I’m currently slightly below halfway up to my goal (knowing that this has been a bit of a lazy week in terms of reading motivation). So I suppose you could say I’m right where I expect to be given all circumstances.
I had actually set my initial goal a fair bit higher, aiming to do much better than the previous time I’d participated in the contest. When I found myself falling quite behind this goal, I dug up my old results and looked at the date. That’s when I realized that I had previously done the contest during a period of unemployment. Although it pained me a little to reduce my new target so much, the fact that I know I can at least match or even slightly surpass my old goal while working a full time job again is huge progress, absolutely!
The main benefit for me so far during this contest has been to take an honest look at my immersion time. I already knew that I had too much of reliance on using just flashcards, with not enough true “hands on” time with the language. Shifting my focus to spending much more time reading has shown me just how much this was the case. I think the best way to explain it is that with the amount of time I was spending on things like reading before, it wasn’t enough to really get my head spinning with the language. Thanks to the contest, I’ve also experienced things like my inner monologue being replaced with bits of Japanese words, or even dreams in the language. Having that feeling of the language lingering in your mind long after you’ve heard or read it is very motivating! And what’s more, it’s given me the courage to step outside my comfort zone and tackle types of materials that I hadn’t dared to attempt before.
SRS as a baseline
That being said, I’m definitely still a huge supporter of using an SRS in your studies. We all have days, weeks, or even months where things can get hectic in one way or another, and immersion activities can slide. By having a realistic, daily target with an SRS that is completed every day, you at least know that you’ve done something towards your goal and you won’t forget what you’ve learned so far. I think the trick is to use this as a baseline, and not the end of the line. Participating in this contest is making me realize that I have to go to that next extra step, deep immersion, to make that much more progress.
Life still happens
Speaking of using SRS to keep yourself afloat when times get busy… Although I’ve been making a conscious effort to seize more opportunities for reading, there are still many situations where I intentionally forgo immersion activities in favor of things like spending time with family and friends, or looking after matters at home. While it’s very important to look at where you can create more opportunities for your language activities, I think it’s equally important to not let the rest of your life slide either. In my experience, it will make your goal all the more sustainable, maintainable and attainable. I may not be reaching the higher reading targets of some of my fellow learners, but I know I’m still making progress, and improving my life every day.
A side-effect of this stage of my 3 month project is that it’s actually making me want even more immersion. Not just for reading, but for a more varied approach of LWT/Anki, TV, music, gaming, podcasts, books… everything, the whole picture. This will actually play a huge role for the third and final part of my 3 month project. along with some more specific goals.
I’m definitely a believer in the importance of reading and literacy, but to be honest it’s not always the best activity given the situation. For example, when I go out walking at lunch time, it’s no doubt much safer to be listening to a podcast and watching where I’m going than to be reading on my phone and crashing into someone. Or after a particularly draining study session, one would not want to get burned out (or worse, turned-off from reading) by hitting the books even harder, and may find sitting back with a TV drama to be a way of winding down but still maintaining immersion with the language.
All this is not to say that tadoku isn’t useful. It is very useful, without a doubt! It’s just to say that I’m feeling like it should be only a part of my overall approach, and just like with SRS, not the entire approach. Still, I want to continue to give the contest and tadoku approach a fair chance, and will continue to focus on reading for the rest of the month. Then for November, I hope to brings things all together again and have an improved, more balanced approach to everything, with some surprises in the mix too. Stay tuned!