VocabuLearn – is it really about vocabulary?

Posted in japanese on November 20th, 2008 by admin

Expanding your vocabulary is considered to be one of the most important, and I would say, difficult tasks in language acquisition. Especially if you’re living some place that is far enough from Japan.  So, finally you came across the product that offers you easy and fun way to extend your vocabulary

offering approximately 7500 nouns, adjectives and adverbs, expressions and verbs over the three levels.

I’m talking about VocabuLearn Japanese Complete

Well, if you decide to buy it please be well aware of what you’re buying. Essentially the list of chaotically aligned nouns, verbs and phrases. These words are pronounced in English and Japanese. That’s it.

No context, no usage examples, no topics, nothing… How I’m I supposed to remember 300 words in 10 minutes if everything you do is just read them one by one with 5 seconds interval. Moreover you hear annoying music in background. I cannot really grasp the idea of the guys who created that piece of … media.

Summary: if you want to spend $50 go and rent 10 Japanese DVD’s.


All Japanese All the Time

Posted in japanese on October 14th, 2008 by admin

Recently I came across great blog that can make a breakthrough in your mind if you really, I mean REALLY want to master Japanese. Please check it, you won’t regret.


BTW this site gave me an answer why I couldn’t really find Japanese movies or anime with Japanese subs regardless how hard I tried:

… the thinking in Japan’s movie industry has typically followed two distinct lines:

  1. Hearing-impaired people can go in the general direction of heck.
  2. Subtitles on foreign movies are not merely intended to repeat dialogue, but to convey, clarify and expound on dialogue — in other words, to pick up perceived slack in the audio translation

There are several hot discussions going on around his method, many people admire his way of learning the language, others are quite skeptical. But IMHO you should read it yourself, analyze it and then…

Do whatever works for you.

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Thinking on how-to learn (part 1)

Posted in japanese on September 25th, 2008 by admin

Kanji… List of kanji’s… For many people these are synonyms. And it’s quite natural for many Japanese learners to think about kanji’s as of long list of characters that should be indexed, graded and memorized. You will find lots of pre-cooked lists and most likely fall into the trap.

Flash card programs, paper flash cards, books like Heisig’s ‘Remembering the Kanji’, JLPT-based lists and 常用漢字 on top of it.

In my opinion, the worst problem with those pre-cooked lists is that beginners try use them somehow in their studies. One sees 常用漢字 list and thinks, ‘This list has grades and is arranged according to frequency of usage. So if I make flash cards and will be memorizing 5 kanji a day I will be able to learn them all in 13 months.’ Others go a little bit farther – they take into additional factors like time required to revisit already learned symbols and summer vacation. Even in this case this way of thinking leads only to frustration once you started your attempts to nail these characters down.

So, what many people don’t understand is that you have to be a real genius to memorize all 1945 characters absolutely without context. Even if you managed somehow to remember all the kanji’s from the list, you should be aware of the fact that they are not real words and you have no idea how to transform these pictograms into meaningful language primitives (I mean words, of course). You have no idea how to read them and how to use them.

Even if you put the fact that you cannot really use those ready-to-use kanji lists aside, what’s the usefulness of these kanji inventories? Let’s take 常用漢字 as an example. Why am I supposed to learn 「亜」but not the kanji for the word “who” (誰)? Have you ever seen, even once, 「アジア」 and 「アメリカ」 written as 「亜細亜」 and 「亜米利加」? Moreover this kanji goes FIRST in this list. Why can’t I find 「枕」 among these 1945 characters? Don’t you use pillows every single day in your life? But you definitely should know that 「斤」 means 1.32 lb.

So what’s the bottom line for this post? Throw all your flash cards? No, I’m not advocating for throwing your stuff out, I’m simply trying to say that we should always think of the list not as of goal but as of an aid.

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