Sunday, March 25, 2007

How I study Kanji

I've posted how I'm studying Kanji over at the Kanji forum.
If you're a Kanji Master or a Kanji Beginner, why don't you join us over at the forum?
I look forward to hearing how you learn Kanji.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Food and language learning

On page 47, Steve writes:
A Westerner visiting or living in Japan who will only eat "meat and potatoes" and does not enjoy sushi will usually not be successful in learning Japanese.

I had never heard of Steve when this book was published in November 2005. In fact, Steve does not know me. I have only tried a tuna sushi. I liked the soy sauce, but otherwise there was no flavor which I could enjoy or dislike. I don't care for fish. It does not matter whether it is cooked or not. I just don't find it delicious and I have no interest in fish at all. Does that make me a poor language learner?

There are lots of foods I don't eat. Should I just give up on language learning then? I don't drink or smoke. How will I ever be able to socialize with Japanese people?!!

Well, he did say, 'usually.' I guess I will have to be unusual. Anyway, I think I have been unusual my whole life.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

J.TEST results

Today, I got the results of my EF Level J.TEST. I took this to compare with the score I got on this level 3 years earlier. This is the low level of the two J.TEST categories. I see that every question is worth exactly 5 points. I missed 4 questions on the listening portion and 3 questions on the reading portion. The highest achievable score on the EF Level is 500 points. I won't be taking this level again. In 2004, the E Level certificate required a score of 350 points. Now you need 400 points to pass the E Level. The F Level still requires 300 points.

EF Level Scores

  • 02/2007 465 points
  • 02/2004 400 points

Thousand Character Classic

Here is it is! My idea, implemented 1500 years ago. It is called the Thousand Character Classic now. It is a Chinese text written with 4 characters per phrase. Each character is used once and makes a total of 1,000 characters. This is just what I want, except I want one for Japanese, using modern characters and a total of about 2,000.

With something like this, you could practice 8 or 9 lines a day and go through all of it each month, keeping your writing abilities fresh. That wouldn't take up very much time. 9 x 4 = 36. So for 2,000 characters, just 72 a day keeps the Kanji doctor away. That would surely be less than half an hour. I would need a recording of it and then each day I would listen to it and write out the portion for the day.

Here is the Chinese Wikipedia page called 千字文 containing the 1,000 character text. And here is the Japanese page on the subject of 千字文. And here I found the text with a Japanese translation of each line in hiragana 千字文全文.

Introducing: jr_fiction

Allow me to introduce you to jr_fiction. Mr. jr_fiction, a fellow learner of Japanese, is tackling Kanji with his DSlite in an attempt to become a Kanji Master and pass the Kanji Kentei Level 3. This is, by no means, a small objective. It requires mastery of 1600 characters, knowing the ON and KUN readings correctly, synonyms, antonyms, 4-character words, the correct kana to use at the end of verbs, knowing the radicals, and being able to use a Japanese Kanji dictionary.
This is about the level of a 15 year-old Japanese.

Vocabulary is the hardest thing to master. It's difficult to remember what はんさよう means when you never have read it before, never see it anywhere else, and never hear it. And you might need to recognize ひょうてんか as well. If just reading the kana doesn't ring any bells, imagine trying to guess which kanji are needed. The previous two example are for 3rd graders in elementary school, not Level 3 on the Kanji test. There are just so many words to learn to get up to the native level of an 8 year-old.

Remember, this is no multiple-choice test! You don't have a 50 percent chance of getting anything right. There is no luck involved. You have either passed or failed the test before it even starts. So you had better be sure you are ready before even registering for the test.

Let's keep a watch on Mr. jr_fiction and see how he does. It will be interesting.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Learning Chinese characters

In his book on page 27, Steve used a system of repetition to work on the writing of Chinese characters. In the beginning, 10 characters would wear him out, but later he was studying 30 new characters a day.

I wonder if he only did this with individual characters, or if he did it also with 2-character words. One of the difficulties of the writing system is not just being able to recall how to write a particular character, but more so, knowing exactly which characters go with each word. It's the same problem as with spelling because everyone can learn the 26 letters of the English alphabet, but which ones to use and in what order is the difficult part. With Chinese-character words, it's kind of like that. Usually, I just draw a blank!

So, I think it's important to practice writing out words instead of just individual characters. Having already started at the beginning of this year (actually, the end of last year), I am spending approximately 50 minutes a day on writing. Sure, there have been some missed days, but I am developing the habit of writing for 50 minutes a day, every day, for probably the next 2 to 5 years. The number of minutes spent is not so important. It could be 30 minutes a day. Eventually, I will work out a system where I can cover 2,000 different characters every month. I've still got a ways to go on the system, but eventually I will be able to keep all my characters fresh with just a little work each day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A new forum for Kanji learners

Just a short note:

There is a new forum for learners of Kanji or Hanzi or Hanja.
It's new, so the membership is low right now. But don't be afraid to join!

If you can help some learners, please join.