I’m now in the third and final month of my 3 month / 90 Day Japanese project. Last month was spent focusing on the tadoku reading contest. Although I didn’t reach my goal numerically, there is no doubt that the contest got me reading much more than I had previously, so with that in mind, it was an absolute success.
While I would never argue that reading and literacy are extremely important, and that there are no downsides to reading as a learning tool, I do feel that there were some pros and cons to using tadoku exclusively as a learning method. What follows are my personal pros & cons of participating in the tadoku contest. (Keep in mind that I’m referring to the contest itself and the way I went about it, ie: trying to get a certain amount of points solely by reading and doing little in terms of other learning activities. As mentioned above, I think reading as one of your language learning activities is always a pro!)
- Encouraged me to tackle types of materials outside of my comfort zone (ie: novels)
- Although I don’t feel that I truly learned any new words solely through reading them, I did have moments where I’d consciously recognize a word I’d previously learned, and strengthen that knowledge.
- It forced me to take a good hard look at how much I was just doing SRS and not simply just spending time with/in the language itself.
- I got much more comfortable with reading for longer periods of time.
- Even though I had an interesting variety of reading materials, I felt like I was “not allowed” to also enjoy things like TV shows or less text-heavy gaming because they didn’t count nearly as much in terms of points, if at all.
- Although I had moments where I would consciously recognize a word I’d previously learned, and strengthen that knowledge, I don’t feel that I truly learned any new words solely through reading them. (The opposite is listed as a pro.)
- In other words, I felt like I was practicing (reading) but not necessarily learning (new SRS content).
- Having to keep track of pages read discouraged me from trying too many different individual books/games/etc.
On Changing Habits
One major element of this challenge so far has been constantly changing habits. By always changing my focus to just 1 thing for the entire month, I found that I lost a bit of time each month to get into the groove, only to change those habits all over again for the next month. While this approach of one element at a time can work quite well in the beginner stages, I am happy to have discovered that I’m not a beginner in Japanese!
So with that in mind, much of what the 3rd month will be is taking the lessons I’ve learned from parts 1 and 2, and applying them to create new and improved, long-term habits for my language learning. As a result, November is purposely set to be more of a mixed bag rather than an extreme focus on just one particular element.
I really feel that one of the biggest hurdles in language learning isn’t necessarily things like finding the best tools or resources, but finding the best approaches and establishing the best habits that work for you, your life and your goals.
The Next Stage
Overall, I think participating in the contest was a personal success, and I’m glad I joined in. As stated above, it had a lot of positive effects, and despite a few negatives, I think it took a month of tadoku-only for me to realize the full advantages of increasing my reading time and not relying solely on SRS. This new realization of using SRS as a baseline rather than the complete end-goal will be integral to the next and final stage of this 3-month project.
In November, the first part of my learning plan is to keep a very short journal for each and every day. Completing a smaller, more manageable level of SRSing (now with new content again) will be the sort of bare essential for each day. But more than that, I have to log at least one other Japanese activity. Even if it’s just 30 minutes, I think making sure to go that extra mile and get that combination of study time + immersion time each day will lead to some big improvements.
Having this journal checked off each day and SRS-completed are two forms of a measurable goal for the month. The third form is where the real project-style activities come in for the month. I’ve been compiling a list of mini-missions to try out for the month; all things that really pertain to my interests and goals for learning Japanese. Out of that list, I’ve chosen 5 of these to check off in November. This will be where the bulk of my new SRS content comes from too. The idea isn’t to do any one of these to any extreme extent, but rather to give them all a try and see what the results are. Without any further delay, here are the mini-missions I have chosen for the month:
- Completely learn the lyrics to a song in Japanese, including the guitar chords: Fairly self-explanatory, but this basically involves learning the vocabulary for the lyrics in LWT/Anki, then trying to memorize the lines with a cloze format as well, and finally taking that knowledge and learning the song’s guitar chords. This is a prime example of taking an existing hobby and combining it with language learning.
- Reading the news: To be able to tackle the journalistic style of news sites, I want to start with learning the vocabulary just from the headlines at first, then move on to a full article.
- Podcast synopsis: Similar to the news mini-mission, I want to try and understand more of what’s being said in podcasts. I want to do this by learning the vocabulary from the synopsis/blurb about a particular episode on the podcast’s site, and then listen to the episode itself afterwards, paying attention to these reoccurring words.
- Learn the readings for characters’ names: It’s embarrassing, but I have a hard time keeping track of characters names in movies and TV shows. So as a fun way of fixing this problem and learning to read people’s names in kanji better, I got an idea for another card format in Anki. Using characters from anime that I’m watching, on the front of the card I’ll have a profile-style picture of that character, with their name in kanji written below it. Their name in kana will be there as well, but in a cloze format. This will also be a way to learn new kanji that I may not otherwise come across.
- Memorize the original Team Rocket speech in Japanese: This will be carried out in a similar way to the musical mini-mission above, but instead of a song, I’ll be using the Japanese version of a speech that no doubt many of you are familiar with.
None of these are particularly huge things to undertake on their own, since the idea here is to go for depth vs. breadth when it comes to fully exploring and learning with each mini-mission. Certainly some of these are much more involved than others (for example, memorizing a speech that’s only a few lines vs. a full song including the music too.)
Even though these are more or less all new learning experiments, they all build upon the method that I’v established as the one that works best for me (LWT, Anki, and accompanying audio when applicable.) This is something I’m glad to see in my studies, because it shows a certain level of success from all my previous experimenting and tinkering.
Now a few days into November, some of these activities are already underway. After the next few weeks, I hope to be able to report another accomplished language mission, just in time to take a break for the December holidays, and to be able to reflect on this 3 month project with success. I’ll be sure to post the results from each mini-mission at the end of the month too.
Thank you for reading, and good luck in your own language learning this month!