8tracks has recently become my go-to place for discovering Japanese music. I’m really not into the pop genre and I find that Youtube is a place filled with songs that I do not find pleasant. I am quite picky about what I want to listen to.

Recently I came across this song that took my breath away the instant it started playing. It is called 心無し(こころなし)originally performed by a vocaloid named Gumi. While some wiki articles explain the meaning of the song to be ‘somehow’, the title can also be interpreted as ‘without a heart.’

This song has been performed by countless enthusiastic singers whose covers can be found on YouTube. The playlist that I referred to on 8tracks contained a version by Sou.

This cover is one of the many covers titled “心無し 歌ってみた” ( Kokoronashi Uttatemita) that can be found on Nico Nico Douga. Uttatemita (‘Tried to sing’) is a section under Yattemita (Tried it) where singers try their hand at their favourite songs and upload the same. There are other categories as well – odottemita (tried to dance), egaitemita (tried to draw) etc.

The Japanese internet community has always seemed so closed and inaccessible when compared to the Korean one. I hope that as I get better and better at Japanese I will get to have a deeper knowledge of what’s popular among the Japanese youth and stop limiting myself to just anime and drama.


Preparing for JLPT exams

This is definitely not going to be a long post about how I’ve been studying for the JLPT exam which is right around the corner. To tell you the truth, I’m just as lost as I was last year. I still haven’t figured out a routine for myself and my studies have been all over the place. So while I feel I’ve studied a lot in the past few weeks, from various resources on the internet, I am not sure of how prepared I am for the exam.

With only two weeks to go, I feel I’m going to continue studying the way I have while using this N3 grammar list to anchor myself. I am always curious to know how others are doing and what techniques they have used to prepare for such exams. All the best to all those who are attempting JLPT this time. May you pass with flying colours.


Getting back into anime

Last week I met up with a friend for coffee after work. I was first introduced to her in February this year at Japan Habba. The purpose of this meeting however, was official. It was an interview for a job that I had applied for. Yet, nothing about the meeting was ordinary. We spoke for on and on about Toastmasters, hobbies and mutual friends making a  casual reference to my resume.

The conversation soon led to anime. Now, while my friend here regularly followed anime and read a lot of manga, I realised I didn’t have anything to offer to the conversation. I had tried but failed several times these past few years to find an anime that would hold my interest. We both agreed that none of the recent anime had charm like the older ones. We reminisced about InuYasha, Samurai X, Get Backers and the likes and I found myself wanting to get back into watching anime. This time however, I wanted it to stick.

If you haven’t heard already the makers of Cardcarptor Sakura are launching a sequel and the manga will be out this month. Cardcaptor Sakura is probably the very first anime I had watched as a child and I’m so excited about this development. In order to prepare myself for what’s to come I’m going to revisit the episodes. I can think of no better way to get back into watching anime.

Another anime that I’m curious about right now is Durarara!! I’m only 4 episodes in and I’m not sure where the story is going, but the characters are memorable and the dialogues quite funny. I’m also using these anime as a way of learning new vocabulary. It’s unfortunate that I constantly have to interrupt the viewing every time I come across a new word, but I’m kind of liking this process and am pleased with the progress I’ve made the past few days.


Thoughts on teaching Japanese

The past few days at work have been challenging. ‘The outside world is going to be rough, so toughen up’ is a common saying that most students are familiar with. However, I could never bring myself to believe them. I joined an organisation in January as an intern and graduated to a full time employee last month. The work was challenging as I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone. As a result, I’ve learnt quite a lot of things about myself.

But now, with almost 6 months in, I’m still uncomfortable and I don’t think that is a good sign. And so, I’ve decided it is time to start looking for a new kind of work, somewhere where I am challenged, but not to the point that I come up mentally drained and unsure of myself. One of the ideas that I’ve been toying with for a while is teaching Japanese. While I’m not qualified to be one right now, I would like start teaching basic level Japanese in Bengaluru or English to non-English speakers living here.

I do not want this to be a full time gig as I’ve other interests as well. Language learning has been an exciting journey for me till date and I would like to share this excitement with others as well. Not to mention, I’d get a chance to develop a stronger foundation in my own studies. Thanks to my Japanese learning friends I’ve come across a few opportunities already. I feel that if things pan out I’d be one step closer to building a life that I’d be happy to live.

Bane of my life: Vocabulary

I don’t why, but I always have the feeling that I’ll never be able to learn it all. And while I know it’s true, I keep worrying about being stuck and never progressing towards fluency. I feel I haven’t progressed much from the day I first started 4 years ago in terms of vocabulary. In my previous posts I did mention how I kept making new lists (I have a thing for trying something new and never sticking to it) but never went back to reviewing them.

I find that making a physical list in a notebook is not my thing. Online lists seem easier to maintain and there are countless resources out there like Cram and Evernote that give you the opportunity to begin new “notes” (satisfying my need for a “new” page) while still being on the same platform. I have begun working on a Master list which will be a culmination of all the messy and scattered lists I’ve made up until now.

What I need next is a review system that will function as SRS, while having a warm feel to it, if that makes any sense. While I do have flashcards to help me with the most recent words I’ve picked up from my readings, I’m still on the lookout for a better way to commit the Japanese vocabulary to memory.

One of the things I try to do often is pick out a few words from the list and find simple sentences that use them through a google search. What I tend to do is run the word that I want to learn through a google search. Then I go through the results to find easy sentences that have not more than 2-3 unknown words. I then write out the sentence in a book, paying special attention to the grammar and Kanji used. I try writing the sentence a few more times before moving on to the next word.

I find this to be a great way of committing an old and forgotten word to memory while learning new words that sit naturally with it. The reason I repeat the sentences atleast 3 times is because writing the sentences over and over again gives my brain a chance to go over each letter slowly and deliberately. I tend to skip over Kanji when I read them online and not pay close attention to the strokes. A bad habit that definitely needs to be worked on. Writing is definitely a good way to keep this tendency of mine in check.

However, this is a time consuming process. I tend to learn about 6-10 words every time I try this method. It can get tiring because you’re not only searching for suitable sentences, but also writing them down a couple of times. This is definitely not feasible when JLPT is right around the corner. But it is effective and can be tried when one is in need of a change.

I am still on a lookout for a better and faster way to learn new words. Reading a lot of Japanese is definitely one of them. I’m curious to know how beginners and those at intermediate levels study vocabulary. If you have any fun ways that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you!


Be strict with yourself

I had been dragging my feet for too long. While I had some semblance of a plan set up for the JLPT exam in July, I hadn’t put strict deadlines on what I wanted to achieve, say, per week or per month.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had been trying to bridge the gap of knowledge I had by going through N4 grammar. However, I wasn’t getting any closer to the finish as I kept depending on my “mood” to guide me on whether I wanted to finish that particular chapter or not. In other words, I was just being lazy.

So, I gave myself a deadline and pushed myself through the end of the textbook. I made a lot of excuses, but in the end, I finished the book! Woohoo! I even managed to make a cheatsheet for myself with all the N4 grammar points on one sheet for easy access. I’m planning to do the same with N3 grammar this month.

The point of this post though is this. Language learning is fun and since you’re doing it on your own, it’s undoubtedly the best thing in the world. Although no one has to tell you twice to get your book out and study, there will be times you will procrastinate or will make a small task unreasonably long and boring. Instead, just do it now! The times you want to give up the most are the times you should be pushing through and doing it.

Give yourself a dedicated weekend and get it over with. You will feel proud at the end of it and even find your schedule open for the next new thing to come.


The joy of being on the right track

A good way to get yourself back on track, especially in language learning, is to go back to the reason why you started in the first place. It is important to have one because without a goal in mind there is good chance you will drift through weeks and months aimlessly without making any actual progress. Having a definite goal also helps you gauge your strengths and weakness between now and before, giving you the satisfaction of having achieved something and a clear sense of objectives for the future.

I have watched my ‘reasons’ change over time. This year my goal has been to improve my speaking skills in Japanese and also pass the N3 level JLPT exams in July. While the start of the new year and the framing of resolutions provided me the initial momentum for studies, I found myself in a slump last week. I was distracted and did not feel like making use of the time I had for Japanese. That’s when I came across Shanna’s post and heard her speak Korean like a boss.

I was inspired to study again!

Last year I had made the decision to write the N3 in December. I had 6 months to prepare for it. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Part of the strategy I used there was to study the hardest stuff first and go back to the easiest. And so I started with N3 and worked my way back to N4. Since I found a lot of references to N4 grammar in my N3 textbook, I thought I was hitting two birds with one stone. But that wasn’t the case.

Thanks to that I now find myself floating in space, neither here not here. To remedy this I have begun anew with an N4 grammar textbook and it’s been such a confidence booster. I can see progress taking place because every grammar point I study can be connected to the conversations I’ve been a part of or the texts I’ve read in the recent past. And this has helped solidify the concept in my mind.

Yay for progress!

With that encouraging bit, I would like to announce that I’m going to try this whole audio blog thing as well. It will be private for now as the objective of this exercise is to practice speaking. I would love to post them up here once I feel I am able to make coherent sentences. This will definitely be a good opportunity to practice all the vocabulary and grammar points I have been studying recently.

P.S. I have to work on the Toastmasters of the Day script for the coming session and I have absolutely no idea where I am going to start. The theme is going to be ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ I am excited to see what I come up with.