Reader Story: Three Months of Sentences

Everyone loves a success story. I know I do. When I was learning Japanese hardcore, I looked high and low for stories of other people’s journeys. Anyway, here’s one from a reader who goes by the handle Awkward Map on this site. He’s finished RTK (Remembering the Kanji) and is now three months into sentences. The following are his own words:

To start with, I’d like to express my displeasure with classes. The only thing that I gained from my two years of Japanese at college is that it would take me 10+ years to get good at it if I continued on that path. The professors’ grasp of English was equally saddening, as clearly whatever methods they used to learn it were not very good. “If these people are what I’m going to sound like in Japanese, I’m in trouble,” I thought.

I picked up the pieces from my last attempt at Heisig and began searching around for the methods people used to learn Japanese to a fluent level. On a newsgroup I found a link to Khatzumoto’s website and was stunned at how quickly he was able to learn Japanese. I found out what an SRS is and if that was the only thing I found out I was already doing great, because that meant I was able to pitch 800+ cards that were already done up for Heisig’s system (pain in the butt, right there). My two months with that SRS before going into the sentences phase showed me that an SRS really can work for securing long-term memory.

At that point, I went AJATT. Goodbye friends, non-Japanese websites, all the things I used to love. “Headphones up, drown out the English,” was my motto for those last couple of months at school. I began working through Tae Kim’s Japanese Guide to Japanese Grammar, mining sentences in concert with reading a bit from my Japanese textbooks from school (Genki I, II).

At the same time I picked up Death Note and starting mining sentences from that. Talk about repetition! 犯罪者 this, 死因 that, and some 病死 added for good measure. Amusingly for the first month I did it wrong and translated from Japanese to English. Amusing, I know. Also lead to extreme despair for the next couple of weeks as I fixed the sentences.

Anyways, I kept reading on there about “monodics” and thought “man, I’m only two months into this, can’t do it.” Instead of admit defeat however, I just started using Sanseidou for everything. It was tough, but not impossible to understand things and it did take a while. At the beginning it was perhaps 2-3 sentences per day (with maybe 3-4 hours available) with the monodic, which is hard to rationalize against the many more that I could be learning with a bilingual dictionary (bidic?), but the more I used the monodic the more it rewarded me with vocabulary seen over and over. Now on a good day spending about 8 hours working on sentences I’m able to put in 25-30 sentences using a combination of monodics (Sanseidou, Yahoo!, and Infoseek) to reliably check my understanding using different terminology.

(However, with the addition that the sentences should be the length you mentioned, this may balloon to more per day. I was doing sentences a wee bit bigger than that as an average for a while there…)

I still run into stuff over and over that I’m not able to decipher completely, sadly, but it’s just a matter of time. Using a monodic has given more perspective on how the language works and its incredible compact and condensed nature that kanji allows it to have. So… yeah. Right now I’m at 976 sentences, but I’m pretty confident that this is going to just get faster and faster the more sentences I put into my SRS. Just like how I was only able to put one sentence in per hour before and now it’s 3 or 4, pretty soon it’s going to be even more. The “back” sides of my cards are still friggin’ huge, however, what with the circular nature of definitions.

Right now I’m starting to read about the Japanese video game scene because they were a big reason for my interest in Japan (Pokemon, oh yeah! Dragon Warrior! Woo!). So, I’m picking up a lot of stuff that I already knew from one source or another about video games. Good ol’ Japanese Wikipedia has been my best source.

“Learning a language is not a linear process. The better you get, the easier it gets for you to get better. The more you know, the more you are able to learn. Knowledge, words, structure will get stickier ― but first you have to go through this sucky period, before the curve starts to shoot up.”

is also, like, such a great quote and so true.

Anyways, there’s where I’m at after three months of sentences.

以上That’s his story. Do you have a story you’d like to share? Email it to me! I can put it up here and it’ll inspire other people, and you’ll save me some writing!


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  15 comments for “Reader Story: Three Months of Sentences

  1. Mike
    June 29, 2008 at 12:21

    Cool I get first comment! I guess checking this site every 5 minutes has its perks! jk

    Thanks for the success story Awkward Map! I look forward to reading your progress in a few months!

  2. madmerse
    June 29, 2008 at 18:29

    I appreciated this post. It helps to know that I’m not the only one who spent several hours slogging through sanseido only to produce a few sentences. In the beginning I guess most of the work goes into trying to understand the definitions.

  3. X3R0
    June 29, 2008 at 22:37

    I’m at 1200 sentences now, and I keep putting off going monodic because I’m scared I’ll read a sentence, think it means one thing when it actually means something else, and then put it into my SRS and never be corrected on it :\ It also doesn’t help that the only dictionary I can find that has example sentences (Yahoo J-E), also has English translations that I can’t help but look at to make sure I’m right

  4. Chiro-kun
    June 29, 2008 at 22:59

    おめでとうAMはん!いいインスピレーションになったんや!

    それとポケモンスーパーファンなんて!!!エレーぞ!

  5. khatzumoto
    June 30, 2008 at 00:56

    @X-star (X3R0)
    You might want to try to start by reading definitions of words you already know. Really simple words. Like 食べる。人。女。男。行く。貴方。何。誰。此処。

    I understand your concerns. I’ll just say that it’s like clinging onto the edge of a swimming pool or a skate rink. At some point, it’s time to let go, and get into the middle of the pool/rink, if you really want to swim/skate. Sure, you’ll be shaky initially. There’s probably never a “perfect”, “just right” time. It just needs to be done…

  6. X3R0
    June 30, 2008 at 02:02

    Thanks for the advice, I’m going to throw myself in starting today even if it means drowning.

  7. uberstuber
    June 30, 2008 at 04:15

    Its too bad pokemon doesn’t use any kanji T_T

  8. AwkwardMap
    June 30, 2008 at 18:16

    @X3RO

    Even if you don’t quite get the pinpoint details of a sentence quite yet, you just need to understand that gist of it in order to “understand” it as written in the 10,000 sentences articles. You should start to get a feel for when you “get it” enough or when you don’t. I highly recommend going with a monolingual dictionary as soon as possible. Remember that it’s not time wasted; you’re reading the target language after all.

  9. dancc
    July 3, 2008 at 12:44

    Has anyone here tried loading the japanese version of final fantasy XI onto their computer? I just received the game in the mail but I am having trouble getting the game to load. And for some reason my computer does not display japanese characters in the install screen.
    Anyone have problems like this that can help?

  10. Mark
    July 3, 2008 at 13:25

    dancc:
    You need to install Japanese fonts etc onto your PC. Take a look here:

    www.declan-software.com/japanese_ime/#vista

    or here

    www.endnote.com/support/helpdocs/Changing%20Regional%20Settings%20in%20Windows%20XP.pdf

    If that doesn’t work and the game still shows gibberish, then you need to set the codepage to Japanese

    www.sisulizer.com/support/codepages.shtml#HowToChange

    Good luck!

  11. July 5, 2008 at 20:55

    I’ve just started the immersion process, similar to as stated here and I will be in it for about 2 months or so. After that I have the chance to have *free* Japanese classes. That’s right, free, provided by the government. Should I go for it? I’ll still continue with my self study, but just a question to anyone who’s reading. It’d help me practice speaking, I guess.

  12. X3R0
    July 5, 2008 at 22:57

    @ Adam
    I also had that choice, but I refused because I felt a class would only slow me down, having to go at everyone else’s pace while I was racing ahead of them. You can probably learn better on your own, by mimicking real Japanese dialogue rather than stiff classroom Japanese dialogue

  13. Lloyd
    July 6, 2008 at 10:02

    Yo, Khatzu and the other gentle readers!

    I have a question… do you think that correction is worth anything? As in does it help?

    Here’s what I’m thinking…
    I heard in some of my college linguistics classes that children are pretty much immune to correction. You correct their grammar all you want and they still keep on talking the exact same way until one day… *POOF*… it fixes itself. I’m wondering if we, the “adult learners,” are the same. I know you like to say that there’s no difference from child and adult learners in their ability to learn language, and maybe that’s true. But obviously there’s a difference in THE WAY they learn. And this is also one of your main points.. LOTS OF INPUT. Children get tons of input while a lot of adult learners don’t. So here’s my question a bit restated…

    If we’re getting tons of input, do you think our errors will heal themselves in time?

    And here’s something else relevant to my question… you’ve often said input before output for fear that we’ll get stuck in our ungrammatical ways and never change (or that it’ll be harder to change in the future). However, once again, what about kids? They speak as soon as they can and are making tons of errors, yet eventually they all move on to be fluent, more or less error-less native speakers. Also, I know a guy who was a Mormon missionary here in Japan for two years. When he came here he only had 3 months of Japanese training. He was here for two years, studying for about an hour every morning and then talking to people on the street for 9 hrs. a day. I’m sure in the beginning he was making lots of errors but now native Japanese speakers say his Japanese is great and very natural.

    What’re your thoughts?

  14. rebecca
    July 15, 2008 at 15:14

    hi,Khatzu,I leave the message for you again.Now I try your method that immerece myself into japanese surrouding.Listening Japanese all the time,even when i am sleeping,i try to listening the languege.I think your way of studying Japanese may suitable for me.And i think my listening is much better than before.But i am also so confuse that i can not write a correct sentence in English now.How should I do?In our company,we don’t need to write in English but our system is in English.But it is no problem for me.The most hard for me is that when i want to write in English the first come to my mind is Japanese!How shold i do?And i will take the 1 JPLT in the December this year.I afraid i cannot pass the test and at the same time i may also forget all my English?? Can you give me any advise?
    Waiting for your kindly answer.I also believe that i can do my best to learn both english and japanese well.
    Mybe the reason for my poor writing of english is that i seldom listening.Anyway,i look forward your advize becuse you are good at learning launguge all by yourself.
    Thank you.~_~

  15. Chris41188
    October 23, 2008 at 22:40

    AS faras the insight of making mistakes go, yes it is true tha children make mistakes but if a child makes a mistake they are correct by the parents teachers, if an adult makes a mistake they have no parents or teachers to correct them an dit is considered rude to correct the. think about it my uni lecturers are all foreign and they make tons of mistakes but no one is going to put the hand up and star correcting their grammer, theyd sound like a d!ck, so the go on assumin there grammer.pronounciatiom was right, but children are corrected all the time.
    Also i think that when children learn a language the have no prevoius knowledge of a language to interfier, what they learn is what the know and its what they think in, so there forced to constanly think only in the language theve just learnt as the know nothing else


    Lloyd said,

    July 6, 2008 @ 10:02 am

    Yo, Khatzu and the other gentle readers!

    I have a question… do you think that correction is worth anything? As in does it help?

    Here’s what I’m thinking…
    I heard in some of my college linguistics classes that children are pretty much immune to correction. You correct their grammar all you want and they still keep on talking the exact same way until one day… *POOF*… it fixes itself. I’m wondering if we, the “adult learners,” are the same. I know you like to say that there’s no difference from child and adult learners in their ability to learn language, and maybe that’s true. But obviously there’s a difference in THE WAY they learn. And this is also one of your main points.. LOTS OF INPUT. Children get tons of input while a lot of adult learners don’t. So here’s my question a bit restated…

    If we’re getting tons of input, do you think our errors will heal themselves in time?

    And here’s something else relevant to my question… you’ve often said input before output for fear that we’ll get stuck in our ungrammatical ways and never change (or that it’ll be harder to change in the future). However, once again, what about kids? They speak as soon as they can and are making tons of errors, yet eventually they all move on to be fluent, more or less error-less native speakers. Also, I know a guy who was a Mormon missionary here in Japan for two years. When he came here he only had 3 months of Japanese training. He was here for two years, studying for about an hour every morning and then talking to people on the street for 9 hrs. a day. I’m sure in the beginning he was making lots of errors but now native Japanese speakers say his Japanese is great and very natural.

    What’re your thoughts?”

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