Journey of Self-Studying Japanese – Study Strategies and Technology

Since it’s been about 8 months since I started Learning Japanese, I want to touch on some of the strategies and resources I used to practice and retain what I have learned. This includes a mix of traditional practice and technology to help me out. (Image Source)

Flash Cards and Anki

Example of a deck I made.

Like you would expect, flash cards are your friend in memorizing vocabulary and Kanji. For each lesson I do, I make a separate deck in a free program called Anki. It’s a rather powerful program that automates when you should go over the card with additional features such as using audio and pictures.

Fortunately, I have access to a Japanese Text to Speech in OS X Lion, which allows me to make audio files of how the word sounds are pronounced. This can be helpful for people who is not used to the pronunciation of Japanese words and auditory learners. However, don’t rely on it too much since you might sound funny.

Example: 高校の時、もっと勉強すればよかったです。(I should have studied more when I was in high school.)(Sound File)

Good idea of how these cards look like. (On: Chinese Reading, Kun: Japanese Reading)

As for the Kanji, I just write them out on index cards as you see above. Since my textbook shows how to make the strokes, this takes the guesswork out.  Writing them to a certain extent kind of help get the idea of how to properly make the strokes, but most of the magic comes from actually studying them. Also, you can add notes such as mnemonic devices on the back to aid you further.

I know there are already made ones out there that you print out or buy. These can be helpful if people just want to study and don’t want to spend the time making these cards.

Mac OS X Built-in Japanese/English Dictionary

This tool is a life saver.

One of the main advantages that Mac users have over Windows when it comes to studying Japanese is the dictionary app. Since Mac OS X Leopard, Apple started to ship the operating system with a Japanese/English and a pure Japanese dictionary from Shogakukan. I use this frequently to find the meaning of a word in English and vice versa. It also allows you to lookup words in Safari without actually opening up the app. However, the only downside is that you cannot search with radicals. Still, you can search for the readings if you use the Japanese dictionary.

For iOS users, there is a program called Kotoba where you can use radicals. This is very helpful if you play a video game or on the go and need to look up a word on the spot. As for Android users, I think there is a similar app that has similar features, so you shouldn’t get left out.

Lang-8

Examples of corrections made by other people.

Just recently, I hopped on the Lang-8 bandwagon. It’s basically a social networking site that allows people who know the language natively to correct what you wrote. This is very helpful for practice as you can find the mistakes so you don’t make them again. For example, I fell in the trap and think that 帰る(かえる) is a Ichidan verb instead a Yodan verb. Therefore, I conjugated it wrong and other users corrected it. Although embarrassing, it’s a somewhat common mistake because of a lack of differentiation.

I take note of the mistakes made in the entries.

Once I received all the corrections, I paste them to a note-taking app such as Circus Ponies’ Notebook (Mac) or Microsoft’s OneNote (Windows) and make comments on the mistakes before going on.

This pretty much covers all the strategies and resources I use in my Japanese self-study. As you see, technology plays a big role since I don’t have access to class instruction. Even so, people who learn in class still can use what I have mentioned for practice. Of course, one should have fun while learning a new foreign language. With that, you should buy a manga, light novel, visual novel or a video game (one that has Furigana or the ability to use Kana) so you can translate the text while having fun. From this, you can get some idea of how a native speaker write/say things in Japanese. 

2 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. Yumeka says:

    Glad you found all these great sources for learning Japanese despite not having access to classes. I’m not surprised that a computer whiz like yourself was able to find them all ^^

    As you know, most of my years of studying Japanese were in classes, so my main way of studying was reviewing my class notes and textbooks. Since I started self-study in 2009, and have a pretty good grasp of Japanese grammar, I focus on learning kanji and vocabulary. I’ve been making index cards that have new kanji, as well as a few vocabulary words using that kanji, so I can learn both a new kanji and new words at once – two birds with one stone if you will. Besides that, my study sessions involve rereading the many text books I have. Currently I’m working on a listening comprehension book I got a while ago but was never advanced enough to use. Using the complimentary audio CD, it focuses on being able to catch certain words and sounds when listening to fast talking native speakers.

    And of course, it makes studying a lot more fun when you incorporate anime/manga into it =) I have a bunch of manga and anime books in Japanese that I read for practice, as well as watching a couple of shows raw.

    • chikorita157 says:

      There is a CD that came with the book I’m using, but I haven’t gotten the chance to use it much since I am so busy. But media does help a lot as it can motivate learning though something enjoyable. In fact, I do recognize some words from studying and have some basic understanding, but my vocabulary is rather shallow at the moment. Hopefully with the Japanese version of Pokemon, it can build up my vocabulary more since I can just type the kana into the computer and look up the word without searching for the actual character.

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