I am always on the lookout for good audio resources. Because I spend so much of my time in the car, this is where I do the bulk of my language study.
For languages like Croatian, there’s not a lot available, so whenever I find something, I’m over the moon.
Because my goal with many of my languages is to attain a conversational level, listening comprehension is doubly important to me.
And that’s why I’ve found Glossika to be an invaluable resource.
When I first discovered Glossika, the platform was completely different than it is today. At present, Glossika is an online software (though you can download audio to work on offline). It is audio-based, but you can read the sentences in both your native and target languages as you work through the exercises.
The tool uses Glossika Mass Sentences. In other words, it’s all about learning a language by practicing a lot of sentences. The focus isn’t on individual words or grammar, but on learning at the sentence level.
In the words of Glossika founder Mike Campbell, “By focusing on language at the sentence level, it makes it easier to learn several things that are not easy to learn by themselves: pronunciation, syntax, vocabulary, and grammar.” (source) This method is mixed with spaced-repetition. That means the software repeats sentences for you just before you might forget them.
Founded by Mike Campbell, the company is based in Taiwan where it has a team that specializes in creating its immersive learning program.
Who is Glossika for?
Glossika is best for the upper beginner or intermediate learner. Someone with a basic understanding of the language.
What I Like About Glossika?
The Placement Test // If you have experience with the language, I recommend taking the placement test. That way, you don’t have to start from the beginning. You can skip what you already know and dive right into the new material. With a repetition-based program, this is an excellent feature. You don’t grow bored drilling sentences you already know and can focus on new material.
Speaking // If you activate your microphone, Glossika records you speaking the sentences. You aren’t given feedback on your recordings, but it’s still a great way to get speaking practice without the pressure of conversing. And because you’re mimicking the sentences you heard only a moment for, it’s a useful way to improve your accent, too.
Flexible Settings // You can choose between normal, slow or fast so that you can experience the audio at different speeds. Other settings you can choose include:
Whether or not you see the text in your native language
Whether or not you hear the sentence read in your native language
The speed of the sentences in both your native and target languages
The amount of space between the sentences (to give you time to repeat or process if needed)
Whether or not the sentences in your target language are repeated before moving on to the next sentence
The topics you learn
The number of new sentences your introduced to per session
The Language Selection // In addition to many of the more popular languages, Glossika also offers a lot of languages that don’t have many resources available elsewhere. Some of these include Croatian, Serbian, Taiwanese Hokkien, Kurdish, Cantonese, Gaelic, Irish, European Portuguese, and Southern Vietnamese.
Glossika is Perfect for Language Laddering // You can set your native language to any language available in the Glossika system. This means that if you already speak a language at an intermediate or advanced intermediate level, you can use it to improve another language. Once I realized this is an option, I changed my native language to French. I was then able to keep my French active while learning many of the other languages in the system.
Things That Could Be Better
More Writing Support // For a language like Japanese, you’re shown both kana and kanji. This means you need to be familiar with all three systems in order to understand the written sentences. Additionally, you need to have the appropriate keyboard installed to try out the three of the four writing exercises: typing, dictation, and fill in the blank.
More Cultural Context // All of the sentences are the same for every language in Glossika. This means that you lose out on any cultural context. That said, Glossika admits that it is not a complete language learning solution (and the same can be said for any language resource). So you can always learn about the cultural elements of your language outside of Glossika.
Your Personal Dashboard Could Be Easier to Navigate // For me personally, I’d love to have a personalized dashboard where I could see my progress with each of the languages I’m using, how many repetitions are due, how many repetitions I’ve done, and how many are left before I’ve completed the course. You can see this within each course, but I’d love to be able to see this at a glance in a personalized dashboard.
How Much Does Glossika Cost?
At the time of writing, for non-enterprise users, Glossika currently has two payment plans. The Free plan gives you unlimited access to their free languages and 1,000 reps with standard languages. The paid plan gives you full access to all languages and premium features for $30/month (or $24.99/month when you pay for a year in advance).
Glossika is an excellent course with high-quality audio, tons of useful material and is a treasure trove for those learning languages with few resources. The price is amazing considering the fact that you get every language within Glossika. Recommended.
It’s easy to think that if you spend enough time with your language’s vocabulary and grammar that one day, you’ll master the language. But a language is so much more than just words and grammar.
And in order to effectively learn a language, you first need to learn how to learn.
You can be the most dedicated grammar learner or have more points than all of your friends on Memrise, but memorization and grammar exercises are only part of the equation.
Learning How to Learn Better
When I first started studying languages on my own, the only way I knew how to learn was what being in a classroom environment had taught me.
But there were a few small problems that equated to one big problem when I added them all up.
You see, in the classroom, I studied material to pass a test. I did the exercises as homework because I received a grade for doing them. I knew what vocabulary to memorize because I had a teacher tell us which words to highlight and study each week in class. I knew how to prepare for dictation because it pretty much always covered whatever chapter we were on in the book. And I kept doing the work because my final score in the class was important for university applications.
When I got out of school, I didn’t have any of that accountability. Neither did I have any of the instruction and guidance.
I went to the store, bought tons of books and figured that working through them systematically chapter by chapter would be good enough. The book would tell me what to study, I’d study it and voilà. I’d know the language.
Here’s where things got tricky.
1. I never spoke the languages I was studying. So even though I knew a bunch of words and grammar, I never really got the chance to put it all together. Whenever opportunities to speak did come up, I failed miserably because I didn’t have any practice at it. 2. I eventually burned out doing the exercises. No one was checking in on me, so it wasn’t long before I began thinking, “seriously, what’s the point?” 3. Modern cultures and technologies change faster than most course books can keep up with. I was still learning about outdated currencies and music formats when streaming was the hot ticket. 4. A lot of what I was studying was completely irrelevant for me. I wasn’t planning on buying train tickets or converting currency in the languages. I wanted to talk about music and video games and the books I was reading. But the material I worked with didn’t teach me how to talk about jazz improvisation, quests, or the mother of dragons.’ 5. I equated owning more books with knowing more of the language when really, I was just learning the same things over and over again in different books.
I needed direction.
Then I discovered the online language learning community. After years of reading what everyone was doing, seeing what worked and what didn’t, experimenting with things on my own and making a lot of mistakes along the way, I finally designed out a system that was right for me.
It wasn’t easy. It was worth the work, but I would have loved to have figured it all out sooner.
The Four (or Five) Core Language Skills
Based on what I learned in school, there were only two things I needed to learn in order to master a language: words and grammar.
But those two things are just a part of the bigger picture. Those two things need to be put into a larger context – the four core language skills.
The four core language skills are: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. And together, they form your overall ability in a language.
Actually, I’d add a fifth – cultural awareness.
Without this, you cannot be an effective communicator. Even if you can read, write, speak and understand well, lacking cultural understanding will render you a poor communicator in your language.
Now, these four or five skills, they’re super important. And words and grammar fit into each of these, but in a different way. And you have to work with them in those different ways to really make them your own.
It doesn’t stop there, though.
The priority that each of these core skills gets depends on what your goals are with the language. Your goals determine how you need to study a language in order to master it (in the way that you need to master it).
For example, someone studying a language to be able to read Tolstoy in it’s original Russian will need to focus on a completely different skill set than someone who is looking to communicate with their Japanese family in Japanese. And someone who is learning Korean to sing along to and understand their favorite K-pop tunes, needs to focus on different things than someone who is moving to Italy to work in their company’s offices there.
Each of these people can be fluent and can master their language, but what they need to work on in order to feel like they’ve mastered the language in the context that they need it differs immensely.
There’s no one size fits all approach to learning a language.
So just how do you go about figuring out which approach is the right for you?
Figure Out What Your Goals Are
The first step to really determine what you need to do as a language learner is sit down and have a think about what your goals are. What is it that you’re hoping to accomplish by learning your language? What would you ultimately like to do with the language?
There are tons of fantastic language communities around the web, as small or as large as you’d like them. For example, there’s the Language Reading Challenge, my Facebook group. It’s still relatively small, so you can get to know the other members and share your love of reading and languages. There are also forums, language exchange sites, and meet ups.
Become a Better Learner
There are a ton of incredible books, articles and courses out there that will help you become a better learner. They’ll help you figure out what tactics are right for you, how to fit language learning into your schedule, and more.
Find a Way to Stay Accountable
When you learn on your own, you loose a lot of the systems that help you stay motivated and accountable. This means that you need to figure out a way to keep yourself accountable on your own. There are useful apps like Askmeevery or Habitica that help you track your progress.
Get All of The Above in One Place
If doing all of these things separate sounds overwhelming, there’s another option for you: Language Study Club.
Language Study Club is a community organised by myself and Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages.
Over the past six months, we’ve worked with a private community to build the course and now we’re ready to open up membership to the rest of the world.
Each month, we focus on a different topic. That way, you can give one area of your language learning a lot of focus and room to grow. Plus, it’s a community so you have other learners there to support you, help you find your way, as well as Lindsay and I to chat things out with during the monthly Live Q+A.
The best part is that by joining now, you’ll already have access to 6 months of content to dive deep with. These include:
Overcoming Reading Anxiety
Goal Setting for a New Year of Language Learning
and Time Management
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every month, we add new topics. Some of those coming up include Learning Different Writing Systems, Sociolinguistics, and Learning On The Go.
As a part of each month’s theme you get:
Week 1 – the Video Lesson for the month
Week 2 – the Workbook to help build on what you learnt the previous week
Week 3 – a Mini Challenge so you to put everything into practice
Week 4 – the chance to participate in a Live Q+A with Lindsay and/or me + other members of Language Study Club
Additionally, you get access to the private Language Study Club Facebook Group.
I Want to join Language Study Club!
We are offering special rates to join this week only! At 11:59 pm on Friday night (March 30th, 2018), the price goes up.
After studying Croatian, Japanese has been a big change. And not for the most obvious reasons. While the languages are very different in terms of vocabulary, grammar, and how far removed they are from my native language, none of these things are what made learning the languages difficult.
With Croatian, one of my biggest challenges was finding resources, while with Japanese, there are plenty of tools to choose from. This meant that my biggest challenge was often figuring out which were the right fit.
In the past, I’ve shared how too much choice can be bad news for language learners. Trying out different resources and never really giving yourself the chance to go deep with those that you use can quickly become a huge time suck.
I want to save you some of that time, so as a part of my Japanese learning project, I want to share the resources that I’ve found value in. In doing so, I hope to help you more quickly discover the best Japanese language resources for you.
The Conversation-Based Approach to Learning Japanese
Japanese is the second language I’ve taken on where my focus is 100% on conversation (Spanish was the first). I plan to eventually dive deep with the language, but in contrast to the other languages I’ve learned, I’ve spent lots of time up front trying to speak and understand. Figuring out how to read and write is second, and so far, I’ve only picked up what I need in order to support my speaking and listening comprehension.
So far, this approach has worked extremely well for me. After only a few months, my Japanese comprehension and speaking are at a much higher level than some of my other languages were after years of study.
This means, that when I choose resources, I look for materials that help me develop my speaking and comprehension skills.
Olly Richards is the language learner, teacher and podcaster behind I Will Teach You a Language. He started learning languages at the age of nineteen, and has since produced a number of language learning products and articles teach other learners the techniques he’s developed along the way.
On his blog, Olly has shared his thoughts on how important working with dialogues is when tackling a language. In his words, “dialogues are a staple of language study”. https://www.iwillteachyoualanguage.com/studying-dialogues/
Unfortunately, most course books bury these highly valuable dialogues in the middle of complex grammar explanations and other unrelated exercises. Not to mention, they’re often built around conversations you’re not likely to have and the language is often unnatural and not at all similar to how the language is used in everyday life.
Conversations is a series of courses for Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and German. There is also a Cantonese Conversations, though this particular course is a little different from the others.
Each of the Conversations courses includes twenty total dialogues, each between two to four minutes in length. Additionally, Olly includes is Listening Skills Masterclass, a detailed video on how to get the most out of the course (and become better at using audio resources).
Each lesson includes a brief summary in English, so you get a bit of context before diving into the dialogue. There is then a vocabulary section, followed by an English translation of the dialogue.
The dialogues within conversations are on a wide range of everyday topics that might come up when living in or traveling to the country where your target language is spoken. The audio is recorded by native speakers and is great quality. Plus, the voice artists speak at a speed that isn’t too fast or too slow. It’s just the right speed to push your listening comprehension.
The attention to detail in this course is top notch. For example, even when you drill down into something like names of the characters, they are unique. Something that’s important so that you don’t confuse them as you’re working through the material.
With Conversations, you really have everything that you need to do some intensive listening comprehension study.
Japanese Conversations Review
The course is definitely geared towards intermediate learners and requires that you have a decent reading ability in the language. It uses kanji + kana, but includes furigana. This can be a challenge to beginning learners, but my personal philosophy is that learning the writing system of a language is important. So this resource certainly challenges you to take that initiative if you haven’t already done so.
When I first opened up the first Conversations dialogue and turned on the audio, I must admit that I was overwhelmed. With just shy of two months of Japanese under my belt, I didn’t understand the majority of the first lesson.
Rather than set it aside until I had truly “arrived” at the intermediate stage, however, I decided to dive in.
With a resource like Conversations, how you use it is pretty open-ended. Olly does suggest following his five step listening process, but with where I was at, I figured I could do more.
I decided to work from the ground up.
First, I went through the vocabulary lists at the end of each lesson, adding the phrases I found useful to my flashcards. I made a commitment to studying them daily so that they would become more and more familiar, breaking down some of the barriers between me and the complete dialogues.
This resource is fantastic and definitely something that I can come back to as I progress in my Japanese studies. It’s definitely not a one-time use resource. As my level in the language improves, I can use this resource in a variety of ways.
For example, I can use the course with the audio and the scripts together, alternating between listening to the Japanese while following along with the English or while following along with the Japanese. Doing these two exercises will boost my reading comprehension as well as listening comprehension.
I can also try out the following practice:
Shadowing // While listening to the audio, I can read along out loud or just listen and aim to repeat what I hear.
Audio only // Listening to the audio alone without the aid of the transcriptions to test how much I understand.
Reading practice // I can use the transcripts alone to work on reading.
Transcripts + Audio // I can use the course as detailed by Olly in his five step method.
Things That Could Be Better
While the conversations are far more natural and practical when compared with more traditional course book dialogues, the vocabulary, at times, could still be a little more useful.
For example, in the first dialogue, one of the characters (in the Japanese version of the course) is looking for a drill. For me, personally, this isn’t really a word I imagine myself needing to know in any language beyond English, so the character looking for a different item would have been more useful to me.
There is also a lot of discussion about exercise. Tennis, muscle building, and running are covered across several different dialogues. And while I may discuss exercise every so often, having it covered this much seems a bit much for my personal taste.
Things That I Love About Conversations
It saves you from doing some of the “administrative” work. If you’re interested in working with audio, Olly’s saved you a ton of work by putting Conversations together. You no longer have to spend loads of time 1) finding relevant audio material; 2) having to isolate the useful dialogue from the rest of the audio; 3) transcribing it yourself or pay someone to transcribe it; 4) looking up the important words and phrases; and 5) having to have the work double-checked. Instead, you can focus on the important part – studying.
The material will last you a while. If you really dive deep with Conversations, it’s learning material that can grow with you as your comprehension increases and the dialogues become more familiar.
Stories stick with us. In the past, knowledge and lessons were primarily passed down through stories. Stories and poems were as memorable then as they are now. Because the dialogues are based on the stories of these characters in Japan (or wherever depending on the language), the material is more likely to stick with you.
I’d love to see a version of this course built for those who learn languages from home. There is a lot of potential for a version of the course like this, particularly because the vocabulary surrounding language exchanges, Skype conversations, and getting to know someone from another country while at home would be useful to a lot of learners.
That said, overall, Conversations is a solid product. It’s great for intermediate learners and ambitious advanced beginners. There are a lot of different ways you can work with the material, so even with twenty dialogues, you can get a lot of use out of Conversations. Recommended.
Are you thinking about learning Japanese but find yourself struggling to find resources that help you start speaking?
When I started out, I certainly did.
Many of the tools that I found when I started learning Japanese were grammar-heavy textbook style resources and they didn’t offer me a lot in terms of day-to-day conversation. Rather than learning how to say “what did you do last weekend?” I had memorized a bunch of rules involving particles or sentence structure and I was nowhere near conversing with my fellow Japanese speakers.
So I decided to put something together on my own so that I could feel more confident engaging in language exchanges.
And today, I’d like to share it with you.
In this post you’ll find a short selection of the 100+ conversational phrases and words in Japanese I have available as part of a downloadable PDF that you can get by entering your email in the box below.
Happy Japanese language learning!
Get your free PDF with 100+ Conversational Japanese Words and Phrases
As a musician, I’m used to being in circumstances where I’m the only girl. While there are more and more female musicians entering the ranks, it’s still pretty unusual. In a way, this has become “normal” for me.
When I entered the language learning space and many of the well-known figures and speakers were men, it didn’t strike me as unusual.
But much like in music, as I started attending more events, entering more discussion forums, and sharing what I do, I came to realize that there are a lot of women in language doing amazing things.
Two of these women, Lindsay Williams and Kerstin Cable, have become close friends. And they too have met tons of inspiring polyglots, educators, and enthusiasts with incredible stories.
So we decided to team up to give them a place to share their stories.
There are a lot of conversations about language learning and teaching that don’t happen as often as they should.
How do you continue your language studies when you’re busy with kids?
How do you experience immersion when you’re studying a language spoken in a country where women’s rights are limited?
How do you stay motivated when dealing with something like postpartum depression? Or pregnancy fatigue?
How important are BOTH parents’ roles in a child’s language development (we usually only see one side of the discussion)?
How do you enter a sphere filled with those living a nomadic lifestyle? What about those with a 9-5? How are they fitting language in?
What do you do when your language exchange partners just all seem to want to hit on you?
How can you avoid feeling intimidated when you attend a language gathering or meet up and you’re the only female in the room?
While these conversations do happen, in part, they’re often not easy to find. And when you do find them, if you’re anything like me, you’re afraid to join in or even initiate a discussion because you’re worried you’ll be judged or criticized.
And when the conversation is mostly online (and with language learning that seems to be the case), things can head south quickly.
Meet Women in Language, a New Event
With Women in Language, our goal is to provide a welcoming community to bring conversations beyond where they are today. The discussions going on in the language world are fantastic, and our goal is to continue to add to them, bring in new voices, and take them to new places.
We’ve chosen to do so with an all-female lineup of speakers. Not because we want to exclude men, in fact, men are very welcome at the event! But because we want to offer new perspectives, to give those who haven’t really had the chance to showcase their experience to do so, and to talk about language in new contexts.
Because women’s issues are human issues. And topics that may have historically been reserved as ‘girl talk’, need to become just ‘talk’.
Men are parents, too. Men are also present in settings where women are the minority. Inviting them in rather than isolating them would be a benefit to both. Not all men desire to chase after a nomadic lifestyle. And men play a critical role supporting their partners as they experience things like pregnancy, postpartum, and harassment.
But even in the more traditional language discussions, women have a lot to add.
As Lindsay said beautifully in her post, “Not every female around the world would feel confident enough to put herself and her language learning out there for all the world to see.”
So what exactly is this Women in Language event?
Women In Language is a unique online event designed to champion, celebrate, and amplify the voices of women in language learning.
This is a new event in 2018 so we’re really excited about the potential impact of Women In Language.
We’ve gathered an inspiring all-female lineup of over 25 speakers who are experts from all walks of language life: polyglots, industry veterans, full-time world travelers, teaching experts, academic professors, and innovators.
Presentations are themed on four key areas:
Starting Languages – perfect if you’re just in the early stages and need a leg up to learn languages better on your own
Mastering Languages – exactly what you need if you’ve already studied a couple of languages or one to a reasonable level and you’re ready to take things further
Living with Languages – a great range of presentations about language in your everyday life. From positive language learning for kids to living abroad
Working with Languages – curious about the various ways you can bring languages into your working life? There’s plenty here for you too
Why should I attend this event?
By attending Women In Language, you’re aligning yourself with a positive message that shows you support a diversity of voices in language. This is a strong message that can only have a ‘ripple effect’ to increase the diversity of public-facing language folk in the future.
Secondly, all the presentations are live, not pre-recorded, meaning that you’ve got the benefit of being able to ask questions and share your own opinions and thoughts in the discussion for each presentation.
Finally, you’ll also receive recordings of the presentations, a digital notebook for the event, and access to a private Facebook Group before, during and for 6 weeks after the event.
And finally, with 10% of profits from ticket sales going to Kiva, a charity supporting international entrepreneurs, you know you’re helping aspiring entrepreneurs across the world.
When is the event?
The Women in Language online event starts March 8 and ends March 11. However, when you purchase your ticket, you get access to the video replays so that you can watch them at your convenience.
1. You click “Register” above and are taken to the checkout. 2. Once you’ve purchased your ticket, we’ll send you an email right away with details about the event and your free Women In Language Calendar so you don’t miss your favorite talk. 3. You get ready to join us when Women In Language kicks off on 8th March!
Is this event just for women?
Nope! This event is for you if…
You are learning a language at any level (or want to) and would love to hear some expert voices discuss topics to help you go further and do more with your languages
You work with languages (or want to) within any capacity and enjoy hearing different perspectives and knowledge on working with languages
You live abroad (or want to!) and are keen to learn about the experiences and tips of others in your shoes
You want to learn from a broad range of female voices within language learning.
I’m a man/gender non-binary/I don’t identify as a woman. Can I still attend?
Absolutely. This is an event designed to showcase some of the many women doing many amazing things in the world of languages. That means that although the speakers are all female, the audience is definitely not. In fact, we encourage you to attend regardless of your gender. It’s important everyone sees how much awesome stuff is being done by women in language.
What if I can’t attend the talks live?
No problem! You will have lifetime access to all the talks after the event so can catch up as and when suits you. Also, before, during, and for the 6 weeks following the event, you will have free access to the Women In Language Facebook Group that will be a place you can ask questions to Kerstin, Lindsay, me, and even some of the speakers at the event. So you won’t be left behind!
You aren’t going to just talk about kids and stuff, are you?
Nope! Those were just examples of some of the discussions that are often “off the table”. We’re going to talk about all things language from a female perspective.We do have speakers who will talk about raising multilingual children, but men will find equal value in these lectures.
This past year has been a year of simplifying. Of creating better processes for my studies and my work. And of decluttering my physical and mental spaces.
It’s worked quite well for me, but there was one realm I avoided. The digital.
Visualizing just how many physical objects you’re dealing with is easy. You can take all of your books off your shelves and pile them on the floor. Take all of your flashcards and store them in a box.
Digital possessions, however, are a little more difficult to sort because they’re different formats and can be found in different places.
I’ve tried on and off with little success to get my digital life in order. I’ve read tons of articles, tried out numerous apps, and at one point, even tried to Konmari my digital spaces.
I took every document, file and program and dumped it into a hard drive that I could then organize from scratch. I made a good start, but in all honesty, that drive is still a huge mess.
For the most part, this didn’t really bother me.
Until it did.
Language Learning Methods in the Digital Age
A few years ago, my language learning was 100% offline. I had course books, flashcards and in-person courses that served as my complete language learning routine.
But then I discovered apps. Then websites. Then online courses. Then tutoring platforms like iTalki (which came with tutors who provided their own study materials). Maybe not necessarily in that order, but you get the point.
In shifting some of my learning online, I discovered other bloggers who share their learning methods and who make their own resource recommendations. It quickly became a test – how many could I try? Which were the best? Do I have them all?
I wanted to be as thorough as possible in my learning and worried that I was missing out on having the best resources. The best tools. The best strategies.
I spent so much time collecting, gathering, and researching methods and materials that I no longer had the time to actually study the language(s) itself.
Something had to give.
Despite studying several hours each week, I felt overwhelmed. Not by the language itself, no. But by the sheer number of resources I hadn’t gotten to yet. It made me feel guilty.
As though I wasn’t doing enough or that I wasn’t learning fast enough.
But that was never the issue.
I Am My Own Best Language Learning Method
You see, all of these tools, resources, and strategies, they are all just things. They may be digital, but they can still be clutter.
Especially if they’re keeping you from doing the real work.
Those things are just there to help me learn the language. They won’t do the work for me. Having fifty books instead of five doesn’t mean that I know ten times more of the language. In fact, a lot of the material in those fifty books may be the same.
When I finally accepted this, and it took longer than I’m proud to admit, I knew I needed to make a change. The language learning materials I had were no longer helping me learn my languages. Instead, they were preventing me from focusing on them because I was overwhelmed by them.
I decided to simplify.
Step 1 Simplifying Physical Resources
I know I said that my primary problem was the number of digital resources that I had, but I knew that I couldn’t sort through them until I had tackled my physical resources.
Working with language learning books that I can hold in my hands is still my preferred method of study, so I knew I needed to work through my physical materials first in order to tackle my digital resources, so this is where I started.
I debated which method would work best for me:
* The Minimalist Packing Party // My understanding of the Minimalist Packing party would be that I take all of my language books and materials and pack them up into boxes. As I need them, I’m allowed to remove them, use them and return them to their homes on my shelves. Those still in the boxes after 90 days are donated, sold or disposed of. * The KonMari Method // This method is a little more extreme, but it’s what I’ve used on a more general scale for my non-sentimental/language related belongings. It requires that you take all of your learning materials, pile them on the floor, then pick them up one by one to determine if they “spark joy”. If they do, then you can keep them and organize them properly on your shelves. If they don’t, then they are sold, donated, or disposed of. * Get Rid of One // This method allows you to slowly work through your items so that you aren’t overwhelmed with having to decide all at once. The idea is that you get rid of one thing each day. * Closet Hanger Method // Using this method, you would turn all of your books and learning materials away from you. This means the spine of the book would face the wall. You turn the books and materials back the right way as you use them. Anything still facing the wrong way after a pre-determined amount of time is minimized. This is similar to the Packing party method, but it doesn’t involve cluttering your space with a large number of boxes while you work through everything.
I ended up on using a mix of methods in order to pare things down to what I needed and wanted to keep. I started with the Konmari method, piling all of my materials on the floor and going through them. I immediately donated everything I decided not to hang on to so that I couldn’t change my mind.
* Chinese books written in the Traditional writing system (I had purchased them before I realized that Chinese had more than one writing system). * French readers that were always below my level but that I had hung onto just in case * Books in my target languages that I had purchased just because they’re hard to find here in the States and so I wanted to take advantage of the fact that they were available to me * Books in my target language about things that I’m not interested in
After working through my books this way, I then set about organizing them. But instead of doing this normally, I implemented the Hanger Method and put everything I wanted to keep back on the shelves facing the wrong way. This then showed me the materials I was actually using.
From there, I used the Get Rid of One method. Each day, I selected a book or tool that was still reversed and decided whether or not I wanted to keep it. I made it a goal to find at least one each day that I might not use (until the number was reduced to the resources I knew with absolute certainty that I’d use).
* Don’t buy materials until you’re ready for them. You may end up buying more than you need, buy things and then forget that you have them (so they end up being below your level before you remember that you had them available to you), or buying things that aren’t right (the wrong writing system). * Don’t buy materials unless they fill a need that you have. If you’re struggling with something in particular, look for a resource that helps you overcome it. Don’t buy a book because it’s one you don’t yet have and that will *maybe* include something you need. Save your hard earned money for something that helps you with something you specifically need help with. * Don’t spend money on materials that you won’t use just because they are available to you. If you don’t like reading a certain kind of book, don’t buy it just because it’s in your target language. Trust me. It will just sit on the shelf. You may make it through a few pages, but not much more than that. And it may even cause you to feel frustrated or burnt out over your language.
After I went through my physical resources, I noticed an immediate difference in my study habits.
The first was that having the space on my desk made me more likely to use it. Before I went through all of my materials, I had stacks of books on my desk that I wanted to work through. But rather than actually working through them, they just piled up and got in my way.
Typically, when I study, I take notes by hand. Not having space on my desk to open up a book and a notebook to write in meant that I stopped taking notes and just read through resources. And that meant I retained far less of what I read. Taking notes digitally or just doing the exercises in my head just doesn’t work well for me.
After getting back my “proper” study space, my retention immediately went up because I was able to pick up my time-tested study methods.
The other difference that I noticed was that I felt so much less overwhelmed. I no longer had this huge pile of materials on my desk that made me feel guilty. Instead, I had a well-curated collection of textbooks, course books and reading material that I was excited to work through.
Step 2 Minimizing Digital Resources
But then came the great challenge.
According to the KonMari method, you want to start with the easier tasks first in order to build up the skills you need to take on the more challenging minimizing. And I’m glad I took her advice.
When you think about it, most digital resources don’t have a pricetag attached to them. They’re just a small amount of space on your hard drive or a link in your bookmarks. They don’t – relatively – cost you anything, so they accumulate quickly.
And because of that, they can easily bury you.
There’s less emotional attachment when it comes to digital resources, so it seems like they’d be the easier thing to take on. But this isn’t the case. Because you’re not as attached to your digital possessions, you tend to save more and then manage them poorly in comparison. Sorting through them, weeding out the unnecessary and organizing the important becomes an almost insurmountable task when you’re looking at thousands, maybe tens of thousands (and in my case when you count photographs, hundreds of thousands) of files, bookmarks, and emails.
Of course, you may be the exception to this rule. If you are – bravo. I admire you, especially because I wasn’t.
If I felt overwhelmed by my physical resources, there are no words for what I felt for my digital resources. And just the idea weeding through them, was immensely intimidating. And a huge part of why I avoided the task for so long.
Again, I started simply.
My first step? I cleaned up my to-do list.
On my to-do list, I have the task “study language” setup for every day. It’s not because I need to be reminded to study each day, but it’s a little motivation boost each day I’m able to cross it off.
But my to-do quickly became a place for me to store digital resources I wanted to work through (because I would get to cross them off). So rather than having one “study language” for each day, I had dozens. This collection of things I wanted to work through that transferred to the following day for months on end because I didn’t cross them off the day before.
And that’s on top of the files collected on my computer, the websites saved in my bookmarks and the resources I have saved in a dozen other places (like my Youtube queue, the Facebook save option, emails, etc.).
I knew that dumping all of these things into one general folder wouldn’t work. I’d already tried that. So instead, I decided to sort things correctly from the start. Well, second start.
How I minimized my digital language learning clutter.
Step One to Organizing Your Digital Language Learning Resources
I started using Asana with the launch of one of my courses. It was this thing that I had an account for, but didn’t fully utilize. When I took a look at the resources I had saved in email, on Google drive, in Dropbox, in Evernote, on my to-do list and in other places on my computer, I knew that I had to do something to consolidate everything.
Asana seemed like the perfect place. Not only could I upload my PDFs, but I could also create resource checklists (that way I’d know what I tried and what I hadn’t).
To start, I created an Asana project, built Kanban boards for each language and started to delete things from the other places I had them stored as I added them to Asana.
Very quickly, I had an organized database with my favorite links, PDF files, and lists of resources I’d like to try in the future. Suddenly, I had a very manageable and enjoyable place to plan out my next steps and language projects.
Step Two to Organizing Your Digital Language Learning Resources
Once I had everything in one place, I was able to decide what I was going to keep and what I was going to minimize. I could look through my lists of resources and decide “okay, I saved that when I was first starting, but now, it’s too easy for me, so I’m not going to keep this one” or “oh, that’s a great tool, I’m going to move it up in priority on my list so that’s what I tackle next.”
My collection of resources quickly became a more well-rounded and suitable selection based on my level and needs in each of my languages.
Step Three to Organizing Your Digital Language Learning Resources
I processed the materials and notes that I never dealt with because they got buried under all the clutter.
In dealing with my materials, I found old notes and documents that I could quickly reduce into fewer documents or add to my flashcards and then delete. By adding vocabulary lists or lesson notes I had saved to Memrise (rather than having them as tons of separate documents), I could actively work on that information rather than have it sit in a file that I never looked at.
I was also able to add questions and struggles I had for each language to my Next Lesson: Asana board so that I could follow up on the things I needed to work on.
* Storing everything in one place makes the next step that easier to take because it’s clearer what it might be * You save time and energy by managing everything from one location * It’s easier to work through my to-do list when it only contains specific tasks and not collections of things I’d like to get to
To Sum Up
A big part of making language learning easier is in simplifying the process. The more organized you are and the less clutter you have (either digital or physical), the easier it is to be focused on your studies.
I wrote earlier on why I feel minimalism is an important part of my language learning routine, but the more I reduce and focus, the more success I’m seeing with my studies.
What about you?
Do you have better study results when you minimize or do you feel more energized when you surround yourself with language materials?
I know what you’re thinking. Japanese has three – sometimes four – writing systems. Where do you start?
As I shared in one of my earlier Clear the List posts, I recently took on what I think will be my last language – Japanese.
I wanted to do things differently this time, so I decided to take a conversational approach to the language, meaning I’d focus on speaking and listening. But I quickly ran into a major obstacle – the Japanese writing systems.
Namely Hiragana and Katakana.
Don’t Avoid Learning Your Language’s Writing System
Initially, I thought I could put off learning to read in the language. I figured that because my focus was on speaking and listening, that I could worry about it later.
I tried to avoid learning them, writing everything down in Romaji. But as I progressed, ignoring learning to read in Japanese wasn’t be something I could do for long. If I really wanted to dive into different resources and maximize my study time, I needed to learn the Japanese writing systems.
So I decided to just go for it and get it done. I mean, I had learned to read and write in Korean, Russian, Arabic and even Chinese at different points, so why should Japanese be any different?
For one big reason.
Japanese isn’t like learning to read in Korean, Russian, Arabic, or Chinese because it has not one, not two, not three, but FOUR different writing systems that are all used concurrently.
Because they each serve different functions.
The Four Japanese Writing Systems
Taking on several new writing systems for one language can seem like an impossible project. Why could a language possibly need to write with three or four different systems?
The answer is reasonably logical.
Prior to the 1800s, Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana were each used separately. After the Meiji Restoration, however, the government made a decision to simplify Japanese writing and the three were combined, each with a different purpose.
Here are each of the writing systems and how they are used.
The first two writing systems are each one half of what is known as Kana. Kana are phonetic symbols – representations of pronunciation – and the systems are Hiragana and Katakana. They are known as syllabaries. This means that each character represents a specific sound rather than a specific consonant or idea.
The first Japanese writing system I’d like to touch on is Hiragana. It’s often the first that new learners of Japanese are advised to learn. Hira- means ‘ordinary, informal, easy, cursive’, and in the case of Hiragana, it is ‘ordinary cursive kana’.
Hiragana are derived from Chinese characters. Basically, they are simplified versions of characters. For example:
安 an -> あ a
Hiragana includes 46 characters made up of 5 singular vowels, 40 consonant-vowel pairs, and 1 singular consonant. It first made its appearance in the 5th century, but it was not widely accepted after it was first developed. Educated men preferred to write using the Chinese-based writing system, so Hiragana was first picked up by women who did not have access to the same education as men.
What is Hiragana used for?
Today, Hiragana is used by everyone as a key part of writing in Japanese. It is used to write okurigana (suffixes following kanji), grammar, function words like particles, and Japanese words for which there are no kanji.
Another important use of Hiragana is to write furigana, a reading aid that offers the pronunciation of kanji characters to readers when the kanji may be obscure, formal, or in readings for a younger/learner audience. For example 寿司 can be written as すし (sushi).
Hiragana pronunciation, unlike other writing systems, has incredibly consistent pronunciation. There are just three exceptions: * The topic particle は // Normally pronounced ha, this character becomes wa when used as a topic particles. * The object particle を // Normally this character is pronounced wo but it becomes o when it used as an object particle. * The directional particle へ // This character is pronounced he except when it is used as a directional particle.
Kata- means ‘one side, partial’ and this system too is based on Chinese characters, but rather than simplified versions of them, Katakana or parts of characters. For example:
伊 i -> イi
What is Katakana used for?
Katakana is used for borrowed words (usually those added after the 19th century). This would be words like:
It’s also used for the names of certain animals (zebra シマウマ shimauma), onomatopoeia and in telegrams.
Thankfully, Katakana is not much more difficult than Hiragana. Plus, 46 of its 48 characters represent the same sounds as Hiragana.
Chinese writing, or Kanji, came to Japan around the 4th century. At first, characters were monosyllabic – this meant that each Chinese character represented a certain sound. Later, characters were ideologically used, so they lost there reference to Chinese pronunciation.
For example, 久尔 ku-ni became 国 kuni
This change is also why many kanji have more than one pronunciation, their kun-yomi (Japanese readings of Kanji) and their on-yomi (Chinese-based readings of Kanji).
The average educated Japanese person is said to know around 3,000 Kanji. The government suggest list includes around 2,136 kanji (with 4,394 on- and kun-yomi readings).
What is Kanji used for?
Vocabulary. Compared to the other systems, this is pretty straight forward.
An Honorable Mention – Romaji
The fourth Japanese writing system is Romaji ローマ字. This literally means ‘Roman letters’ and it is the romanization of Japanese.
This system is most often used by learners, but it can occasionally make an appearance in Japanese texts. Most notably, many Japanese scholars considered replacing the other Japanese systems with Romaji during the Meiji period, but it never caught on.
There are three popular systems of romanization: Hepburn, Nihon-shiki, and Kunrei-shiki. This explains why some courses may write arigato while others use arigatou. And it also further strengthens my argument to learn Kana asap – it leaves little doubt as to how words should be pronounced when you read them in their original system.
So why does Japanese use three (and sometimes four writing systems)?
* Because Japanese doesn’t use spaces, so reading something in just Hiragana or Katakana would be extremely difficult. * Japanese has a lot of words that sound the same. Kanji helps differentiate these words by using different characters.
A few words worth paying attention to:
* dakuon 濁音// a voiced sound or hardened sound. In Japanese k, s, t, and h become g, z/j, d/z, b, and p. This change is noted with a diacritical mark on the upper right side of the character. For example: こko -> ご go and ひ hi -> ぴ pi * yoon 拗音 // the combination of a consonant and a y* character. When this happens the y* character (either ya, yo, yu) is written smaller. For example: ひゃ hi + ya = hiya, りょ ri + yo = ryo * sokuon 促音 // a double consonant created by adding っor ッ. For example ポッキー (Pocky) which in romaji is actually pokki. * kutoten 句読点 // the name for Japanese pronunciation.
My Process Learning Each of the Japanese Writing Systems
While I’m no stranger to learning new writing systems, I must admit I was a little intimidated by Japanese. With Kana and Kanji, especially, my hands were certainly full. I devised a plan.
Writing the Japanese Alphabets Out By Hand
I started out by writing Hiragana out by hand using an incredibly helpful workbook from Tuttle Publishing.
Why did I start with Hiragana? Because in everything I read, it was recommended that I learn Hiragana first, so that’s what I did.
But then I realized that there are 46 Hiragana letters. And I quickly realized that I needed to do more. Because while I felt like I became pretty decent at writing them, I had trouble associating them with their syllables (or sounds) and I knew I’d need to do something different.
Repetition and writing by hand just wasn’t going to cut it this time around.
Using Memrise to Learn the Japanese Writing Systems
I then started the Japanese Memrise course. I thought, “Perfect! It starts by teaching you Hiragana after a few basic words.” It seemed just right for my goals.
I began studying, but it began to introduce full words to me in Hiragana too quickly and I realized I still didn’t have a good grasp on the alphabet.
Back to the drawing board I went, and into a Hiragana-Katakana ONLY Memrise course I dove. Finally, I hit on something that worked.
But there was still one problem. Within the context of Memrise, I was able to remember characters, but outside of the app, I still had a hard time recognizing them.
Giving It a New Context with Drops
One of the best ways to remember something – for good – is to give it a new context. When you see a word in one place, then another, it increases the odds that you’ll not only recognize it in a third context, but that you’ll also remember what it is.
The same works for alphabet characters.
It’s a bit more difficult to give individual letters a new context, so Drops, even though it is another app, did this for me excellently. It gave me a new visual context and style of practice learning the syllabaries, and helped me take a huge step forward.
Reading Even When You Don’t Understand
Even when you don’t understand the words you’re reading, it helps to start working through readings in your target language. You may just be sounding things out, but it will help you build reading fluency (and speed) in the future when you do understand.
Plus, as I said, it gives you a new context to recall the characters.
Resources for Learning the Japanese Writing Systems
Memrise // Memrise is a flashcard app that has pre-built flashcard decks available to you. These include Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji study decks. Plus, you can always create your own study decks.
Drops // Drops is another excellent vocabulary app with a beautiful interface. It’s a flexible option with tons of well-curated vocabulary lists.
Even though the work still needs to be done, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fun along the way. An important part of taking on a new language is enjoying the process.
Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana: A Workbook for Self Study
Kenneth G. Henshall and Tetsuo Takagaki have put together a wonderful workbook in Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana for those looking to tackle Japanese’s kana – made up by two of its writing systems, hiragana and katakana.
It’s not only informative, but it’s a fun way to document your progress learning to write in Japanese. The book takes you through both the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, giving you the opportunity to not only learn to confidently write in Japanese, but pick up new vocabulary along the way.
Because it’s a workbook focused on teaching you two of Japanese’s writing systems, it’s short in length (128 pages).
The different sections include advice on spelling, the history of the two systems, irregularities in pronunciation, the original Chinese characters from which katakana and hiragana evolved, and tons of opportunities for review. It also teaches Japanese punctuation.
Each character includes the phonetic pronunciation, an English word that includes an equivalent sound, the origin of the character, the stroke order, and spaces for practice.
Every ten characters includes a vocabulary section where you get to practice putting what you’ve learnt together. At the end of the book is a more extensive activity section that offers you the chance to work on your listening comprehension (with the online audio accompaniment), study basic scripts for speaking, and learn even more useful, new words.
My Experience Using Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana
For me, writing by hand is a necessary part of my learning process. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-you-smarter There’s something about going through that physical process that really helps me make new information – like two new writing systems – my own.
I found completing the workbook to be an excellent exercise and I certainly feel much more comfortable with both Hiragana and Katakana upon completing it. I also learned tons of new vocabulary relevant to Japanese culture.
I’m not one for writing in my books, so while the book includes plenty of space to practice, I opted to complete the practice on separate sheets of graph paper. It would have been easier to use the book – each practice square includes a dotted line through it so that you can create more uniform characters. It probably would have been better if I used the book as intended, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
What Could Be Better
While the vocabulary is interesting – it’s unique to Japanese culture – it would be nice to learn more vocabulary that is immediately useful. While it might be fun to know the words for interview for marriage miai, bow ojigi, cherry blossoms sakura, crane tsuru, and Rising sun flag hinomaru, learning conversational terms would be equally appreciated.
My only other suggestion for the book would be to include a link to PDF practice sheets. That way, when you run out of space, or when you don’t like to write in your books (like me), you can still benefit from the large character squares with dotted line guides.
Learning Japanese Hiragana and Katakana is geared towards beginners, but it can be a great asset to anyone looking to strengthen their familiarity with kana. I enjoyed the process of writing out all of the characters by hand and getting to know them more intimately through practice and in reading about their origins in the book.
For anyone looking to get a better handle on Hiragana and Katakana, I highly recommend this book.
Writing is one of the most important exercises related to language learning and a very effective way of converting passive vocabulary to active. Other benefits include its ability to polish the learner’s grammar, particularly when you have the opportunity to have your writing corrected. And, as a creative activity, the process can be rather enjoyable.
School, again, often gets in the way when it comes to writing. And the methods taught, are perhaps not the best way to interest students or motivate them to use this technique beyond the classroom walls. And this loss of motivation is the language learner’s worst enemy; it’s led to the falling off of many aspiring polyglots at the very early stages of their journey.
The Right Way to Approach Writing as a Language Learner
To be really effective, writing should be a daily element of your language learning routine. Here are a few suggestions to get you started along the right path:
* Choose your own topics // Write about things that interest you. You yourself know what will keep you going so that you form a writing habit. * Listen to your inner voice // Write when the mood strikes you or when you need to work something out, not when it’s the next step in your course book. * Ask someone you trust to check it out for you // If you choose to have your work corrected in a public forum (like iTalki or Lang-8), see if you can make a few connections first. That way, you can request that those connections correct your work rather than an anonymous or unfriendly user who may leave you (usually unmerited) negative comments. You don’t want some online trolling to put you off taking part in a beneficial learning exercise. * If you can afford to hire a professional to proofread your work, do so, but ask them to highlight all the changes in some way // They can color-code the changes or use some other forms of markup. Then analyze their suggestions thoroughly. * At first, write as you speak // As you get more proficient, you can take on a more formal or academic tone. You don’t have to share your writing, but don’t forget – your language learning friends may appreciate your work!
When You Should Start Writing
In general, writing should follow the extensive reading stage. You can expect overlap (for a bookworm the extensive reading stage never ends). It offers you the chance to actively use new words so that they acquire even more meaning. When words are written by someone else, they don’t have the same power to stick as when you yourself have crafted them into a text.
In the early stages, it’s critically important to have your work double-checked. Why? Because it’s at the beginning that we make the most mistakes. The sooner you use them as a learning opportunity, the sooner you’ll keep from forming bad habits (that take a lot of work to correct later on).
Other Forms of Writing are Useful for Language Learners, Too
Writing comes in all different shapes and forms. Apart from doing your own articles – whether fiction or non-fiction – you can participate in forums and social networks. This gives you the opportunity to try out less formal styles of writing and pick up language directly from the native speakers.
Unfortunately, there is a drawback – when your own command of the language is still fragile, it is very easy to pick up all sorts of errors (and there are loads of these in online forums). Be wary when imitating the writing of others. Again, it’s always a good idea to have your work checked.
In addition to participating in online forums, you can try out your writing skills by text messaging with friends, using Skype, or other similar instant messengers. When you’re ready to take things to the next level, these platforms are also great for working on your speaking skills. Developing the ability to come up with the necessary words quickly is important for effective communication. That said, text messaging may be a more comfortable solution for some language learners.
Another way to practice your writing is through blogging. This can be a very powerful tool for language learners at the more advanced levels because you are not only able to document your progress, but you’ll also connect with people who speak the language you’re writing in and even get feedback on your writing. It’s a lot of fun to run a blog, especially when the comments start coming in. But even when the comments remain empty, the joy of creation is a reward in itself.
Finally, there is the subtle art of email writing – something people rarely escape in the modern world. If you have the occasion to communicate with customers or acquaintances who live in a country where your target language is spoken by everyone, consider yourself lucky. It does, however, require responsibility – you don’t want to miscommunicate with customers!
In order to write good emails, knowledge of the language as such is not enough – you will need some awareness of the etiquette, as well. At first, it might be a good idea to ask someone to look through your email before clicking the ‘send’ button. But if you are a motivated language learner, it won’t be long before you gain the confidence to initiate conversations on your own. With this practice, you can improve quickly, mastering this multifaceted and useful skill in no time.
Why You Should Write in Your Target Language More
Why write at all? Is not speaking in one’s target language enough for activating passive vocabulary? That depends, of course, on your reason for learning the language.
If writing is just to chat with native speakers and get some practice in, then speaking is certainly enough. But for many of language learners, basic conversation isn’t enough. If you’re anything like me, you long to use the language you are learning in many different ways. That requires a lot more vocabulary than basic speaking skills require.
To maintain a conversation, you’ll need to know around 3,000 words (but it can be done with even less). To read a novel or partake in more complex conversations, this number can start at around 9,000 and reach up to 20,000 words.
And there’s no better way to really immerse yourself in the power, richness, and unique beauty of a language than by having such vast vocabulary will give you. Plus, it’s a great sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment.
Romanticism aside, there is always another – and much more practical – side to why writing is important. Earlier, I mentioned blogging. And for those interested in making a serious effort at it, blogging isn’t just a way to practice writing in your language. It’s also a viable source of income for those prepared to put a certain amount of effort into promotion. The time spent polishing one’s writing skills – as described above – is certainly not wasted.
What about you?
Do you include writing as a part of your language learning routine? If so, what tactics do you employ?
We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
About the Author // Irina Ponomareva is a language enthusiast from Russia who is now collaborating with the online linguistic school named Lingostan as a bilingual web copywriter and translator. Irina is currently learning Italian, German and Mandarin Chinese and is actively sharing her own language learning experience with others through her articles.
Last month, the Language Reading Challenge theme was to read an introduction to your target language. Those who were at an intermediate or advanced level could find an article or chapter in their coursebook that explained something that they were struggling with in particular.
Because my focus language, at the moment, is a language that’s new to me, I was able to read an introduction. The language? Japanese.
Depending on the language you’re learning, Lonely Planet will include a few different elements. The broader categories, however, are pretty consistent.
The phrasebooks are typically broken down into the following categories: * Tools (pronunciation, numbers, time, money, and challenges in the language) * Practical (transportation, accommodation, shopping, etc.) * Social (meeting people, interests, etc.) * Food (eating out, special requirements, etc.) * Safe Travel (health, emergency situations) * Sustainable Travel (respect, cycling, giving back) * Short dictionary (both Japanese-English and English-Japanese)
My Thoughts Using the Lonely Planet Phrasebook
The phrasebook includes a lot of information considering its size. It introduces basic grammar, a number of useful phrases, and interesting tidbits about Japanese culture.
I find the pocket-size extremely practical (they’re convenient to carry around) and even if your ultimate goal isn’t to travel, there are still many useful phrases for language learners.
What I love most, however, is the amount of vocabulary included. For its size, it’s impressive.
Some of the Things I Learned About Japan and the Japanese Language
While working through my phrasebook, I learned quite a few interesting things about both the Japanese language and Japan. Here are a few that stood out to me in particular:
1. There is a sitting position reserved for formal occasions called seiza 正座.
The phrase literally translates to “straight sitting” or “proper sitting”. When sitting this way, your legs are tucked directly beneath you and your back is straight.
2. Sensei and san aren’t the only suffixes used.
I had an inkling that there were more than just these two, but it was nice knowing more about the different suffixes. These include –sama, –chan, –kun, –bo, and –senpai.
3. Traditional performance arts beyond kabuki.
There’s also bunraku, Japan’s traditional puppet theater; buto, a modern dance form; kyogen, comic vignettes; no, a classical dance drama; manzai, another comic art; as well as rakugo, a comic monologue.
4. When you see -ya 屋 after a food, it means the restaurant specializes in it.
This means if the dish is written shabushabuya, then the restaurants specialize in shabu shabu. If it’s sushiya, then they are known for their sushi.
5. Eating while walking is considered rude.
And you won’t often see people doing it on the streets of Japan. Plus, doing this means that after finishing your food, you’ll have to carry your trash with you. There are very few public trash cans in Japan.
To Sum Up My Thoughts About Lonely Planet Phrasebooks
When you’re starting out a with a language, the Lonely Planet phrasebook is a great introduction. You can pick and choose the vocabulary you find relevant (remember – you don’t have to know everything, just hang on to what you need!), learn a bit about the culture, and get a brief glimpse at the grammar you’ll be up against when you get father along with the language.
The food section is incredibly thorough, so if this is of interest to you, picking up a copy is worth it for this alone.
What about you?
What are you reading this month? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.
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