I love having some time off at home so that I can concentrate on learning and reading in a way that’s not normally possible. In the last year the priority I gave to my English studies but all foreign language learning on the back burning. My Spanish has since recovered nicely ahead of the L204 OU course starting in February. My Japanese has really stagnated in the last while but I have found a couple of resources that have brought the spark back.
The first is a really great flashcard website that is similar to Anki. It’s called Speedanki and I have found it to be really useful because it helps to drill the Kanji in a really practically way following the JLPT model. You can register on the site so that your progress is remembered any time anywhere. I really like the model sentences because they give you a chance to try to understand the word in a normal phrase and familiarize yourself with other Kanji at the same time. You can toggle between the Kanji view and a Hiragana view. I really like the way it works. It focuses on learning Kanji practically which is great because I have found that looking at Kanji as some kind of abstract code is a recipe for failure. Kanji are just symbols for words so obviously it helps to know the Kanji for words you really need to know rather than remembering an ‘easy’ Kanji for a word you will not use in normal everyday encounters.
The other thing that I have really enjoyed using is Tim Matheson’s book “Japanese Verbs – Saying What You Mean” which covers much of the content on his website Tim Sensei’s Corner. I prefer having the book for its portability. The point that he makes is that Japanese expression is really dependent on verb usage so your language power increases dramatically once you know how to conjugate verbs. For example, the way that you say you’ve eaten too much is to use the -sugiru ending so you would say ‘tabesugimashita’. Similarly the -tai ending indicates wanting to do something. Basically the verbal endings are crucial and his book introduces them in a really clear way. Moreover he uses Kanji in his model sentences with a romanised version and an English translation underneath. I’ve been using this to learn other practical Kanji. Along the way I pick up my Kanji Pictographix to see if there is an wat way to remember the Kanji. Yesterday for example I came across the verb 覚える (oboeru – to remember) in Matheson and then found the mnemonic for the Kanji ”I rememember I woke up and saw the house on fire” in the Pictographix. The Kanji is also used in 覚める (sameru – to wake up) and the Kanji used the radical for ‘to see – miru’ which has a cap over it which looks like a roof on fire.
Combining these resources is giving me practical Japanese and increasing my functional knowledge of Kanji at the same time. That is really useful and enjoyable at the same time.