(Note: This is copy/pasted and slightly edited from my post on a forum.)
It’s been a while! Funny how you get a temporary job opportunity in Japan and tell yourself you’re going to blog all about it, but then find yourself with barely even enough time to do anything else. I have, however, been able to get back to deliberately studying Japanese, and have made a spreadsheet that I find pretty useful and neat. I decided I wanted to share it, in case it could be useful to anyone.
For a little background, I have finally set my sights on taking JLPT either N1 or N2 next year (since I missed the application deadline this year). However I’m not confident in my vocab, so I’m basically starting from 0 and making sure I have every single term burned into my head before I have to take it. I set up this sheet that will basically tell me if I’m on track for my weekly goals (including my stretch goal of N1) and how much progress I’ve made on each level.
I’m using it in tandem with a study site I recently discovered called renshuu.org, and while I’m not a huge fan of flash-card style studying, I find this site to be pretty flexible and easy to integrate into my own study methods. If you are studying Japanese for any reason, I recommend giving it a look. I may write a post on how I use it later, but right now I just want to share my sheet.
It’s still pretty rough and there are many things I want to add to it, but for now…
Here is the blank sheet. My goals are N2 or N1, so I have N2 on the left and N1 on the right.
Changing the blue areas under “Goals” will move the grey area up and down to show when you will meet your goal.
There are two spots for the two separate goals, obviously.
Changing these areas will change the increments for each week:
The grey area will update, too.
The date on the left can be changed to indicate your start date; the one on the right will change as well (I shouldn’t have left that one blue, oh well).
It’s set up to be one week at a time.
These areas are the current number of terms you have studied (and won’t study below it, for those like me skipping katakana terms).
If you have met one of your goals…
…it will automatically check off that part of the week!
And if you meet both your kanji and vocabulary goals…
It will cross off the entire week so you know you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
However, if you aren’t completely caught up…
The week will highlight in yellow.
If you’re way behind…
The overdue weeks will turn red!
Finally, there is a section that shows your progress on each of the levels according to your kanji and vocabulary counts.
When you’ve reached 100% for one part, it will turn green. (I may make 75% turn yellow, 50% orange, etc. but this works for now).
That’s pretty much it for now.
Keep in mind I’m using the full version of Microsoft’s Excel. I don’t know if there will be problems if you use the online version or other software such as OpenOffice.
PS I love Excel and use it for nearly anything I want to keep track of. If you use it correctly it’s like magic♡
It’s uploaded to my OneDrive so I think it will update automatically as I make changes to it.
Let me know in the comments if you have any more suggestions (this one is actually more complex than mine since I wanted it to be more accessible).
Things I want to add:
– Ability to put in how many you’ve already learned and use that to calculate benchmarks instead of weekly goals alone
– Ability to put in your goal and desired deadline to have it automatically calculate how many you need to study each week
I hope this sheet can be helpful to you! Good luck with your studies☆
I recently came across an interesting web application on Twitter. It’s called いいねボタン風エフェクトアニメジェネレータ (iine botan-fuu effect anime generator; something like a “Like button-style effect animation generator”. いいね is the Japanese equivalent to “Like” on most social media platforms), by Twitter user @WL_Amigo. It’s a cute and simple little app that can take an image like this:
and turn it into an animated gif that looks something like this:
Super cute, am I right?
There are a variety of options to customize your little button. I’m going to do my best to translate them so that English speakers can use it as well!
Step 1: Uploading Your Image
If you click the link above, you will be taken to a page that looks like this:
You’ll want to click here to upload your image.
For the purpose of demonstration, I’m using my Plusle/Minun drawing that you saw above.
The first button (生成 – seisei, generate) will then highlight in blue. Go ahead and click it!
…But wait, part of the image is cut off! (´Д｀;)
By default, this generator crops your image into a circle. We can change that!
(If you like it that way, go ahead and skip to part 3.)
Part 2: Tweaking the Settings
For such a simple little animation, there sure are a lot of settings you can customize to make it your own.
Below the generated results, there are some tabs where you’ll find these settings.
Remember to re-click “generate” when you change a setting to refresh the output preview!
First Tab – 出現画像
出現画像 (shutsugen-gazou) – something like “appearing image”. Basically, they are settings to tweak the output of the image.
The first setting is a number – 出力サイズ (shutsuryoku-saizu), “output size”.
Obviously it’s in pixels. You can change this to alter the size of the output image.
If you click the orange button on the right (出力サイズを確認する shutsuryoku-saizu o kakunin-suru – confirm output size), a box will appear in above that will quickly show you how big the output will be.
However, the text in red says: GIFアニメを生成していた場合、「出力サイズを確認する」を実行すると破棄されてしまいますのでご注意下さい。 “If you’ve created a GIF animation, executing ‘Confirm Output Size’ will destroy it, so please be careful”.
The blue text simply says: Twitterへの投稿時は500px以上がオススメです。
“When uploading to Twitter, 500px or more is recommended”.
And that’s all for the size tweaking!
The next two options are in check-boxes:
The first one, left, is gazou o marugata ni trimming-suru – “Trim the image to a circle”. In other words, that’s what you’ll use to enable or disable the output image having the corners cut off. It is set to do so by default; you can disable it by simply unchecking the checkbox.
The second checkbox, 押されていない時風の画像を付加する osareteinai-toki-fuu no gazou o fuka suru, roughly means “Add an image like it hasn’t been pressed”. Basically, this will add a silhouette to the beginning of the GIF so if you’re actually using it like a button, you can make it transition from the unpressed-state smoothly. This is the result:
Below, it explains that the setting will use the transparency of the base image to create the silhouette. 「押されていない時風の画像を付加する」は、透明度が設定されている画像のみ正常に動作します。
The last setting on this tab has to do with interpolation, which I’m not entirely familiar with, but I’ll do my best to explain.
画像拡大時に補間しない gasou-kakudai toki ni hokan shinai – “Don’t use interpolation when image is magnified”.
Below it says:
ドット絵などを使う場合などにオススメです。(一部ブラウザは対応していない可能性があります。PC版FireFox, Chromeでは利用可能です) “Recommended for situations like when you’re using pixel graphics, etc. (May be incompatible with some browsers. PC versions of Firefox and Chrome are acceptable)“
I’m still not really sure what it does, but here are the two versions side-by-side to compare (left is the “disabled” version).
I think it just changes the way the image is loaded, as the one on the right seems a bit choppy, like it’s trying to load properly. At any rate…
Second Tab – 弾ける大きな丸のエフェクト
弾ける大きな丸のエフェクト – hajikeru ookina maru no effect, the big bursting circle’s effect. The setting will let you change the colors of the big circle that seems to “pop” with the appearance of the image.
This tab gives you two color options:
To change one, you can simply paste a hex-code in, or click on one of the boxes and it will bring up a color picker:
The color on the left will be the initial burst color, while the one on the right will be the after-effect color.
(出現時の色: shutsugen-toki no iro, appearance-time color; 消滅時の色: shoumetsu-toki no iro, disappearing-time color)
I changed mine to start with an orange-yellow and end with pink:
Mess around with it and see what you like!
Third Tab – 飛び散る小さな丸のエフェクト
飛び散る小さな丸のエフェクト tobichiru chiisana maru no effect – Scattering small circle effect. This lets you change the settings of the little circles that shoot out from the burst.
There are two different ways to handle the little circles; by default, they are set to 虹色 niji-iro – rainbow, which is pretty darn cute. However, if you want to set specific colors, you can choose the second option, 指定色 shitei-iro – set colors, which you choose below.
Left: 色1(早く消える方) – Color #1 (The one that disappears quickly).
Right: 色2(遅く消える方) – Color #2 (The one that disappears slowly).
It’s kind of hard to tell which is which, but the one on the left is the one I set to yellow, and the one on the right is the one I set to pink.
Rainbows are pretty awesome, but pink and yellow is pretty cute, don’t you think? (*´▽｀*)
Fourth Tab – 高度の設定
高度の設定 koudo no settei – Quality Settings.
Unfortunately, I’m not too familiar with this either, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the quality of the image output.
It actually says: 説明で何のことかが分からない場合、設定値を変更しないことをお勧めします。 “If there’s something you don’t understand about the explanation, changing the setting value is not recommended.”
But as usual, I will do my best to explain!
The setting says クオンタイズ品質(1 〜 30), quantize-hinshitsu – “Quantization Quality”, with an acceptable range of 1-30.
I have no idea what ‘quantization’ means, so I looked it up!
Quantization, involved in image processing, is a lossy compression technique achieved by compressing a range of values to a single quantum value. When the number of discrete symbols in a given stream is reduced, the stream becomes more compressible.
So there you have it. The explanation the app gives is this:
“The quality value given to NeuQuant that is used in ‘sgif’. A smaller quantization quality setting will output a higher quality (the errors from the original image will be small), but the calculation will take quite a bit of time.”
Again, I have no idea what NeuQuant or sgif refer to, but it would appear as though this is a pretty standard quality setting; a lower value will be high quality but take longer to load/create, while a higher value will be faster but have a lower quality. The default value is 10. For comparison, I did one with a setting of 1 (left) and one with a setting of 30 (right).
They look pretty similar to me, but the file size is different, albeit only by a hundred KB or so.
That wraps up the settings. Now for the final step – saving the animation!
Step 3 – Downloading Your Image File
This generator provides two options for downloading your image file. The first appears at the top next to the “generate” button, in orange.
Click this button, and a dialogue box will come up to let you save your GIF animation.
Additionally, at the bottom, there is another button that will let you save the animation as a series of .PNG images, wrapped in a .ZIP file.
And that’s really all there is to it!
This tool is rather simple, but the resulting images you can create with it are just so adorable. If possible, I would like to find a way to actually use a GIF like this; maybe in a video, or as an actual like button (using a heart as an image?), but we’ll see. If I use it for the latter, I will definitely make another guide explaining how to set it up.
If you enjoy using this tool, go ahead and send a tweet to the developer, @WL_Amigo as thanks!
Happy creating, and as always, stay curious!
Bonus – Useful Japanese Vocabulary
Tools like this are a great way to learn some vocabulary and modifiers. I’ll go over some useful ones in this section.
ii ne – How nice!
This is basically the “Like” button on many social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
You can attach する to make it a verb:
「いいね！」する – to “Like”
@○○さんがツイートをいいねしました。 – @○○ liked your Tweet.
gazou – image, picture, portrait
画(picture) + 像(image, portrait, statue)
Exactly what it sounds like. I think 画像 focuses on the image as an object, as opposed to 絵 which focuses on the content of the image.
画像ファイル – image file
画像掲示板 – image board (forum)
画像圧縮 – image compression
dotto-e – pixel image
ドット(dot) + 絵(picture)
An image made of dots, aka “pixels”.
settei – settings
設(prepare) + 定(decide)
Pretty self-explanatory. The word for settings or configuration. You’ll see it in games or applications and on websites. It’s easy to remember, because it kind of sounds like the English word “setting”. You can also think of it as “set-aaaayy lmao”
設定する – to determine settings
初期設定 – default setting
I’m sorry I haven’t been updating lately! You know, school, job, life…
*talking to a wall*
But today was the first of my finals for this semester; tomorrow will be my second and final …final, and then it’s Spring Break! Which I’ve decided to spend revisiting Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji (RTK for short). I was actually studying from it when I started this blog (before school violently devoured all of my time), and thought it might be fun to have progress updates and such, along with some of my notes so it’s like we can all learn together!
So many tools….
Now, the thing is, it seems like a lot of people dislike RTK, saying that it will not help you learn actual Japanese. I agree that it won’t help you learn if it’s the only thing you use. For me, I use it mainly as a tool to help me do exactly as the title suggests; remember the kanji- and as a tool, not exactly a method. I mainly use it as a general road map alongside a plethora of several other tools, where said other tools are actually where I get the more useful information.
RTK focuses mainly on producing mnemonics and quirky ways to remember a single keyword that supposedly pertains to the character, but it leaves much to be desired in the way of readings, vocabulary, and context, and unfortunately, at least in my experience, context and readings are so, so important. I find that if I have nothing to stick a character to, I’ll forget it, no matter how great of a mnemonic I find or come up with. Nine times out of ten. But I still like the way RTK is laid out… the fact that it starts simple and gives a few chunks to work with at a time, then expands on them and shows you the characters you can make with the chunks you have accumulated before introducing you to new ones just makes a lot of sense to me and actually makes learning some of the characters less intimidating. I mean, I’m not exactly sure when I’ll be using the kanji for pig iron (銑), but I sure as heck know what it’s character is comprised of (actually, I didn’t even know what pig iron was before using RTK…). I already knew about the concept of radicals, but it was difficult to remember them when a bunch were thrown at me at once… Introducing the parts first then a bunch of characters to give the radical context is much more useful and has allowed me to take them more seriously. Context really is everything.
Now, about how I use RTK, here’s a secret: I actually don’t own the book! I started using it a few months ago when the Android application was on sale for $0.99 in celebration of the new release. The application actually doesn’t have any of the famous “stories” included in it, as it’s meant to be used as a supplement to the book, but I’ve found that it’s still very useful and I actually like that I have to come up with something myself. Sure, it’s more heavy lifting, technically… but it’s also more personalized so it sticks better in the context of my mind! It does, however, provide the characters, the keywords, and the “primitive elements” (which are actually shown rather than just listed, so I’m not like “what the heck does ‘crown’ look like again….?”). Usually I go through each character, writing each one down in my notebook, along with it’s primitives and meanings. It looks something like this (note the progression of the characters):
永 drop + water = eternity
泉 white + water = spring
腺 flesh + spring = gland
原 cliff + spring = meadow
願 meadow + head = petition
For each one, I come up with a little image to remember. For example, for “spring”, I think back to the Fairy Fountains in the Legend of Zelda games; they were always really pretty and glittery and had a “white” feeling, and they were called fountains but they were really more like springs. Bam.
Note that the act of actually writing them down helps to solidify them in your memory! It also gives you a quick cheat sheet when you just want a quick refresher to stave off boredom.
Then I use my handy dandy quiz application of choice (for me, it’s Obenkyo), enable that chapter for the study pool, and do a few quick run-throughs with the writing mode while the characters are still fresh in my mind. I take a quick break, grab a snack or something, then come back to my notebook and start looking through vocabulary. Obenkyo actually has a nifty feature where you can open up the kanji’s page during a quiz, allowing you to look at readings and vocabulary that use the character. And that’s exactly what I do! I then take notes; I write the character, then the readings, then 4-5 of the vocabulary that stand out most to me before moving on to the next character. I like that I can do this during a quiz, so that I can also review older characters simultaneously.
The vocabulary bit is the most important part of my study routine. Because I’ve been studying Japanese for a long time, there are quite a few words that I know and use but can never seem to remember the characters for. Then when I looked at RTK, there were a lot of characters that weren’t really clicking with me. Take for example 的 – RTK says that with a dove (白) and a ladle (勺) you get “bulls eye”. Okay, I kind of get it… my story for this is that you can have dove in a soup and it’ll hit the spot. But really, what the heck is “bulls eye” supposed to mean…? How would I ever realistically use that?
Then I took a closer look at it with Obenkyo, which states that it can be bulls eye, mark, target, etc. and can be read as テキ for the onyomi or まと for the kunyomi. I peruse the vocabulary that 的 is present in… and viola, I come across things like 目的（もくてき）, a word I’m actually quite familiar with. The word means something like objective, goal etc. – and it would make sense that it’s written with an eye and a target! Then, in my class, a bunch of words appear in our readings, like 一般的（いっぱんてき）, 基本的（きほんてき）, 全体的（ぜんたいてき）. Suddenly 的 is much more relevant!
One thing that’s important to remember is that you have to take the keywords and primitive elements very loosely. I like to talk about forgetting English in order to learn Japanese, and it’s a serious thing. The English keywords can be helpful in conjuring the concepts and ideas that the characters are supposed to represent, but if you cling to them, you’ll be thinking about it all wrong. Japanese is not English! So stop using English! When you start looking at the language like a child would, associating words with their concepts rather than more words, you’ll start tapping into your brain’s natural ability to learn languages, which is critical.
I like to think of it like just adding more words to my arsenal for communication, with the difference being the context under which they’re used. Then it’s like telling your brain that we already know how to do this; we did it in grade school when we would read novels and look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary. It’s the exact same process, so don’t overthink it!
(Disclaimer: This actually tends to lead me to accidentally throw in some Japanese words when speaking with Americans because they sometimes pop up sooner, but… they know I’m a study maniac, they understand! …I think (*´▽｀*);; )
Now that I’ve gone into a rant about how I use RTK to my advantage rather than labeling it as useless/misleading and throwing it out the window, I think I’ll actually get back to studying now.
…Or maybe I’ll take a nap first… なんてね!ww 皆さん、頑張ってください!
* Edit: I’m now thinking it might have been good to touch on the fact that it’s most effective if you’re actually using the kanji and vocabulary you learn on a regular basis after you learn them, but I’ll save that for another post. I think Firefox’s Furigana Inserter has a feature that lets you ignore known kanji… I’ll have to devise a way to use this to my advantage. …In other words, I haven’t gotten to the actual use part, and still have to use the dictionary quite often… which this next two weeks is supposed to help with. I’ll see how it goes and report the results! (-‘ ω ‘-)ゞ
If you’re here, I’m assuming you’re interested in learning Japanese. I don’t blame you! Japan’s culture is incredibly rich; no matter what you’re interested in, be it anime/games, fashion, food, sports or technology, Japan probably has a lot to offer. You might be a little nervous to start learning Japanese. After all, it’s considered to be one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to achieve proficiency in. However, I believe that if you approach it with the right mindset, it is definitely an attainable feat. In this post, I’m going to share some tips I’ve picked up during my language journey.
Stop using Romaji.
Please, for the love of all that is good in this world, stop using Romaji. You don’t need it! I can’t think of a single practical situation where you would actually use Romaji in Japan. It may help you figure a few things out during the very early stages of learning, but sooner or later you just have to stop using it as a crutch… hopefully sooner rather than later. This means getting rid of your kana charts that use romaji, too! People scream when I tell them that, but I promise you that romaji-free kana charts are easy to read once you figure out the system and know a few characters. After that, the lack of romaji will help you memorize the characters as well; you will be looking for the character itself, not the English letters attached to it. I plan to post a guide on learning kana for the long-term later on… but my short point here is just to get rid of romaji as soon as you can.
In fact, just forget English.
I don’t mean cutting English out of your life entirely (although one of the best ways to learn quickly is through immersion); I’m just telling you right away that English and Japanese are two entirely different languages. You might be thinking, “Duh, of course they’re different languages. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be trying to learn it,” but this is a point that is not to be taken lightly. Many people assume that if they just learn the words and alphabet, they’ll be set; this is absolutely not the case. At it’s most basic, Japanese grammar structure is completely different from English, but look deeper and you’ll find that the entire mentality surrounding communication is a world apart. For example, typically Japanese people don’t ask “How are you,” they ask “Are you well?”; but this is usually only to people they haven’t seen in a while. As a basic greeting, making a statement about the weather for example is more common. Additionally, even the style of writing is different; Japanese kana is a syllabry, not an alphabet. There is no 1-to-1 comparison between English letters and kana. When learning Japanese, you can’t expect anything to have a perfect English equivalent, because it’s just not English.
Take lots of notes.
There’s one thing that I will never forget, and that is that memory is never to be trusted. Make a note of everything. Not only can you look back on it as a refresher, but the act of writing actually activates a part of your brain that is likely to help you remember. If you use it to write kanji (or even just kana) over and over, they will be committed to muscle memory. I recommend investing in a cheap notebook, one that you won’t be afraid to write in, scribble on, tear out of, destroy. Then, use it to take notes on everything. Practice kana, jot down vocabulary, write sentences you see in books and try to translate them. Don’t worry about organizing it perfectly; I find that this makes me more hesitant to take notes. Just do it, you can organize them later. I actually have a few notebooks; one of which is an “everything” notebook that I periodically refer to and then sort information into their respective places when I have the time.
Use as many resources as possible.
There are so many sites and apps out there that are meant to help people learn Japanese. Many of them are even free! I plan to write a few reviews on apps and sites, but for now, check out Erin ga Chousen!. For Android users, Obenkyo is a very good app for flashcard-style memorization of kana, kanji, vocabulary, etc… it even has a particle mode, as well as some lessons in grammar borrowed from Tae Kim’s Guide to Learning Japanese (another great free resource).
It may seem daunting to tackle a language knowing that you’ll have to learn to think in an entirely different way, but you shouldn’t be put off by it. Think about when you were a baby; you couldn’t speak any languages, but you had a very open mind. You were listening, observing, taking mental notes constantly, and slowly, you got to where you are now; reading this post with very little effort, having fluid conversations without a second thought, even able to recognize (most of the time) when a child or foreigner uses the language incorrectly. It doesn’t happen immediately or without struggle, but it can happen. It will happen. You just have to be patient; never give up just because it seems difficult. If it feels like a struggle, it means you’re learning. Also, pace yourself! Make sure you don’t try to tackle too much at once; choose something at your level. If you’re playing an RPG and you want to level up your Lv. 15 characters, do you go off and fight Lv. 70 monsters? I didn’t think so. So don’t do it when you’re studying, either! If you go in trying to watch anime without subtitles straight away you won’t get very much out of it save for a few overused phrases. Cool for impressing your friends, but if you really want to impress people you’ll want to learn more than that.
Just do it!
You heard me. The longer you hesitate, the longer it will take to learn. There is no “better time” to learn anything; any time is the best time. If you have ten minutes on the bus, pull out flashcards, or conceptualize how you would say certain things in your head. You are bound to make mistakes, everyone does, it’s part of the learning process. Just take a deep breath and jump in. You’ll do just fine. (*^ω^*)b