the strongest of their kind; the spear could not be beaten by any shield, and the shield could not be beaten by any spear. One person then asked, “what happens when you use the spear against the shield?”, which the seller was unable to answer.
This Youtube video explains the origin of the Chinese word better than I can:
十八 (18) + 番 (number) = 十八番 ohako (one’s special talent, party trick)
There are a few different potential origins for this word, but one of the most popular is to do with kabuki. The 歌舞伎十八番 (kabuki juuhachiban, ”Eighteen Best Kabuki Plays”) were a collection of plays chosen by the famous Ichikawa Danjuro line of kabuki actors. These were stored in a box to keep them safe, which is where the modern meaning is said to stem from. The number of plays is significant as eighteen is also thought to represent ‘a great number’ of things.
I remember hearing this word in a variety show and having no idea what it really meant. At the time, I assumed it had something to do with karaoke as the artist being interviewed went on to talk about her go-to karaoke songs. It makes a lot more sense now that I’ve learned more about the word!
Again there are a number of different theories regarding the origin of this word. One is that the sound of a wheelbarrow moving is like a cat. Another is that wheelbarrows are long and thin, making them easy to move through relatively narrow spaces – something which cats are good at doing too.
Nowadays, 手押し車 (teoshiguruma) and 一輪車 (ichirinsha) are used as well as 猫車, which I think is a shame. The mental image of a cat wheelbarrow always makes me smile and sticks in my mind more easily!
I think that this reiterates to learners of any language that putting two words together may just end up referring to another word with an entirely different meaning. I’m not a fan of Google Translate but I find that Google Images can be really useful for double checking the meaning of some vocabulary.
I am a bit late to the party with this post, but this is something I wanted to write about anyway. It’s been really interesting reading about the origins of words like this, which also led me to the useful Japanese website Gogen AllGuide. I think that these words having such unusual component kanji actually makes them a bit easier to remember!
Have you struggled with this type of word before? Let me know in the comments 🙂
It is said that Japanese pronunciation is easy for native English speakers, but I think that this can make them complacent. Whilst a lot of sounds in Japanese also exist in English, there are still lots of differences between these sounds. This means that there are still quite a few difficult words to say in Japanese.
This was actually a useful exercise for me, because it got me thinking about the types of sounds I need to keep working on to improve my pronunciation.
I then came across the following video by JapanesePod101 which brought up a lot of similar sounding words to my list.
I’m assuming a lot of these words are trickier for those that only speak English. However, I think 暖かい -> 暖かくなかった would be on most people’s lists – I can never remember if I have said enough た’s!
That word aside, I can pretty much characterise my difficult Japanese words into about three rough categories:
Words which mix w- and r- sounds:
笑われた わらわれた was laughed at
現れる あらわれる to appear
As a child, I always used to struggle with differentiating w- and r- sounds in English; for instance, I remember pronouncing “rainbow” as “wainbow” by accident quite a lot! This is quite common with young children and you usually grow out of it.
For some reason when it comes to Japanese I get tongue tied when I have to quickly switch between w- and r- sounds!
Words that have ‘n’ as a consonant in the middle
恋愛 れんあい love
範囲 はんい extent, scope
全員 ぜんいん all members
婚約 こんやく engagement
雰囲気 ふんいき mood, ambience
‘N’ often sounds like its English counterpart, but depending on its position within words it can sound more like a ‘m’ or a ‘ng’.
In addition, the other thing that I find difficult is not blending the sounds together when ‘n’ is followed by a vowel. For example, ‘renai’ should be pronounced so that the sounds ‘ren’ and ‘ai’ are separate – unfortunately it often comes out as ‘ren nai’ or ‘renai’.
Words which have lots of r sounds, especially include ‘rya’/ ‘ryu’/ ‘ryo’
旅行 りょこう travel
料理 りょうり cooking
My pronunciation of the Japanese R has improved with some practice, but I struggle a lot with the ’rya’ and ‘ryo’ sounds in particular.
Words with ‘n’ followed by ‘r’
遠慮 えんりょ reserve, constraint
Further examples – 心理 しんり/ state of mind, 管理 かんり/ management, control
As this is very much a work in progress for me, I am still looking at various methods to improve my pronunciation. There are a couple of things that I think are helping so far.
Train your ears and your mouth
Firstly, I’ve been reading about how I should be making the sounds in terms of mouth shape and tongue movement. When I listen to spoken Japanese now, I pay more attention to how the sounds are made, especially for difficult Japanese words.
I think that this ear training is an important first step in making your pronunciation more accurate. Dogen’s course mentioned above covers this in a lot of detail and is helping me a lot. I’ve also been dedicating some time to shadowing, which I am intending to write about in another post. I’ve been using Japanese tongue twisters as a warm upexercise!
Record myself and listen back to it
One thing I might do more often is to record myself speaking – as embarassing as it feels to do this, it is much easier to pick up on your own mistakes this way.
I’ve been learning Japanese for a relatively long time and so these bad pronunciation habits are probably ingrained into how I speak. For this reason, I am not expecting quick results and intend to focus on developing a regular pronunciation practice routine in order to improve how I sound in Japanese.
Remember, just because you find certain words difficult now doesn’t mean that you will never be able to pronounce them more accurately!
I imagine that a lot of these words will be much easier for speakers of other languages. I often hear that Japanese pronunciation is easy for Spanish speakers.
Which words do you find difficult to pronounce? Do you think the languages you already speak help you with Japanese pronunciation? Let me know in the comments!
2018 has come and gone in what feels like a very short time. I thought it would be fun to look back on the year in terms of my Japanese learning, which will help inform my goals for 2019.
I didn’t want to make this post too long and boring so I have chosen to write about two things that I think have gone well this year and two things that I need to work on for next year.
The Good: Developing a better Japanese reading habit
I am slowly working my way through a pile of Japanese novels that I have on my bookshelf, which is a very nice feeling. I try to pick books that are manageable for my current level, as I use the tadoku approach to learning. You can see some of the books I have read this year from my Tadoku Tuesdays posts:
I use Bookmeter (basically the Japanese version of Goodreads) to track the books I am reading/have read/ want to read, which has been very helpful.
I’ve also picked up some helpful tips and book recommendations from other bloggers such as Inhae’s blog Inside That Japanese Book. This has really kept me motivated to keep reading (and more importantly, finishing) books.
I feel that reading more has generally helped me with all aspects of Japanese, but mostly with learning to recognise grammar and vocabulary in a wider range of contexts. Reading speed is really important for the JLPT and obviously reading more has helped with that too.
Reading physical books, in particular, is a great way to wind down at the end of the day, and more importantly means I am not staring at a mobile phone/tablet/computer screen. This is definitely something I want to keep up next year.
Rediscovering Japanese Music
I used to be really interested in Japanese music but I have been listening to way more podcasts than music in the last couple of years. I spent some time this year catching up with the artists that I used to listen to a lot, which was a lot of fun 🙂
I can’t believe I forgot how catchy this song is!
There’s a lot of great Japanese artists that can be hard to find beyond the idol stuff, especially if you are new to the language. This is what inspired the 15 Easy Japanese songs post, and later the Japanese Music Mondays series on Instagram and Facebook.
It’s so important to have fun with the language you are learning, and I think music is a highly accessible way to do just that. This is definitely something I will write about next year. In fact, I am already working on a couple of follow up posts about Japanese music for next year as well. Another benefit of this is that I have spent more time on Japanese websites reading about new artists and new music releases.
The Not-So-Good: Kanji kanji kanji (and writing in general)
Improving my Japanese writing was one of my aims for the year, but I haven’t been as good at writing consistently. I have struggled the most with kanji since I fell off the Anki bandwagon a few months back. Because I read regularly, my kanji recognition is OK but when writing in my journal I spend a lot of time looking up how to write kanji which I used to know.
My aim for next year is to make sure I stay on top of my kanji practice. I am making a new set of physical kanji cards and review a smaller amount of Anki cards daily.
The act of writing kanji helps me remember them more effectively so I will be doing more kanji writing practice. I recently found my Kanji Kentei game for the 3DS (an educational “game” aimed at Japanese people reviewing their kanji) so I have been using that to revise kanji too.
Scheduling Japanese practice
This year has been fairly busy, which means that I have had to work harder to make sure I am getting my daily Japanese practice. As a result, I have become much more interested in productivity and habit-forming, which I have written a few different posts about:
The Pomodoro technique has been incredibly helpful in getting stuff done, especially when it comes to writing blog posts. I have also found tracking my progress on an app (I use Habitica) has helped keep me accountable too.
Unfortunately, there have been some days when I realise as I am falling asleep that I haven’t done anything Japanese related at all. Of course, those days are inevitable sometimes but I want to make sure I can have as few of these as possible. 2019 is looking to be an even busier year for me, so I want to make the most of it!
I have been doing some research into timeboxing and how I can use this to make sure I am working towards all of my goals, not just language learning.
Looking forward to 2019
I am planning on some changes to the blog in the very near future, so watch this space. The plan is to keep posting on a weekly basis, and potentially a bit more often if time allows.
I haven’t yet finalised my Japanese learning goals for 2019, but so far I want to read at least one novel a month, and to sit the JLPT N1 by the end of the year.
Have you decided on your language goals for next year? What are they? Please tell me in the comments!
PS. As this will most likely be my last post of 2018 (and my 100th post!!), I want to end this post by thanking everyone who reads this blog. At the start of this year, I had only been posting for a few months and I had no idea how many more people from all over the world would be reading, liking and commenting on the blog. I am genuinely thankful and will keep working hard!