Archive for the ‘Study’ Category

For your ear’s pleasure:

2008 April 30

The useless background narrative

I’m 3 years late, but here it is…

There are indeed chance meetings that are just wonderful. Meetings which upon reflection would make you think, “I couldn’t imagine how things would work out without it!”. A perfect example is when I was hotspotting in Puskom UGM with Karnan and met Adit there. Adit is a fellow Ilkomer, and I had chatted with him through IM about studying kanji. I had told him that I want to copy his study materials some time.

And what a time indeed! After copying the kanji-related files, I was shown quite a lot of mp3s on his Nihongo folder. Not anime soundtracks or jpop whatnots, mind you, but Japanese language lessons! Adit said that you can turn it on and enjoy it while having your Morning Coffee. (or was it another drink?)

My focus was, and probably still, on reading. Therefore I thought some audio learning materials would be a great boon to enhance one of my weakest Japanese skills, listening. I happily copied it.

Most of them were podcasts and some nihongojuku. I listened to some of them, and indeed thought it was very great. However, in the end I didn’t have enough yaruki to do a full-fledged and regular listening of it. Probably because a lot of the episodes are missing. I like to study a certain thing thoroughly, from back to back, so those podcasts look like a book with lots of torn and missing pages. Not very appetizing.

Until one day I stayed at a relative’s house in Jakarta with ultra-blazing Internet connection. I wisely utilized it to download jpod101’s audio files (nihongojuku was dead). Collecting all the links and feeding it to Flashget took me well beyond midnight.

The first episode was in 2005. So yes, I was years late and was faced with a 4 GiB pile of digitalized sinusoidal waves. But no worry! They release like 1 episode per day, so one can definitely catch up just by listening to 31 podcasts a month.

About the podcast itself

The essence is simple: The free podcast teaches you Japanese using English. The teachers are Peter-san who is a native English speaker and at least a native Japanese speaker. After a short intro, you will be given a short dialog, then that dialog again in slo-mo, and finally the dialog with the English translation inserted in-between. Vocabulary is given after that dialog parade. Then finally the grammar points.

What’s so captivating about it? Probably because Peter-san is such a skillful and mesmerizing teacher. He gives lots of insights, interesting anecdotes, and Peter-style jokes in the explanation. Or maybe it’s because of the many nihonjin casts with their unique personality. From Yoshi the cool guy to Takase the tough girl. Or is it because the stories are genuinely interesting and most of the time hilarious?

No matter what your level is, if you’re learning Japanese then you should try to tune in to They have a fine gradation of level ranging from newbie to upper intermediate. For those interested in the Japanese culture, they also have weekly Japanese Culture Class podcasts with topics from superstitions to marriage. Advanced students can even enjoy Miki-sama‘s full-Japanese audio blog. (the link points to the wrong person, but their nickname are actually same) And if that isn’t enough to assure you, they even have 1 lesson with Morning Musume as the topic!

Currently I try to listen to 2 podcasts per day. I’ve covered 300+ lessons so now my ears can even differentiate the voices of Yoshi, Jun, Natsuko, Sakura, Hatsumi, Naomi, Takase, Chigusa, and others. I’m quite surprised that I found lots of new words even in the Survival and Newbie series because I was well beyond my 3rd year of studying Japanese.

It certainly increased my listening comprehension significantly. Probably my speaking skill too, because I often repeated after the dialogs. At any rate, I’m looking forward for the day I can catch up with the latest episodes.

Closing words

I probably should send Adit a DVD as my gratitude. Oh, and anyway, upon leaving Puskom that day I carelessly left my student card and had to travel all the way from Milan

And lastly, are you a japanesepod101 listener too?

2,500 kanji and counting :)

2008 April 9

This post has been moved to “2,500 kanji and counting :)”. Please visit the new server.

ni-sen ijou

2008 January 21

Excuse my laziness of blogging… You see, I’m now in this remote place called Sokaraja and circumstances force me to go to the town Purwokerto to surf the net. That’s quite far for my standard and so… Well enough excuses.

This will be just another monotone dump, but believe me the study isn’t as boring as this post looks. I’ve dumped 92 new kanji and 131 new words, for a total of 2,309 kanji and 10,354 words. Believe me, even with this amount of kanji I’m still humbled by the amount of new characters I found every day. Just keep moving on and know no surrender.

To spice things up a bit, I’ll tell you my current Japanese diet. I’m still trying to finish that WW2 article on Wikipedia. It goes roughly two paragraphs a day, so probably hell will freeze faster. I’m also playing freeciv, an open source game which has a Japanese translation! Not so much playing, but exploring all the text inside and trying to read it. If you’re interested in trying it but has problems, just mail me (for me I can’t just run it and get a usable learning environment, but I’m not writing about it now). Like explained on another post, I’m also still going through “Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar”. All those and randomly leafing through Japanese books I have/borrowed.

Ah, I almost forget… I also now regularly listen to podcasts downloaded from Be sure to visit that site!

So here are the kanji:


And the words:


Dump: 2200 kanji and counting

2008 January 5

A regular run of the mill dump post. So yeah, I still read Japanese materials routinely to find new words and especially kanji, and right now my main sources are the WW2 article on Wikipedia which is still a long way to finish and starting to get extremely boring and tiresome (勃発、勃発、侵攻、侵攻), an encyclopedic Japanese grammar book “Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar” from “Routlege Grammars” which I like very much because it contains translations and for every example which is written in genuine Japanese characters, and some other reading sources like the various Japanese magazines and books I have on my disposal which I open randomly and by whim (see screenshot above for an example). Oh, and if you think the previous sentence is too long, blame me for reading too much written Japanese in which sentences are unreasonable long which is apparently just for the author’s pleasure to torment foreign readers which are not accustomed for such lengthy parsing using their untrained brain which is actually a very capable biological computer.

For this dump, there are 100 new kanji and 178 new word. Now my kanji count is 2,217 and my word count is 10,223. It might be interesting to know that among those 2200 or so kanji, I still haven’t encountered six grade 5 kanji and three grade 6 kanji! So there you have it for the commonness of Jouyou kanji.

Note about my method of memorizing these words and kanji. When I encounter new words, I searched for it in an electronic dictionary and then put it on my spreadsheet file of Japanese words (and kanji). I just collect it there as much as I find. Then, I separately put the words there to Mnemosyne, first come first serve. These two are not synchronized, so I don’t have to directly put all words I find to Mnemosyne. In fact, I have almost 3,000 words that I’ve put on my word list waiting to be put into Mnemosyne.

Anyway, here are the kanji:


And the words:


Book: Colloquial Japanese

2007 December 25

Colloquial Japanese by H. D. B. Clarke and Motoko Hamamura

One of the books I use to study Japanese is “Colloquial Japanese” by H. D. B. Clarke and Motoko Hamamura. I’m using the 1981 edition, but here’s the link to a newer one. It’s my cousin’s book that I’m currently borrowing.

The book aims to meet the needs of students “who require an overall understanding of spoken Japanese within a relatively short period”. It teaches the reader from the beginning, and the focus is on conversation, namely listening and speaking. The title of the book itself (i.e., colloquial) should already make this evident.

Every chapter starts with “benri na hyougen”, or useful expressions. Here’s a sample from the first chapter: (I use my own romanization, more about that later)

Japanese English
Ohayou gozaimasu. Good morning.
Oyasumi nasai. Good night (before retiring).

After that is “bunkei” or sentence patterns. This section contains short sentences that exhibit new grammars or materials which will be explained in the chapter. Here’s part of the first chapter’s:

Japanese English
Ikimasu. [I] go.
Ikimasen. [I] don’t go.

After that is “kaiwa” or conversations. The conversations are short yet numerous. Again, from the first chapter:

Japanese English
A: Tanaka san. A: Mr Tanaka!
B: Hai. B: Yes.
A: Owarimashita ka. A: Have you finished?
B: Hai, owarimashita. B: Yes, I have.
A: Jaa, kaerimashou ka. A: Well then, shall we go home?
B: Ee, sou shimashou B: Yes, let’s do that.

After that is the explanation and an excellent set of problems. Here are some sample problems from chapter 1:

A Change as indicated in brackets:
1 Wakarimasu. (negative) 2 Ikimasen. (past)…

B Substitute the word in brackets for the word in italics and wake other changes as the sense demands:
1 Ashita irasshaimasu ka. (kinou) 2 Kinou shimashita. (ato de)…

C Translate into English:
1 Ashita aimasu ka. 2 Ohayou gozaimasu. …

D Translate into Japanese:
1 He is coming tomorrow. 2 I didn’t see him yesterday. …

(If you have time, try to answer in the comment 🙂 )

Some design decisions are due to the book’s focus on conversation. For example, the book doesn’t use any Japanese characters. Except for the table of kana in the appendix, that is. The book is also accompanied by a cassette which is very useful to practice your oh-so-hard listening.

The romanization is based on Hepburn so it shouldn’t be alien. What’s interesting is that vowel devoicing (e.g., “-masu” sounding as “-mas”) and pitch is marked. For example, 行きます is romanized as “ikimásψ” (that’s ‘a’ with an acute accent ´ and the Greek character psi is my lame substitute for a ‘u’ marked with an oblique line). It should be great for people that want to sound as accurate as possible. I’m not going to explain how to read the pitch mark since I myself don’t use it :), but rest assured it is explained in the book.

Me doing exercises on Colloquial Japanese

If there’s one feature that I have to give thumbs up, it’s going to be the exercise set. It is numerous and has answer keys. What I usually do is to answer the questions using Japanese characters, thereby practicing my character writing ability (photo above).

This book is orthodox in that it teaches you the polite form before the plain form. In other words, it sacrifices the more logical and understandable approach for politeness on the get go. I think that’s not how one should teach Japanese.

So here’s the sum up:

The Good:

  • Lots of exercises with the complete key.
  • Japanese and English on facing pages so you can play “read and guess the meaning” easily.
  • Audio cassette.

The Bad:

  • Starts with the polite form (e.g., 会います) instead of the plain form (e.g., 会う).

I’m currently on the 6th lesson of this book and plan to go through all 20 lessons. For those of you wondering whether to get this book to start their Japanese, I frankly don’t recommend it! It’s better to start studying from Tae Kim’s guide which progresses logically (e.g., from the plain form up) and is very understandable. It will give you a much better grasp at the language’s foundation, inner working, and way of thinking. After you have studied Tae Kim’s guide, by all means use this otherwise excellent book to reinforce what you have learned with its conversations, explanations, and exercises. The cassette audio is also great for practicing your listening.

Mega Dump!

2007 November 23

kanji scroll

Even though I didn’t update my blog for the past 5 months or so, I still study Japanese and log the diffs. My source to hunt new words and kanji on that time period was numerous. In short, I now try to gobble any reading materials I come across, so writing them all here would be quite painful for me, the reporter. This marks quite a departure from my previous policy of “finish reading one thing before even finding another”. Here are some highlights, though: Wikipedia articles, my cousin’s Routledge grammar book, Yahoo! Dictionary, free Japanese games, free Japanese stories, Yahoo! Japan (a magazine), and Bungei Shunjuu (a very thick magazine). I’ll probably elaborate my reading sources on other posts.

I gathered 288 new kanji and 780 new words. So now my kanji count is 2,117 and my word count is 10,045. Here’s how I would see the Wikipedia page on AKB48 and global warming (unknown kanji in red). I think I need around 3000 kanji before I would stop encountering new kanji every now and then.

Here are the kanji:


And all the words:


Dump summary

2007 June 18

This post has been moved to “Dump summary”. Please visit the new server.

Wikipedia Dump: Einstein

2007 June 18

Albert Einstein

After going far back in time with Aristotle, I hunted words from the article of a more recent thinker, Einstein (2007-04-05). I got 68 kanji and 257 words.

Here are 5 selected new words from the article:

  • 学術 (gakujutsu, science)
  • 特殊 (tokushu, special); this is the “toku” used in tokusatsu.
  • 相対 (soutai, relative); tokushu and soutai is used in 特殊相対性理論 (tokushu soutai-sei riron, special theory of relativity)
  • 爆弾 (bakudan, bomb)
  • 核兵器 (kakuheiki, nuclear weapon)

Here are the kanji:


And all the words:


Dump: kanjification

2007 June 18

Words that can be kanjified

At the beginning of my Japanese study, I memorize lots of words without bothering to learn their kanji. Now I am not afraid of enountering new kanji, so I gradually learn the kanji of those words.

I got 22 kanji:


And 86 words:


Dump: random and side effects

2007 June 18

Dice, signifying randomness

Random words and kanji are those that I randomly encounter, for example while watching a movie.

Side-effect words are dictionary words that I picked when learning a new kanji from another dump. For example, I encountered 激しい (hageshii, intense) while hunting from a song. 激 was a new kanji for me, and to know its on-reading I searched for some compounds in the dictionary. Those compounds, e.g. 激化 (gekika, intensification) are considered side-effect words because they are not in the original material.

It is also possible that I deliberately set out to memorize words or kanji from a particular source, but the amount is too small to warrant its own section.

For this time, the sources are, among others, TV shows (Utaban, Haromoni@, etc.), Shokotan’s blog (the so-called cat eater and hyper-productive blogger), and place names in Japan.

I gathered 94 kanji:


And 611 words…