Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Quiz me

To study for the Kanji test, I have made myself a couple of quizzes. I have about 200 words that could show up on the 8th level (8級) test and I'd better be able to read and write them. I put these words into a text file.

My php program will read in the file, shuffle the list, and then output a javascript array. Then I have a little javascript code to display the quiz info.

The first quiz I made is for reading practice. It shows the word and I need to type in the kana into the box. Then I press return and it checks it. If I get it right, I get a point and move on to the next word. If I get it wrong, I can try again but I won't get any more points. I can click the question mark to see the answer and I can click the triangle to go to the next word.

The second quiz is for writing practice. It shows the kana reading and the English meaning. Then I just need to write the Kanji on a piece o' paper. When I've done that, I then click the question mark to display the Kanji. I score myself by clicking on one of the three icons that display. I use the green one for right answers, the red one for wrong answers, and the pink one to skip.

Let me tell ya, it's not easy going through 200 words. Just 100 is tiring enough. But I can quit and when I do it again later, I'll get a new order. So I don't really need to do them all at once.

Here is what the quiz looks like:

Monday, September 24, 2007

How to prepare for the Kanji test

I would like to get prepared for the Kanji test (日本漢字能力検定). I was thinking the registration deadline was Oct. 1st, but just now I checked again and it is actually September 26th. Well, I won't register for it this time then. After the second time I failed the 8th level, I decided not to register for it again until I was prepared. And so I thought I would have this whole week to see if I can get prepared but now I realize the application cut-off is much sooner.

So now I need to get prepared by December 26th so that I can take the test next year on February 3rd.

The hardest thing about the test is not the Kanji, but the vocabulary. If you don't know the vocabulary, you cannot write the Kanji. So you need to be able to write any word that they throw at you.

I need to feel like my study method is effective or else I just can't study. So I'm trying to think of an effective method before I start studying. I have a book I bought from a used book store, that has the 3 tests given about 5 years ago. But I would like to use that after I have studied so I can check my preparedness.

But what can I do to prepare?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Language Plateau

This post is dedicated to Art. He asked me to write about handling language plateaus.

Plateau is a word that comes to us via the French language. If we check the dictionary, we can find this definition:
a period or state of little or no growth or decline

In language learning, I believe, and you should also believe, that a plateau is just a mirage. It feels like you're not making progress and that you are not advancing. However, to what is it being compared? When we first set out to learn a new language, we learn a lot. Before you start, you may know nothing. Then the next day you know something! After a month you can review your notes and see all the words you have learned.

But somewhere on the journey, you feel like you have not been making progress lately. Now, if you think about walking up a hill, a hill's steepness is graded. A 10% grade is not as steep as a 45% grade. In the beginning, you face a very steep grade, but you are enthusiastic and you charge up the hill. You look back after a short time and you can see just how high you have climbed. So you continue forward. Things get a little easier for you because now you can talk a bit and understand things. Here, the hill is not so steep. You look back and think, "Hmm, I am not much higher than before."

Again, you continue on. Your hill is getting flatter. Maybe you don't notice the steepness at all. You think, "I am not making any progress. I've hit a plateau!" This is when it is important to realize that you are not on a plateau. You are still walking up and maybe it's only a 5% grade. As long as you keep walking, you will be making progress and your level will increase. This is what we call, "slowly, but surely." Your progress is slower, but if you keep going, you are sure to get there. You are sure to improve.

If you want to make progress faster, what do you have to do? You have to run instead of walk. You have to pick up the pace. I have to admit, I don't do a lot of running. You don't see a lot of posts from me in languages other than English. If you do more than you can handle, you can get burned out. You'll be tired of it and won't want to do any more, even when you've had sufficient rest.

Think about your favorite food. If you eat your favorite food 3 times a day, everyday, I guarantee you it won't be long before it doesn't taste so good. If you do that long enough, you will reach a point where you never want to eat it again.

So, you just have to realize that you are not on a language plateau. You are still making progress and every year you can be sure that you are higher than the year before. This is why I want to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test every year. I can't see my improvements, but a test can show me that I have improved. I can't expect a big jump, but a steady increase is reassuring.


Monday, September 03, 2007


In English, we have countable and uncountable nouns. With countable nouns, we can put a number directly in front of the word to count. Such as, 1 printer, 2 printers, 1 box, 2 boxes, 1 rainbow, 2 rainbows. With uncountable nouns, we need to use a counter. Like 1 glass of beer, 2 glasses of beer, 1 carton of milk, 2 cartons of milk.

There are some countable words in English which have no plural form. Or you could say the plural form is the same as the singular form. For example, deer and sheep. 1 deer, 2 deer, 1 sheep, 2 sheep.

Now of course, you do hear native English speakers who accept and speak using incorrect grammar. So, just because some natives will tell you that it is OK or acceptable, you do not have to start using incorrect grammar. One widely accepted incorrect usage of grammar is when people put an 's' on 'beer.' They'll say, "I drank two beers last night." What they should say is, "I drank two bottles of beer," or two cans of beer, or two mugs of beer. Beer is a liquid. Liquids have neither shape nor size. You must put them into something in order to determine just how much you're talking about. Or you can be more exact and use a unit of measurement for liquids, such as ounces.

Another one is 'content.' Now, there are two words, 'content' and 'contents.' Contrary to some dictionaries, I argue that 'contents' is not the plural form of 'content.' I use the simple reasoning that we do not put a number in front of the word to count. It is uncountable. We do not say, "I have six contents in my purse." It is not a counter. Instead you would say, "I have six items" or "six things in my purse." You can say, "Let me see the contents of your purse," or you can say, "Let me see the content of your purse." There is no difference that I am aware of, however, the one with 's' sounds better to me in that sentence.

There are lots of things which cannot be explained by grammar rules. We call them "exceptions to the rules" in English. One thing which I cannot explain, is when a word uses the singular form or the plural form after the word 'no.' Such as,
  • "I have no clue what you are talking about."
  • "We have no clues in this investigation."
  • "I had no idea what you were doing."
  • "I had no ideas for the project."
  • "I have no idea."
  • "I haven't a clue."
  • "I have no good ideas."
  • "I have no clues."
  • "I have no excuse for my actions."
  • "I make no excuses for my actions."
  • "There is no excuse for this kind of behavior."
  • "There are no excuses for this kind of behavior."


Saturday, September 01, 2007

One more month

OK, how many of you guessed that I would be used for one more month at my new job? Well, the first one-month contract has been renewed for one more month. This leads me to believe that I will be replaced once a more qualified person is hired. I believe I am just a filler. I am filling in until someone better comes along.

At any rate, I am still learning a lot of Japanese. I believe that one can learn a lot of new words during the first two months of a new job. After that, you know most of the words used in that environment and you occasionally learn a few new words.

For the immersed language learner, it is ideal to switch jobs every 2 or 3 months. You get new coworkers who don't know anything about you and that gives you the opportunity to talk about yourself again. New coworkers use different words too. It never fails to happen. There is also new documentation to read. Plus, you get training again on the privacy laws and security. You can possibly reinforce those obscure words that you're never going to learn.

But if you are learning something new on the new job, you will come across some new words that will be used again and again. You really do learn new words.