Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life in Japan

I've finally started to get settled here. I've got my apartment, some furniture, a few dishes and my main appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, and microwave/oven/toaster). I've got running water and gas and electricity. Unfortunately I've yet to get internet, although that should be coming soon (I hope).

For a quick refresher, I'm studying computer science at Keio University's SFC campus; specifically media databases. I've always been very interested in Parallel and Distributed Computing, so any research topic I choose will have elements of that in it.

I am studying quite a bit of Japanese, although its all on my own right now. The Japanese classes at my campus are too low level, and I'd have to commute 90 minutes on my only free weekday to my school's Mita campus in order to get in a higher level class.

Right now I'm studying Japanese through a couple of different methods. I'm still working on memorizing transitive and intransitive verb pairs. I've started using a website called "Quizlet". I tried it out a while ago and thought it had potential, but in these last few months it feels like it's matured enough that I can use it on a frequent basis. It's essentially a free flash card website with some "social networking" built in. People can share their sets with others, as well as compete in games and so forth. The transitive/intransitive set that I've put together and am studying right now is JIM: Transitive - Intransitive. I'll continue to add vocabulary to it and create other sets as well. One annoying problem with using flash cards to memorize words is that some words have very similar or identical meanings. Sometimes there are small nuances in meaning which I can add to the flashcard to help differentiate, but its a very difficult process (especially since I may not know the nuances). For instance, one verb I'm trying to learn is "あらわす" (arawasu) which means "to show". In this case, the meaning is more like "to reveal" or "to express" according to the online dictionaries I've looked at. The problem is that I learned that "みせる" (miseru) means "to show" a long time ago. I keep inputting みせる and getting marked as incorrect on the website :/ (old habits die hard I guess)

Additionally, I'm reading an online Japanese newspaper (AsaGaku) while using the Perapera-kun Firefox plugin. There are probably better newspapers out there (this one seems related to teaching Japanese to Japanese children. I found it while trying to find a Japanese children's newspaper), but this newspaper has plenty of vocabulary for me to study. I have a large vocabulary that isn't linked to kanji in my mind, so I find that as I am trying to read the newspaper by mousing over each word using the Perapera-kun plugin, I find vocabulary which I know in hiragana but not through kanji. I've already started recognizing words in everyday life on signs and posters whose kanji I've learned through the aforementioned online newspaper reading method.

If anyone can point me towards some easier online reading material written in Japanese (maybe some that has been written with children in mind) that would be much appreciated :)