Introduction

This blog is new version of my tumblr blog which I started in May 2015. At the time I was home with a burnout. I was looking at Japanese study blogs to try to figure out how to set up a good study plan for myself when I realized I couldn’t directly use most of their plans or ideas. Because my illness won’t allow me to study that way. And as I came to grips with that, I decided to start my own Japanese learning blog. To document my journey and what works for me.

Partially I write this as a journal, a way of processing my thoughts, but I also write this in the hope that other people will benefit from it. If you have any questions leave me a comment or ask me over Twitter.

Advertisements

I’m so out of it…I forgot to think of title

So…I haven’t posted in ages.

 

But at least I now know why! A few months ago I got diagnosed with 2 personality disorders: Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Avoidant Personality Disorder. Which is a fun ass combination to have and an unusual one according to my therapist. (Pro-tip: if your therapist looks professionally interested in your case, you’re fucked. The smile on my orthodontist’s face…. *shudders*) This combination means that basically everything I do needs to be done Per. Fect. Ly. or if I think I can’t pull that off, I run. I run and run and hide myself somewhere far far away from the world. And that lovely combination is why I haven’t posted here. And why I’ve barely managed to keep up my studies. It’s also why I struggle to read manga or watch anime in Japanese. Every time I think about it, I become terrified I won’t be able to understand and I avoid it.

As for how to tackle this, I have no clue at the moment. I’ve been trying bits and continuing to do stuff from my previous therapy and it’s working. But it’s a slow ass process. In a way I can’t wait to start my next round of therapy and really get to work with all this. At the same time, I’m terrified because they promised it means digging into my past.

I’m going to think over what I want to do with this blog. I want to keep it, but it needs some structure, if only to make sure I actually keep writing for it. xD

It’s over! For now…

Last Sunday I sat down with a whole bunch of people and took the N4 level JLPT in Leiden. After several months of cramming, this was the moment of truth. Ironically my focus on vocabulary and kanji in the past month meant that grammar was a weaker point than it had been when I did the sample exam. How did I do? No, idea. I’m hoping I passed, but I won’t know till the end of August at the earliest.

However I can say with certainty that I don’t regret taking it. Even though I’d done the practice exam in preparation for the actual thing, the real test was still a vastly different experience. For one thing, I hadn’t brought any snacks, though I did bring water, and this was a huge mistake. I wasn’t prepared for the huge breaks in between the various sections of the test. Between grammar and listening we had no less than 40 minutes of recess. Some sugar would’ve been much appreciated by my brain as by the end I was struggling to get any focus out of it. I also get cold and shivery when I haven’t eaten for too long and this made the listening part a little extra challenging. On the plus side, plenty of toilet break time. 😉

I should add that I’d met a girl at the AnimeCon a few weeks previous who also took the JLPT N4 last Sunday so that I was fortunate enough to have someone to talk to during the breaks. If you’re going in alone you might want to bring along something to distract you from fretting during all the breaks. Chatting about anime and other random stuff did help to keep me relaxed.

Another lesson is to make sure that in the final month you’re reviewing all parts equally. Because of my severe lack of vocabulary knowledge I ended up cramming it like mad in the month leading up to the test. This meant the first part was a breeze and then when I got to grammar I ran into a massive wall. I’d barely glanced at my grammar notes since the test exam and I hadn’t properly checked what I’d need to know either. Which brings me to my next point: what to learn.

There are no official lists of grammar, vocab and kanji that you need to know for N4. However people have compiled lists, based on experience, of the things that are likely to come up. Unless you’re studying from a book specifically designed to make you pass N4, I’d advice finding a few of these and going over the points mentioned. I didn’t do this for my exam and instead relied on having gone through all of Genki I & II. Turns out that means I know a lot of grammar I won’t need till N3 and missed some points that popped up on N4.

Practice listening tests. The final part of the listening exam is brutal. All the questions and 3 possible answers are spoken and you have to pick the best option. There is no text what so ever to help you and no pause worth mentioning between the question and the potential answers. Half the time I was still parsing the question and missed the first answer as a result. Conversation will help you with this, but it can’t fully prepare you for the speed. In real life conversation you can backtrack, as someone to repeat themselves or take a few seconds extra to process a sentence. You can’t with a listening exam, so practice listening quizes if possible.

And those are my major takeaways from the exam. All in all it was a surprisingly fun, if nerve wracking, experience. I’m going to continue my studies so that, regardless of my N4 grade, I can take the N3 exam next year. じゃあね~

Study schedule

So in my last post I said I’d soon post a study schedule. This turned out to be a lot harder than I expected. Not because it’s so hard to come up with a schedule, but every time I sat down and tried to, I got scared and couldn’t do it. My fear of not being able to stick to the schedule was so overwhelming, I didn’t even create one. It took me a long time to figure out that this was the cause. And I’m not over it yet, but now I understand what’s causing it I’m slowly trying to break through it. One of my ways for doing this is to plan which elements I need to study and how many hours a day I want to spend studying, instead of setting down what I’ll do each day at a specific hour.

I also finally sat down and did the practice exam for the JLPT N4. And I scored quite well. In total I got 67/97 right and a whopping 20 out of 28 right on the listening section! \^^/ My main weakness turned out to be vocabulary so I’ve decided to start focusing on this first of all. I’ve ramped up my WaniKani and Memrise reviews again and I’m going to be grinding away. I’m aiming to study 2 hours a day during the week and 4 hours a day on the weekends. Part of that weekend time will go to reviewing grammar points, as I also noticed I have a very weak grasp on especially the causative and passive forms. So for the next month I’m going to be focusing grinding away! Till the exam on the 3rd July…. *freaks out a bit*

Life & Study update

Wow, it’s been over a month since I last posted something here. Time flies when you’re being tortured in therapy. So yeah, after being on the waiting list for 2 months I’ve finally started my therapy! And though it has been rather mentally exhausting, confronting and even physically painful thanks to my body overreacting to stress, it is helping. And I’m even somewhat starting to enjoy the group sessions…Weird, I know. 😉

On top of all I’ve had a massive toothache, which will require me to wear braces for the next 2 years to fix. orz So all in all last month is one I wouldn’t mind forgetting.

Still I’ve more or less managed to keep up with my Japanese studies. I’d already to decided to put them on the back burner last month and only do some reviews and immersion stuff. I took a break from reviewing last weekend, but other than that I’ve been keeping on top of learning vocab and kanji everyday. I also largely managed to complete the immersion increasing challenge I set myself last month. I spent most of the month “reading”  Starry Sky in Spring in bed instead of my usual English books. That said I do really miss having a moment to read my English books so I need to find some way to reconfigure this and fit both into my life.

Speaking of reconfiguring my schedule…with only 2 months to go till the JLPT exam I really need to sit down and draw up a study schedule. The mere thought of doing so terrifies me though. I’m dreadfully afraid getting it wrong, missing out something and then failing the test. Of course, not creating a study schedule because I’m too scared to do is more or less guaranteed to make me fail the test. Behold, the self-fulfilling prophecy loop that is my anxiety disorder! Thankfully I’ve now got some tools to help me deal with these fears. One of the most important comes, not from my therapy, but from the book Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D. (dr. David Burns? I don’t get American titles). I was recommended this book while on the waiting list by friends and if you have problems similar to mine, I highly recommend you give it a go. My therapy is going to cover pretty much everything in this book, though in a slightly different way and the fact that I’ve already read it only makes my treatment more useful. I’ve got a wee head start on the rest of the class so to speak, but at the same time that means I can use this time to dig even deeper. Plus if you’re like me, you’re a champion at procrastinating and not doing all the exercises you should do as often as you should… Being asked by your therapists if you’ve done your homework twice a week is good way to break through that. Even if it’s somewhat painfully confronting. ^^; But hey, years of avoiding these thoughts is what got me in this mess, so now it’s time to fight back!

So the tool that I’ll be using now is the so-called Triple Column Technique which starts by making 3 columns: automatic thoughts, distortion and rational response. In the first one you write down all your automatic thoughts as these are what upset you. So in this case mine would be “OMG, I’ve never made a study schedule before, I’m going to fuck up and fail the test.” If I dig a little deeper there’s also “Failing the test means I fail as a person.” (Can you tell perfectionism is one of my major pitfalls?)

Now that I’ve identified these nasty thoughts it’s time to label them for what they are: all or nothing thinking and the fortune teller error. After all I’m jumping to conclusions that I’ll fail if I somehow mess up a study schedule and I clearly never allow myself to fail at anything without instantly considering myself a massive loser.

Finally lets put some rational responses up against these thoughts: failing one test doesn’t make me a failure as person, because my worth isn’t determined by how many certificates I have. Even if I mess up the first version of my study schedule I can always correct and improve it as I go along. This is your first time doing something like this, you’re self-studying for a fairly difficult test. The only one who expects you to be perfect at this is YOU. And let’s be real, you’d never demand this level of perfection from someone else.

Writing this out might seem kind of silly and even pointless at first, but it does help me to calm down and focus instead of panicking for hours and ultimately not doing anything. There’s loads more in the book and my therapy. I wouldn’t call the book a replacement for therapy, but it’s certainly an excellent start or even addition if you’re already in therapy.

Now that I’ve calmed down, I realise the best place to start for a study schedule would be to the practice test I bought recently and identify my weak spots. So I’m off to do that and I’ll be back fairly soon to post my new study

Immersion challenge

Immersion is an important part of my study regime for me. For one, it’s the most fun part, I mean I basically just read a bunch of manga, watch anime and play games, but it’s also the most motivating part. It reminds me of why I’m even learning this language in the first place.

At the same time it’s also really hard, I love reading for instance, but it’s a lot less fun when you need to crack open a dictionary every other sentence. -_-” The second thing that makes it hard is my anxiety & low self-esteem. Every time I want to pursue a piece of media there’s this little nagging voice in the back of my head going:

“You suck too much to understand this” “What if you don’t even understand a single sentence” “What if this is still too hard? How can I still suck so much I can’t even read a kid’s manga?”

Add to this the third factor: my perfectionism. I feel like I should do 100% immersion all the time or it’s just not worth it. If I give in even once and watch an English language show or read an English book I’m a total failure. This of course if bullshit. But I believe this bullshit on some level.

So when I spotted the newest JALUP group challenge: immersion replacement challenge I figured it would be cool to join in and 1) slowly build up my level of immersion 2) because the build up would be slow I could easily combine it with the techniques from Feeling Good by David Burns to combat the nasty automatic thoughts I have. So below is my entrance form:

– Your level 20
– What specific daily time-waster item are you going to replace? I really have only one daily time-waster that I can think of right now and that’s reading in bed. I usually just read an English book for 30-60 minutes before going to sleep.
– What type of immersion are you going to put in its place? Japanese reading, probably a manga. I have some 名探偵コナン to finish.
– Briefly explain why you are joining this challenge (ex. this can be as simple as “I want to kick some immersion ass.”  I figure this is a good way to build a daily immersion habit. 😉

Coping strategy: planning and organising

So one of the fun effects of my Generalised Anxiety Disorder is that I tend to want to do 50 things at once and I have a really hard time prioritizing and deciding which is most important. Which means that I usually just end up sitting on the settee doing nothing at all until I totally freak out over all the stuff I still need to do and go into overdrive. Because neither of these states are really much fun to be in, I’ve been trying to find a way to break the cycle. Sadly the most promising way of doing so, therapy, comes with a waiting list. Luckily I came across the book The Organised Mind by Daniel Levitin and I’ve been applying several of the techniques from the book to help me prioritize what I want to do. Mainly writing down all the things that float into my head during the day that I want to/have to do and then sitting down once a day to pick what I’ll do that day and prioritizing it all. It all ends up looking something like this:

Another change is that I go to bed at 22:00 and get up at 6:00 every single day of the week now. Yes, even in the weekends. Research has shown that your brain doesn’t react well to changes to your sleep cycle and my own experience seems to bear this out. As you can see I actually plan my game and other hobby time too, because otherwise I just keep on freaking out about how I’m wasting my time. >.<

I’ve also changed my study schedule from the one I posted last month. I discovered I can’t keep up reviews on WaniKani and in Anki. It’s just too much data for me to handle and it really makes me hate sitting down to study. So I’ve dropped Anki in favour of just focusing on learning all those pesky kanji using WaniKani. I’m still struggling to get myself to sit down and work through Genki II, because for some reason I’m afraid of doing exercises in the workbook. Fear of getting it wrong I guess. So for the time being I’m making sure I review WaniKani 3 times a day, get plenty of immersion hours in, chat in Japanese a bit on Twitter/forums and do Genki exercises whenever I can muster enough strength to break through the fear.

Folktales from Japan

NihonBanashi昔々 (むかしむかし)。。。

Once upon a time, there was a show named ふるさと再生 日本の昔ばなし (ふるさとさいせい にほんのむかしばなし)or Home town Rebuilding: Folk tales from Japan and it brought joy to many children and at least one student of the Japanese language. ^^

I stumbled upon this show while browsing around Crunchyroll for shows that I would be able to watch and understand without subtitles. As I’ve always loved myths, fairy and folk tales I figured I’d give this one a try and it turned out to be utterly charming. Every episode tells three different stories, often animated in different styles, and each of the stories is narrated and voiced. There’s a lot of repetition and fairly easy Japanese, though it can be hard to understand some of the old people voices. But the stories are easy enough to follow without 100% understanding of the text and certainly remain fun.

ShippeiTarou.png

While the animation is pretty simple and even a bit cheap at times, it’s been made with a great sense of style. So that the fairly static images feel like pictures from a picture book.

All in all this a show that I’d really recommend if you’re looking for some lower level Japanese to cut your teeth on. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about Japanese folklore. Regardless of your current level.