1000 Kanji in 34 days

Thirty days ago, I couldn’t read the sentence below:


(When we know the leader/ringleader of the gang, we will be victorious)

Now, just a little over a month later I have no issues reading this because of my current methods. I’m getting prepared to write out all 1,000 Kanji in one sitting to timestamp my memorization. As I predicted to myself, once I hit about 750 Kanji, I began to see words more clearly, but only in “chunks”, as I approached 900 I began to see a lot more complete words and really be able to slowly reading more complex sentences. I still have quite a ways to go, but it is very inspiring to be able to “navigate” this space. Im not reading super fast, but I can read what I see which is a monstrous advantage. Just like with my German experience, speed of reading increases with the frequency of reading exposure, so that won’t take very long. I I’m at 972 Kanji as I write this and I should hit 1,000 by tonight or if anything earliest tomorrow. Then i’ll make some more comprehensive notes. But this is pretty exciting. I’ve been able to fix the missing link between Heisig and true acquisition of Kanji readings. I will make a longer and more complex post perhaps in a few days, since I’m avoiding “over documenting” the process (which eats up valuable time). Below is a picture of my “Kanji Pages” for the day (thus far: picture taken around 10:50 a.m)

In fact, what is really interesting is that my first 3 weeks of this process I spent a lot of time researching things while learning the Kanji which I didn’t realize was eating up valuable time. However, this is irrelevant. Learning 1,000 Kanji in 30 days is moving at light speed (and presently considered to be impossible) but it is only by doing the impossible can we shift the percept of approach. My research over the years, has been what I am discovering to be what I call “Approach Mechanics”, which I will speak about later. I still have another 40 or so Kanji to do today to hit my goal of 1,000. I will post here if I hit them in the evening.

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50 Kanji a day?

The brain is quite a powerful mechanism. In the last four or five days specifically I’ve noticed that my ability to memorize the Kanji has gotten significantly faster. I believe it is because, after doing 30,000 repetitions of Kanji writing in the past 25 or so days, I’ve hit a tipping point in terms of memorization. Instead of looking at a Kanji and going hrm? Pretty much every Kanji I see now I’m familiar with almost all the primitives (component parts) so everything I do is really not Kanji related, but story related. So what’s happening is that I think my mind is so used to organizing these stories (prioritization) that its just more efficient at the skill, in the same way people train for memory championships. It was taking me about three hours to four hours of work each day to work through my Kanji lists, but now I can go thirty Kanji in maybe an hour and a half with the same level fo retention. So today I’ve already don 32 by 11 AM and I know I can do another 15 to 20 through the day. Since I’ve never had a 50 Kanji day it would be a good test but I have zero concerns about retention, because I haven’t forgotten any Kanji i’ve learned thus far. My first monster goal is to hit 1,000 Kanji and then write them live and post the video on Youtube. Then after that i’ll work through incremental goals of maybe 250 until I hit the final 2,043 Kanji or (2,136) depending on what list i’m using. But I’ve found the key to the Kanji kingdom, which means that I’ve unlocked the biggest barrier that ALL Japanese learners have to this language. But I’ve found in the past I can get “caught up” with documentation (which wastes time) so I’ll be brief with my posts or observations until I’m way further into the journey. This is just a note to myself and to establish relative timeline.

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I think i’ve Unlocked the Kanji Code

It’s been almost ten years since I started this journey. More correctly, it’s been almost ten years since I stopped this journey. Back then I tried my best using the “science” and “information” I thought was working but I really didn’t understand the best approaches in terms of the acquisition of massive amounts of data. But specifically over the last four years I’ve intermittently learnt quite a lot about the technicalities behind memorization and structures behind language acquisition, discipline and execution. To that end I was able to teach myself German to roughly a lower C1 level ALONE. I didn’t speak to anyone, but I was able to watch movies, read texts, play videos games and listen to podcasts. After an insane 90 days of productivity in early 2021 I decided to revisit Japanese with my new information discipline and perspective.

To give you some perspective since March 2021 I wrote two novels and taught myself to sing. After finishing the second novel, which required a grueling level of focus that kept me writing/working for several hours a day in a very strict routine, I realized that this could be applied to my Japanese learning with all my new information. and in the last 26 days or so (moving slowly in the beginning) I’ve memorized 700 Kanji with 100% retention.

What’s more powerful is that I know the reading for each Kanji i’ve learned and I’ve designed a system where I pretty much can’t ever forget the reading.

Presently what this means is:

I can see the keyword for a Kanji i’ve learned and write the Kanji. I also know the reading. At 700 Kanji, already I’m started to see that reading text is getting much easier. I read quite slowly, but I can read. I’ve been pretty committed to what i’m doing so much so that I didn’t even think about writing on this blog, which I’d completely forgotten about. But I want to track some of the progress, since I’m going to turn this into a course.

Essentially what I know for a fact is that continuing on this path will lead me to incredible abilities to do what I call “put the pressure” on the language.

But more on that later.

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I haven’t been to Japan in some time, but I had to spent the last month there mentally, as I was working on my new book, “Naked As The Day”, which is set in Tokyo. I’m releasaing it on December 10th, 2013 so be sure to grab a copy! This has been quite a process, and for the readers of this blog, I’d love it if you can watch the book trailer below and get your free chapter at the website www.NakedAsTheDay.com  please comment and leave your thoughts! Book description after the trailer.

When a typical twenty-something year old English teacher in Japan develops severe physical and psychological aversions to his daily routine in a small town, he decides to move to Tokyo with a few months worth of savings in search of more stimulating horizons. As his physical symptoms remain, and now hit with the demands that come with living in one of the world’s most expensive cities, he must take a fast track course in both survival and self-actualization from a host of characters including libidinous transients, self-proclaimed celebrities and kleptomaniac models. Armed with a few skills in the face of an uncertain future, Naked As The Day takes us on an occasionally humorous and poignant journey of human choices and ultimately their consequences.


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I know this isn’t about Japanese, but I’m happy to announce my first novel, Sex Drugs and Jerk Chicken which will be available worldwide on Amazon starting July 22nd, 2012. I’m doing a campaign to boost first day sales, so please watch the video and join the mailing list to get your copy on day one! You can go directly to the mailing list site here:


thanks in advance,

– Marcus

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The Ideal Situation

This is a blog post that has been coming for some time.

As i’ve mentioned many a time before, a key aspect to language learning is definitely motivation. If you don’t have it, the process is nigh impossible. Then I spoke about systems and “hacks” and different approaches for accelerating one’s personal absorption rate of data and information and the best and most interesting ways to perform immersion. But ultimately, these things tend to fail relative to moving forward if you have a lack of one things.

What’s that? People.

This is probably the biggest “hurdle” I have faced. Without people and situations to practice language and root your memories,it seems language learning is like happily entering a void that you know you can traverse, but only halfway. So as I’ve gotten much better and figuring out the “how” of learning language, and seeing how fast I can start functionally speaking it, I also tend to get frustrated (and eventually start to lose interest) because of the lack of speaking time I get with people. What i need is the IDEAL SITUATION.

There are a few language learning “beasts” that I’ve made note of over the years. Particularly Benny the Irish Polygot, Tim Ferris and Khatzumoto. Let’s talk about the first two. What i’ve noticed is that these guys definitely have a way to approach learning languages, since they both speak about 6 fluently each. But after reading through their blogs occassionally and getting amped up about the prospect of using new tools and tricks to learn languages, I realized that often, they had the ideal situation and i didn’t.

Meaning. Even though Tim Ferris can use his techniques to learn languages rapidly, he seems to incorporate these while going to some of the top language schools in the world for that language. I remember when he said he learned fluent German in 8 weeks and my mind was blown away. Then he mentioned going to a super awesome language school (not to mention expensive) and I wondered how much of his progress was weighted on that versus just his techniques. This isn’t skepticism, I just mean if Tim Ferris was not in Germany during that time, in one of the best language schools in the country, would he have made the same progress? I highly doubt it. But what i do know, is that he was in the ideal situation. It allowed him to use whatever “accelerated techniques” within the daily grind of a language school designed to make you learn faster. I realized if I wanted to learn German that quickly (and more importantly effectively) I would need to create such a situation. Either going to a language school there, or living in Germany. Two options not available to me, so in a sense my situation isn’t ideal.

Now you might say, “find a German girlfriend ” or “hang with German embassy people”. Well as a guy currently in Jamaica who tries these things, there are three things that are always missing in that scenario. 1. Is structure, 2. compatability and 3. gaps

Meaning, a hotshot diplomat might not have the time (or the patience to meet with you  3 times a week to practice speaking). Also, he/she might not be the kind of person with the personality of patience or consideration for what you are trying to do. Meaning, you might not get everything you need out of the interaction. Thirdly, because of a non-native environment, there are gaps between learning cycles, so cumulative learning from high error based acceleration is less effective since you aren’t speaking/talking German in daily situations. I’ve found this brutally difficult to create. People just don’t have time.

This has happened with both French and Japanese here. I took some classes at the Alliance Francaise here. They were B1 (I guess upper intermediate speech classes) but I had an issue. It was “cool” that in only 3 weeks I was able to attend these classes, but the structure didn’t work for me. There were a few more advanced speakers than myself, and classes worked on a format of splitting into groups and discussing a topic. If someone you are speaking to is way more advanced than you, they can speak rapidly at length while you are plodding along (and often get interrupted) which kills an aspect of the learning process. The best option would be to do private lessons one on one with someone for a while, but the planning/implementation of that was a bit tricky and costly. So again, I fell into a scenario where I wasn’t in the ideal situation relative to my goals. 

Now you might say, why not just learn a language casually? Have fun with it, let each experience be a fresh and fun one! 

The easiest answer is that I am NOT a casual learner. It took me a while to realize this, but the effort i’ve put into research and implementation is pretty intense. At the time of this writing, I am assuming i’ve written over 300,000 words on this blog (probably more) on my observations and inferences.

This is not a matter of a positive perspective, its more closely having a better idea of worthiness relative to what you know you can do. In other words, when I feel myself hit a plateau, the plateau tends to always be relative to the lack of persons I interact with. The only way to really build language muscle is to speak it every day (somehow) and so far, in my experiments here, this is what causes me to lose steam. Lack of people.

So in looking at Tim Ferris and Benny the Irish Polygot, also following a few other bloggers learning different languages. There are two commonalities.

1. They go to the native country for an extended period of time. 

2. Once there, they implement whatever “system” they use to learn the language at an accelerated pace.

This is currently my missing equation.

Either way, I’m not writing this to stymie any efforts you might put into learning languages. Of course I am not saying it is impossible to learn a language outside the native country. I mean, I can functionally speak French now, even though I don’t speak it every day. BUt if I was living in France, I am sure I would be much closer to fluent using my methods.

Of course things would be different if i had some job where I was speaking French everyday, I had a hot French girl friend who chatted to me in French and only hung out with French people in Kingston… but that’s not realistic for me.

Also, this “realization” in itself can be a downer. It’s like functioning at 45% efficiency, when you know you can be at 95%.

So it would seem the next logical step for me would be to plan to go to countries where I plan to pursue the language, at least for six weeks. Presently this is the only way I can imagine really getting the most out of accelerated learning systems.


Be sure to realize that I am writing this after testing several extremes of rapid language acquisition. I’ve done high levels of immersion, memory tricks, audio programs and whatever else is out there. I’ve blogged a few times about losing motivation because i have no one to speak to, but i’ve also found speaking to someone once a week isn’t very helpful either. Three times a week is better if you can wing it, and everyday would be the best. This is my perspective on how efficient i want to be. I don’t like to always have to lower my ambitions, but sometimes with environment one has no choice.

Again, Tim Ferris notes in his blog that he learned Mandarin, German and Spanish rapidly at very good language schools in the native countries (Mandarin I believe he did a very advanced language program at Princeton) then adding his methods. Benny the irish polygot goes to the native country of the language he wants to learn then starts using his systems to make it happen. With the exception of Khatzumoto, who used brutal amounts of effort to learn Japanese in 2 years outside of Japan, most speakers who use “tricks” and learning approaches that are considered “out there” tend to go to the native country first once they have their method in place.

I didn’t realize I had such passion for languages until I started researching these methods. That said, based on my slightly different perspective and desire to learn languages quickly i write this post to explain the biggest plateau for me presently. It isn’t much fun for a person like me, with my wants, to get brief tastes of what I am aiming for. Sure I might meet some French people every now and then, or think of taking classes that aren’ tvery effecient or wahtever. I might also run into some Japanese people randomly at a party, or try and squeeze in some chatting time with some overworked Embassy folk, but that structure just won’t cut it. That’s a system that might work when you already have grounded fluency in your target language. When you’ve reached a point (after mastering it) where you can chat whenever since the roots are there. I’m not there yet.

So I will need to make a decision very soon. If I want to actively pursue what I am doing, it will require a return to the native environment, otherwise the process will be a waste of time (in a certain way) for me.

There is one very specific reason why I also wrote this blog post, the most obvious and key observation to language learning that comes from chatting to native speakers.


That’s it! If i run into some French people here and we are at a party trying to discuss the state of reggae music in Jamaica, and i’m trying to mix my personality into what i’m saying, that gives you a lot of grammar challenges. In fact, I tend to get bombarded with things that test my grammar, vocabulary and knowledge of idiomatic speech. Since you learn things cumulatively, it only goes to say that if I were speaking this way day after day, I would improve faster and possibly more efficiently. In on night hanging with some Japanese folk in Kingston, I would learn a lot more than simply watching TV and reading sentences. It is the reality of language learning that eventually hits any hardcore learner. You will learn so much from people, but that is what is ultimately missing. When you are in situations to make jokes, speak seriously, ask common questions, try and make nuanced statements, this is how you learn fluent speech. But I havent ‘(yet) found a way to really flood myself with these personal challenges in a place with limited access to native speakers.

So I have much to think about, and much to plan for. I need my IDEAL SITUATION!


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Processing the deluge

This is an indirect review of Japanese POd 101 masked under the guise of another concept.

Let’s assume you want to learn Japanese and you have never heard a lick of Japanese, or read any Japanese grammar before. You do a little research, and get excited to learn that there are systems out there that can help you rapidly achieve a functional comprehension of the language. Then as you do more research, you find sites (even like this one) filled with literally hundreds of pages worth of information, insights and explanations on observations and methodologies in language learning approaches. Then you start seeing information database websites, more learning blogs, learning about anki decks and podcasts, music to listen to, then you see all the youtube teachers and the information turns from a trickle into a wave. This is what I call the deluge.

It is the overwhelming amount of data that relates to any subject and the rate at which you can comfortably process it. I find that intimidation (particularly with Japanese) with a language can increase significantly when you dive too quickly into too many resource points. This is why I refreshed my approach and focused on what I call Base and Build. Which I roughly outlined in another post. Anyhoo, I mention this because i’ve been dabbling in Japanese Pod 101 recently.

Japanese Pod 101 basically uses very light and interesting conversations that run for about a minute at a time to explain a grammar point. They are labeled quite incorrectly as “beginner” lessons most of the time, and this is what turned me off the podcast for quite some time. They use people speaking at native speed using complex grammar, usually to explain a very simple grammar point. Personally, I found this method of teaching extremely counterintuitive, simply because you can easily get lost in the sea of vocabulary and expressions in each lesson. I listened to a few lessons, and found it hard to establish a concrete understanding of whatever grammar point they were trying to get across.

This is a problem with the deluge, which is why I’m happy I discovered stuff like the Michel Thomas Method. I prefer a solid and simple way of learning grammar that stays with me then I can add on to it. This I am going to call “Padding” another thing I am practicing. For example, I was listening to a podcast about “intention” and they were talking about using つもり(tsumori) to describe intention when you want to do something.

The grammar pattern was used ONCE in the dialogue which I considered pretty complex. Again, I found this to be a terrible way to introduce a grammar pattern.

But the strength of the Japanese Pod 101 podcast is in the variety of common expressions you learn through the naturally written speech and situations they create. They translate each piece of dialogue (or the most relevant parts) and I find this to be more helpful than the grammar point. However, some of the grammar points they introduce I wasn’t aware of, so I still feel like I learned something. But i’m not a newbie at Japanese. If I was an ABSOLUTE beginner this would make my head hurt, because on top of the vocab and what not, sometimes the people on the podcast themselves are chatting in Japanese, which might confuse the readers.

So I was reading something somewhere, and a person talked about learning a language with a wide versus narrow focus ( I believe it was Tim Ferris). Meaning, if I was to spend all my time reading Sci Fi Manga and watching Sci Fi anime while studying Sci Fi Japanese words, if it is something I am ridiculously interested in, there would be a relative “spillover” effect when talking about normal things. This makes sense, since the point of these systems like Japanese Pod 101 or PImsleur is to provide something that is “interesting enough” to keep you coming back.

But since its SO much information out there, I’ve found there is no point in trying to understand everything all the time. There are thousands of ways to express things in any language, and I’m trying to personally pinpoint say, the 100 most relevant things I must know. So i’ve been looking at a Japanese grammar website that lists the N3 grammar requirements.

(here: http://jgram.org/pages/viewOne.php?tagE=ga+suru)

At a glance I can say there are about 50-70 grammar points there. Many of them I already know (many of them are simply words) but most of them just through reading aren’t difficult to grasp quickly.

I had no idea certain words I already knew were used as grammar points, which is sort of cool meaning I don’t really have to internalize the meaning in a sentence. But how does this factor into processing the deluge?

Well its like lifting weights. After a while you are able to tolerate more data. Presently my stress level in just doing light research is ridiculously low for a few key reasons:

1. I currently have a comfortable understanding of many grammar patterns, and learning new ones doesn’t make me feel as if i’m way behind or lost.

2. Nuance is merely another way to say something you probably already know how to say, but its good to be aware of.

3. I try and tell myself that whatever I learn, I can quickly internalize and mentally practice with simple excercises.

I’m finding that previously I was studying a lot of vocabulary very early and little grammar. This gave me a reasonable ability to “plough through” text I saw and glean meanings, but it wasn’t efficient. Now that i’m doing a light mix of just more grammar, the language is starting to feel a bit different. I still can’t easily follow rapid conversations, but I find that despite me saying Japanese Pod 101 has some failings i fyou are an absolute newbie, I think it is excellent for “situational research”.


The problem with being outside a native environment is a lack of realistic situations where one can encounter scenarios that force you to try and say things you wouldn’t. So imagine someone asking you: “What’s the scariest kind of ghost in Jamaica?” or “What’s popular on youtube in Jamaica right now?”

We gain grammar muscle by getting into these situations, getting stuck and then going back with more strength and plowing through it. It is very difficult to “study” situations simply because the mind doesn’t really work like that. If you aren’t somewhere, it isn’t easy to transport yourself there mentally. This is why people forget a bunch of vocabulary related to things they have no concept of, like hanami, or Japanese winter (if there is no winter where you live). So at the very least, you can do situational research. So a few of the Japanese pod 101 lessons talk about cheaters, married life, sports and literally dozens of regular situations. So it is a good research tool.

From the podcasts I can remember some interesting terms.

so popular is 人気がある and “to cheat” is 浮気する。to be exposed is ”ばれる”

At the end of the day, what this is providing for me (with my level of understanding) is a sort of palatable means of fiddling with some new vocabulary (or refreshing vocab I already know) without too much overwhelm.

This has been different. Listening to the podcast was quite stressful before, but now that I am employing a few tricks (which I will blog about next) it is helping me deal with the “deluge.”

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Low stress Grammar Building

Greetings again. I said i’d post after finishing the advanced Michel Thomas Japanese course. I have to say that in terms of the breadth of Japanese you will learn, it is less comprehensive than French. In the French program you learn a LOT. In  this, you get “control” over certain expressions which allow you to say many things. I am not sure if it is “very” advanced Japanese, but it is quite useful.

Regardless, what I like is the methodology as i’ve said numerous times. I’m actually going to test this approach as I teach myself more grammar. The point of learning these days is to keep stress super low as I move forward. I don’t know about you, but any time I see dense explanations with words like clauses, volition, subjunctive, situational and so on, I get brain freeze. In fact, i’m going to illustrate something that shows how weird people explain things.

With the MIchel Thomas method… they introduce nuances gradually… so you master one expression fully and then add the nuance. So for example, if I was to say:

If i go to Tokyo, I want to see Mount Fuji.  (tara)

Tokyo ni ittara, Fuji-san wo mitai.

This is pretty easy to translate. More importantly, how they explained it was SUPER simple. I was hoping they would explain stuff like “ba” and “nara” as well (which are versions of IF) and it was a nightmare trying to find a super simple explanation for  the nuance of difference on the web. This is the failing I believe behind much of language learning. There is too much data and variations tossed at you in the initial explanation, so its hard to swallow things logically.

So, as I was researching I noticed I was getting tense because the explanations for nara, etc were long winded and filled with complex sentence examples. So I decided to focus on the English sentences themselves to teach myself the nuances. I am determined to make learning this as painless as possible, like the Michel Thomas method. So i just read through a few example sentences and picked simple ones that strongly express the variations. But I figured even one sentence might be enough even my original Tokyo sentence.


If I go to Tokyo, I want to eat Japanese food. (tara)

Tokyo ni ittara nihongo no tabemono wo tabetai.

If I go to Tokyo, I will see Japanese people (ba)

Tokyo ni ikeba nihonjin ga mimasu.

If you go to Tokyo, you should go to Shibuya (nara)

Tokyo ni iku nara, shibuya ni ikimasu.

*update I just added these sample sentences, the explanation is very clear but I think these add more context and examples.

  • Basically you look at will, want and should to differentiate the nuances. After I read this (today October 22, 2105 I made these updates. Crazy eh?) But I see that this way is easier relative to speaking about these things in a specific context.

If you play vidoegames you should be an Otaku.

Bideogamu ni suru nara, Oktaku ni narimasu.

If I go to Tokyo, I want to play video games.

Tokyo ni ittara, videogamu wo shimasu.

If I go to Tokyo, I should play video games.

Tokyo ni ike nara, videogamu wo shimasu.

Reading these sentences the differences are glaringly obvious. One sentence is sort of like thinking out loud, the next is a logical A to B scenario, and the third is a suggestion. This is all I’m going to focus on to solidify the differences in my head. Now there are some overlaps depending on the nature of the expression… but the point is to NOT FORGET the nuances.

So after this, I can just model some sentences and practice those occasionally without having to “study” or “memorizing”. The most i’d have to memorize are probably these three sentences.

So let’s say a Japanese person is in Kingston and they say they are going to eat later. Let’s say I want to suggest a place

If you go to a restaurant, you should try the Jade Garden restaurant at Sovereign Center.

In my mind, I can already figure this is “nara” since I will be suggesting it. So… I can use these three sentences as a fallback for my purposes. Of course there are additional things to remember such as (i read that “ba” can also express some sort of past stuff) but in learning that I’d keep the approach with the same level of simple.

These “nuances” and “variations” were the things that always made me get very stressed. You see all these particles and patterns and it just looks like noise. But now with practice, and making things way more simple, I believe that building onto the grammar I already know won’t be as painful or intense.

Once I get back to my reading, I will see if I am correct. I think in speaking it will be initially harder to track these patterns because people speak so quickly, but I know that if i see nara in a sentence or ba, I can just think of my Tokyo sentences and then know the person is saying “if” and then I can just figure out the context from there. So basically the idea is to get it as quickly as possible with almost zero stress, and zero memorizing, just like the Michel Thomas Method. So i am hoping to be able to “stack” the advanced grammar patterns I used to struggle with by implementing this system and filtering the grammar points through one or two super simple, almost impossible to forget sentences.

When I say “stack” I just mean add on successively more complex/advanced grammar patterns using this methodology. Nuances in language are always situational, so its a matter of frequency versus necessity. Sometimes you need to say “I might go” instead of “I will go”. But “might” in Japanese might be closer to “try to”. These things always come up in conversational practice (of course) but I am very curious now to see how these things will popup in reading and how it shifts the reading experience for me. The only trepidation i’m having is seeing how well my memory will hold up regarding those few thousand words I spent a buttload of time memorizing. Will they come back easily? Are theyg one?


who knows, but more on that soon.


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Reactivating the Japanese: Base and Build

Greetings all. Today I felt like writing a post on the process I will be using to get back into Japanese. About two months ago, I made a post talking about my French studies and ideas on happiness relative to language learning. I took a very long extended break from Japanese, mainly because I don’t use it often in Jamaica, where I am now. But i don’t want to lose the language either. I was often battling a lot of things mentally at once in this language pursuit, but as i noted in that aforementioned blog post, taking it easy is step one. Too much pressure makes things stressful, and stress is the motivation killer.

So what have I been doing?

Well, my French presently is at a passable upper-intermediate level. Unfortunately I still have no way to speak French everday with someone, but my written and spoken French are vastly improving. I am presently watching Death Note in French as well, and I’m watching it without subtitles and able to follow the storyline reasonably well. (It has been HARD to find French subs for the series, so I just gave up after a while). But I “field tested” my French with some French girls I met here, one of whom spoke to me almost entirely in French the whole night. Yes, this is a great reason to learn French.


I kept up reasonably well (crashing horribly in some instances) but it showed me that my skills in speaking are what needs work, not necessarily weak grammar.

So with Japanese, my plan was to ease back into it as I develop French. Now, the languages are very different, so they aren’t confusing. I’ve had enough experience with Japanese to strongly understand the nature of its structure. I’m using the Michel Thomas Japanese foundation course as a refresher for grammar. I’m calling this refresher activity BASE and BUILD. I’m currently in the BASE period, which looks like this:


Phase 1

12-15 hours, refresh lower to advanced level Japanese grammar

Phase 2

50-100 hours, through speech & conversation regain reasonable conversational skill with improved grammar power

Phase 3

3-6 weeks restore reading ability of Kanji through re-exposure + enhanced reading ability through improved grammar focus.

I call this BASE because in my approach with French I like the idea of massive grammar strength relative to vocabulary first because you can go headfirst into more situations with confidence as opposed to knowing a ton of words and not really knowing how to say what you are thinking. I find this makes for a more stress-free transition. In French after testing  BASE (learning grammar to a high level rapidly with the Michel Thomas Method) I found I navigate very tricky territory stuff like the stuff below after only 12-15 hours total exposure:

I would have said it to youHe wasn’t there so I didn’t tell him. 

je vous aurait dit / Il n’etait pas la donc je ne l’avait pas dit.

So, if you are able to construct sentences like these after 12 hours of exposure to a language, you can feel VERY confident as you move forward. Oh there will be many snags, and false starts and hiccups, but you won’t be lose in the haze you were previously, you will sort of be squinting as you move along, able to make out the road, with a heavy wind hitting your eyes. My French obviously isn’t fluent but i’m able to handle myself okay. With Japanese, what was interesting about my previous hardcore study phase was that I didn’t really focus much on grammar. I was doing massive immersion and sentence reading and focusing on grammar in context. What i noticed was that my vocabulary exploded, but my understanding of some basic grammar was still weak, which affected my reading (and eventually lead to stress). So this time, my focus will be on strengthening grammar through the refresh in the BASE period which will lead to FLUID READING.  ( more on that later)

Less Time, Less Stress.

Since the Michel Thomas course is a maximum of 12 hours, it’s not massive investment of time. I went through the basic course easily after 4 days, listening to it while i exercised. I’m glad I did, because even though it felt very slow, I added some roots to understanding the nuances of “ga” again.

車があります。彼は、電話があります。( as for a car, it exists. he has a phone.)

I was also refreshed on understanding and contrasting ですが (desu ga) for the use of “but”.

東京に行きたいですが、時間がありません。(toukyou ni ikitai desu ga, jikan ga arimasen)

I want to go to Tokyo, but I don’t have time. 

These little things are quite useful to understand properly. “GA” can be a little funky if you aren’t solid on it, but now I am. To me the basic course didn’t cover that much territory, just some light past tense and some very useful basic grammar, but during this BASE period, the idea is to lift grammar weights.  Because I’m familiar with many different conjugations already like how to informally speak, this is adding on to what I know. I’m hoping the program exposes several grammar patterns I haven’t had a chance to internalize strongly. Stuff like tame ni, tame no, kamo, nano ka, etc.  I “know” what they mean sometimes, or I can look up the meaning, but I want to get it without having to look anything up . (Again the power of a program that emphasizes “Don’t take notes!”)

The BUILD phase is mostly about a routine that involves media and an approach relative to whatever goals one wants. So BASE is just to get control and a handle on the language, BUILD is whatever methods (immersion, playing games, selected media, structured conversations and reading materials). I will think on it more and make a better post. I find this way of thinking presently is more functional for me.

A cool thing to note about Kanji, muscle memory and reading memorization is that most things you spend a significant period of time memorizing remain in the brain. Meaning, if you see Kanji you have already studied and “sort of” remember what it is, that means that you need a regulated series of frequent exposures to 100% remember it. This means that I spent a godawful bit of time learning 2,000+ Kanji. Through a few weeks of regular exposure, I should be able to restore many of those words in my brain (since they are already there). I will write more on this later as i ease back into Kanji. I’m also dabbling with a few podcasts that i have the paitience to listen to now 🙂

I will post again when I’m finished the advanced series and see where it puts me in terms of grammar power.


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Multiple language fiddle

Last night I was speaking Spanish and French at a party in Kingston. This was after a lot of drinks and pretty late in the night, but I found it interesting that I was actually able to follow and keep certain conversations going. I was speaking more Spanish than French with a guy from Spain and it was pretty exciting to have reasonable language ability in that regard. But the funny thing is, I cannot remember the last time I’ve spoken Spanish.

I took Spanish for a few years in high school like most Jamaican kids, and i did a class or two in university. Reading Spanish these days isn’t terribly difficult. I probably made a post here at some point, when i was reading this Spanish magazine on an airplane flight ( I understood about 85% of what i was reading) and I was shocked because I hadn’t looked at or even absorbed Spanish material for many years.

Since i’ve started French (which is flagging slightly, but not gone) I haven’t had any Spanish focus, but i’ve had to send a few e-mails written in Spanish to someone recently, and the grammatical similarities between French and Spanish are actually quite helpful. The pronunciation is VASTLY different, so I find that thinking in Spanish and French feel quite different.

I am not on a Spanish agenda right now, but I am seeing that it might be easier to strengthen my Spanish after really going hardcore with French. The major challenge I am having with French is getting comfortable with spoken French. The words are still somewhat of a blur when people speak, and there are so many contractions that many words sound a lot like other words (which obviously can be frustrating at time). Reading French isn’t terrible, because I know upper intermediate grammar and i’m building a steady vocabulary base.

But i am seeing that the “strength” that will come with gaining proficiency with French will immediately equate to an increased strength in Spanish. So the aim for functional ability in Japanese, French and Spanish is a slowly emerging reality. I’m tempted to dive into German when I start my Japanese reactivation phase, simply because I am meeting so many Germans in Jamaica that I can actually practice with.

There is something about running into someone from a  foreign country traveling somewhere else and then chatting to them in their native language that sparks this specific.. energy and vibe.

Depending on your ability, some people might prefer English (because they assume you will not be able to speak to them fluently) but either way its a very interesting door opener. I am very curious to experience a day in the near future when I am traveling and need to actively use multiple languages.

But the last thing i am noticing is that what I read on Beeny the Irish Polygot’s website the other day about the ” ultimate language learning system ” being HB 2.0 is true.

HB stands for “human being”. You can’t really beat that.

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