Language diary #5: Monthly review

February is over, and I haven’t been as diligent as I should have been.

JLPT first practice test 😭

I think that the JLPT N1 practice test that I took during the second week of February discouraged me a little. It was the JLPT Official Practice Workbook (the one published in 2012). The vocabulary and grammar part was too difficult for me, but it is normal given that I still have several months to prepare.

What really discouraged me is the reading part. I found it very hard. Reading detective novels and thrillers is much easier than any of the N1 text! To be honest, I more or less thought that I could take the test without making extra efforts on the reading part, that I already had the required level. But now I think that I will have to read other things than best-selling novels if I want to score a good mark.

Another discouraging thing was listening. The listening questions of the practice test are too easy and do not correspond to the real test level. I feel that I have lost my time with the listening part of this test… I will have to look for good resources so that I can be well prepared. Listening is my weakest skill so I need to put some extra effort into this part.

JLPT goals 😕

My goals for February were:

  • Kanji: reach week 2 day 3
  • Grammar: reach week 4 day 4
  • Vocabulary: reach unit 17

I have achieved the Kanji and vocabulary goals, but I haven’t reviewed the vocabulary regularly. As a result, I feel that I have forgotten several words of the previous lessons.

As for grammar, I have fallen behind schedule. I have completed week 3, but I still haven’t started week 4. I hope that I can study at least two lessons this weekend.

With vocabulary and grammar, I have realised that the more I review, the more I want to review, and the less I do, the less I want to. In March, I will try to open my vocabulary book and study my grammar flashcards at least once every other day.

Reading goals 🙂

I have completed all my reading goals! I have finally finished 『誰か』by Miyuki MIYABI, and I have finished 『向田理髪店』by Hideo OKUDA this week! I am still writing the review.

I also wanted to read another novel during the month, and I have read 『ジャッジメント』by Yuka Kobayashi.

New Korean site! 😄

In February, I have read a novel in Korean, which is a real accomplishment to me. Reading in Korean is really hard and after several failed attempts, I had more or less given up the idea of reading Korean authors in Korean.

The book I read is <교동회관 밀실 살인사건> by YUN Ja-yeong (윤자영), it is a detective novel with elements of thriller and psychological thriller. It was easy to read and very addictive.

At this time, I wanted to do something else than studying for the JLPT, so I have created a new site devoted to reading detective novels, thrillers and mystery novels in Korean and anything related to the world of crime fiction in Korea. I have played around with it for the past two weeks and had a lot of fun.

It is still a work in progress, but if you are interested in Korean crime fiction: hangukchurisoseol

March! 🎏🍜💕

I will go to Japan in March, for a five-day trip (I can’t wait to buy a Sailor special edition!) As a consequence, I won’t be posting during the second week of March.

My goals for March are only the JLPT basis that I need to do:

Language diary #3 monthly review

January is already over and it is time for my monthly review!

Reading goals

My reading goals for January were:

And I am sad to say that I haven’t finished Miyuki MIYABE’s novel 『誰か』… I like the main character Saburo SUGIMURA and I want to finish the book because I want to know what will happen to him. The plot, however, is not very appealing. I have reached a point where a part of the detective case is solved… in what is, in my opinion, a rather disappointing way.

I will continue the book for the sake of its protagonist and because I still want to read the rest of the series. (I am hoping that the following books will be better.)

My other goal was to read at least one other book, and I have achieved it by reading two other novels: 『ボクたちはみんな大人になれなかった』 by Moegara (book review) and 『推理作家(僕)が探偵と暮らすわけ』by Shiki KUZUMI (book review).

N1 JLPT goals

My JLPT goals for January were:

  • Grammar: 2 or 3 lessons per week in So-matome: by the end of January, I must be somewhere between week 2 day 3 and week 3 day 1.
  • Vocabulary: 2 units per week in Speed Master: by the end of January, I must be reaching unit 10
  • Kanji: review N2.

Grammar: I have studied 2 lessons rather than 3 lessons per week. I hope that I can do better in February. I have reached week 2 day 6.

Vocabulary: I have reached unit 8, but I plan to study unit 9 this week. Still, I must have skipped one day without realising it! 😅

Kanji: N2 review done!

Currently reading

I am still reading Harry Potter and of course, 『誰か』! 

『向田理髪店』by Hideo OKUDA (奥田英朗)

I found this book in a bookshop and I bought it because the cover was cute, haha. I have read the first chapter and I like it. It tells the story of a fictional town called Tomazawa 苫沢町 and its inhabitants. Tomazawa is one of these coal mine towns in Japan which have flourished at the end of the 19th Century but have lost their raison d’être with the change of energy policy and the transition to oil.

The first chapter was absorbing!

Goals for February!

This time, I must finish 『誰か』! I also want to finish reading『向田理髪店』and read another detective novel. Last year, my reading goal was to read one Japanese book per month, so I thought that I could aim at two novels per month in 2019. But as things turn out, I am reading 3 per months!

I am not setting reading goals for Harry Potter in Japanese, I am reading it to relax.

As for the JLPT, I will go with 3 lessons of grammar per week (let’s see if I can do it!) and 2 units of vocabulary per week. I am also very excited to start the So-matome kanji book for N1. I will study 2 lessons per week.

Monthly Review: October 2018

October has been a month for discovering new paths: I have started studying Japanese history and I have watched my very first Japanese drama.

The two books I had ordered about Japanese History have finally arrived, but before that, I had started reading as many things as possible on the Internet. I am taking notes in a notebook too, which allows me to use the new three Pilot Iroshizuku inks I bought this month (namely, 深海 shin-kai、月夜 tsuki-yo and 松露 syo-ro).

I have finished watching the drama 『シグナル 長期未解決事件捜査班』(シグナル ちょうきみかいけつじけんそうさはん) and this is the first Japanese drama that I watch from start to finish. I am looking for other detective dramas now!

But most importantly, I have achieved my goals for the month, which were:

October goals 2018

It was not a difficult challenge, but it helped me to stay focused and make an effort to finish the books I had started before commencing new ones. I finished『流星の絆』at the beginning of the month, 『未来のミライ』two weeks ago and 『日本語びいき』this weekend (I will write my review on Wednesday).

I wanted to finish these three books because I have realised that I don’t have much time left to complete my 2018 reading challenge. My challenge was to read a book per month in Japanese and I had brought back 13 books from Japan for this purpose.

Now, my goal of reading one book a month is largely completed because I have read much more than 12 books this year, sometimes even reading several books in a single month. However, I still haven’t read all the 13 books of my initial list, and I want to read them all before the end of the year!

As I have given up reading one book of my list (『悪と仮面のルール』 by 中村文則), I still have 3 to read:

  • 『リカーシブル』 (Recursible) by 米澤穂信, a long novel of +500 pages
  • 『往復書簡』 by 湊かなえ, a collection of four short stories, I already read the first one
  • 『探偵倶楽部 (クラブ)』by 東野圭吾, a collection of five short stories, I already read the first one

If I want to finish them all in 2018, I need to start the novel right now and read at least one or two short stories in November, hence my goals for November:

November Goals 2018

I also added some other goals, though “study Japanese History” and “watch a drama” are not very challenging ones! As for writing on a daily basis, I don’t know if I will be able to do it, but I will try. I have been writing in Japanese every day for some months and I was quite positive that it had become a habit, but I have given up at some point. I want to renew with writing, and November seems perfect for it!

So that’s it! What are your goals for November? Only two months left in 2018, let’s make the best of them!

Monthly review: September 2018

Monthly review: September

I have tried a new thing this month, which is to define some monthly goals and publish them on my homepage. The goals I have chosen for September were:

September goals 2018

And now, it is time to see how far I went!

First of all Anki! My usual practice is to save in my electronic dictionary all the words that I look up and want to add to my Anki deck later. The problem is that I tend to never add these words to Anki and end up with a hundred or more words to add at a time.

I got down to adding these words right at the beginning of the month. It doesn’t take too long with a cup of tea and some good music. So I managed this task very soon, but what did I do for the rest of the month? I looked up a lot of words while reading books and the news, saved them in my dictionary and didn’t add them to Anki gradually as I should have done. So today, I have more than hundred words saved in my electronic dictionary. All in all, I don’t know if I succeeded in this task! 😅

The task of starting a book might look like a strange challenge (I mean, the challenge is usually to finish a book, not to start it), but I read very little in August, and I wanted to get back on tracks. Keigo HIGASHINO is one of my favourite authors, and I know that I can read his books without problems, this is why chose to read one of his novels. The one I chose is 『流星の絆』. I certainly could have finished it in September if it were not so long (617 pages). So I would consider this task as a success.

I am reading a History book called 「それでも、日本人は戦争を選んだ」. I don’t expect to finish it soon, but I don’t want to leave it untouched for too long. This month, I only read 20 pages of it, but it is better than nothing. My initial goal of 40 pages may have been too high. Anyway, I am glad that I did read this book in September. Even if I haven’t reached the 40 pages, I still feel satisfied with what I have done.

Lastly, I followed and read a lot of articles about the election of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, so that was a complete success. It also allowed me to pass a milestone, I think. I feel much more confident and at ease now when it comes to reading the political news in Japanese.

What about October?

As you might know, if you have taken a look at my last Wednesday posts, I am reading several books right now (in order of difficulty, starting with the easiest):

  • 『流星の絆』by Keigo HIGASHINO. The easiest of the 5 books, I will finish it in October.
  • 『未来のミライ』by Mamoru HOSODA. Another easy book that I will finish in October.
  • 『日本語びいき』 by Yumi SHIMIZU. This one is an essay. It is not difficult to read, but it does require more concentration from me than the two preceding titles.
  • 『こころ』by Soseki. I still haven’t mentioned it on my blog (I will certainly write about it on Wednesday this week), but I have started 『こころ』. It is challenging of course, but not as much as I thought. Still, I am reading it very slowly and don’t expect to finish it this year.
  • 『それでも、日本人は「戦争」を選んだ』by Yoko KATO. This is by far the most difficult book of the list. As I said previously, I read 20 pages this month and to be honest with you, it was a lot of pages… If I were to read 20 pages a month every month, I would not be able to finish this book by the end of 2019. And it is more probable that I will read less than that, so…

My monthly goals for October are related to these books. I want to finish the three easiest ones:

October goals 2018


I said in my last review that I was training myself to be ambidextrous. I haven’t practised every day, but I can still feel some progress. I can now write in an acceptable way but very slowly (slower than you think). I thought it would be cool to have two different handwritings, but my handwriting with my left hand (the new one) is more and more resembling my handwriting with my right hand. I don’t know how this all works, but it looks like my brain prefers to reproduce familiar patterns that trying new things. 😞

I still haven’t finished reading Atonement by Ian McEwan, mainly because I devoted all my reading time to Japanese books this month.

As for fountain pens, I think that my favourite brand is Sailor. There are still a lot of brands that I never tried, but from the ones I know, Sailor is the best to me. It seems that they make a lot of limited editions and looking at some of these opened me a new gate into the Japanese culture: the 京野菜 (きょうやさい), or vegetables originating in Kyoto prefecture (Wikipedia).

It is strange to discover vegetables through fountain pens, but this is what happened. Sailor, together with the Japanese retailer Kingdom Note, releases fountain pens that match a particular Kyoto vegetable.

This is the release date of the fountain pens.

At first, I was very frustrated to see these kanji because I had absolutely no clue what they meant and how to pronounce them. I later realised there were the names of Kyoto vegetables and I didn’t need to add them to my Anki, haha!

I am not particularly interested in vegetables, but I was happy to have learned something new in this way!


I would say that September was a success to me. Setting monthly goals allows me to feel a sense of achievement at the end of the month, even if I didn’t complete all my tasks. I think that I will continue doing it for the months to come.

I hope you are all doing well with your language studies!

Monthly Review: August 2018

August, or summer in general, is not a good time to study… at least to me. I have struggled with books and haven’t read as much as I should have. I blame my lack of productivity on Korean summer heat and hope that writing this monthly review will put an end to this Summer curse, chase away my laziness and put me back to study!

Monthly Review - August 2018

August hasn’t been a productive month


Do you sometimes have moments when you don’t feel like reading at all or start several books and feel unsatisfied with them and unable to go beyond the first 20 pages? August has been this kind of month to me.

First, I started 『往復書簡』by 湊かなえ (みなと・かなえ)and loved it but was disappointed to find out that it was a collection of short stories. I stopped after the first story and decided to start another book instead, one from my reading challenge list. I picked up 『悪と仮面のルール』by 中村文則(なかむら・ふみのり). I haven’t even talked about it on my blog because I only read around 20 pages before deciding that this book was not for me. It is not what I expected, and I found the beginning both strange and hard to read in Japanese.

Then I thought that the best thing to do would be to read another novel by Kanae MINATO, and chose one that would be a novel beyond doubt (and not a collection of short stories). I chose the novel 『リバース』but here again, I had a hard time getting into it. The first time I started it, I understood very little. The second time I gave it a tried, I could understand it quite easily (I must have lacked focus the first time) but did not feel interested by the story. Finally, I let it down during these two weeks when I haven’t done any Japanese. I was tempted to start another book, but I was afraid I might let it down too, and three defeats in a raw would have made me feel like a complete failure, haha. I even thought of reading a Keigo HIGASHINO, which I love, but I was afraid it would be cursed too, so I preferred to stop reading in Japanese altogether. But I think that I will take 『リバース』 again and give it another try, so it will certainly appear this Wednesday as my “currently reading” book.

The only success I had was  『ちょっと今から仕事やめてくる』by 北川恵海 (きたがわ・えみ).

I don’t know if I should blame the books or myself. As I haven’t gone very far (just reached Part II) of Atonement by Ian McEwan, I guess that I am the one to blame. I mean, you cannot possibly blame Atonement! This is a masterpiece of prose, the kind of novel that instantaneously killed any pretention I might have had to write a novel myself. I love reading it, but for some reasons, I am very slow at it.

So I guess it is just me, I didn’t feel like reading this month. It happens, I guess.

Fountain pens

I was much more successful in pursuing my newly born passion for fountain pens. I acquired a Sailor and a Platinum (both Japanese brands) when some months ago, I would have considered utterly useless to have more than one fountain pen.

One good thing with the fountain pen hobby is that it makes me want to write. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like writing in Japanese or taking notes about what I read, but then I thought “but I could use my newly acquired Sailor Shikiori Yozakura to do it!” and I end up studying Japanese!

Also, I focus on Japanese brands, not because I think they are better, but because it relates to my learning Japanese. And seeing breathtaking Maki-e on Pilot pens really fed my fascination for Japan and Japanese art:

(I spent too much time watching Brian Goulet’s videos…)

I will never be able to buy these pens but just looking at them somehow makes me happy.

Last but not least, I am training myself to become ambidextrous, at least, only for writing. I have always been fascinated by people who could write with both their hands and I have always wanted to train my left hand to write as well as my right hand but never really had the patience to do it. What helped me this time is that I have learned an alternative keyboard for French two years ago. It is called “bépo”, and I am using it since then, even when writing in English. And learning it was frustrating too. It took me weeks, maybe months (I can’t remember) to use it comfortably. In the beginning, I could only type very very slowly, it needed patience and regular practice. Well, I think that training your non-dominant hand to write requires the same process. It is frustrating, but as I know I succeeded with the keyboard, I know that I can succeed with my left hand too!

Monthly Review - August 2018 1.jpg

I didn’t know there was such a thing as a “Fountain pen hobby”, now I am completely in it…


I had a lot of fun this month with my fountain pens, and I enjoyed practicing my handwriting with both my hands (I also want to improve my handwriting with my right hand.)

I hope I will soon go back to study, or at least read in Japanese. I need to catch up with the news too, especially with the LDP elections approaching… I have a lot of words stocked in my electronic dictionary that wait to be added to my Anki deck… I also want to go back to my History book that I haven’t read for quite some time now… and so many other things!

Monthly Review: June

We are entering the last week of June and almost reached the half of the year! 😮

If I had to sum up the month of June, I would call it: “going back into my comfort zone.”

Though I am still drawing and journaling with as much enthusiasm as last month, the focus of this month is reading, so let’s talk about books!

I have been reading several books at the same time this month, but I was not convinced or as enthusiastic as I thought I would be by most of them. Though I have been quite diligent during the first half of June, I finally gave up the battle and returned to the safety of my comfort zone by reading easier and more familiar authors.

Japanese books: disappointment and frustration

I will post about all these books on my Wednesday section, but this is an overview:

  • 「君たちはどう生きるか」by 吉野源三郎: I finally finished it and will post my review the day after tomorrow, but I can already say that I did not enjoy reading this book. It is a novel for children written in 1937 that, for some reasons, is very popular now in Japan. But, even if I can see all the qualities of this novel, it just wasn’t for me… To say it plainly, this book was the most boring reading experience of the year. I am not at all blaming the novel in itself but it addresses young readers, and I really cannot fathom why it is so popular among adults now…
  • 「在日」by 姜尚中(カン・サンジュン): I absolutely loved the first third of this book, and I don’t regret a second having bought it even if I am abandoning it now. The truth is, now that I am reaching the half of the book, I am losing interest in it. I was interested in the first generation of Korean who decided to go to Japan during Japanese rule. I was also interested in knowing how they lived in Japan and 「在日」was describing exactly that. But then, the book is not as much an essay on this part of history as an autobiography, and as the author goes on with his life (his student life, his experience in Germany, his married life…), I feel that I am not that interested anymore. The book is also hard to read, with a lot of political references so… I gave up!
  • 「光」by 三浦しをん: I like this book, I like the story, but I am not that enthusiastic about it… It is almost impossible to tell why exactly. I really think that it is a good novel, but somehow, I have to force myself a little to open it and read it. There is nothing that I could possibly criticise about the book though… well I guess this kind of things happens!

So you see, I was not happy with my readings, and last week I decided to go back to familiar places and started a book by Keigo HIGASHINO. I am convinced that achieving a good balance between challenging books and easier ones is vital to keep going. Challenging books are there to make us progress and have a sense of achievement, but regularly going back to easier books is also essential to not feel overwhelmed and regain confidence. Higashino’s novel gave me exactly what I was looking for: a book that I want to open as soon as I have some time to read and that I can read without any effort.

So now, I am happily enjoying my comfort zone again!

English book: I thought I could read in English, but maybe I can’t…

I finished The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and this is one of my favourite books ever. I was so obsessed with this story that I bought the audiobook read by Dominic West and keep listening to it.

After that, there was a novel that I absolutely wanted to read: White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I saw this title on almost every list of recommended contemporary British novels. I was very excited to read it, but the author’s writing style really took me by surprise. I am sure that her writing style is full of liveliness and vibrancy, but it is also hard to read for English learners. I mean, I can read and understand it, but I am definitely out of my comfort zone.

I just began it and judged that it was not the right time to read this book. I really think it was a problem of timing. When I first opened White Teeth, I was struggling with my three Japanese books, and I didn’t want to also struggle with the book I read in English. Also, I was at a point when I doubted my Japanese abilities because 「在日」was hard to read and 「光」is a little challenging. But then, realising that I could not even read properly in English really gave me the final knock-out blow.

So here again, I decided to go back straight to my comfort zone. I closed White Teeth and made the solemn promise that I will come back to it and read it this year, and headed to something more familiar and easier to read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. My “English reading challenge” was to familiarise myself with contemporary British authors and it is true that Jane Austen is not exactly “contemporary”, but I will incorporate classics to my list and just name it “journey into British literature” or something like that.

I read Jane Austen at school but in French translation and at a time when reading classics was more of an annoying duty than anything. So it’s time to read her major works in English!

The same kind of magic that happened with Higashino worked with Jane Austen too. I felt reassured in my abilities to read in English, I was drawn into the story right from the first page, and I can read it without efforts in English. So everything is fine.


I really enjoy being in my comfort zone, why do people always want you to go out of it 🤨? It is so delightful to stop making efforts for a while and just enjoy what our present level allows us to have. I retreated so far in my comfort zone that I even started a new village in Animal Crossing New Leaf, haha. I was maybe a little tired of my old one and even though parting with it was heartbreaking, starting a new one was very exciting! I sometimes wish that life would be as easy as fishing, catching bugs and trading pieces of furniture with talking animals.

My June hobby-life consisted in trying to draw my cat, reading detective novels, English classics, watching the World Cup and playing Animal Crossing New Leaf. I’m sure July will not be much different! 🙂


Monthly review: March 2018

I have decided to start a new category on my blog and write a monthly review at the end of the month to talk about how I have been studying Japanese and other things.


What is new on my blog is how I write my Friday post. Instead of studying a news article on Friday, I write a review of the week concerning Japan politics and society. To write this post, I have to check the news at least once a day (I open NHK News website and listen to NHK radio news). It sometimes brings a little stress, but the benefice is more significant than I had expected:

First, reading the news is an activity that slowly becomes easier. Given that several subjects go on for several days or weeks, once I know the vocabulary I can read on the same subject with a little more confidence.

But the greatest benefice is this: I know what is going on in Japan even if I am not living there and it creates some kind of relationship with the country. I have an interest in Japanese literature, I love a lot of Japanese culture aspects, but I am not a fan of Japan’s pop culture as many learners are. As a consequence, I sometimes feel that what links me to Japan is very thin. Through reading the news, I feel implicated in what happens in the country, and it motivates me to keep on studying Japanese.

Finally, I have always considered that reading the news in a foreign language is an immense benefice of language learning. You can have a direct insight into a country’s state and the way media works there. It is also interesting to see how other countries see some major events, or how things that happen in your own country are seen in foreign media. Anyway, it’s exciting to have several points of view.

monthly review march 2018 1


I am not doing much study since I passed N2 in December of last year, but I enjoy doing what I am doing.

I still write down Japanese names to slowly get closer to this ideal state: being able to read a name when I see one. Last week, I posted about the 紅白本合戦, and I saw a picture of the 20 books ranked during the conquest: there are two lists of 10 authors whose name I cannot even pronounce. And it’s a picture so I cannot copy-paste it. So frustrating!

I am still studying my new deck of onomatopoeia. This works pretty well, and I am very satisfied with it. I finally could remember some onomatopoeia! But the most important point is that I enjoy studying this deck. Before, when onomatopoeia appeared in my regular Japanese deck, I was so bored I just dismissed them with a “correct” answer and tried to ignore the sense of guilt that Anki tried to instil into me. The reason why I enjoy studying my onomatopoeia deck is that it is full of sentences I saw in novels I liked, and I can recall the scenes exactly as I imagined them when I was reading these books.

Also, I am writing in マイブック on an almost daily basis. In the beginning, I was glad when I wrote half or even one-third of the page. Now I always reach the end of the page. I started in February, so it’s a little soon to claim that I got into the habit of writing in Japanese every day, but I am on my way!


I have done very little to improve my English this month. I feel discouraged by phrasal verbs. There are so many!! I am sure that we mostly learn the one-word substitute instead of the phrasal verb at school. It seems much more natural to me to say “please remove your shoes” than “please take off your shoes”, even if I’m talking to a friend in a casual situation! I feel like I am starting from scratch with phrasal verbs. Maybe I will take a pause with it, and learn English idioms instead. It’s more fun!

monthly review march 2018 2


In Japanese, I have read 「ぶたぶたラジオ」by 矢崎存美 and started 「イノセント・デイズ」by 早見和真, and in English, I am reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. I am much ashamed, but I have read mostly French literature, and there are a lot of British authors that I have never read… Doris Lessing is one of them. I thought that The Golden Notebook would be difficult to read, but it’s not. As every book that inspires me, I wish that I had read it sooner. I love the many insights into Communism at the time, I am learning and understanding a lot through this novel. Experiences are also seen with different lights, describe differently or with a different mood and what is striking is that these different points of view are all emerging from the same person, Anna. The notebooks contained in the Golden Notebook are like a palimpsest where new writings come over the old ones, but we still can read through. We see how, through the writing of experiences and memories, a novel takes shape, and these insights into the creative process are very inspiring.

I am also “reading” my first History book in Japanese! “Reading” is not exactly the term, I would say that working my way through it with a dictionary and Wikipedia is a better definition. But it is an exciting journey, and I will post about it on Wednesday!


That’s all I can think about for the moment, but it’s the first time I write a monthly review… Now that Winter is over, I will feel guilty again to stay at home on warm sunny days. But I like Spring too, it brings new energy and feels like a new beginning!