For the last 38 days (more than a month, yes, but it doesn't make the title pop, okay) I've been taking Japanese lessons on Duolingo. I've always had an interest in the language and culture in Japan and inspiration hit to finally try and learn something. Here, I'm going to write down what I've done to attempt to improve my learning over this short period.
To sing Duolingo's praises, I think it's a wonderfully modern way to get a start into language learning. Short, gamified lessons make accessing tidbits of language straightforward coupled with daily reminders, XP rewards and leader-boards it's able to tap into my competitive side to keep my motivation up for learning.
Currently I aim to do 20-30 minutes a day and mostly do. At the weekends usually I end up doing a little more (45-60 minutes). No matter how much or little, the daily effort I think is what is having the greatest effect on making things "stick".
Over the years I've listened to various Japanese bands, starting with ONE OK ROCK and more recently getting hugely into both MAXIMUM THE HORMONE and PassCode. However, these recent two that I've been getting into do very fast, mad metalcore which isn't exactly the easiest to pick up on phrases from.
Through a helpful blog post I was able to start trying out bands with a slower tempo and clearer, simpler Japanese that I could pump into my brain in the hopes my subconscious would absorb some phrases and enunciation. Thanks to that post I've been listening to classic pop-rockers SPITZ somewhat frequently (got to prepare for karaoke somehow, right?).
Over the last few months I've started listening to the Deep Sleep Sounds podcast to help me drift off to sleep but had the sudden idea of finding some sort of Japanese equivalent to fill my mind with as I drift off to sleep. A quick search brought the Yururi Japenese podcast into my radar, they have a few different episodes geared particularly towards sleep but I've listened to Learn Japanese While Sleeping | 60 Basic Phrases multiple nights when drifting off to sleep and I have found the calmness of his voice and the slow enunciation of the common phrases to really help.
Rikaichamp is an add-on for firefox that adds pop-up translation helpers to Japanese words and symbols, adding help with translation and enunciation. I've had it enabled for the last couple of weeks and, while I'm yet to browse Japanese websites (although I intend to reads some news in Japanese on NEWS WEB EASY when my grammatical understanding of the language improves) it has still come in useful during Duolingo lessons to help me breakdown some of the larger phrases and words that appear in the more complex lessons.
An example of Rikaichamp highlighting the phrase 'さようなら/sayounara'
I've got a few ideas going forward to further aid the concept of immersion learning:
- Labelling of various items around the home with relevant words/phrases
- Virtual hangouts (luckily Duolingo has a lot of user-hosted events going on)
- MOVING TO JAPAN (okay, probably a little much right now, but no better way to immerse)
For now, I'm going to keep up with the positive progress and focus on the joy of the learning.
Until next time, さようなら!