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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Being "Fluent" In Japanese

"What does it mean to be fluent in Japanese?"

When I tell people I speak Japanese they often ask "are you fluent?" to which I often reply "no, not yet". Yet I've been thinking more about this question, and realised that what you define as "fluent" can vary from person to person.

According to Google the definition for "fluent" is:
1. able to express oneself easily and articulately.
2. smoothly graceful and effortless.

I mentioned before on the Why Repetition is Important post, that to me getting to the point where you can do something without even thinking about it, is fluent. But this can apply to different aspects of the Japanese language.


Fluent Japanese speaking
A good book for beginners with tips
on speaking fluently.
Speaking Fluently

So I guess to some people being fluent in Japanese is a matter of being able to speak fluently. To be able to understand a conversation and express yourself naturally. This can actually be obtained around JLPT N4-N3 level of Japanese, especially if you go to Japan and live there for a few months.

According to AbroadinJapan (on Youtube), as long as you're able to confidently talk and be able to talk around words you don't know, you can have very fluent conversations with Japanese people. 


Reading Fluently

To be able to read fluently would be to able to read books, newspapers, video games etc with ease. Now this is harder to define because it really depends on the individual. Although many people will probably calculate this at N2-N1 level, if you practice reading a lot you'll be able to read and understand texts fluently at any level. I know people who can read and understand texts a lot better than I can at lower levels than myself.

Which brings me to another point. Being able to understand (not just be able to read) a text fluently is (I've found) dependant on grammar comprehension. Although you might know all the vocabulary and 80% of kanji, it's the grammar that give's you the relationship between these words. Not understand the grammar can greatly affect your understanding of a text and you might find yourself mis-understanding a lot.

But if you enjoy reading and find yourself steaming through manga, or novels, then you are probably fluent at reading those items.


Writing Fluently

Being able to understand Japanese spoken or written down is one thing, being able to naturally and confidently produce written Japanese is another thing. This is very dependant on the part of your brain that creates comprehensive sentences rather than passively taking them in. A good way to practice this is with sites like Lang-8 where you can type Japanese and natives will correct you.

Being able to write Japanese by hand fluently is an even rarer skill, even for Japanese people! 


What Does Being Fluent Mean To You?

My point of this post is that "fluency" doesn't necessarily mean to able to understand, speak and write Japanese like a native. You will never be as naturally fluent as a native without being brought up in Japan speaking Japanese almost 24/7. Many people who study the language only get to 80% fluency and that's fine!

I also think that what "fluency" is depends on the individual and their goals. If your goal is to be able to speak naturally then it's fine to call yourself fluent. If you want to be able to read novels but not necessarily write a lot of Japanese, that's fine too.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and we all study Japanese for different reasons. So the next time someone asks you if you're fluent, you'll probably find yourself say "yes", which is a great confidence booster ^__^


Note: You can download the above book by clicking the DL Books tab at the top right of the page, then go to Beginner Textbooks -> 13 Secrets

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

How To Make a Memrise Course


[I have two translation exams coming up in the next few days so I had to put my originally planned post on hold while I whipped this up super quick. Sorry about this, but hope people find it useful anyway!]

It's amazing how well a lot of the J-Talk Online Memrise courses are doing. I'm thrilled to see so many people using it to learn Japanese. Since I started creating courses in March 2014 (over a year ago!) I've made 20 courses with the most popular courses being the Anime Japanese for Beginners, Beginners Japanese Grammar 1, Japanese Counters and Learning Hiragana using Vocabulary. But there are still a LOT of courses I want to make which I hope will help learners.

This post covers:

  • How I made some of the courses
  • Why I chose to teach them in certain ways
  • Mishaps I've run into
  • Some cool tips that might be useful if you choose to make your own
  • Sneak peaks of future courses

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Review of JapanesePod101

This is an honest review of JapanesePod101 and has my own opinions. I'm sure each person using the program will think of it differently, so it's worth checking out for yourself if this is something for you.

JapanesePod101 is a website which provides Japanese lessons from beginner to advance, using audio lessons, so if you are an auditory learner this might be a good one for you.

This post looks at the resources JapanesePod101 provides and it's pros and cons.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Practice Japanese with Natives - A Review of italki.com

italki.com is a website I decided to check out after watching this video by Rachel and Jun reviewing the site. Turns out I'd already signed up for the website at the beginning of this year, I'd just completely forgotten about it until recently! 

italki.com is a website that allows people to connect with people who speak the language their learning, it's not just Japanese, but all kinds of languages! You can practice Japanese in a number of ways: 
  • Hire teachers who will give you lessons!
  • Find language partners to type messages to talk to them via skype!
  • Post notes and ask questions and other people will correct/answer them for you!


Bellow I review each of these features.

italki.com frontpage

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Studying Japanese with Dyslexia

I am 25 years old (I'll be 26 in May). I have gone through standard education and further education with a degree in Social Anthropology and am doing an MA in Japanese Translation.

I just found out that I am dyslexic.

I have gone through the entirety of my education without anyone picking up on it until my University lecturer did earlier this year. I had always had suspicions but when I had approached an adult in the past they just brushed it off.

Now that I have the knowledge that I am dyslexic it puts the last 9 years of studying Japanese into a whole new light. I'd like to share these with you in the hope that if you are dyslexic or think you might be, that this might help give insight into your own learning abilities, ways to get around them, and motivation to keep studying Japanese.
Japanese teacher from University in Japan...
yeah my teachers were weird


  • Studies on Learning Japanese with Dyslexia
  • My Experiences Learning Japanese with Dyslexia
  • Tips for Dealing with Dyslexia for Learning Japanese


Everyone's dyslexia impacts them differently. These are just my experiences, opinions and suggestions.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Japanese Jokes for English Speakers

I wanted to write something light hearted to apologise for the last few months of slow updates. So here are some really bad/wonderful jokes for English speakers who know Japanese, and some you should try on some Japanese friends.

Did you know "Dad Jokes" are called "Old-man Gags" in Japan? - おやじギャグ
When a bad pun or joke is told you should say さむい "that's cold"


Japanese Jokes (Mostly Puns)


海のパイレーツは「海賊」と空のパイレーツは「
空賊 」なら家庭の
パイレーツはなんでしょうか? - umi no pairetsu wa "kaizoku" to sora no pairetsu wa "kuuzoku" nara, katei no pairetsu ha
nan deshouka?
If sea pirates are "kaizoku" and skypirates are "kuuzoku", then what are home pirates?

家族!- kazoku!



パンダの好きな食べ物は何ですか?- panda no sukina tabemono wa nan desu ka?

What are panda's favourite food?

パンだ!- pan-da!



どうしてハワイ人は歯医者に行かないの?- doushite Hawaii jin wa haisha ni ikanai no?

Why don't Hawaiian people go to the dentists?

歯はいいから! - ha-wa-ii kara!



かめの好きな飲み物は何ですか? - kame no suina nomimono wa nan desu ka?
What is a turtles favourite drink?

こーらです!- ko-ra desu! (kora means shell)



マイケル・ジャクソンの好きな色は何ですか?- Maikeru Jyakuson no sukina iro ha nan desu ka?
What is Michael Jackson's favourite colour?

青!- Ao!




And finally one you should try with your Japanese friends...

彼:おっす - o-su
彼女:めっす - me-su

This one might need some explanation. Young men in Japan will often greet their friends with a shortened version of おはようございます as just おっす. おす is a male animal, and めす is a female animal. I've gotten a few Japanese people by replying with めっす when greeted with おっす in the morning.


Some more from a friend!!! 

What do you call nine smelly rhinos? -- Kusai (九サイ)
Where does a dog sleep? -- Kenneru (犬寝る ケンネル)
How much do broken glasses cost? -- Mien (三円 見えない)
What do spiders taste like? -- Suppai da (すっぱいだ)
Did you hear the one about the nagai egg? That's okay, it was a long tamago.



Sorry not sorry for the many bad puns, many I got off friends. If you know any more feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Update

Apologies for the radio silence. Moving house, essays and translation projects have taken priority over the blog. I'm also trying to update the JLPT N1 Kanji list for memrise as that's late too.

Normal blog posts will resume at some point soon I hope!

UPDATE: Posts will resume Sunday 26th April

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Let’s go! Ikimashou! - Guest Post

行きましょう!
(Let’s go! Ikimashou!)

            So imagine… you’re teaching English in Japan and winter vacation rolls around. Oh, what will you do? Well, THIS GUY decided to hit up Tokyo, because… why not?!

行きましょう to Akihabara(秋葉原), the Electric Town of Tokyo!

Akihabara is also known as the geek (オタク otaku) mecca of Japan. If you are a geek who loves video games (テレビゲーム terebi gemu) and comics (まんが manga) you need to come here someday. I always come here to check out video games. And, my favorite ramen(らめん) shop, Kyushu Jangara Ramen, just so happens to be in Akihabara too. 


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Anime Japanese - Good Anime to Watch

If you are trying to use anime to practice your Japanese then this post is for you. I will talk briefly about the types of shows that are good to use, which ones are bad, and why. As well as a recommendation list. If you have any of your own that you'd like to suggest please feel free to leave a comment.

Servant x Service Anime
Servant x Service
(Good show about government office workers)
So anime is a great way to practice your everyday, casual Japanese and grammar. As always I suggest studying on the side and using anime to practice, but what kind of anime is good to practice with? Well, slice of life and/or romance anime. These are mostly based in schools but you can find a few that are based in working environments which mean keigo and polite Japanese is used, and it'll teach you Japanese used for other situations besides in a school environment.

Avoid fantasy, sci-fi and historic anime. This is because they have very field specific language which you probably won't be learning in your everyday lessons. (Unless you go out of your way to study Meiji period classic grammar, or complex economic, political, or vocabulary about video games, or complex chemistry and philosophy.) These anime will have the everyday phrases and vocabulary used in romance and slice of life, but it won't be as frequent or as useful in everyday situations.

The following are all very good, great fun shows which I really enjoy and noticed had a lot of useful Japanese in them:

Keep in mind that you won't understand everything 100% at first and you might need to watch a show multiple times before you begin to pick up and understand what's being said. If you watch it once with the subtitles, try and watch it again without them. If you'd like more tips for using anime to study Japanese check out this post.


Movies:
  • Tonari no Totoro
  • Karigurashi no Arrietty
  • Summer Wars


Not Based at High School:
  • Yama no Susume – 3min episodes about hiking
  • Working – about working in a fast food restaurant
  • Servant x Service – about government workers (uses keigo)
  • Genshiken – University students in a manga research club
  • Tamako Market – working in a shopping arcade/Japanese sweet store, romance
  • Bakuman – working in the manga industry, romance
Toradora anime title

School Anime:
  • Toradora – romance school anime
  • Nisekoi – romance school anime
  • Kimi ni Todoke – romance school anime
  • Free! – swimming school anime
  • Chihayafuru – card game club, school anime
  • Kiniro Mosaic – English girl goes to study in Japan, school anime

If you have any suggestions of your own please leave them below with what the show's about and why you think it's good.

Enjoy!


Thursday, 12 March 2015

Why Repetition is Important

"Practising for 15 minutes a day is better than 1 hour every 3 days"

This is what a good friend said to me the other day, and it's been stuck in my head all week. The thing is, is he wasn't even talking about Japanese, but practising the guitar.

It also reminds me of a guest lecture at the beginning of this year. The lecture was about the original Street Fighter and the level to which gamers would get to from practising so much that their moves came naturally. They fought without thinking.

This is what I try to achieve with Japanese: To be able to do something without thinking about it; that's what fluency is. Which is why 15 minutes a day is better than an hour every 3 days. You're technically doing less time over the span of 3 days, but 15 minutes every day is more effective because it's repetitive, regular study.


Studying Japanese gif repetitive study
Brains are funny things and each person's brain is different. I know someone who learnt Japanese to JLPT 1 (before it was N1) in 3 years. He has a very logical brain and applies himself to his work a lot. I have a very flaky brain. I get distracted easily and enjoy seeing people, and due to lack of repetition it has taken me almost 3 times the time it took my friend to get to the same level.

I've said a number of times before that if it takes 40 hours to get to a certain level and you study an hour a week it will take you about 10 months to reach that level. If you study an hour a day it will take you 6 weeks. It's basic maths that the more often you study the faster you will reach your goal.

However, although your brain might absorb information like a sponge at first, it'll also loose some of it as it moves onto other things (like the water leaking out of a sponge). This is especially true if you overload your brain with too much information and it can't take in any more. This is why 1 hour every 3 days might not be as effective, because you could be overloading your brain rather than giving it bite-sized chunks to work with.


It's not only a matter of studying as often as you can, but doing as much repetitive study as possible. You might pick up some information, but as mentioned it will likely get leaked somewhere or be over-written by something else. Just because you've read something once doesn't mean you know it. Repeating items you've already learnt regularly helps your brain build the neurons needed to recall those items easier. You practice so much that you no longer need to think to come up with what you need. Just like the Street Fighter gamers.

That's all for today. A bite sized motivational post on the importance of regular and repetitive study. Here's a cool little YouTube video that might help :)


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Anime & Manga Japanese - Common Japanese Phrases

"Tadaima~ I'm Home~"

You may have noticed how certain phrases crop up a lot in anime, but do you know what they're saying and do you know exactly what they mean? This post looks at these common phrases used in anime and explains their etymology, hopefully shedding some light on where they came from and their cultural relevance.

These are some some the core phrases used in everyday Japanese language and therefore in anime. Understanding the meaning of the words being used can help you remember the words and spread light on aspects of Japanese culture that you might not be familiar with (such as using a phrase when you leave the house or when someone else leaves). These are phrases that really are used every single day so it's important to know them.

If there are any other phrases you'd like to know more about feel free to ask in the comments section below.

Daily Greetings

Good Morning:
ohayougozaimasu - おはようございます (ohayou - おはよう)
The word for good morning uses はよう (早う) which is an old word meaning "early". The お and ございます is very formal (keigo) grammar which means です, or "it is". In other words おはようございます literally means "it's early".


Hello:
konichiwa - こんにちは 
This word breaks down into "this" こん (今) "day" にち (日) "is" は. You may notice that the "wa" uses the particle は and not わ (although even Japanese people get this mixed up).

は is the particle for a topic marker, which means that the phrase こんにちは is possibly a shortened form for phrases such as "how are you doing today?" (今日は御機嫌いかがですか konnichi wa go-kigen ikaga desu ka) or "isn't it fine weather today?"(今日は良い天気ですね konnichi wa yoi tenki desu ne)

o-su オッス
These two words are very, very informal greetings of "hello" or "what's up" used a lot by boys in anime. オッス takes the お from the start and す from the end of おはようございます. There are some variants on these depending on accents and laziness such as ウイス.


Good Evening:
konbanwa - こんばんは
This phrase is very similar to こんにちは as it breaks down into "this" こん (今) "evening" ばん (晩) "is" は. And is once again possibly a shortened for of various greetings that were once used in Japanese.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

"I heard" "It seems" - The different uses of sou そう

This is a grammar point that had me in a lot of confusion recently. I'd created some lessons to help people on the Memrise group learn these but due to conflicting information on the internet the course got very jumbled and had to be corrected a number of times. I've finally pinned down these grammar points after checking with native Japanese people. Apologies to those who have been using Memrise and gotten confused on these points. I hope the following helps.


The following are all the uses for そう for "It seems" and "I heard". If you have any further questions feel free to ask in the comments.

If the following doesn't help Maggie Sensei has a good explanation for "it seems" (sadly she doesn't go into detail on "I heard")

Maggie Sensei explains the use of "it seems"

You can practice the following grammar on Memrise in lessons 8 & 9 in the Beginners Japanese Grammar 2 course. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Apologies, Updates, Changes and Plans!

Hello!

Apologies for the last few weeks of radio silence everyone! Life, as always, gets in the way and as this blog and Memrise is something I do out of my own time it sometimes gets pushed down the priority list.

The last few weeks which were missed (the 10th and 17th), as well as the Advanced Reading Practice I promised, will be updated this week along with this week's post.

Update days are being changed to Thursday! This is because Wednesdays are packed all day with commuting, classes and Uni work, but my Thursdays are free so I should have more time to get them done and updated then.

At the moment I am prioritising a few themes on J-Talk over others. The first is JLPT N1 and advanced readings. This is because I'm studying for the N1 exam and creating these on the blog and memrise help me a lot, as I hope they help others.
I'm also going to be doing one more Anime focused lesson before dropping those for a while. But I will be finding more videos and practice to add to previous blogs that are missing them.

As always, if you have any requests or ideas for topics that could be covered in the blog please let me know in the comments or facebook page. I won't be taking any suggestions for courses on Memrise though as I'm focusing on the N1 and advanced Japanese levels for now.

Thanks for your understanding!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

My Japanese Study Routine

As I mentioned in the last post on Finding Your Daily Study Routine everyone works differently using different resources and methods to learn Japanese.

The following is my own routine, what works for me, what doesn't and how this has changed over time and why. Hopefully this will help give people a better idea of how to study Japanese in your spare time.


Goals

First of all, I don't set a fixed number of hours aside a day to study. I've tried it in the past and it's always been detrimental for me because I feel like I HAVE to study rather than I WANT to study. I feel like it's very important to enjoy studying, or at least have that sense of achievement that you've reached your goal.

I set myself goals instead. The big one is Take the JLPT N1 on July 5th 2015. I have had this goal on the table to the last year and a half and never study enough in preparation for it. I even paid for the exam in December 2014 and didn't go because I was not ready! But no use crying over spilt milk. I accept that it happened (or didn't happen) and move on, focusing this time on July.

This big goal is split into smaller goals: 
Study all of JLPT N1 2000 Vocabulary on Memrise (which I managed to achieve this week!)
Study all of Nihongo Somatome N1 Kanji on Memrise (which I am writing the course for and have begun learning) 
Read more Japanese texts (news articles, novels etc)
Listen to Japanese news radio (and be able to understand what's being said)

I then have deadlines for these goals, but they're flexible deadlines because, as you may have seen with the N1 exam, I'm bad at sticking to my deadlines...

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Finding Your Daily Japanese Study Routine

Every person's study routine is different. Not only does it change from person to person but can vary over time. This post talks about different study routines you can do, why it's important to keep it varied, and how to find one that works best for you. For someone who is just starting out it's hard to get into the swing of a daily routine, but persistence brings out the best results.

If you would like more advice on studying Japanese I always recommend Master Japanese which has lots of useful information about study methods, types of learners, facts about classes vs private tutors, and study types. It's a really good site that makes you think about what you want out of Japanese and how to structure you goals and study methods around that.


How your study routine plays out depends very much on the type of resources you use and how you learn best, which is why the following has a number of suggestions of resources you can use to study.

The following information consists mostly of advice. I encourage you to explore some of these suggestions as well as try and find your own. Ask friends or others for what they enjoy using/how they learn, and find what works best for you!


Different Study Resources
(These do not include teachers as study routines are supposed to be your day-to-day type studying you do outside of the classroom)

Review regularly to remember!
Flashcards - These are great for studying vocabulary and kanji. You can use a pre-made deck on an app or create your own on paper.
It's important that you study these often. Don't go through them once and think you're done. That's why it's great to get an app that has spaced repetition which helps you remember the word just before you forget it.

Useful flashcard apps:

(For a more extensive list of Apps for android and IOS for different things click here)


Google+