Magazine reading and being smart with Japanese study

Okay, so the truth is, I cannot read Japanese magazines yet, I think this post is more about the idea of starting to believe I can learn the langauge. First things first, Heisig works and the SRS transition that I picked up from AJATT WORKS. I’m going to post a video soon about “learning in context” and explain a few examples (one of which is actually pretty funny).

Either way, I went to the Doctor’s office for a checkup and I picked up a magazine. At present I can recognize 1000 Kanji bcause of The Heisig Method, and I can probably read three hundred of those in Japanese from my day to day life in Japan. I’ve been “breaking formation” with my study system. Meaning, instead of learning at 2,045 Kanji in Heisig then doing Sentence mining (i.e, learning in context), I’ve been fiddling with other Kanji books, reading papers, writing blogs, etc. A good rule to note here is this:

all learning is good learning.

Basically, if you are doing something to progressively increase your Japanese knowledge its good. But what i’m realizing is this.

there is good learning, and there is practical learning.

Good learning means you are using your interest in the language to learn stuff a certain way, practical learning means you are taking that a few steps further to make sure that you get the most for your time. I’m in a pretty interesting position here. I’ve stopped Heisig learning twice but I have a good memory so I don’t lose the Kanji. I mean, come on, I learned how to read and write 1,000 Kanji in only four months. For most people that’s insane. If I didn’t stop for four months (still retaining the memory of 98% of what I learned) I could claim I learned 2,045 in six months! (which I will claim once I start learning the rest hehe )

But I’m seeing that if I had finished Heisig, I would be able to DIVE 100% into my Japanese immersion. Right now, what i”m doing is fine, but anytime I hit a Kanji I don’t know, there is no reference point for me. Basically, if I see a Kanji that is “思た。”I can immediately recognize the Kanji for “thought” which is “おもう”. But if I see a Kanji like

”難しい”(むずかしい)I might not be able to read it. Sure I know the word “muzukashii (difficult) but, I haven’t studied the Kanji yet. So if I run into this Kanji on the road, it won’t leap out to me as “hard”. This means I have no reference point (English) and it means that it will be much harder for me to retain the memory of that Kanji.

The Key here is that Japanese people are Japanese, so their reference point never changes. For us foreigners, especially if you want to learn faster, English (or your native tongue) is your best reference point. Basically I’ve already spent tens of thousands of hours speaking, reading and writing English. If its linked to my Kanji that i’m learning, it will be VERY difficult to forget it.

Now, I was reading a magazine (or trying to : p) and I was able to read a good bit of an article about the Apple Iphone vs the Adroid phone.

You can’t really read that very well (ironically because the picture was taken with my Iphone) but you can see Steve Jobs, etc. I was going through, trying to read it and something kept popping up throughout the entire article. Every time I saw “Iphone” or
“Android” written in katakana it was followed by “携帯”. This popped up several times during the article. The first Kanji is “portable” and the next is “sash”. At first I thought it was “device”, which brought up a different set of Kanji in my dictionary on my Iphone. Then I said, “phone” which brought up another set of Kanji for phone. Then I said, “okay, a Japanese cell phone is called a keitai”, so I typed in けいたい、 and sure enough it popped up. It was fun to notice the pattern, but this could have been much easier for me.

I forgot the story behind “portable” (携) so I couldn’t find the root word to search my dictionary. But I still learned it in context through the article. So I find that just reading and forcing yourself to learn regardless  can give you insights into meanings of things. But now after delving into the world of Japanese magazines, reading Japanese short stories and writing more, I find that its smarter to just have an arsenal ready. Why know only 1,000 Kanji when 2,045 can take you so much further (faster)? I’ve met speakers who are way better than me conversationally, but don’t know Kanji like “進む”(advance), “復する。”(restore) and many more. Not only am i learning 2,000 Kanji, I’m also by extension going to learn 2,000 to 6,000 words because of the different combinations. As I read magazines and short stories, I’m noticing certain patterns day after day. It’s really cool because I can choose my context (electronics, video games, art, history) and see tons of Kanji in that context.)

So the beast in me realizes that I need to really finish the other 1,000 Kanji so I can take a few leaps forward with my Japanese comprehension. I’m already halfway there and i’ve always fantasized about being able to read (even barely) a Japanese magazine article! Cheers to the rest of the journey!


About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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