Sunday, April 6, 2008


My original tutor has returned to Japan, and I didn't have one for a while which limited my studying. I was just focusing on memorizing vocab and the associated kanji while I was tutorless. I used Craigslist again to find another tutor, and she is really great. I'm studying several things in parallel at the moment:

  1. Kanji vocabulary from the book Kanji in Mangaland
  2. JLPT kanji worksheets
  3. Weekly sentence structures
The Kanji in Mangaland (KIML) book is my favorite kanji book so far. I think the ordering of the introduction of kanji introduces very relevant kanji. That was my main problem with the other kanji books I've used. Oftentimes I'd be studying kanji that I felt I would very rarely use, which led to less motivation to study. Another plus is that there is a lot of vocabulary associated with each kanji. If the KIML book gives a "reading" for a given kanji, there will also be at least one and oftentimes several words that use that reading provided for studying. Learning vocabulary in kanji really helps me to remember the different readings each kanji can have.

The JLPT or Japanese Language Proficiency Test seems to be widely known, but somehow I hadn't been exposed to it up until now. There are four levels of proficiency, and people take tests created by the Japanese government to determine what proficiency they are at. I'm not too interested in taking the test, but it's another thing that can help my studying become more structured. For now I'm just learning the kanji that I'd need to take the test at JLPT level 4 (the lowest). Right now I'm studying off of a worksheet that has 120 characters on it. The sheet also includes the readings of the kanji that I have to memorize. Fortunately I already knew most of the first 75. I need to study more regularly so that I can figure out how many kanji per week I can memorize.

I've often wondered how important sentence structures are compared to vocabulary. When I'm at Japanese class, I'll frequently try to use some convoluted sentence to say something, and then I get corrected by just being taught new vocabulary that means what I was trying to say. This leads me to believe that learning vocabulary is more important than sentence structures, but of course you need both if you are to communicate well. A very important benefit of studying sentence structure is that to do so you need to form sentences! This means that the act of actually speaking Japanese is being studied, and not just memorization/recollection.

Because of studying sentence structures, I realize that I need to speak Japanese more often. We were studying "n desu" and "hazu", forming sentences that encompass the entire range of usage scenarios for these sentence structures. There were times when it took me 10 seconds just to parse all of a sentence's information and say the Japanese equivalent of the English sentence I was translating. I could tell that my teacher frequently thought I just didn't know the vocabulary, however it was just me fitting everything together in my head. I'm just not used to speaking Japanese, and that's something that I have to practice outside of class somehow. I feel like if I were to move to Japan, my ability to form Japanese sentences from English thoughts would quickly catch up with the rest of my Japanese language ability at least.

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