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Japanese Language Study Log: Splatted

#1
TLDR: Studying for the December JLPT N1 and trying to build good routines into my life. This journal will contain discussion of study methods, what I'm studying, habit formation and the Japanese media I'm working my way through.


I've decided to start studying for the December JLPT N1 and thought a study blog would be a good idea. Although improving my Japanese and getting a qualification are things I want they are not the main reasons for doing this. What I really want is to learn self discipline, good habits and create a work routine that I can use as a basis for achieving other goals moving forward.

I've deliberately chosen a goal that I can comfortably fail because this will allow me to start slow and build things up in a manageable way. It seems to be a common trend with me that I pick important ambitious goals requiring difficult schedules I can't stick to. I don't think the problem is burnout so much as the insidious feeling that doing just one or two hours of work is equivalent to doing none. Any day on which I doubt my will to complete the whole routine I suddenly finding myself lacking the will to even start. Hopefully putting the routine first and the result second will help solve this.


Current level

I only do comprehension and can't speak or write well at all.

In terms of hard numbers I took the J-cat in may 2015 and got these scores:

セクション スコア
Listening 52
Vocabulary 70
Grammar 57
Reading 77
合計 256

Though this was a long time ago I doubt things have changed all that much since I haven't really been making an effort to improve. I'm going to retake soon but I wanted to post what I think my level is beforehand.

Speaking more practically I find my Japanese is very usable. I watch quite a lot of anime and never really expect to have any issues understanding them. Problem scenes are common but problem shows are rare. Reading is slightly harder but similar. In general I like to have a dictionary handy, and will look up quite a lot of words if given the chance, but most of what I consume is enjoyable without additional study.

Although I said problem shows are rare I think it's fair to say I'm not very adventurous with what I consume. Most of it is fiction designed to be fun and unchallenging (e.g. shonen jump manga) and my comprehension drops significantly if I try to step outside this comfort zone.

Starting routine

Wake  up
10 min housework
1 hr breakfast/recreation
30 min reading a Japanese novel
n/a Anki until completion  


I'm starting slowly with a morning routine designed to be basically as easy as possible. Anki is the only thing here because it needs to get done. I put something before breakfast to get the ball rolling before I have a chance to mull over how lazy I'm feeling. The reason it's short and easy is obvious but the choice of housework is also important because it has an immediate and visible effect on my environment meaning I will know I'll benefit from it even if I fail the routine as a whole.

The reading is just there because it's enjoyable. The point is to get myself in the habit of thinking "Breakfast is over. I have to do stop this and do [x]. I think it will be easier to substitute less appealing tasks once the timeblock is established.

Syllabus???

I'm honestly unsure what materials I should be studying. Since I've not previously followed a syllabus it's likely that my knowledge is a patchwork of things from all levels of the JLPT and beyond, with gaps at all levels as well. It doesn't seem like going through the lower grades would be efficient but I also can't be confident that just the N1 materials will be enough. Perhaps start with N1 and work my way back?

What I am certain of is that I need to branch out in to reading news sites, do as many practice papers as possible and consume as much native material as possible

Current study materials

No textbooks currently, just native media. I discovered that Amazon.jp has astoundingly low shipping prices and recently went on a manga buying binge, so I have a tbr consisting of Claymore, Akira, Tokyo Ghoul and volume 1 of Pluto.

The things I'm going through now are as follows:

[Novel] 死神の浮力 (Buoyancy of death)

This is the sequel to one of my favourite Japanese books, 死神の精度, however it's not really living up to that hype. It's enjoyable and I am still quite near the beginning, but I had such high expectations that I'm still disappointed. The main draw for me is the weird POV character (the titular 死神), however he feels like less of a focus this time.

[Anime] My hero academia

I'm rewatching season 1 for some reason. I don't find myself hugely invested in it but it is relaxing and fun. It's probably the perfect show for anyone who dreams of a marvel anime crossover.

[anime] Darker than black

I remember loving this when it first came out but somehow never ended up watching the second season. Starting again from scratch I'm enjoying it quite a lot.

[Manga] One Piece

I got sick of the poor anime adaptation and decided to read the manga from the beginning. Currently on volume twenty three and loving it more and more with each chapter. I would never have guessed from the anime that the art is so good!
Edited: 2017-05-29, 7:52 am by ファブリス
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#2
It's been a little over a week and I have a better handle on what I want to do. My initial plan when creating a schedule was to make small incremental changes each week but thinking about how long it takes habits to form I've decided that larger less regular changes would be better. I think it's important that I feel comfortable with my current schedule before adding to it or every day will be a test of my willpower as I try to stick to an ever more  difficult routine and failure will be inevitable. Making less regular changes also gives me a clearer fallback point if I can't complete the whole thing.

With that in mind this is what I'm going to be doing for the next month or so:

Wake up
10 min Housework
45 min Breakfast
30 min Reading Japanese Novel
05 min Music Aural Practice
30 min Reading Japanese Novel
05 min Meditation
N/a     Anki until completion
N/a     Read 1 社説 & 1 news article


I seem to be averaging about 20+ new cards a day in anki which I guess is fine for now since reviews are still under 10 minutes. I think perhaps 30 mins seems like a good limit to set but that will probably be a long time in coming.

The next step will be to start going through some textbooks. I've got the N1 Drill & Drill grammar and Listening/Reading books + a book of 3 mock tests. I was put off by the price of buying the N2 books as well. Even what I did get was over 80 pounds and I can't justify spending more than that.

New J-cat score


セクション スコア
Listening 83 (+21)
Vocabulary 62 (-8)
Grammar 58 (+1)
Reading 52 (-25)
合計 255 (-1)

This result surprised me a lot because there are some massive shifts in the sub-scores. I mentioned in the j-cat thread that this could be due to me doing less reading and more listening recently but the change is so extreme that I'm not satisfied with that explanation. A 25 point loss in reading seems like something I couldn't help but be very aware of but I don't even feel rusty.

A more plausible explanation may be that I messed up on exam technique. I kind of panicked after timing out the first vocab question and started jumping around skimming random bits of the questions and answers and failing to read either. I did eventually calm down and realise I had time to read everything but there's no way it didn't affect my score. This would go against my prediction of not having improved since I last took the test but thinking in terms of sub-scores I think that makes sense because I do feel like I've improved my listening skills without much progress elsewhere.

[Novel] 死神の浮力 (Buoyancy of death)

I take back what I said about this being disappointing. 50% through the story has really picked up and the dry humour greatly amuses me.

Edit: Newspapers:

Forgot to write about my attempts to read newspapers. I've mostly been reading political articles on Asahi and occasionaly NHK. Tbh they're really quite difficult and I often feel I don't understand them as well as I would like. This seems to be largely due to the subject matter as I don't know anything about Japanese politics and unknown words often reference unfamiliar concepts, meaning I can't just slap a new label on some old knowledge like I normally do.

Articles, such as this one, about more everyday topics are generally much more manageable. I feel challenged but also like I understand what I read.

P.s. If you register as a free member with asahi you can read 1 "paid" article a day.
Edited: 2017-05-20, 11:08 am
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#3
I intend to write about my learning history and methods like others have done, as that is always interesting to me, however there are a few things I want to touch on before that. The first of which is meditation, because I've recently come to the conclusion that it is a very powerful tool that everyone should be using. I am a complete beginner so can't speak with any authority but I would like to share what I have heard that has driven me to take up the practice.

Why Meditate?

Meditation is often viewed as a purely spiritual exercise, however it actually has some very practical applications and can be approached in a manner devoid of spirituality if you so wish. Thoughts are as habit driven as behaviour, and no one has only good habits, but it is no simple task to recognise let alone alter these habits. I view meditation as a training regime designed to allow the practitioner greater understanding of their own mind, control of that which can be controlled and acceptance of that which cannot.

Training concentration

This is the focus of an exercise you may already have heard about. To do it you simply sit and focus your attention on your breathing for a set amount of time e.g. 5 mins. No matter how advanced you are you will find it impossible to stop your mind wandering, but that is well and good because the real focus of this exercise is to notice this wandering and willfully bring yourself back to task. I've heard it likened to lifting weights in the gym, where each cycle (focus > distraction > awareness > refocus) is equivalent to a weightlifting rep. You don't get frustrated every time you lower a weight so don't chide yourself for losing focus.

Meditating on negative experiences

This is a somewhat unpleasant but undeniably useful exercise. To me it seems to provide three things:

  1. Acceptance of discomfort - By exposing yourself to negative emotions/sensations in an environment devoid of success and failure you allow yourself to become comfortable feeling them and thus better able to deal with them in real life.
  2. Recognising the signs of distress - You might think that if you don't notice it it doesn't matter but this is not true. You will still be influenced by your emotions whether you notice them or not and recognising that your reflexes are being guided by an emotional reaction allows you to reassess them from a more balanced perspective.
  3. Identifying the causes of distress - I think this one is pretty self explanatory, but knowing what is causing your problems is what allows you to take actions to alleviate those problems.

Meditating on positive experiences

This is much the same as the negative one. I think it can be used to identify what you value in life and help you steer things in that direction.

Beating Procrastination

This is something that the emotional meditations seem to help a lot with. I can't think of a better way to explain this than to give a somewhat embarrassing personal example. My housemates and I have a regular cleaning rota the deadline for which was yesterday evening, by which time I had yet to finish my bit. Upon remembering the task I immediately decided I was too tired and resolved to do it early the next day, but then I stopped and examined that decision.

I quickly realised the obvious, that much of my aversion was due to an ingrained habit of procrastinating on unpleasant tasks, however I was more surprised to realise that much of the negativity I felt stemmed not from the task itself but rather from it not being done. Add to that an acknowledgement that the thing I was going to do instead was more of a time waster than something I actually wanted to do and I was shocked to realise not just that I could do the cleaning, nor even that I wouldn't mind, but that I would actually prefer to do it.

Closing thoughts

Meditation isn't just about turning yourself in to some kind of productivity machine but rather is a tool that can be used to enrich all areas of your life. Whether you want to pay better attention to that movie you're watching or you're trying to decide whether to have a lie-in or go for a walk, meditation can help you with that.
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#4
It's a little early but I decided the start of the month was a good time to add to my schedule as then I'll always be aware of how long I've been doing it. The details are still up for revision but I started it a couple days early so I think this should mostly work.

New Schedule

Bold stuff is new stuff.


10 min Housework
45 min Breakfast
30 min Syousetu
05 min Music Aural
30 min Syousetu
snack
05 min meditation
n/a     Anki
n/a     2 Articles (1 news 1 editorial)
15 min Snack
n/a     Gym/Walking around tasks
30 min Food
n/a     1 section from ドリル&ドリル Grammar/Reading/Listening



Now that I've taken the time to look through the  ドリル&ドリル books I have to say I think they're very good. That being said though they're a lot harder than I expected. My score on the J-cat made me think if I took the N1 now I would be in with a chance of scraping by but nope. My scores on the textbook questions have been so abysmal that now I'm doubtful I can pass even with 6 months to prepare. I do feel like there are some clear things that I can work on effectively (business, political and bureaucratic vocabulary + grammar), but things like reading speed, general comprehension and correctly noting key points are nebulous and I can't estimate a time frame.

As for what my next step will be I think after I've stuck to this schedule for a month or two I will add a tadoku session (i.e. no stopping to look things up all the time) and after that I will be doing everything I want to be doing so it will be just a matter of increasing volume. You will notice that there is no listening on here. That is because:

a) I'm currently best at listening (arguably)1
b) Its easy to fit audio material around doing other things so it doesn't necessarily need it's own dedicated time
c) I find I learn better from reading 2
d) I find it not that hard to learn to hear something I can read comfortably

1   I don't have higher comprehension when listening but I can process the language much quicker and it feels less effortful.
2    I think because I can take the time to think about what I understand (or don't!) and because unfamiliar spoken language becomes a jumble of sounds while unfamiliar written language remains clearly visible.
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#5
Addendum to "Why Meditate": The Underlying Skill

I think I may have failed to convey an important point in my "Why Meditate" post so I want to quickly clarify.
Reading that post you may find yourself wondering: why meditate to practice your ability to concentrate when you could just practice that while working on a task worth completing. And if you want to consider your reasons for procrastinating why not just do that? And if you want to quit a bad habit why not focus on that? Why not focus on the thing you actually want to do? Why do you have to meditate?

The answer is that there is a consistent requirement underlying all of these goals: Self awareness. This is what meditation works on. It's like learning to access the code one level deeper.*

*I don't actually know anything about coding. XD

Study update/reflection on failure

So yesterday (June 3rd) I failed to complete my schedule for the first time since starting and I think it's worth reflecting on that a bit. I was initially pretty down on myself but I think that's one of the reasons my failures tend to snowball as today's failure becomes tomorrow's guilt. Today was a scheduled non study day (my first so far) and I'd already made plans with other people. I decided the best course of action was to reflect on what can be learned from yesterday, take the day off guilt free today and return to work refreshed and ready to go tomorrow.

What went wrong

This is pretty obvious actually. As part of my routine adding words to anki I also look up all the difficult things I noted down, but I struggled to find what I needed this time and after a lot of frustrated searching I still had to do my anki reviews then newspaper reading, my least favourite part of the whole schedule. I pushed through that but by the end I was well behind schedule and didn't feel like finishing out the day.

What went right

I planned my schedule around the assumption that I wouldn't be perfect every day and taking a step back I realise that yesterday shows I did a pretty good job of this. Firstly the modular design of adding month 2 on top of an unchanged month 1 succeeded in getting me to complete month 1's schedule without question even when the whole day seemed like too much. Secondly I actually spent the rest of the day relaxing by reading Japanese, which shows I've been forming the habits I want to form.

What needs to change

I need to stop problems early in the schedule from derailing later parts. This is especially a problem with output based goals as opposed to time boxes. I think the best thing to do is simply to set a time limit for sections of the schedule. This introduces an explicit fail state which allows me to recognise when it's time to move on.

I also think I need to find a good grammar reference.

Audiobooks

On the first of the month I started listening to an audiobook, イン・ザ・プール, and am now a few hours in. It's a collection of short stories centering around the patients of a particular doctor. I get the impression it's supposed to be funnier than I'm finding it, and am not sure if that's because I don't get the jokes or because it's not funny, but it's reasonably listenable either way. I wouldn't exactly recommend it but the premise never appealed to me anyway so I wouldn't want to discourage anyone who likes the sound of it.

In terms of comprehension I'd give myself a C-. Not great but I'm getting by without too much trouble. I'm using this and the two other audiobooks I have (桐島、部活やめるってよ and 池袋ウエストゲートパーク) to guage whether I should sign up to audible.jp. They're not books I chose myself though so no idea whether I'll like them.
Edited: 2017-06-04, 8:07 pm
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#6
Back on the wagon! Big Grin

My Study History

This is going to be pretty vague as I have some contradictory memories but I'll do my best.

What got me started

I have some Japanese relatives and that exposed me to the language and culture, especially in my late teens when they introduced me to anime. I found the language so fascinating that I just started looking things up without any expectation of ever being able to learn the language. I checked a couple of beginner textbooks out of the library and got so excited whenever I recognised "はい" or "よろしく" in an anime.

After a while it started to dawn on me that if a little bit of study allowed me to understand a little bit of Japanese, perhaps a lot of study would allow me to understand a lot of Japanese. For the first time I had hope that learning Japanese was an achievable goal and it quickly became an obsession. This is when I registered on this site in 2010 and is the date I use to measure how long I've been studying.

Early Study Methods

I started with a textbook called "Japanese for Busy People", which I never completed and thought was terrible. No idea if that's a fair assessment or not because I can't recall a single criticism.

I did most of RTK1 but towards the end I started to feel like I was wasting my time. I thought then, and still do now, that the main thing RTK has to offer is the ability to break down kanji and create mnemonics out of the components. Once I had that, putting off vocabulary study to memorise more kanji didn't seem to make sense. I'm not sure how long I kept reviewing but I'm not doing it any more so I must have stopped at some point.

At this point the accepted wisdom of the time seemed to me to be that you should aim to SRS 10000 (or some such number) sentences, and this made sense to me so I set to work on Core 6k and supported it with
Tae Kim's Grammar Guide, which made much more sense to me than any of the textbooks I'd read.


Moving forward: The Input Hypothesis

After perhaps about a year I was starting to become disillusioned by the fact that my study didn't seem to be translating to understanding native material. Even when I knew I'd "memorised" a word in Anki I still couldn't recognise it in the wild and I wondered if I ever would. I'd heard about the input hypothesis and decided to try it. I just sat down and started reading ゼロの使い魔 (terrible book) all day every day for about a week, looking up every word until it was done.

The results were amazing and I was hooked. It blew my mind that I could actually see a noticeable improvement from just 1 week of study. From then until now my study has consisted almost entirely of working my way through native media whilst looking things up. I've been very inconsistent because I always just let my motivation levels decide how much/if I studied, and it wasn't rare for me to take multiple months off in a row, but I was always drawn back to study more. I don't think I finished Tae Kim and I definitely didn't finish Core 6k.

It's also probably worth me saying that I really enjoy looking up words* and having to work to understand sentences. There's obviously a balance to be found, but just as too much can be frustrating it can also be boring not to have anything to look up. This makes reading in Japanese fun to me in a way that English just isn't.

*Aside from the frustration of thinking "I should know that!"



Miscellaneous


Anki

I have come to the conclusion that anki reviews should always be about getting through as much information in as little time as possible. If you've built strong associations by seeing words in various contexts outside anki, then even a brief sight of the word will trigger these associations and create a strong memory. Conversely no matter how good a card you make or how long you spend staring at it, it's never going to make up for a lack of true exposure.

I always try to:
  1. Make sure each card tests only one thing.
  2. Fail cards I can't recall quickly. (I use a metronome to let me know how long I'm taking)

    Also, read this.


Lang-8

I also used Lang-8 for a while but stopped because I realised I was much more interested in understanding the language than writing it. I'm glad I did it though because I ended up writing this short story. Quality aside I really value the memory of writing this because it's literally the only time I've enjoyed writing a story despite always thinking that it's something I "should" love doing. I'm thinking that after the JLPT I might give it another go.

The "What's this word/phrase?" thread

This is probably my favourite thread on any forum I've ever read. I view it as a collection of puzzles of varying complexity with the answers explained by smart people. As well as trying to answer new questions as they came up I actually went to the first post and started reading my way through. Never finished but lots of fun was had.
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#7
Minor update:

I just finished my first complete set of questions from Drill & Drill Grammar, Listening and reading, and the results were actually much better than expected. Previously I posted "My scores on the textbook questions have been so abysmal that now I'm doubtful I can pass even with 6 months to prepare" after 3/10 on the first grammar section and 1/6 on the first listening. It turned out though that those were my worst scores throughout. Here's the full breakdown:
       

 
 -------------|  Grammar  |-------|  Reading   |---|  Listening

1-------------|   3/10 |-------------| 4/5 |-------------|   1/6

2-------------|    5/5  |-------------| 4/6  |-------------|  7/7

3-------------|    2/5  |-------------| 4/4 |-------------| 5/6

4 |-------------|----- |-------------|  3/3|-------------|12/14

5|-------------|----- |---------------| 3/4  |-------------| 5/8

6|-------------|----- |--------------|   2/2|-------------| 

Total-------------| 10/20|---------|  30/41|-----------|  20/24|-------------|  60/85



So I still have a long way to go, and that was without time constraints, but I'm feeling pretty relieved. I'm also strongly considering whether I should get the vocab book as well. It's not just the money but also the study time. I feel like reading + anki is better for building vocab and my textbook time would be better spent on the more complicated question types. That being said though, familiarity with the format is always helpful and I suspect I'll never shake the feeling that I'm not studying properly if I don't prepare specifically for every question type.

Change to study schedule

I decided to cut out the dedicated breakfast time and drink a smoothie while reading in the morning. I also split my reading in to dedicated intensive reading and extensive reading chunks. So it looks like

40 mins - Intensive reading while drinking smoothie
1     hr  -  Extensive reading
10 mins - Music aural training


Everything else is unchanged so that's an extra 40 minutes reading + 5 min aural training at no extra time cost.

I've been thinking a lot about how to make Japanese study more focused and deliberate because I've always been bothered by the contrast between how I practice music. In music I explicitly identify things I want to change and then carefully practice them in an intensely focused way. In Japanese I just tend to rely on quantity of study. This contrast has always bothered me but my dissatisfaction came to a head recently due to my meditation and reading "deep work" by Cal Newport. Newport really stresses the importance of focusing intensely on what you want to learn and I felt like the whole book was describing the difference between my music practice and my Japanese study.

In this vein I've been completely rethinking my understanding of Extensive Reading. It needs to be it's own post but I've come to the conclusion it's an incredibly powerful tool that I've been almost completely neglecting until now.

Completed media

[Novel] 死神の浮力 - This was great. It's about a shinigami named Chiba who is basically a bureaucrat who's job it is to investigate people who've been selected to die and give the final go ahead. To do this he pretends to be a human and ingratiates himself in to their lives. In this book he's assigned to an author who's daughter was recently murdered and the murderer was just ruled "not guilty".

I love the juxtaposition of the high stakes plot with a conspicuously disinterested main character. Everyone else in the book is acting out a dramatic revenge plot and Chiba is just in  the middle of it all trying and failing to play along.

[Audiobook] イン・ザ・プール  - This was okay. Definitely some good moments but also quite dull in places.

[anime] Yuri on Ice - I forgot I was watching this when I posted before. I really liked the early episodes but it didn't quite hold up till the end. It was still enjoyable though so I would recommend. Some of the skating routines are really great, although I can't tell the difference between the hard spinney jump things and the easy spinney jump things.

Dropped

[Anime] Darker than Black - The first season was okay but by episode 7 or 8 of the second I still hadn't enjoyed a single episode so I decided to drop it. I satisfied my goal of quieting the nagging voice that for 10 years has been reminding me I still need to find out what happens after the first season finale.
Edited: 2017-06-19, 9:47 pm
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#8
(2017-06-19, 9:44 pm)Splatted Wrote: In this vein I've been completely rethinking my understanding of Extensive Reading. It needs to be it's own post but I've come to the conclusion it's an incredibly powerful tool that I've been almost completely neglecting until now.
+10. It echoes a similar line of thinking I've had recently, and have been capturing in my own study log. Anki is a good jump start, but I feel lately like Extensive Reading is where all of the study and prep really comes home and starts to solidify as active language structures in my brain. Looking forward to your follow up post.
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#9
Yeah I saw you quit anki! It's been making me reconsider my use of it. I'm in complete agreement that reading is what's important. Anki should only ever be used to support that or perhaps not at all. I'd actually go a step further than you and say the same holds true even for beginners since the words they need to learn are so common.

I'm still leaning towards keeping going with it though because I do feel like the two activities support each other such that reading makes anki more efficient and using anki makes time spent reading more efficient, but even if that's true I'm not sure it's a good investment. There are lots of hidden costs with Anki.

Looking at just my review time for today (13 minutes) it seems like an insignificant cost in lost reading time but add to that the time spent writing down words, typing them up on to the computer and adding them to anki and it clearly is a lot of time. Not necessarily wasted time, but still a lot. And what about the way it switches your focus from thinking about what you're reading to thinking about what to add to anki? There are so many hidden costs to just a few minutes of studying flash cards.
Edited: 2017-06-20, 1:47 pm
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#10
(2017-06-20, 1:46 pm)Splatted Wrote: Yeah I saw you quit anki! It's been making me reconsider my use of it. I'm in complete agreement that reading is what's important. Anki should only ever be used to support that or perhaps not at all. I'd actually go a step further than you and say the same holds true even for beginners since the words they need to learn are so common.

I'm still leaning towards keeping going with it though because I do feel like the two activities support each other such that reading makes anki more efficient and using anki makes time spent reading more efficient, but even if that's true I'm not sure it's a good investment. There are lots of hidden costs with Anki.

Looking at just my review time for today (13 minutes) it seems like an insignificant cost in lost reading time but add to that the time spent writing down words, typing them up on to the computer and adding them to anki and it clearly is a lot of time. Not necessarily wasted time, but still a lot. And what about the way it switches your focus from thinking about what you're reading to thinking about what to add to anki? There are so many hidden costs to just a few minutes of studying flash cards.

I agree with the first para. I think the most progress I ever made, even as a beginner, was making my own comprehensive materials - taking stuff that was within striking distance of understanding, and reading and re-reading it until it became easier. At first, this felt like studying; eventually, it felt less like studying and more like normal enjoyment of native material. 

This might be slow and boring for some people, but I found it to be the only thing that ever kept me motivated. Plus, it preserves the context of the words I'm learning. I feel like I'm still fleshing out my understanding of certain key words in Japanese, and I think that's because I Anki'd them and, because I knew *one* meaning or context of the word, thought I understood it. That might work for some words, but totally falls down with things like かける, 引く, 控える, and a whole host of other expressions. 

Another thing I've noticed is that I've become more sensitive the more I read to what words I *need* to know, i.e., what words actually count as common for the material I'm learning. E.g., I've noticed that 腹をくくる is not as rare as I once though, especially in novels. Sure, part of this is probably the Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon, but I think the other is pure exposure. You get more exposure to actual Japanese when 15 to 60 minutes of your day isn't taken up with vocab reviews., and you've set an explicit daily reading goal. 

Finally, I'm someone who's VERY sensitive to failure, and the emotional tax of feeling "not good at Japanese" because I'm failing a slew of cards is something I find very discouraging, especially over the long run as the deck grows. Yes, I can suppress cards and trim my deck, but eventually I just decided it was easier to trim the entire deck Smile

If I were to do it again, I would stick to the technique I enjoy best:
  • Review an article, and mine new vocab from it. Put the vocab in a simple list clearly associated with the article, or a stupid (non-SRS) flash card system like Midori. (I now have a Midori list, e.g., for each of the books I've read recently.) 
  • Study the vocab on occasion. Review your flashcards, and see if you can use some of the words in context as well.
  • At a future date, either re-read the article or, in the case of a book, re-read the book by the same author to get more of the same vocab in context.
  • Rinse and repeat for the rest of your life. 

I'd love a simple software app that supported just such a system for digital texts. LingQ is the closest I've seen to date, but is a little cumbersome. (Disclaimer: I haven't used LingQ since its redesign.) If Yomichan supported saving vocab lists with a random article on the Internet, I'd love it even more than I love it now.

However, I think this method also works fine with Anki on a short-term basis. I.e., use Yomichan to save words to an Anki deck for stuff you've read recently, and study a finite batch of words for, say, two weeks; at the end of that period, flush the existing words and start from scratch. And yes, that totally flouts the entire notion of SRS for long term retention. Oh well.

EDIT: Sorry to take up so much space on your thread!! That became, ah, longer than I intended...
Edited: 2017-06-20, 2:48 pm
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#11
I cut that time cost down by just adding things automatically (the only cards I add by hand are kanji cards). Since I have to look up some words anyway, I just add them if I see them multiple times without being able to read them or think they're useful/interesting.

I know that's not really possible with regular books and other formats that aren't digital text, but I pretty much ignore adding cards from those.
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#12
I've been offline since mid May so I think I missed the start of your journal, but I just wanted to say thumbs up on reading the manga One Piece. (Granted you haven't mentioned it since the beginning so maybe it is on the back burner but still.) I enjoy watching the anime occasionally, but there is no question that the manga is far superior.

I started on a quest some time ago to reread everything in Japanese, burned out around volume 58 but I plan to get back to it. I follow the most recent chapters in a mixture of Japanese and English, but I really like re-reading everything straight through after the volumes come out.

On the whole it is not hard reading but it's dense with information (and visual detail), and the verbal tics and silly puns can make it more difficult if you don't realize he is using something that is not normal Japanese. (Mr 3 used to drive me nuts even when he made me laugh... "What kind of ga is that...? Oh, <i>gane</i>.")

Anyway, enjoying your log. I also am debating the value of Anki vs. extensive consumption. Anki was starting to become burdensome before I left town and dropped all my reviews, and of course recovering from a month long lapse makes it worse. I do think there are specific things I gain from doing both, but the balance is tricky. I'll probably emphasize time spent on media consumption for a while as I'm gradually getting my reviews back to current. Right now I'm probably not doing more than 15 mins of anki a day, only doing reviews from one or two decks.
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#13
Thanks everyone for taking the time to comment. Smile

@Gaiaslastlaugh: I completely agree about seeing words in different contexts and I think cutting loose from old decks is important though I wouldn't be anywhere as hack and burn as you. The way I see it you shouldn't really need to be studying mature words because once the intervals get large you're likely using them more often than that anyway.

Hadn't considered the disheartening effects of getting cards wrong tbh. Perhaps this is just my personality but it could also be because I focus on reviewing as quickly as possible and that gives me another stat to focus on. Also I think failing a card quickly saves more time than passing a card slowly, but I guess that's irrelevant to you now.

@Sholum: Yeah I used to do that but I'm making a concerted effort to spend more time disconnected from computerrs and that means writing things down. To be fair though I've always found written language very pleasing so efficiency aside it's quite nice to practice writing.

@Tanaquil: Yeah it was frustration with the shoddyness (mostly the padding of every episode) of the One Piece anime that drove me to start reading the manga but I'm glad I did because it turns out the art is really great and I never would have guessed that. The choice to write about a character with the super power of being rubber makes so much more sense in the manga when you see all the perspective shots and the ways in which the fight choreography takes advantage of a character who can move in any way the artist wants him to. I always felt it spoiled the pacing in the anime whenever we had to wait while Luffy stretched or retracted a limb but this problem just doesn't exist in the manga.

You're right that it's taking a back seat for a while though it was never my intention to read it all in one mad rush. I don't really want to be caught up and I definitely don't want to make myself sick of it. I'm on volume 29 (skypeia) and just dipping in and out occasionally. I don't really agree that it's not hard reading. I remember first attempting to read it a couple of years ago and just bouncing off because it was too hard. I was pretty comfortable reading most manga, including those without furigana, but all the slang, verbal tics, puns etc + high word count were too much. Even now I'd say it's more difficult than most of what I read, including the novels.

If you do decide keep on with anki I would suggest ditching the old deck. Just my opinion but if it's an old deck with lots of mature cards it's probably not worth continuing let alone catching up on once you've fallen behind. I think flashcards are good for getting over the period when a word is new and you forget it quickly, which is something exposure struggles to deal with, but long term retention is best achieved by using the language.

Just to be clear I'd like to reiterate that although I have my doubts about anki I do still think it's worth doing. I'm still doing it and expect to at least until the December test. I'd feel shitty if I criticised anki and got you to stop while I quietly kept going.
Edited: 2017-06-22, 1:22 am
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#14
Yeah, you have a point about the things that make OP a difficult manga to read, so maybe I underestimate how difficult it is for intermediate readers. It definitely takes me longer than average to read, but that's partly because I spend a lot more time paying attention to tiny details (the manga really rewards that, the level of planted blink-or-you'll-miss-it detail is astonishing).

The difficulty level also varies a lot. I was just reading the most recent chapter in Jump, and I swear every third word was something I'd never seen before. At other times, the narrative level is quite simple. Repeated reading helps a lot in that you get used to some of the repeated gags (the verbal tics are an obvious example of that).

Forge on through Skypeia! It's not clear to me how much of the later storyline you know, so I'll avoid spoilers, but it might help to know that many readers found Skypeia dull and dropped out - missing out on the fact that the next arc is drop-dead amazing. Skypeia is actually a lot more interesting than you'd think, but it is much better on a re-read when you realize how many clues to future plots Oda was busy sowing while nobody noticed.

While I generally keep current on the story line (sometimes falling behind for two or three months & then catching up quickly), my re-reads are more stop and go. I would never tell anyone to try to binge 85 volumes in Japanese. You'd get no sleep for six months. :-)

I will have to see what happens with anki this time round. I would never drop it completely, it's been too useful, but I'll have see what I can curtail/suspend/whatever to keep the time consumption minimal.
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#15
(2017-06-22, 1:29 pm)tanaquil Wrote: Forge on through Skypeia! It's not clear to me how much of the later storyline you know, so I'll avoid spoilers, but it might help to know that many readers found Skypeia dull and dropped out - missing out on the fact that the next arc is drop-dead amazing. Skypeia is actually a lot more interesting than you'd think, but it is much better on a re-read when you realize how many clues to future plots Oda was busy sowing while nobody noticed.

I don't get this one, Skypeia was by far one of my favorite arcs in One Piece. I've only seen the anime of that arc though. I don't know how well it compares to the manga.
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#16
(2017-06-22, 8:55 pm)Nandemonai Wrote:
(2017-06-22, 1:29 pm)tanaquil Wrote: Forge on through Skypeia! It's not clear to me how much of the later storyline you know, so I'll avoid spoilers, but it might help to know that many readers found Skypeia dull and dropped out - missing out on the fact that the next arc is drop-dead amazing. Skypeia is actually a lot more interesting than you'd think, but it is much better on a re-read when you realize how many clues to future plots Oda was busy sowing while nobody noticed.

I don't get this one, Skypeia was by far one of my favorite arcs in One Piece. I've only seen the anime of that arc though. I don't know how well it compares to the manga.

Interesting! Everyone has their own favorites. There are moments I love in Skypeia (the *spoiler* flashback sequence is wonderfully done), and re-reading it to find the subtle hints is fascinating, but even on a re-read, I find the amount of world-building involved (dials, etc) a bit exhausting. And I absolutely can't stand the main villain.

Sorry for semi-hijacking the thread, Splatted! On topic: I have been enjoying your reflections on establishing routines (study and otherwise) as well, since that's something I always struggle with.
Edited: 2017-06-23, 10:26 am
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#17
I have very fond memories of the Skypiea arc in the anime as well. It surprises me a lot that it's a common dropping off point. I'm not sure whether I took a break here because of the arc or simply because I'd read enough One Piece for a while. I got as far as Dressrosa in the anime (but didn't finish it) so I am enjoying the foreshadowing in Skypiea.

Edit: Thinking about it a lot of what I enjoyed in Skypeia the first time was how unexpected and different everything was; the heavy world building paid off in creating a novel and exciting experience. I'm not sure I'm getting that the second time round though. I still have to read through all the world building but the novelty doesn't pay out.

(2017-06-23, 10:23 am)tanaquil Wrote: Sorry for semi-hijacking the thread, Splatted! On topic: I have been enjoying your reflections on establishing routines (study and otherwise) as well, since that's something I always struggle with.

This is no Hijack! Discussion of Japanese media is one of the stated reasons for creating this thread. I'm glad you're interested in the routine related content. I was worried it would seem out of place/too basic.
Edited: 2017-06-24, 2:02 am
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#18
It might be that Skypeia is just more fun in the anime. I originally experienced it through the anime in a fairly short period of time (I was binge-watching OP back then). I've heard a lot more (more-or-less fond) moaning about it from people who were stuck reading the chapters on a weekly basis as they came out, and felt like the Enel fight would never end.

So you know the story through Dressrosa, that's good, I won't worry so much about spoilers (though I will still try to avoid any obvious ones for other readers). Oh, man, I feel your pain on the current anime. The level of padding reached excruciating levels in Dressrosa. I remember one (fairly trivial) character introduction scene that was like three panels in the manga; the anime stretched it out to a full five minutes. If you force me to choose, I prefer padding over filler arcs, and I'll still watch the anime occasionally, but the padding was what led me to stop keeping up with the anime on any kind of regular basis. I know from catching five minutes of an episode in Japan that the anime is now past Dressrosa, but I haven't seen more than that.

If consumption patterns are relevant to a study log: I discovered OP in 2011, back when the manga was just starting the Fishman Arc (so, around volume 60 I guess? I know the English volumes had only gotten to 56 at that point). I experienced the first part of the series almost entirely through anime up through the end of Enies Lobby, but then I was preparing for a trip to Japan and didn't want to be spoiled, so I switched to reading English manga and burned through to the beginning of Fishman Island that way (using scanlations for the stuff from vols 56-60). I remember at the time I was trying to read some of the early volumes in Japanese and volume 3 took me more than a week, ha.

Since then, I subscribe (annually) to Viz' digital manga app in English, and more recently Shonen Jump's digital app in Japanese iTunes, but I tend to forget to top up my account with Japanese iTunes cards, so when I fall weeks or months behind I usually catch up through the English chapters. I just came back from Japan with a pile of iTunes cards and am resolved to keep my Japanese subscription going.

I buy the Japanese volumes as they come out (more or less... sometimes I have to order two or three to catch up) but the volumes past 58 have mostly been sitting around wrapped waiting for me to catch up on my Japanese OP reading project. I'd like to get to the point where I am caught up enough to be actually (re)reading each Japanese volume as it comes out, since there are a lot of fun added details like the SBS corners that I miss otherwise.
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#19
(2017-06-24, 9:44 am)tanaquil Wrote: It might be that Skypeia is just more fun in the anime. I originally experienced it through the anime in a fairly short period of time (I was binge-watching OP back then). I've heard a lot more (more-or-less fond) moaning about it from people who were stuck reading the chapters on a weekly basis as they came out, and felt like the Enel fight would never end.

Could be. I remember it being quite fast paced in the anime but I was probably binge watching it.

(2017-06-24, 9:44 am)tanaquil Wrote: So you know the story through Dressrosa, that's good, I won't worry so much about spoilers (though I will still try to avoid any obvious ones for other readers). Oh, man, I feel your pain on the current anime. The level of padding reached excruciating levels in Dressrosa. I remember one (fairly trivial) character introduction scene that was like three panels in the manga; the anime stretched it out to a full five minutes. If you force me to choose, I prefer padding over filler arcs, and I'll still watch the anime occasionally, but the padding was what led me to stop keeping up with the anime on any kind of regular basis. I know from catching five minutes of an episode in Japan that the anime is now past Dressrosa, but I haven't seen more than that.

I much prefer filler to padding. Partly because I can just skip filler, but even when I do watch it I feel padding spoils the story while filler just makes you wait for it. To put it another way, a filler arc is like broadcasting some fanfiction while the anime is on hiatus while padded episodes are just bad adaptations.

(2017-06-24, 9:44 am)tanaquil Wrote: If consumption patterns are relevant to a study log: I discovered OP in 2011, back when the manga was just starting the Fishman Arc (so, around volume 60 I guess? I know the English volumes had only gotten to 56 at that point). I experienced the first part of the series almost entirely through anime up through the end of Enies Lobby, but then I was preparing for a trip to Japan and didn't want to be spoiled, so I switched to reading English manga and burned through to the beginning of Fishman Island that way (using scanlations for the stuff from vols 56-60). I remember at the time I was trying to read some of the early volumes in Japanese and volume 3 took me more than a week, ha.

Since then, I subscribe (annually) to Viz' digital manga app in English, and more recently Shonen Jump's digital app in Japanese iTunes, but I tend to forget to top up my account with Japanese iTunes cards, so when I fall weeks or months behind I usually catch up through the English chapters. I just came back from Japan with a pile of iTunes cards and am resolved to keep my Japanese subscription going.

I buy the Japanese volumes as they come out (more or less... sometimes I have to order two or three to catch up) but the volumes past 58 have mostly been sitting around wrapped waiting for me to catch up on my Japanese OP reading project. I'd like to get to the point where I am caught up enough to be actually (re)reading each Japanese volume as it comes out, since there are a lot of fun added details like the SBS corners that I miss otherwise.

Interesting that you still read the English. I always feel dissatisfied that I'm not reading the "true version" when I do that so even when something's too hard to read I'll forgo it instead of compromising. One Piece a few years ago is actually a good example of this.
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#20
Study Update

It's coming up to the end of the month when I was hoping to be able to add some more to my study schedule but it honestly hasn't been going too well so I don't think that's a good idea.

Partly this is the expected problem of struggling to motivate myself to stick to the schedule, but there is also a more worrying trend of just going through the motions. I'll sit down to read but actually spend my time daydreaming, humming tunes and reading without really paying attention. I think when I first returned to studying 1.5 months ago there was a sense of novelty about the whole thing that captured my attention in a way that "the routine" never will.

The question is: do I need to make a change or should I push through this? I think the answer to this is in my goals for this whole process.
(2017-05-10, 9:30 pm)Splatted Wrote: What I really want is to learn self discipline, good habits and create a work routine that I can use as a basis for achieving other goals moving forward.

Changing things up may up my productivity but it's not in line with my goal of improving self discipline. I want to be a person who is unfazed by ups and downs in motivation, mood and success and is able to just keep working regardless. It may be that I need to keep things varied in order to remain at my best, but I don't think that will ever be a substitute for self discipline so these months will not be wasted. It could also be that I will reach even higher levels of concentration by persistently forcing myself to focus on the same thing at the same time every day.

So what now?

Now, while my study schedule remains the same, seems like a good time to make other changes to my life that will support further study. I think it's important to be thoughtful about how you spend your spare time when you increase the amount you are working because this has been a point of failure during my previous attempts to work harder. Even when you enjoy the schedule you've set for yourself it's important to account for how that involves cutting out other things that you may care about. Not only that, but if your not careful it's easy to fritter away free time without thinking and end up not doing any of the things you care about. This makes it feel like everything revolves around the study schedule and is probably not sustainable for most people.

I want to take this time to think about what I value so I do feel like I've made satisfying use of my free time and have a good balance in my life. I'm probably not going to be posting the specifics of this as they are presumably not relevant to others but I think the fact that I'm doing it is something that was important to this journal.

I have also decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. This may seem quite extreme to a lot of people but I have such an inconsistent sleep schedule that it's neither early nor late.
Edited: 2017-06-27, 1:04 pm
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#21
(2017-06-27, 6:08 am)Splatted Wrote: I have also decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. This may seem quite extreme to a lot of people but I have such an inconsistent sleep schedule that it's neither early nor late.

When do you go to sleep then? This seems like extremely early and I wish I could do it myself, but I'm a sucker for sleep.
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#22
(2017-06-27, 6:08 am)Splatted Wrote: I have also decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. This may seem quite extreme to a lot of people but I have such an inconsistent sleep schedule that it's neither early nor late.

You may want to try for a more regular sleep schedule. I have tried different sleep hacks in the past and by far the most productive thing I ever did was going to bed and waking at the same time every single day. The body's circadian rhythms are very strong and working against them makes everything else much harder.
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#23
(2017-06-27, 8:21 pm)Nandemonai Wrote:
(2017-06-27, 6:08 am)Splatted Wrote: I have also decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. This may seem quite extreme to a lot of people but I have such an inconsistent sleep schedule that it's neither early nor late.

When do you go to sleep then? This seems like extremely early and I wish I could do it myself, but I'm a sucker for sleep.

I'm thinking about 8:00, with 6:00 being the cut off point for wakeful activities like surfing the web, but it's going to take some experimentation to get an actual time. If it turns out I need more sleep than that I'll probably get up later rather than go to bed earlier since 8:00 is a time that can be stretched for late nights with other people/evening events, but any earlier would be pushing it.

Getting up early isn't for everyone since just cutting out is pointless. You need to think in terms of what you would be sacrificing sleeping earlier vs what you would gain from getting up early.

(2017-06-27, 8:53 pm)yogert909 Wrote:
(2017-06-27, 6:08 am)Splatted Wrote: I have also decided to start getting up at 4:30 every morning. This may seem quite extreme to a lot of people but I have such an inconsistent sleep schedule that it's neither early nor late.

You may want to try for a more regular sleep schedule.  I have tried different sleep hacks in the past and by far the most productive thing I ever did was going to bed and waking at the same time every single day.  The body's circadian rhythms are very strong and working against them makes everything else much harder.

Thanks, that's a large part of why I'm trying to do this. I've had pretty severe sleep problems for about as long as I can remember, so this is really just the latest attempt.
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#24
(2017-06-29, 9:58 am)Splatted Wrote: I'm thinking about 8:00, with 6:00 being the cut off point for wakeful activities like surfing the web, but it's going to take some experimentation to get an actual time. If it turns out I need more sleep than that I'll probably get up later rather than go to bed earlier since 8:00 is a time that can be stretched for late nights with other people/evening events, but any earlier would be pushing it.

Getting up early isn't for everyone since just cutting out is pointless. You need to think in terms of what you would be sacrificing sleeping earlier vs what you would gain from getting up early.

That makes sense. Not really possible with my current job situation, as I usually end work at around 7 to 7:30 pm, and if I go to the gym as well I won't be home until 10:30 - 11pm. I'll probably gain more from consistently going to sleep at midnight and wake up at 7:30 - 8am-ish.
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#25
(2017-06-29, 8:45 pm)Nandemonai Wrote: That makes sense. Not really possible with my current job situation, as I usually end work at around 7 to 7:30 pm, and if I go to the gym as well I won't be home until 10:30 - 11pm. I'll probably gain more from consistently going to sleep at midnight and wake up at 7:30 - 8am-ish.

Well it's hard to say based on just that. To parrot what I've read you need to think about:

1. What times of the day do you have the most energy?
2. What activities are the most important?
3. How much energy does each activity require?

So for example if you value Japanese the most and are at your best in the morning/worst in the evening + your work is easy and valueless then it might well be worth getting up earlier to make work the last thing you do in the day instead of the first. OTOH if you are a night owl then leaving things as they are might be best.

Or perhaps you value both work and Japanese but have no energy for Japanese left after work. In that case you could still get up early to study Japanese but also cordon off the morning at work to focus on the skilled aspects and then use the afternoon/early evening to deal with the grunt work.

If this sounds interesting to you I recommend you read Deep Work by Cal Newport. In it he outlines various strategies for carving out time to focus on important tasks amidst a sea of different work and social commitments.
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