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Study techniques for Japanese?

ayumeneko

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Hello! Recently I've been having some troubles studying Japanese and I'd like to hear what are your study methods/techniques for Japanese.

I'm not talking about books, apps or websites, I'm talking about what you actually do when studying.

For example
Do you copy everything from the book/website and write it on a notebook?
Do you only read and go straight to exercises?
Do you use lots of post-its and coloured pens for certain things etc?

These were just examples, I can't seem to find anything that goes for me ):
I'm sorry if this has been already posted, I'm new here!
 

Majestic

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Writing in notebooks is good. I'm not a fan of using any gimmicks or other special tools for studying. Those kinds of distractions tend to provide excuses to avoid studying: "I can't study Japanese today because I don't have pink post-its". There was a guy on here a year or so ago who was looking for the paper with grid lines on it so that he could start studying kanji. He said he didn't want to start studying until he got a supply of that specific kind of paper because he was afraid he would start off on the wrong foot. It didn't sound like he was really serious about studying - to me it sounded like he just wanted to collect the tools of studying. I wonder whatever became of him. Anyway, keep it simple. Paper, pen or pencils. Use flash cards if you like. Write things down. Write them down as you learn them, write them down in your free time. I think apps and web-sites are useful, but those are also very distracting. Or, I should say, it is too easy to get distracted by other sites when you should be concentrating on studying.
 

Starbucks

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I
Hello! Recently I've been having some troubles studying Japanese and I'd like to hear what are your study methods/techniques for Japanese.

I'm not talking about books, apps or websites, I'm talking about what you actually do when studying.

For example
Do you copy everything from the book/website and write it on a notebook?
Do you only read and go straight to exercises?
Do you use lots of post-its and coloured pens for certain things etc?

These were just examples, I can't seem to find anything that goes for me ):
I'm sorry if this has been already posted, I'm new here!
I personally recommend downloading Remembering the Kanji by James Hesig. He uses stories to help you remember the kanji. Now this is great for learning the meaning of the characters. The downside is that it will not facilitate you to really get the 筆順辞書 app that will give you the stroke order of the characters that you can look up by copying out the characters that you see on hand. This is particularly important especially if you see kanji characters that are typed but cannot make out how it is actually written by hand. I think before the days of apps, many people wrote out the kanji by hand and made a real effort to learn kanji. I know many classmates who tell me that they will settle on recognition and take pictures of the kanji and learn to read but not write the kanji since the JLPT all the way up to even N1 doesn't require it. No Japanese is going to laugh at us gaijin no matter how many years you live in Japan that you could only read the kanji but not write it. The JLPT course makers perhaps know this and designed the course materials to reflect this fact all the way to N1. I chose to kind of go about it this way for the most part myself, until I was introduced to the kanji and nihongo kentei that will make you realize that you learned nothing in the JLPT levels. If you look at the 日本語検定公式テキスト・日本語・初級・5・6級受験用 Nihongo Kentei Koushiki Text Nihongo Sho Kyu which is the course book that teaches you the materials that will ready you for 6th and 5th kyu, you will be stumped to discover that you will not be able to even begin to study this material until you pretty much finish your BA in Japanese language studies to even begin cracking this stuff. If you are still doing your genki levels, forget it. If you don't believe me, take a look yourself. I will give you the ISBN number even: ISBN978-487-80289-0. I almost cried when I discovered that I have only scratched the surface of studying Japanese. I know I kind of went off topic a bit but I just wanted to throw this stuff out there for others just to put the overview of what is out there so you can decide for yourself how far you want to take your training. One fellow I knew decided to quit studying Japanese all together after his enthusiasm faded when he learned how difficult it can get. Whatever your goal is, it doesn't hurt to learn to kanji by recognition first since you want to be able to read signs and recognize what you read. If you could read by recognition, you could even text in Japanese and pick the appropriate kanji. Very rarely are you going to have to write out the kanji using pen and paper other than to fill out documents, unless you are a Chinese student learning Japanese who as a beginner or as a tourist goes about writing kanji to communicate to Japanese people. I found that most Japanese people will help you with this anyways, so do learn it if you want but put the emphasis on it for the later stages. If you want more details, feel free to PM me.
 

sskrk

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How do you usually study for tests? I guess you could apply similar methods to study japanese language.

- Start with grammar; use textbooks to guide you from one point to the next as you proceed from beginner>>intermediate>>advance level (less daunting, compared to having all sorts of grammar thrown in you face without a starting point)
- Magazines, blogs, and websites etc could give you a better idea f different applications of the grammar
- Try forming sentences you could use in daily life. It's fine to start with short sentences
- If you need to write it down, "highlight" the key points by writing it BIG
(personally i'm not much of a note taker since the action of writing actually distracts me, though it becomes useful when it comes to kanji)
- If notes that are neat don't cut it for you, perhaps messy does
(I use scrap paper when required, scribble notes etc. Point is at the end of the day you want the knowledge in your head and not neatly filed away in shelves. Keep those scribbles though!)
- Note down anything that catches your attention while studying, then google it
- Direct any language-related questions to places like Yahoo (japan) and goo etc (there should be more) if you feel comfortable with it, your queries would be resolved by native speakers
- For Kanji, my only advice is to write it BIG with clear strokes, your brain will thank you for that (oh and write it as many times as you need)

My advice may be lacking in many areas since I'm quite a beginner myself, however these are methods I find rather useful. All the best!
 

Mike Cash

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I think before the days of apps, many people wrote out the kanji by hand and made a real effort to learn kanji.
Yes, we did. In the days of apps, I still do.

I find it thoroughly befuddling that people learn kanji without writing them. Is that really the way it is done these days?

I know many classmates who tell me that they will settle on recognition and take pictures of the kanji and learn to read but not write the kanji since the JLPT all the way up to even N1 doesn't require it.
How sad. You know, this is a very large part of what is wrong with the status of foreign assimilation into Japanese society....

No Japanese is going to laugh at us gaijin no matter how many years you live in Japan that you could only read the kanji but not write it.
...and this is another very large part.

I find it very sad that the thing Western foreigners do best when it comes to learning Japanese is excusing themselves from it. And it is equally sad that Japanese people indulge us in this.

If you look at the 日本語検定公式テキスト・日本語・初級・5・6級受験用 Nihongo Kentei Koushiki Text Nihongo Sho Kyu which is the course book that teaches you the materials that will ready you for 6th and 5th kyu, you will be stumped to discover that you will not be able to even begin to study this material until you pretty much finish your BA in Japanese language studies to even begin cracking this stuff.
That is a test designed for Japanese native speakers and level 5 is meant to test the Japanese skills of Japanese elementary school graduates. I took and passed both levels 5 and 4 last November. I have here with me the next text in that series, which is for levels 4 and 3. The text gives some pointers on taking and passing the text, but it would be a mistake to think that the texts teach the materials one needs to take the tests. That material is meant to have been picked up in school during the course of one's education, or perhaps during self-study in the case of foreigners. Have you taken the tests yet? I don't recall you ever having said, but I get the impression you have passed N1 of the JLPT. If so, there is no reason you should find that text or those tests the least bit difficult. I certainly hope the state of college education isn't so poor that it would require a BA in Japanese to be able to pass a test intended for those who haven't even finished elementary school yet.

At any rate, there is no point in bringing up such a test in a thread from a beginner asking study tips.

OP, the important thing isn't how you study but that you study. The method you can continue is the one that will work. The most important thing is persistence.
 
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madphysicist

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OP, is your problem getting the motivation to study or that you actually can't remember the things after you've learnt them?

First you have to accept that you will never remember everything, so don't beat yourself up about that. I suggest that you make some kind of timetable with small, manageable goals e.g. doing the reading exercises to chapter 1 today, doing the listening exercises tomorrow, revising 10 kanji the day after etc.

I can tell you what I did but you have to assess for yourself after a few weeks, is this method working for me? If not, do I need to listen more? or write more?

Do you copy everything from the book/website and write it on a notebook?
I don't copy EVERYTHING because that would take forever. But for me writing things out really helps.

Usually I will read through the dialogues while listening to the CD - if you don't have a textbook with a CD, I recommend you get one. I pause the recording and go back over difficult passages. If there are reading passages I will read through them and look up words/grammar if necessary.

Then I will go through the grammar points, writing out example sentences and a short explanation for myself in my notebook.

I copy down new vocabulary from this chapter in my notebook only if I think it is approximately my level or I think it is useful for me e.g. when I was pretty much a beginner I would not bother writing down the words for "division of labour" or "political coup", but I might write down "travel insurance" because it's useful and I want to remember it. (picking random words here...)

I did exercises and copied out kanji in a separate "rough" notebook, so that my "neat" notebook was a good reference when I wanted to review what I'd learnt, especially grammar points.

In addition to the textbook, I reviewed kanji just using a list from the internet by copying them and the readings out, I watched Japanese TV with subtitles and I talked to Japanese people via text chat.

I certainly hope the state of college education isn't so poor that it would require a BA in Japanese to be able to pass a test intended for those who haven't even finished elementary school yet.
OT but I was researching this recently out of curiosity and it seems a 3-year BA in Japanese leaves the majority of students with about N2 level. Pretty pathetic IMHO... for a UK or US amount of tuition you'd be better off paying to go and study in Japan for a year or two (yes I know many people can't afford to because they need student loans, but I still think it's a rip-off).
 

ayumeneko

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First of all, thanks for replying!

OP, is your problem getting the motivation to study or that you actually can't remember the things after you've learnt them?
Well, I generally have a bad memory so I often forget things too, but the real problem here is actually that I don't have any motivation to study. I study by myself because my work shifts don't allow me to go to regular classes (and I wouldn't want to spend money anyway, since I had always studied by myself before).
Everytime I try to study I feel like it's all useless because I have no real way to use those sentences/vocabs in real life. I try to search for Japanese people who want to talk with me in Japanese but it always ends up in them talking in english because they want to learn english :\
And most of the times the conversations are just "Hello! How are you? What are you doing today? Oh, that's great" and that's it or their english level is not good enough to explain why my sentences may be wrong.
I should be able to go to Japan for a year next year and of course I don't want to be there without being able to communicate, but even thinking about this I don't get any motivation.. and I'll be honest, I never have the motivation to do anything so the problem is not really about Japanese, I always end up trying to convince myself that it's because I don't have the right tools/books/websites to study, when in reality it's just me not even having the motivation to live orz
 

madphysicist

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Everytime I try to study I feel like it's all useless because I have no real way to use those sentences/vocabs in real life. I try to search for Japanese people who want to talk with me in Japanese but it always ends up in them talking in english because they want to learn english :\
And most of the times the conversations are just "Hello! How are you? What are you doing today? Oh, that's great" and that's it or their english level is not good enough to explain why my sentences may be wrong.
I should be able to go to Japan for a year next year and of course I don't want to be there without being able to communicate, but even thinking about this I don't get any motivation.. and I'll be honest, I never have the motivation to do anything so the problem is not really about Japanese, I always end up trying to convince myself that it's because I don't have the right tools/books/websites to study, when in reality it's just me not even having the motivation to live orz
If it makes you feel better I often feel the same about not having motivation to just go about my life normally. But even so I have managed to learn a decent amount of Japanese.

What level are you at the moment? Almost complete beginner?

There are a lot of low-concentration ways to study at beginner level. Flashcards, online games, apps, just watching TV with subtitles... These are not as effective as using a textbook but they are better than doing nothing at all. And 15 minutes of studying/exposure to Japanese every day is better than 0 minutes.

Once you are able to put together sentences, you can try to find someone to talk to. I use a website called interpals to find Japanese penpals. If you try talking to enough people you will find some who don't really want to speak English (or who can't speak it). I managed to find some. Or you can try "I'm Italian, sorry I don't speak English..."

Do any of your friends also want to study Japanese? Studying together with someone else might help you get some motivation.
 

Starbucks

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Yes, we did. In the days of apps, I still do.

I find it thoroughly befuddling that people learn kanji without writing them. Is that really the way it is done these days?



How sad. You know, this is a very large part of what is wrong with the status of foreign assimilation into Japanese society....



...and this is another very large part.

I find it very sad that the thing Western foreigners do best when it comes to learning Japanese is excusing themselves from it. And it is equally sad that Japanese people indulge us in this.



That is a test designed for Japanese native speakers and level 5 is meant to test the Japanese skills of Japanese elementary school graduates. I took and passed both levels 5 and 4 last November. I have here with me the next text in that series, which is for levels 4 and 3. The text gives some pointers on taking and passing the text, but it would be a mistake to think that the texts teach the materials one needs to take the tests. That material is meant to have been picked up in school during the course of one's education, or perhaps during self-study in the case of foreigners. Have you taken the tests yet? I don't recall you ever having said, but I get the impression you have passed N1 of the JLPT. If so, there is no reason you should find that text or those tests the least bit difficult. I certainly hope the state of college education isn't so poor that it would require a BA in Japanese to be able to pass a test intended for those who haven't even finished elementary school yet.

At any rate, there is no point in bringing up such a test in a thread from a beginner asking study tips.

OP, the important thing isn't how you study but that you study. The method you can continue is the one that will work. The most important thing is persistence.
Hi Mike, yes I did pass the JLPT N1, although I did not get a score as high as you did beating 98% of the class. I am in the process of studying the kentei materials myself, and I have noticed that even in the so called lower levels vocabulary words and idiomatic expressions that were not covered in the JLPT at ANY level. My ego has been crushed, I have to admit, that I have found tons of material that I did not know that existed. I am feeling angry at the same time as I feel cheated. There are so many 諺、四字熟語 and many vocabulary words that weren't expected of us in the JLPT N1 that exist even in the lower levels. While many of the exotic terms may not be necessary at the higher levels, there were too much in the lower levels of the kentei that were left out that should have been included in the JLPT don't you think? They give a solid foundation of learning and many of the words are useful and practical. In fact the lower levels should be part of the program for the us as well. Maybe an english translation in there for us would be fine to add, but they need not omit anything. Mike, you have taken both and to a reputable level that you can speak to these JLPT leaders that we gaijin even us the hakujin can indeed learn these. I learned that I know far less Japanese than I thought I did.
 

ayumeneko

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What level are you at the moment? Almost complete beginner?
I did the JLPT N4 test last December and I passed. Of course I think it was all just luck since I had not studied a lot in the months before the test, but it's actually because I've been studying Japanese for like 4 years without putting real effort. You know, using some apps and games, using books sometimes, but I've never had lessons, nor did I take it TOO seriously.
I wanted to take the N4 to get a rough idea of my level, but to be honest there are still some N4 vocabulary/grammar that I don't know.
I wandered off a bit, but the point is that I'm not really a beginner, but tbh I sometimes do feel like it orz

Do any of your friends also want to study Japanese? Studying together with someone else might help you get some motivation.
I know a very few people who often says "I'd like to learn Japanese" but they are the ones who will give up as soon as they see too much kanji lol I don't have friends in general and I live in a small town so it's difficult to find people with the same interests :\
 

madphysicist

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I did the JLPT N4 test last December and I passed. Of course I think it was all just luck since I had not studied a lot in the months before the test, but it's actually because I've been studying Japanese for like 4 years without putting real effort. You know, using some apps and games, using books sometimes, but I've never had lessons, nor did I take it TOO seriously.
That was pretty much me 2 years ago. I had kind of been learning as a hobby for a few years but never progressed very far because I wasn't putting in consistent effort. (To be fair I did also learn Italian from scratch in those few years... a much simpler task!) Probably I was also about N4 although I never took the test.

Then I went to Japan for a couple of months and made friends there. I decided to really concentrate on my Japanese learning, and within about 1.5 years of self-study passed N2.

I think N4 is a good starting point: you should know how to put together basic sentences, you know basic kanji, if you want to improve more quickly you just need to step up your efforts by making yourself study a little bit every day. You should know enough to have simple conversations, so you could find a text chat partner who doesn't speak English and practise that way.

I guess I'm just repeating myself now, but you can do it! If you are as interested in Japan as you said, it shouldn't be a chore. Every bit that you improve your Japanese will help you to learn more about Japan.
 
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