As September comes to a close, so does part one of my 3 month project. Preparing for next month’s reading contest has been a very enlightening experience that has certainly pushed me back into action and made me take a look at my habits and learning environment more closely. Most of all, it’s helped remind me of what my goals for language learning are, and make the changes needed to get closer to those goals.
Over the month, I spent approximately 3 weeks with a huge focus on creating Anki flashcards for new words, expressions, and kanji, via the online tool Learning With Texts. For this project, all text (and accompanying audio) was from the official Japanese translation of the first Harry Potter book. During the 4th and last week of the month, I stopped adding content to Anki and instead put a bigger emphasis on the amount of new cards per day, so that I could review all new content by the end of the month. Throughout the entire month, I would also re-read the text I’d gone through, and listen to the audio for what I’d covered so far.
Although I didn’t get through an entire chapter as I’d originally planned, I did manage to tackle something well beyond my comfort zone. One might even say that reading a novel in a foreign language is one of the most advanced things a learner can do as far as input-based learning goes. As far as stats go, this equated to 345 new cards in Anki, including vocabulary in context, extra example sentences, and individual kanji to be learned RTK-style. (I also tried to incorporate as many monolingual definitions as possible, and sometimes used Google Images search results to help my understanding.)
With this in mind, I feel like my goal was met, since I was able to slightly exceed my daily target for new cards in Anki for the entire month, which was 10 new cards per day. As far as the 7 CD-tracks from the audiobook that I used, that tallies up to 19m35s of comprehensible audio (which to me offers a similar number to the output-based +1 Challenge‘s goal of having a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker.)
The Technical Tweaking
I wouldn’t be me if this project didn’t involve some tweaking of my Anki card formats. While I want to share my complete format collection in a future post, I think one change in particular that made this month has been particularly effective. Without going into any confusing details (yet!), I’m now using a format that tests me on either reading or meaning, depending on the situation, but not both. This helps review counts from getting out of control, yet I know I’m studying each new term in the most effective way possible for me. I also feel that my kanji reading skills have gone through the roof as a result.
I think that aside from more quantifiable results, ie: new cards learned, this tweak has been one of the main benefits from this phase of the project. In fact, with this method, despite kanji having been a hurdle in the past, I now feel like learning Japanese vocabulary is no more of a challenge than it would be for say, a European language with the Latin alphabet.
Overall I feel much better prepared for the tadoku contest than I have in the past. For this round of preparation, I went right for it and attempted material that was not only beyond my comfort zone, but is a type of media that represents a long term goal for me as well (being able to read novels in Japanese.) I’m looking forward to the next phase, because I can finally attempt a true tadoku learning experience. Last time I participated in the contest, I didn’t really do it with much focus, and still continued to do SRS related activities including sentence/term mining the whole time. But this time I’m ready to take on a more full immersion experience and use tadoku the way it was intended.
I’ll of course still need to maintain the new knowledge I learned through Anki, but I will be doing absolutely 0 new cards for the month of October, and will keep reviews capped to a minimum so that I don’t spend all my time combating Anki addiction. In all seriousness, I admit that I have often relied too much on just creating and using flashcards, and perhaps have not spent enough time just immersing in the language itself! I’m hoping giving tadoku a focus in October will help change this.
Reading List, and Beyond!
Now to the core of things, what I’ll be reading!
- ハリー・ポッターと賢者の石 / Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone – As much as possible, I want to continue reading this where I left off. It will be quite difficult without the aid of always looking up words in LWT, but that’s what tadoku is all about!
- ニセコイ / Nisekoi – I really enjoyed the anime for this series and was thrilled to find out it continued in the manga. Going from the anime to manga is something I found very enjoyable for ワタモテ / WataMote, so I look forward to doing it for this series as well!
- 月刊少女野崎くん / Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun – This is a similar situation as above, where the anime series just finished ending recently. This is also a 4-panel series, so I thought it would be a nice addition to the mix for many reasons!
- Bravely Default – One of my original reasons for wanting to learn Japanese was to play video games in their native language, so this list would just not be complete without an epic JRPG.
I’ve really come to believe that among other things, a goal should be measurable, so with that in mind, I will aim to beat my previous score from the last time I participated in the contest, which was 290.83 pages by their scoring system.“Be better today than you were yesterday!” is the path to a personal best!
If you’ve been following my updates so far, then I thank you 1000 times over, and invite you to share your own experiences in the comment section below. And to all tadoku participants, best of luck in October!