Month 2: Goals

So what will be my goals for the second month? The ultimate goal here is ‘manageability’. At the end of my first month, I have so many things I want to go and away and do but if I’m not careful I’ll simply overdo it, become exhausted and then just give up. Therefore, my plans for this month are going to be from the viewpoint of being committed but also setting a minimum (albeit a substantial and taxing minimum) rather than a maximum range of tasks. If I feel like doing more, that’s fine but if I don’t that’s fine too. 🙂

Japanese Goals – spending time with the language

This is not going to be completing books – like last month. Instead it’s about skills and spending time developing these skills. It’s also about ‘time’.

Writing Goal –  3 days for 1hr (intensive)kanji

Here I will be writing sentences/paragraphs which attempt to address my grammar targets established last month as well as consolidate prior knowledge but all with the aim of writing natural Japanese. This will be all my own work and not filling in gaps. The hour set aside really gives me the freedom to write at my own pace, to enjoy finding new words, remembering grammar points I thought I’d forgot. I’m also going to stick to three days as well – I think it’s important to spread the writing over a few days rather than do some crazy mammoth 3hr writing session.

Vocabulary and Kanji Goal- 5 days for 20mins (low to medium)

Random pages in ‘Basic Kanji 1’
Dip into ‘Look and Learn’ for character recognition and practice

Speaking Goal – 4 days for 20mins (medium to high)

Include ‘speaking’ grammar practice rather than writing answers (this will be by using a new textbook), shadowing speech and posting to LingQ for comments. Will I be confident to speak to my past Japanese tutors on iTalki during this month?
I did the first day of this schedule today and I was mentally exhausted. Naturally, this will get better over time as retrieving past knowledge will improve through practice. So I am liking this current schedule as by not committing myself to heavy-going tasks each day will strengthen my learning but also I won’t become stressed if I can’t complete it that day. There’s always tomorrow. It also allows me to do fun stuff with the language be that through books, dramas or films. I want push myself but I’m going to be doing fun stuff as well. Where will I be at the end of this second month? Naturally,  I hope to feel more secure in grammar and Kanji, to have reduced the targets I have in regard to both of these, to have really improved my vocabulary and even become overconfident to speak. My goal of the month, then, is simply time with the language.
Interestingly, just as I was about to post my blog I read an article by the polyglot, Olly Richards on what he describes as ‘sprints’ in language learning. He also spoke about setting goals according to ‘process’ and not ‘product’:

‘For example, rather than saying:

  • I will learn 10 new words today (product)

Say instead:

  • I will spend 10 minutes memorising vocabulary with my spaced-repetition software (process)

Rather than saying:

  • I will understand everything in this chapter by the end of the week

Say instead:

  • I will read this chapter through twice each night, checking key words in the dictionary

You can control process, but you can’t control product.’

Italian Goals  – Reading & Listening

readingI’m pretty much going to carry on doing what I did in the first month. That is, keep to my LingQ 90 challenge targets. So, this will be plenty of reading and listening as well as vocabulary practice. Whilst I naturally do loads of listening, I’m specifically given myself 20mins a day to do focused reading and listening where I will be paying particular attention to nuances of vocabulary and structures. I may break up the 20mins into different slots and even repeat sessions. So I’m leaving the ‘what’ pretty much open. This allows me to simultaneously read and listen to things I feel like on that day. Again, I’m not constraining myself to particular books or even to complete particular books – just simply to read and listen to whatever I want.

Italian – end of the 1st month

My monthly goals for Italian were very different to my goals for Japanese. Japanese was heavily focused on grammar and Kanji. My focus for Italian was simply to enjoy reading and listening with the odd review of vocabulary. Certainly the schedule was less onerous. There was no real need to work out how many chapters I had to do each week or each day. sono leggendaInstead, it was just to explore as much reading and listening as I could and to see how my knowledge of the language would progress during the weeks. Funnily enough, the lack of a rigorous schedule sort of made this like relaxing with a few books than language study. Everyday I would listen to an audio book on its own or with the accompanying book. I managed to download and read a variety of books on my Kindle as well as reading articles on LingQ. Loved it. I was noticing things with the language, asking questions about it and really wanting to find out further about specific nuances. My goal was simply to immerse myself in the language and I really felt I did this. 🙂

Japanese – end of the 1st month

So, I’m at the end of my final week of the first month and thought it would be useful to reflect on my progress and think about what I’ll be doing during my second month.

Goal – To complete ‘Basic Kanji’ Book 1

Kanji – I set myself a target of completing the ‘Basic Kanji’ book 1. I initially I thought this had 500 Kanji but soon realised that this was for both volumes in the series. That’s fine as I was really looking to finish that first book and I have.:) Finishing that first book doesn’t mean I remember everything. So what to do now?
A) Characters I don’t recognise immediately 
To simply know the meaning of a single Kanji (not the possible readings) I’m using the following books.
‘Kanji Look and Learn’ which provides a picture and a story to help remember them. There are some from Basic 1 that are not in ‘Look’ so I’m making my own mnemonics.
I’m also displaying cards (White Rabbit Press) to cement ‘how’ they look and notice the stroke order.
Tuttle’s ‘Kanji Learning Dictionary’ – this particular dictionary is useful as it includes nicely referenced graphemes of the Kanji
B) Re-Enforce knowledge
Knowing individual characters is useful but it’s important to be able to read them. Therefore, my natural emphasis now is on vocabulary that have the very Kanji I’ve been studying. To do this I’m going to be using a few resources for this.
‘Goldlist’ – awhile back I used the ‘Goldlist’ method ( and really made great progress with it. I think this will also be useful for me now as it offers the opportunity for me to re-enforce Kanji stroke order as I’ll be handwriting my vocabulary.
‘Kanji Look and Learn’ workbook – again useful gap-fill exercises.
‘Kanji de Manga’ – I’ve heard some interesting things about these books so I’m going to give them a go just for fun. ‘Basic Kanji’ book 1 – selecting a reading passage at random.
‘Memrise’ – ‘Basic 1’ vocabulary can be found here.
Variety of N4 test books with only a focus on the Kanji questions.

Goal – To complete N4 grammar book

I have now completed working through all of the 122 grammar points in this book. This involved noting the qualities of each term and writing/completing sentences in my notebook. This was useful as writing by hand gives me so many opportunities to annotate the sentences as well as practice Kanji. I also constructed my own sentences and posted these onto LingQ and iTalki. I’m still, though, left with two targets.
A) Confusing grammar points.
One of the things I’ve discovered, is that I don’t completely understand the differences in a few grammar patterns as they share similar meaning. I need to speak to someone about such things. As such I set myself a mini-goal last week to improve my confidence in speaking. I started by recording myself reading particular conversations found in my textbook and posting this onto LingQ. I will post more on that mini-goal next week.
B) Unknown grammar
The other target I’m left with is using grammar points I understand but simply have never used. So, I’ve taken the contents page of this book, circled the points I want to use and then put these points into groups (about 10 groups in total). So, now I’ll just take one of these groups to do some mini-writing.

Goal – LingQ

I must admit that this was not a major focus for me this month. I did regularly work through vocabulary and tried to listen/read a few articles each week. I’m going to maintain this with a more active attempt tp import my own lessons. This was generally a light and fun part of my studies; I’m going to try to keep it like that for another month.
Before I break down how my second month is going to look in terms of time and task, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I’ve completed my Japanese goals for the 1st month. Yeah! 🙂
Image result for cupcake#

Biscuit, brew and Japanese. How much studying can you do in 5 minutes?

‘Practising is about quality not quantity. Some days I practise for hours; other days it will be just a few minutes’.

Yo Yo Ma

This really got me thinking a great deal not only about my music practice but also my study of languages. Not only does it make me feel less stressful about having days where I only spend a few minutes on something but it also made me think about how I can make those few minutes really count. So, in the time it takes me to have a brew and a biscuit I can do one of the following tasks.
Easy – tired but functioning 
Review vocabulary brew
Write Kanji
Write (copy) textbook sentences and annotate
Medium – able to put some thought into it 
Learn vocabulary
Read targeted text – uses Kanji I have learned and know
Hard – really focused and engaged 
Grammar explosion – take a single grammar point and its accompanying sentences and explore it to such an extent that you’re attacking it from many angles. Recently I’ve been working on ずに which translates to ‘without’. I wanted to write in Japanese ‘my father went on holiday without taking a bag’. I started to ask ‘Is there any implied feeling behind this (regret, embarrassment, surprise etc.)? If I write ‘without a bag’ do I have to have ‘without taking a bag’ for it to be correct Japanese? Also, is it okay to say ‘bag’ or do I need ‘suitcase’?  Will I have to include てくる or ていく (link to the time of the action in relation to the first part of the sentence)? Do these grammar parts have Kanji or Kana? All these thoughts went through my mind has I had my brew. I felt I was thinking about the language and asking questions which I really wanted to find the answers to. So, though I wasn’t writing loads and loads of sentences I was actively engaged with the point.
What could you do in 5mins? Use such short amounts of time to keep you motivated.

Taking those next steps…

fujiSo, I’m just about to start my third week of my Japanese challenge. I set this month aside to simply secure N4 grammar and around 500 Kanji using the ‘Basic Kanji’ book 1. Both of these are books I’ve used in the past, so technically I’m not learning anything new but rather becoming aware of things I’m confident with and things I need to review more regularly. In terms of both of these books, I’m on target to completing them by the end of this first month. Yet, that’s simply only completing them. What to do with those grey areas of knowledge?

Here I’ve been noticing compound Kanji but I have forgotten the meaning of some parts of them. To help me further with this, next week I’ll be using a range of Kanji books (which I have a far few)  to see which is the best to clarify such difficulties. I’ll review on this next week.
N4 Grammar
There are a few grammar points which I’ve forgotten, am unsure of how to use or they are similar to other grammar constructions (just what are the nuances?). So, what do you do about this?
1) Forgotten grammar points
Writing practice – I’m in the process of writing sentences which I will post on LingQ or iTalki.
2) Confusion or uncertainty
This requires clarity from someone who can easily explain the points. In two weeks time I’m going to seek out my past tutors on iTalki for clarification. I think this is important otherwise I could end up learning them incorrectly or even just ignoring them completely.
This, then, leads to the problem of speaking. It’s so easy to tootle along with a bunch of books, jotting down sentences in my notebook (always good to write by hand as it helps secure Kanji practice) as I go. But speaking!!! Never one of my strengths as I don’t have daily contact with anyone who speaks Japanese. Also using iTalki can be difficult because of the time zone difference. So naturally this is a compromise on my speaking progress.
I’m going to try to do shadowing practice and post this on LingQ. It’s not really for people to check my pronunciation but more that by posting it will make me more committed to doing it. Also it will hopefully have the advantage of secure more natural patterns of language. For this, I’m going to be using the mini-conversations found in textbooks. I think when doing anything with the language, it’s good to try to secure as many skills as you can within a single practice session. Whilst for grammar practice, I will write out by hand on square paper (secure character shape and stroke order) my own sentences using the N4 book (secure grammar) with words from my ‘Basic Kanji’ book (secure Kanji knowledge and stroke order). So, I hope to do the same with speaking. Here I hope to secure grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and intonation. This is going to be an extra mini-goal for me for the next two weeks. After the two weeks I’ll review the books I found useful for this, my schedule to do the practice and the feedback I receive. Will I feel more confident to talk to my tutor?

Back to it

It’s been far, far too long since I’ve been seriously focused on my languages. Through one thing or another, it must be close to a year now. This happens to a lot of people be it for personal reasons or just moving the interest to another language. It’s not something to worry about. In fact some linguists say, that by forgetting the language you actually make it stronger when you revisit it. Well, we’ll see. So, last week I decided to set myself a couple of challenges with my languages. A three month challenge for Italian and Japanese which I will hopefully post on each week.

So, I’ve thought carefully about what I would to achieve. Like all learning endeavors, there needs to be some kind of goal to reach otherwise you just end up coasting (if you’re lucky). These long-term goals need to be broken down into chunks – mid-term goals (month) and short-term goals (weekly/daily) So, for me this means the following.
3 months of immersion 
Japanese – 3 months: secure my past knowledge and be ready to tackle the difficulties of N3
Month 1 – can I secure N4?
500 Kanji
N4 grammar and vocabulary reviewed, noticed and used for a wealth of reading and listening
Italian – 3 months: take part in an Italian book club
Month 1 – how far can listening and reading get me?
Reading & listening (vocabulary revisited simply as part of the process)- ‘La Fabbrica di Cioccolato’ (finish) ‘Io Sono Leggenda’ (complete about 50%)
For my weekly goals, I’ve simply worked out how many chapters I need to cover a week. For alongside these goals, I’ll be doing other things with the languages. immersing myself into books that take my fancy, watching films/dramas, listening to podcasts and generally following articles on websites in my target languages. It’s good to have goals but it’s also good to do whatever I like. I find this nurtures my enthusiasm and motivation. So, time to get comfortable with the language.