All posts filed under: learning strategies

Collecting collocations: how to take notes to improve one’s writing skills

I am concerned about how to improve my writing skills and I have tried a method that seems to work well. The idea is to thoroughly study an article in order to collect collocations and expressions that we can use for writing. Until now, I have entirely relied on Anki to learn new words. This method works like magic to me, but I realised recently that Anki only helps me recognise the words and mainly allows me to improve my reading skills. Which is fine by the way. But the problem is that I don’t always know how to use the words I learn. I don’t want to enter too much information when I create a new card in Anki. First, it would take a lot of time to do so and second, I don’t want to spend too much time studying Anki and I am sure that I would not even bother reading the complementary information when studying my deck. That is why there are a lot of words that I don’t know how …

How to add an audiobook (mp3) to your iBooks library

I said some days ago, that I wanted to buy an audiobook in Japanese and have it available on my phone to listen to it often. Well, I bought an audiobook on the site febe.jp, which is a site that sells Japanese audiobooks. I bought 世界から猫が消えたなら and I am very satisfied with it. The narrator speaks in a clear voice, other characters’ voices are made by different actors and the overall quality is really good. I will certainly make a review of it in some time. But then, I encountered a problem: I could not listen to this audiobook on my iPhone. It took me some time to figure out how to do it, so I thought it might help other people too if I explained the procedure. When you buy an audiobook on the site febe.jp, you can download it in mp3, which is a good thing because you can easily listen to it on any music player. If you are using iTunes, just import the file into your iTunes library and you can listen …

Daily study: listening to my audiobook

I recently purchased an audiobook on the site Febe. It is called 「自分を操る超集中力」by Mentalist DaiGo and published by かんき出版. I didn’t buy it for its contents but because it seemed relatively simple to understand when I listened to the free extract on the site. But then, I had to admit that it was not that simple. I could understand thoroughly what the author was talking about and could even catch entire sentences but it was not enough to follow the flow of what was being said. I decided to buy the book, too, to be able to check what I don’t understand. I already wrote a post about how to study with an audiobook but I realize that even without doing specific exercises, reading while listening helps improving both listening and reading skills. Reading If you read your book while listening to it, you have to follow the pace of the narrator, which, in my case, is quicker than my reading pace. It forces me to read faster. I never truly took my reading pace …

Anki: mistakes to avoid and tips to regain control over your deck

I have spent the last few days trying to regain control over my Anki deck. The problem is that I added much to many new words in a fit of overconfidence in my mental capacities and I ended up with a huge study plan every day that took me hours to put down to zero. I finally made a sort of Anki burn out and didn’t study my deck for a week. I have now more or less restored a “normal” deck but I am still facing 500 cards a day. These are some thoughts about how to keep a smooth relationship with Anki. Mistakes I made Too many new words per day I wanted to believe that it was possible to learn 40 words a day and challenged myself with it. The result is: I can learn 40 new words a day but it’s not a good idea. The thing is, learning 30 or 40 words a day for a short period of time is possible. Let’s say you are cramming for the JLPT …

Tips for studying with a book and its audiobook

Having both the book and the audio book of the same work, allows to work in different ways. Here are some ideas: Listening practice First listen to the audiobook several times (I think that 3 times is a good choice) and really try to understand all that you can understand (meaning, unknown words are hopeless but sometimes we don’t recognize words we actually knew, that’s what we want to work on). The best thing should be to limit yourself to a paragraph if they are short enough. Then check on the book. At this point there are two options: If you really want to study this book and improve your vocabulary, search for unknown words and then, listen to the audiobook again, without reading, and try to understand everything. If your objective is just doing some listening practice, don’t bother searching for unknown words, and just check the words you knew but didn’t recognize. You can underline them if you don’t mind writing in your book. Then listen to the audiobook again, without reading, and …

Immerse yourself: Set your computer to Japanese

When I learn a new language, I generally change the language of my phone and computer to the language I am learning. Why does it help? Obviously, to immerse oneself in Japanese, you have to surround yourself with as much Japanese as possible. But if you buy a Japanese magazine and do not read it, it does not help, does it? Switching the language of your computer has the great advantage that you will be sure to use your computer anyway, so you will be confronted with the language, if you want it or not. At the beginning, you may just learn little words here and there but these are little words you will remember very easily. For example, the word 共有・きょうゆう is the word used to say “share”. No need to say that this is a word you will see often and won’t even need to think about. Not only does it help you remembering words, but changing the language of your devices provides a strong reward when you realize that you are actually …

Writing, writing, writing…

The writing skill is certainly one of the most (if not the most) difficult competence to improve. Especially in Japanese, where kanjis are to be taken into account. Let’s try to find some methods to practice writing. No one to correct you? No matter! The first discouraging argument is: “if what I write is full of mistakes, no one will correct me and I will end up getting used to my mistakes”. First, you can find a pen pal on internet or even pay someone to correct your writings but sincerely, I think that it doesn’t matter that much if nobody is here to correct you. Why? The most important thing is to write, write and write. Not to be corrected. It’s the same for speaking, everybody will tell you that it is much better to speak with grammar mistakes than to stay silent. And I would rather discuss with someone who can say at a natural speed a lot of things in French even if it’s full of mistakes than with someone who will …

How to define one’s goals

I already posted about the importance of having several goals and write them down. But what is a goal? and how should we define them? This is my personal advice based on my experience, I hope it will work for you, too! Goals vs to-dos I hate to-do lists. I mean, I love creating to-do lists, I can spend a lot of time writing down all the things I want to do and try all the possible designs provided by the app I am using. But then, when it comes to really do the things, I hate that list. I try to change the design, but no matter if the background image is a puppy or a telecommunication tower, I hate the list. I think that I hate the “to-do” concept, things that have to be done, things that I must do, like you had to do homework at school. The to-do list transforms things that I wanted to do into things that I have to and take all the fun out of it. How …

Stay motivated: Define your goalS

Let your big goal make babies “When I am able to read literature in Japanese, I will start by Nobel Prizes”. Thinking that I will read Kawabata and Oe in Japanese helps me stay motivated BUT if this were my only goal, I would feel discouraged and would eventually give up. Because it will be a long, long, very long time before I am able to read such great authors in Japanese (not only read, but being sufficiently at ease to really appreciate). Having a big goal is great but it is important to feel rewards all the way along. That’s why it’s important to have more modest and quicker to achieve little goals. Those little goals are like shelters on a long trail. Even if the goal of the journey is to reach the peak, the goal of the day is usually to reach the next shelter before night. Set your intermediate goals One of my goals was to read my first novel in Japanese. I achieved it some months ago and I will …

Those old-fashioned skills 1: learning by heart

I am not a language learning specialist but learning languages is one of my favorite hobbies and I invest a lot of time in it. What follows is just advice based on my own experience. Learning by heart, a lost skill? I went to a private school and I remember that learning by heart was a skill à part entière that our French teacher wanted us to acquire. We had to learn poems and recite them in front of the class. I know it may sound old-fashioned but my school was the old-fashioned style. I don’t think that they were doing it in public school at the time (I am not sure though), or that they are doing it now. Anyway, I am thankful to have been through those boring hours when, walking in circle in my room, I was saying out loud again and again, first those children-friendly Fables de La Fontaine, and later poems from Verlaine or Baudelaire that I didn’t fully understood. Today learning something by heart isn’t a daunting task to me, …

My three daily anki decks 2: kanji

I talked about my deck of words in this post. As for my deck of kanji, a note gives two cards which are: 1- Anki displays the kanji and some words using this kanji. I must know the kanji’s approximative meaning and I must pronounce the words. Note that I don’t bother saying all the pronunciation of the kanji, I just can’t remember them all, and anyway, it would not be useful for me to do so. I try to be practical and what is useful to me is to know how words are pronounced so I just focus on the words. As you can see, I visually separate the on and the kun readings. This really helps me! As for the words, they are all in my deck of words, which means that I am supposed to know their meaning. Anki displays the meaning and the pronunciation of the kanji, I must write the kanji and I should also write the words, but to be honest I often skip this step… If you like …

An opened japanese book with headphones on it

Inside that audiobook

To improve one’s listening skills, there is no other way than to listen, listen, listen. And one good way to listen to something in the target language is to acquire audiobooks. Audiobooks advantages: You can purchase the book and the audiobook, which means you can improve your listening and your reading skills and easily check in the book things you didn’t understand while listening. You can choose something that appeals to you, there are all sorts of audiobooks, from fiction to self-development. Contrary to the radio, you can listen again to a certain part, or even study a certain chapter and so on. You can listen to it anywhere, while driving, commuting, doing houseworks and so on. It does cost its cost but if you buy an audiobook, the quality will be there, the text is read by a professionnal and well read. I’m sure there are a lot more advantages… Anyway, if you want to buy an audiobook, you can go to febe. Creating an account is free and you can have a preview (do …

My three daily anki decks 1: words

Like the majority of japanese learners (at least, I think so but I may be wrong), one part of my daily learning routine is anki. I have three decks, one for words, one for kanji and one for grammar (that I started recently because I just couldn’t figure out how to remember every grammar point from N2). In this post, I will present my deck for japanese words. It has three entries : french, kanji and hiragana. Every note has three cards : French is displayed and I must say the word in japanese The reason why I choose not to display the hiragana is because I tend to look only at the hiragana to check my answer and if correct, move on to the next card without even look at the kanji. No wonder I do not recognize the word (kanji) when I see it in a book or anywhere else later… I use the «hint» function to hide the hiragana and force myself to first look at the kanji. As for checking the …