Since joining Western Carolina University August 2015, I have learned a lot about the best ways to acquire a new language. Through books, TESOL classes, and interacting with language learners. I will often ask people how they learn kanji, or how they are able to remember vocabulary, how they practice grammar.
However, do I do what other people suggest to me? No! I am a bad language learner. Honestly. Grammar connects fairly easily in my head, but of course I make lots of mistakes. However, that point is that I learn a new grammar point in class, and then I am able to try to use it, whether I succeed or fail, I use them… But vocabulary and kanji are a bit different.
I am going to be 100% honest, I hate studying. I love learning a language, I love being able to talk to people, I love finding linguistic patterns, I love analyzing sentences and trying to figure out the meaning (on TV shows, in books, in songs, etc.). However, just sitting down with flashcards, or just staring at the words on a page is so boring for me, and I think many other people out there.
For example, recently, we had a Kanji test that covered Kanji from the first lesson until lesson 30. I don’t know how many kanji it was, but my flashcards that I had been collecting since the first kanji quiz were too many to get through. We started studying at 7:00, and by 12:30 I still had not gone through all of them. That’s not to say I studied straight through the night, I definitely got distracted, but regardless, that is clearly not a good method for truly learning. That is only cramming, and honestly the studying probably only reinforced the kanji that I did know, but did nothing for the kanji that has yet to be ingrained into my brain. The kanji that I easily remember are the ones I see daily, or at least often. Such as illness ones because when you’re in a new country I guess you’re more susceptible to getting sick (I’ve caught a cold 3 times now)!
So, I have figured out what I need to try to do~
Contextualize everything. Writing sentences with the kanji in them and trying to associate their “picture” to something that means something to me. I have read about that in books about learning vocabulary as well, but did I ever listen and try to do that as I studied? Nope~ Anyhow, you all will be finding that I am planning to do a post once a week when I am studying new Vocabulary and Kanji and I will just create sentences. Hopefully, I can find a way to relate them all together, but we will see how that turns out.
One thing that I’ve noticed that Troi does when learning vocabulary, is that she will record herself reading all of the vocabulary words and then play them back to herself. This is a great way to associate the words with their pronunciation, listening practice as well as acquiring vocabulary. That cannot be the only thing that I do to learn vocabulary, but it is a very smart idea, I think, as long as I can pronounce things properly!
Now as for watching TV shows, my advice for other Japanese language learners!
Try to watch them without English subtitles, but go ahead and turn on the Japanese subtitles, this makes taking notes easier about unfamiliar things they say. The best shows I think are comedies (like comedians), and reality TV shows, for me these are easier to follow and use “real” Japanese, more authentic and less scripted, but of course not 100% non-scripted. Also with songs.. I cannot memorize the words for the life of me, but that is definitely one way to do that.