我輩はブリートである。

The chronicles of Burrito's bizarre adventure into Japanese.

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SO ABOUT THAT JLPT THING… OR: The End of Another Chapter

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Right, so long story short, things didn’t work out between JLPT and I. As it turns out, I’m going to be quite (unavoidably) busy on the day of the test, so it’s just well. [Ed. FROM THE FUTURE: turns out, I would have also had one of the worst colds I’ve caught in years, and in no physical or mental form for a very long test!] No biggie – at this point, I don’t feel confident that I’d pass anyway, and I think the motivational kick in the brain stem from planting the seed of IMPENDING TEST did its work quite nicely. Perhaps I’ll be ready for the summer test, but at this point, it’s difficult to say.

Secondly, I’ve decided that it’s time to take this little ol’ blog out back and… um, gently… tuck it into bed? As I’m sure you’ve noticed (yes, both of my loyal readers!), there just isn’t much for me to talk about anymore on the subject of language learning. My process involves: lots of reading, lots of watching, a little Anki (mainly grammar sentences – I gave up on MCDs, and why fix what isn’t broke?) and a little Read the Kanji. That’s honestly it! The thought of experimenting or otherwise changing up the process much at all just isn’t appealing to me. As long as I’m experiencing the language as it was intended for native speakers with just enough studying to get me through, that’s enough.

But apart from the subject of language learning, it’s not like I have nothing to talk about. As my Japanese improves, and as I get into translation more, I’m increasingly finding new and interesting things to discuss – the differences between a game’s English and Japanese localizations, as a recent example. Not to mention all the various cool things I’m reading/watching/playing/listening to and feel the need to gush about (something I did on my first blog, but oddly never felt compelled to do here).

So rather than awkwardly convert this blog, I’m gonna do the most sensible thing (in my mind – this coming from someone who reformats twice a year) and blow it sky high with ダイナマイト. I’m good at what I do.

But before that, let’s clear up a few loose ends!

If you were able to go back in time and give your horrible, ignorant, nooblord language learning self advice, what would you say?

Answer: 1) Don’t worry too much about RTK/Heisig – kanji is going to be a pain in the ass no matter what approach, and RTK, like all methods, has its pros and cons. Ultimately, it’s gonna be down to exposure (and, in the case of writing by hand, largely muscle memory), and there is simply no magic bullet. Shortcuts, sure, but years later, I still question just how much of a shortcut RTK was for me.

2) For the love of the omniscient Funkopotamus, don’t worry about the method. Like, at all. Cut it out, stop that. Experimentation is fine and good – discovering just how one learns is an important step. But the goal, in my eyes, should be to build a stable foundation of vocabulary (and grammar, to a slightly lesser extent) and, as soon as possible, dive into native content of interest, and communication. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.

3) Don’t buy into anti-output propaganda. I’ve ranted and raved on this subject before, but it’s still a topic of frustration to me. Speaking, writing, whatever – these things will (in my experience) absolutely help cement the language, highlight areas of weakness and make a little more sense of passive, not-quite-yet-internalized bits and pieces. Mistakes are to be expected and are perfectly okay! Your Japanese (or whatever) won’t be permanently impaired because of a few dumb mistakes. Don’t worry, you won’t go blind.

4) Find the good stuff. Originally, this tip was going to be “avoid the garbage” but quite honestly, I think this is better advice. In my case, I have giant stacks of manga, literature, games, dozens of unwatched anime series… you name it. Stuff I know for a fact that I’ll enjoy, and a hoard I won’t exhaust any time soon, shielding me from the harmful rays of utter crappola. Straying outside of one’s comfort zone is certainly a healthy thing from time to time, don’t get me wrong – I’ve discovered all kinds of incredible things that I wouldn’t have originally thought I’d enjoy. Regardless, it’s because of The Good Stuff that most of us stick with a language in the first place, right? So figure out what The Good Stuff is to you, amass huge amounts of said Stuff, and then go nuts.

5) Stick with it. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy, or possible, to make the language a part of your daily life. Things happen; stuff comes up. A particularly life-shaking incident may occur and throw said language on the back burner for months, during which time, hard work and progress will likely spill out like a sieve. You’ll pick up something one day and realize that what was relatively easy to read before is now practically incomprehensible, and it’s the most frustrating thing. But unless you’re a super lucky person with absolutely no boundaries and distractions, these “forced breaks” are inevitable. Just know that the de-rust process is only temporary, and probably a lot shorter than you think.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO BECOME FLUENT IN 18 MONTHS??? HOW DO I DO THIS

Answer: Look, just… don’t do this to yourself. Okay? This isn’t healthy or constructive for anybody. Just… just stop it. Please.

Anyway.

Thus ends the Language Learner chapter of the ブリート Saga. Got some pretty exciting stuff coming up in the near future, but I’ll leave that for the new blog. For now, this is Rito signing off!

さらばだ

Written by ritobito

December 2, 2012 at 3:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Back on Track

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It’s probably no secret by now that my progress over the past some months has been… a slow trickle. A drizzle, even.

My performance in the last tadoku was dismal, a scant few pieces of media or literature appealed to me in the slightest, nor the prospect of sitting down and cramming’ kanji, vocabulary and grammar, et al. I’d go so far to say that this period was probably the darkest of my entire 3+ years of studying, and trust me when I say it wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

I’m not one to discuss private issues in a public space such as this, but suffice to say, it’s incredibly difficult for me to dedicate much time or effort to something like learning another language when I’m sick (I’ve lost track of how many colds I’ve caught), super stressed out and/or depressed, and otherwise have many other things to worry about. To all the language Übermensch out there who can transcend these distractions of life and carry on with studying as usual: I envy the heck out of you, and I have quite a ways to go.

The good news? That wall is comin’ down, baby. With each day, for a few weeks now, I’ve been consistent with my Anki reviews (grammar – still a weak point, unsurprisingly), and my drive to read, watch and play has returned something fierce. I’d almost completely lost sight of the reasons why I began studying in the first place, and they’re all coming back to me like a flash flood. I have animu to marathon, books to read, music to listen to, visual novels and RPGs to play, things to translate and people to communicate with, dammit.

Still, I have some issues to work out. I have a serious “three-day monk” problem where I’m totally pumped and ready to undertake any number of tasks – a new, shiny SRS deck; a book or visual novel or game; even something as “simple” as an anime series to watch – only to fizzle out a day or two later and never get back to it. This has been a problem from the very beginning, but clearly remains as one of my most troublesome. I’ve had success in the past with cutting down my number of tasks and focusing only on one or two (albeit risking burnout), but ideally, I’d like to work on multiple tasks at once; perhaps sticking to a more strict schedule and logging my progress would be a good place to start.

I’d also like to tweak my study (as in study-study) habits a little bit, though I’m not sure how, quite yet. I kinda suck at reading (as in reading-readings) kanji lately, my grammar always needs work and I can never get enough vocabulary. I’ve had moderate success with MCD cards and may experiment further in the near future, but would rather stick to what I’m comfortable with (mostly sentences) for the time being. For now, I’m going heavily at a grammar deck made up of the many, many example sentences of the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar books, because that mutha is hella thorough and I need roughly half a billion examples before anything makes sense to my ‘tard organ (brain). So far, so good.

Also, Ankidroid is pretty much the best addition to my study tools, ever, and I can’t believe I didn’t get a smartphone sooner for stuff just like this. (I only wish Android had half as many quality Japanese games as iOS, but they’re comin’… slowly)

Written by ritobito

February 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

RPG-o-thon: Revised; OR, Keepin’ It Simple and Fluid

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As I mentioned a few weeks back, I’ve begun a bombardment of text-heavy JRPGs, a process I intended to keep up through the year, with a rough goal of completing one game per month. Considering my love for RPGs (and desire to play them before the Second Coming of before Ragnarök before the many-month-long waiting period known as “localization”), this seemed like a damn fine path to go down for some hardcore immersion.

And it most certainly is! There are more quality JRPGs out there than I can count on both hands, and feet, combined. In my head, I had several of these lined up in a rough order in which I intend to play through them. The plan was something like this: I’d plow through them, one after another, soaking up loads of vocabulary and grammar, improving my reading speed dramatically and giving my grey matter the kick in the junk it needs to beat this language’s お尻. All is going according to plan.

Of course, it never really works out that way, especially if you’re 俺様. Khatz wrote an excellent article recently on New Years resolutions and big goals, in general, which outlines two of the more common models of goal-setters that so many people invariably fall victim to. Personally, I’m often of the “planner” variety – grandiose pipe dreams that start out successfully but almost always run out of fuel somewhere along the lines. Although I’ve gotten worlds better over the past couple of years at not tripping this frustrating trap, old habits die-hard and I still find myself thinking up the perfect, most fail-proof methods that will absolutely carry me over the finish line toward fluency, once and for all.

I quickly realized how ill-equipped my attention span, my state of mind in general was for a project more linear than Final Fantasy XIII, especially taking into account all the other bits of immersion media I had lying around, just begging to be devoured like so many scrumptious takoyaki. While I was definitely making progress in my current game (Lunar: Harmony of the Silver Star), I was distracted by other things, other JRPGs even, and would often neglect playing it for days at a time. Eventually, other games began to overtake Lunar in terms of hours played, which forced me to reconsider my plans a bit.

Rather than confine myself to a linear course of A to B, B to C, C to D and so on, I decided to simply let my craving be my guide and play whatever the heck I feel like at any given time. Fluid and constantly moving, thriving with life, like a fertile river stream, or something. Allow me to demonstrate.
As I have the artistic ability of a tortoise with Parkinson’s, I felt it necessary to subject you, dear readers, to a few more of my famed charts, in order to really drive my (stupidly simple) point across. After many grueling nights of labor in MS Paint, I’ve come up with the following diagrams. Signed, numbered editions are available for a short time only!

The original, failed plan. If only I had more fonts, perhaps it wouldn’t have ended this way.

A good idea in theory, and it may well have worked for anyone other than myself. I should also take into account that, although my love for Lunar games is undying and eternal, I was disappointed to discover how similar this game was to the Saturn/PSX remake I had played many times before, rather than being another “proper” remake. This led to boredom less than 20 hours in, and I think we all know how pesky “the B-word” can be toward the learning process. Indeed, boredom is a bitch.

The new plan just doesn’t really give a 糞 about such alien concepts as consistency – at least, not where video games are concerned. While it would be silly to ditch my daily kanji and sentence reviewing, for example, there’s really no harm in switching up between multiple games at a time; immersion is immersion, after all. Therefore, my new RPG-o-thon model looks a little something like this, give or take a belt or zipper.

One ill-forgotten line away from looking totally metal.

“But Burrito-sama,” you utter and prostrate before my lordly intellect, rolling on the floor and laughing most certainly not on your mind, “how did this brilliant epiphany come to you?” Yeah, yeah, I know. I amaze myself sometimes, too.

That is, I’m amazed that even now, I still often neglect to keep things fluid and dynamic, when this is probably one of the most effortless things you could possibly do in language immersion. Every possible tool I could ever need, right here before me at my disposal, and yet I still fall into the same old trap.

Not to veer too far off course, here, but a wise old Zen master once described enlightenment as such: “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.” One may think, “well, that’s what everyone does, isn’t it?” Alas, this often isn’t the case, as most of us somehow manage to make an incredible mess out of both of these crucial necessities in some way or another, even when we don’t intend to. For such a fundamental philosophy, the implications are quite profound when you really sit down and ponder it. In many ways, the same basic principles can be applied just the same to language learning: When feeling the inkling to fire up something light-hearted and text heavy, it’s Lunar time; when in more of a mood for action and taking the reading easier (yet requiring fast and precise comprehension when needed), there’s always Monster Hunter; and the examples go on.

This particular subject is another long post in itself, and quite likely beyond the scope of this blog (and my spectacular pinhead), but it never ceases to surprise me how quickly, how easily we complicate processes that were always incredibly straightforward and simple from the start. Processes such as language learning.

Now that I have a hearty selection of games to choose from, I find myself grazing here and there where the grass is greenest, as I often do without incident when indulging in dramas, anime, blogs, literature and so forth. It’s like I have access the world’s biggest (and hopefully sanitary) buffet with an all-you-can-eat ticket in my grubby little mitts – all I need is an appetite and I am set for a long, long time. Bon appetit!

Written by ritobito

February 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

New beginnings

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Abandon all hope ye who enter here, for you’ve stumbled upon my new and improved place of bitching and moaning intellectual discussion pertaining to language and the study thereof. This blog will more or less serve as both a continuation and “reboot”, if you will, of my original language blog/soapbox, which can be found rusting away slowly in the dank, murky wastes that is the Blogger platform. This move has been quite a long time coming, and if all goes well, I’ll never have to deal again with the untold horrors resulting from such simple actions as trying to upload – and display in the correct area, mind you – a small image. WordPress, don’t let me down, brah.

Blogger troubles aside, I recently realized how much of a mess that blog had become, and perhaps had been for most of its year-and-a-half existence. Its original purpose was more or less a way to track my progress, log various learning methods I was using and so forth; to that extent, I think it served its purpose well enough. At the very least, it was an excellent tool in motivating myself to keep at RTK, and 神々 knows how much I experimented with various methods. However, somewhere along the lines – quite likely after I stopped giving a ファック about logging progress – the entire thing sort of derailed and ended up a twisted, smoldering mess. Add to that the several monkey wrenches thrown into the 日本語 works over summer leading to a collapse in progress and motivation, my recent re-do of RTK and some fundamental changes in my study philosophy and methodology, and I’m pretty sure you can understand my reasoning for starting anew in this cozy little hovel. Sometimes, it’s just a better idea to blow it sky high with dynamite rather than try and salvage it. After all, I’m the kind of guy who reformats Windows at the very first sign of trouble, with hardly an afterthought – I have it down to a fine art. Plus, Blogger’s formatting hell can suck a tailpipe.

That’s not to say that I’m going a particularly radical direction here, though. I’ll likely be covering topics similar to what I’ve discussed in the past – learning methods, resources, various native entertainment, the odd progress report if I feel like it – but hopefully in a far more cohesive, coherent and consistent manner. (Yeah, right.)

So then, let’s get started, shall we? 発信準備!

Written by ritobito

January 31, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized