September 30, 2008

It's All About Me Me Me

Hey there, I'm going to a bloggers' party tonight, on the invitation of the virally net-famous Danny Choo (he's the dancing stormtrooper). So I thought this would be a good time to post this screen grab from a website that compiles a multimedia wall of youtube content based on keywords, in order to have something to present tonight. My keyword was, of course, Claytonian. Have a look:

I do pleading eyebrows quite often, don't I. And to think, I laughed at the same eyebrows on Natalie Portman when she said, "You're breaking my heart, Anakin!" Hey, back on Starwars already. Annnnd... off it.

I make cheap copies at a local bookstore for my freelancing. I think the owner doesn't like foreigners or something; I've seen her talk nicely to other customers but she treats me like dirt and avoids polite language beyond the bare minimum of masu-form when I have a problem with the machine, which is often (it's an odd machine). Now, it's a bit late in the game for me to realize this, having just turned 28, but I've come to feel that I get really stressed when I don't have a good relationship with someone (I am also a perverse blend of instigator and peace maker--what a meddler I be). So I am trying to get this lady to warm up, for my own sake if nothing else. "Hello," I say each time I come (in Japanese of course). She has yet to change, so I get more stressed and try to be more friendly. And I could probably--nay should-- take my business elsewhere, but this odd thing of a Japanese person being rude really gets to me and I have to try...
Along the same vein, some of the members of the English club I work for have complained that my lessons are a bit too hard. I really stress out when I hear that sort of thing, thought it shall be a simple matter to change things (my plans are already in motion, and my simpler reading materials arranged). So I am worried. While I know what is like to not get things in a language learning situation (boy do I ever know), I am a little unsure of what a retiree wants out of an English club. It seems they are in it more for something fun to do than to improve their skills, and who am I to dis that idea? When you retire, you wanna take it easy right? My instigator-side isn't happy with complacency though...
Oh, one more thing about the copy lady. She sells magazines with little girls in bikinis on the cover (work safe link, I swear) in her store, so at the end of the day, if I can't charm her, I can at least feel superior. And that, folks, is, in a nutshell, how to lead a successful lifestyle in a foreign land! a cha cha!

September 19, 2008

Finally Passed 2kyu (In School)

Hey I finally passed 2kyu. We took the test (using 1996 problems) the other day. Not bad, considering a couple months back (one which was of break time without class) I only got a 50% on the 2kyu-based assessment test. If I pass 1kyu this year, it will be thanks to the school--and I hope I do this year; it changes format next year!. I have to do a lot of vocabulary studying on my own time, but really, this place helps.

So speaking of which, I've decided to re-release some anki decks. Before, I've used a mega deck (like 9000 words), but recently I split off the 1kyu and 2kyu words and grammar. Another thing that is new is that I have modified a ton of the entries. Mostly, it's me putting suru (in romaji) next to suru verbs to help me remember and identify in context, but I corrected some definitions that I didn't like. I also put na, teki, and the occasional sei in romaji where appropriate too. Also, under some words I put, in italics, phrases or larger words that incorporate the head word. My goal is just to be familiar with these supplemental phrases; I don't count them for or against my judgment of how well I memorized the card.

I can't guarantee that all the cards are modified at this point (I think I've seen them all once, but...), and I will continue to modify cards, especially grammar cards. My understanding of grammar points gets a little better all the time. I may re-release again some day, but you should make decks your own. And perhaps most importantly, I deleted a lot of words I thought were too simple/knew by heart, so keep that in mind. Also, I understand there are a lot of decks to be found on the anki site; I am using a names deck now.

After the test in December, I think I will start converting definitions to Japanese, and maybe even start using a vocabulary technique in one of my many books. It goes like this: when memorizing a word, memorize the plain definition, the antonym, a simile, and an exaggeration. the plain def is the only one in English (or even not, if you are gung-ho). If you forget the plain definition, you have the others to rely on.

Also, when I was condensing knowledge from the JET translation books (and putting it here), I discovered I learned a lot from using comparative statements, like, "what is the difference between くれる and くださる", or, "what is a more polite way to say ~?" So I think I will start doing that with grammar points. I may make questions like, "what does 極めて follow?" or "What particle is needed before たえない?"
Aoi Yu is one of the most モエ girls in Japan. Here's an article she wrote.

September 16, 2008

Book Reviews

Just in case you missed them on Japan Probe, I did a couple book reviews in a video. It has so few comments that I am afraid people have finally realized what I knew all along...
People's comments last post were interesting. Some thoughts of mine: Why stop at one dream, especially if you feel you can focus sufficiently on the important ones? My underlying dream of dreams seems to be to live in a house in a bamboo covered, mossy mountain in Japan somewhere. With that in mind, I don't have much to stress about; there are many paths. I also still believe that the universe helps me out, and there will be a way of some sort. I got to Japan in the first place, after all. That said, I feel I have some side projects to attend to, and maybe some networking to do too.

September 12, 2008

Tell Me How to do People Stuff

In this post I turn to you, the readers, because you have common sense and I don't.--case in point: Today I finally decided figure out how to pay the rent in this country. That's right, for three years, stuff just happened for me and I didn't really know how, because I had kind keepers. I guess I've done 振込みs before, but this was the first time to pay rent by them for me. End digression with double hyphen in 3, 2,...-- So, my question for you, gentle reader, is:

How do I realize my dream to work in the Japanese book industry and design book covers and layouts? Should I break down and go to grad school some where? Should I just teach Eikaiwa after I finish at this little language school, and hope an opportunity comes to me somehow? Should I get a job in the mail room at a Japanese publisher and work my way up? Should I dust off my old graphic design portfolio and hope no one asks why the only thing I've designed in the last 4 years is a blogspot layout (yes this one). I'm not sure.

Seeing the principal advising all the students here each day, who are much younger than me on average and just looking to begin their college careers in earnest, has me thinking about my future. I am, though poorish, debt free at this point in my life, and I didn't like academia the first time around. Don't get me wrong, learning and studying are some of my favorite things, but I draw to much attention to myself in a classroom environment, and that can cause teachers to polarize towards or against me. And then these very human people control my fate and wrack me with stress and emphasize things they care about over what I want to learn. Messy. But I guess that's part of life, eh? Dealing with people and their highs and lows. It can be beautiful, but...

This post reads like I am autistic, doesn't it.
Then I have the other dreams to do something involving the Japanese movie industry too. And even a dream to just work in a rice field somewhere, like this guy. Or own a bookstore. There are tons of things I want to do in Japan. I have a friend thinking about coming back to Japan and marrying his girlfriend, then owning a restaurant. That would be awesome.

September 9, 2008

Because You Asked

What, you didn't ask? That's odd. No, really, someone was having trouble finding my wishlist, during this, the crucial month of my birthening. Try going here. I'd like some books with the Power Japanese sumo wrestler on them please. Or 1 yen Trick books (on the first page of the wishlist).

Shameless, but I've always considered blogging a job that one can tip on, if so inclined, via comments or what have you. The internet is one giant coffee shop.

September 8, 2008

Super JLPT site

EDIT: Hmm, it looks like there may be a few mistakes on the site I recommend here, so proceed with caution. For instance, I just got:
Wherein the correct answer is listed as "早いが", but I am pretty sure they mean か, not が. Unless I am mistaken. Also, I think ラベル is supposed to be just ベル. I guess you get what you pay for. And now on with the post that is for some reason still offering the link to this site:

If you are not subbed to my shared RSS bits, you may have missed this, but it's so impressive thus far that I could not just relegate it to there. Lucky you, Mr. too lazy to sub to my rss bits feed man. So I give those of us slaving away at JLPT studies this link. Seriously, click it.

So far, it serves as a grim confirmation of what I have been predicting. I am not ready. Last night I whittled my Anki deck down to just 1kyu terms (the others still exist somewhere). Anyways, I've improved it quite a bit from when it was simply a list I found on a website and converted it to an Anki deck. I will offer it for download here soon, as I have in the past. My advice to you is never be satisfied with fishy definitions, even from me.

I had more thoughts on the last post, and made a fancy picture-thingy to explain the ideas I had to help fix what I was rambling about, but forgot to bring it with me on the thumb drive. Perhaps next time as well. You might want to consider my RSS feed for this blog for your update needs. In fact, I have tons of RSS feeds for you. But putting the topic back to last post, someone was wondering agog about what the heck I was talking about. The problem is it would take a long time to describe it to you, and to study in the manner I outlined would take a textbook that only exists in my head as a book-amoeba. It may mitosisize soon too. Anyways, my advice at this stage, besides take all my advice with a grain of salt, is to buy (or torrent for the evil among us) the Remembering the Kanji books. Master the first two volumes. Well, actually, I think just getting familiar with volume 2 is enough at first, but master 1. Then read Tae Kim's guide all the way through. That's the best Claytonian system-substitution I can offer at this time. Anyways, I've revised my thoughts into a more holistic, staggered system-amoeba in my head zone. And there is always the approach that people mentioned in the comments last time: All Japanese All the Time. Thing is, there seem to be some gaps in his system I've never gotten to figure out. I am sure the problem lies with me. I just want to know where he got 10,000 example sentences, and how he made sure they are good and full of a variety of words. It sounds intriguing though. Maybe he should make a textbook.

Geeze, another long post about something only a few lingistics nerds care about. And my tone is odd; no doubt because I have been reading John Hodgeman's blog.

September 5, 2008

If You Want to Learn Japanese

Long post is looooong. And tautology cat is tautological.
If I could go back to the beginning and learn Japanese again... well, a number of things could have been better. No class I have ever heard of really teaches things in the right order. I'm not even sure what the right order is, but I think it might be something like this:

Though I know it would make Tae Kim bristle, I think learning the kanji by the Heisig method (assigning English readings to, and memorizing out of context (at first) all the kanji, plus learning to write them via mnemonic stories) would be best for a beginner of Japanese. It would probably take up a whole semester; a really intense one. However, I wouldn't adhere strictly to the "daily use" kanji, since we all know that list is a bit off; on that point I break a bit with Heisig, but as per Heisig, delaying the Asian readings a bit bring us to the next phase/semester:
Then the kana comes. After that, the onyomi and katakana words. Then lots of 2-character words (finally, context of how kanji work together!), maybe as many as 500 (I would write their readings, at this point in the game, in katakana to subconsciously emphasize the difference from what is to come later). But not one-kanji words, because most don't use a Chinese reading and we don't want to worry about that and conjugation yet, so only onyomi readings, no tricky words with kunyomi reading at this point (no okurigana!), to be followed by longer, multiple-kanji words and 4-character words/idioms (gotta have idioms for fun and a little history helps make things interesting). At this time, だ can be taught to let the students finally be able to make a sentence.*
Following all these onyomi (kango) words would be the one-kanji kunyomi words complete with okurigana and conjugation(also *--you'll see why when you get to the footnotes). Towards the end of all this (at the same time): the beginnings of grammar instruction.
And when I talk grammar, I think the order should be important too. First, the concept that a verb is a complete sentence (and that a copula is a very special verb with limited conjugations!); I wouldn't emphasize the pronouns for a long time (though they may know the kanji and readings for them, students wouldn't get the grammar to use them for a while). I want to make subject-less language seem natural to them. I would cover almost all the verb conjugations (this is during the kunyomi stage of instruction); really show how agglutinative this language is. At the same time, the suru verb concept gets good play.
Following right along should be na-adjectives, because of the special role that copulas play with them, letting you make adjectives (na is da). Then no-adjectives, which should be a short section. After that, i-adjectives, because if we learn them after other adjectives, we are less likely to get na-adjectives that sound like i-adjectives mixed up in our heads when we conjugate (so master those na-adjective+copula conjugations first! Not 綺麗くない!綺麗じゃない).

At each step, I would make efforts to master all conjugation forms (て comes latter though). Anyways, most of the other grammar would come after the base-work had been established. Things like te-form would probably come later in the game; I would incorporate it into keigo instruction because of how often it comes up there (ex: ~てください or ~てあげる etc.), but I would probably introduce the so-called masu-stem shortly after furigana comes around (since it is used for a lot more than just masu). Yes, that sounds good; pretend I wrote that in the appropriate place above. After furigana comes verb stems and kunyomi combo-words.

*: I might let the copula だ loose here, just so they can make a simple sentence, but desu comes much later (note that I don't believe だ is merely a plain です; Tae Kim wouldn't bristle at that). In fact, I would always teach the plain and/or dictionary form of everything first, and maybe even delay masu's introduction (it's a special verb IMHO) . Polite language may be, well, polite, but it's instruction too early is a major problem that 99% of teachers make. Most people learn masu form before anything else; it's a little silly.

The main problem with my curriculum is that it would be long before people had the tools to converse, and the majority of people that take it in college (anime nerds) would probably not be patient enough for it. However, part of the reason why Japanese is hard to learn despite being so simple is because we learn it in a pretty mixed up manner. With the kanji and kana, it can feel like learning 4 languages at once; and they all get crammed in your head, delaying those important realizations that help you through a language. If you master being able to read, however, then encounter how to conjugate and link words in an orderly manner, I think it will be a series of simple concepts building upon each other. Another problem with my system in this post is memorizing words without context could be a bit hard to do, so an earlier introduction of some grammar elements may be necessary to make sentences. But really, no sentences until after the kanji are mastered on the singular level.
A lot of people learn phrasal Japanese ("my name is x, it is nice to meet you"), and while that may get you through a brief business meeting where you have a translator at your side, it will never teach you Japanese. Avoid phrases until you have mastered everything I say. Phrases are the icing that make you sound good and teach you about culture, but you can't adapt them unless you understand them.

So, anybody interested in learning this way? I would like to know how it works. I can't go back and relearn (well, in a way, that's what I often have to do, come to think of it) in real life; I can only speculate from my proverbial armchair. Sometimes I get the crazy idea to write a series of textbooks, but I am far from that stage... The more I look at this post, the more doubts I get about it, but...