I have been procrastinating a lot with my Japanese studies, and progress has been slow. I get motivated, I study for a while, and then life gets in the way and I stop. Then, I pick it back up again after a few months, and the cycle continues. I have found it quite difficult to maintain a consistent study schedule, and being in graduate school has made it more challenging. Of course, as the saying goes, making up excuses is itself its own excuse!
And so, I have a new goal: Complete Genki Vol. 1 by the time I graduate with my Master’s degree (which will officially be in May of next year).
In this post, I’ll be sharing what I have been up to lately with regards to my self-studying.
I made my own mnemonics flashcards for both the hiragana and katakana syllabaries.
These flashcards are arranged in a 3 by 4 grid for easy double-sided printing (the grey lines are guidelines for cutting). I’ll be printing these out in color, and laminating them at my university (the print center provides a laminating service). That way, I can carry them around in my bag without fear of damaging them! (Aren’t all fancy flashcards laminated anyways? It looks so much cleaner, and they’re easier to shuffle!)
The mnemonics in these flashcards come from three main sources:
- Mnemonics I came across on a Memrise course for the 26 basic hiragana characters (there are several hiragana courses, I just picked the most popular one)
- Mnemonics from the hiragana guide on Tofugu (Check it out here!)
- Mnemonics from the book Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners: First Steps to Mastering the Japanese Writing System (which also teaches you how to write both syllabaries!)
(While these mnemonics are free, these flashcards are for my own personal use. As such, I will not be sharing them here, because the mnemonics are not my own. I’m only sharing thumbnails as a source of inspiration! I should also point out that a few of these mnemonics are different from the original ones I put on my first hiragana mnemonics chart, which I shared here!)
Mnemonics and handwriting are the best combination.
I have found it immensely helpful to choose mnemonics that I feel are the most memorable. If one mnemonic doesn’t stick, I’ll try to find other ones, or attempt to come up with one on my own. Usually, I’ll come across mnemonics online that resonate with me the most, which makes learning much easier.
In addition, learning to write hiragana – not just recognizing and remembering mnemonics – is a huge plus. Mnemonics provide a visual cue, and learning to write the characters provides a muscle memory or cue for the character. For some of them, knowing the stroke order is immensely helpful at jogging my memory of what the mnemonic is. It all goes hand-in-hand!
I’m going to revisit the katakana syllabary and finally knock it out.
After I finished making these flashcards, I decided it would be wise to spend more time reviewing katakana. I have trouble recalling them as quickly as I do for the hiragana syllabary. I believe this is the case I haven’t yet learned how to write all of the katakana characters. Before I resume my studies with Genki (I finished Lesson 1 in the first volume of the two-volume series), I need to make sure I have katakana down cold, including stroke orders.
Other tools I have been using
I have been using a few new apps lately to help me review kana, get more exposure to Japanese, and help out native Japanese speakers who are studying English. These apps are: Hiragana Pro, Katakana Pro, and HiNative, respectively.
I didn’t know about the kana apps before, because I was using a different kana app on my tablet (an iPad, which has different Japanese learning apps available than my Android phone). Hiragana Pro and Katakana Pro are both free, have native pronunciation, all of the kana characters (the combined ones can be unlocked with an in-app purchase, I think), and present everything to the user seamlessly, and if I might add, mininialistically, which is a big plus.
HiNative is something I discovered from a YouTube video a few years ago, but at the time of my first using it, there aren’t many users, so it got boring quickly. There are plenty more users now (from all over the world, not just Japanese people), and they post questions about words, phrases, sentences, and even pronunciation in recorded audio. Depending on which native and target languages you specify in your profile, you’ll be able to see questions about your native language from people who are trying to learn it, including those who are native speakers of your target language.
One last tool I intend on being more active with is Lang-8, a website that lets you write long posts/entries and receive written feedback from native speakers. (HiNative is actually produced by the same people who created Lang-8!) I have had an account on Lang-8 since June 2015, but I abandoned it for quite some time due to other things in my life taking priority. Since I joined, I only posted corrections on the entries of native Japanese speakers, and didn’t write anything in Japanese myself. Both HiNative and Lang-8 are a wonderful way to interact with native speakers in a low-pressure environment, both to offer help and ask for help. So far, I have only been offering help, and not making any posts of my own (except 1 post on HiNative, so that I could add a disclaimer to my profile, i.e. “I’m a beginner so don’t inundate me with kanji”).
I’m really going to push through to put in as much effort to learn katakana as I have in learning hiragana. I want to actually write in Japanese, which is why I really am determined to move past katakana. With the Genki textbooks, I want to “level up” my reading, writing, and comprehension, and finally be able to write entries on Lang-8 and post (more) questions on HiNative. In Genki Vol. 1, I hit a block after the first lesson because there were several vocabulary words written in katakana, which I couldn’t read without looking at the romaji. (And relying on romaji will make me go backwards, not forwards!)
Learning a foreign language is difficult, but I am determined to keep going. I came across an article recently that has made me realize that I have to keep pushing past all of the excuses, and that I have to be kinder to myself when I feel that I am unable to study in order to maintain momentum. I have wanted to learn Japanese for years, and visiting Japan is one of my top countries that I would like to visit in the future. Being able to converse with native speakers in person (not just over websites like HiNative and Lang-8) and practice my skills would be an incredible opportunity!
がんばってます！ (“I am trying my best!”)