Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Learning Japanese - having more fun

おはようございます! I’ve been offline lately because I’ve been:
A) working on my book
B) being stuck on my book
C) praying a lot about my book
D) switching to a new book to write to try to jumpstart my creativity again
E) (re)learning Japanese in my spare time

The Japanese part has been inconsistent because, well, it can be boring. But I found a way to make it more fun!

My listening comprehension for my Japanese is not very good, so I watched Japanese anime with English subtitles. Crunchyroll has a ton you can watch with only their free membership.

Lately, to take my listening practice to the next level, I started helping out with a coffee hour gathering put on by the Japanese language congregation at my church once a month. Okay, so Japanese ladies from Japan speak REALLY REALLY FAST! But it’s good practice to learn the actual speed people talk. I don’t understand most of what they say yet … Also, my vocabulary isn’t very large so many times I won’t understand because I don’t know the word or phrase.

But it’s good for me to force myself to speak Japanese even if I’m pretty sure I’m grammatically incorrect. I have to just do it! and ignore my embarrassment or self-consciousness. I tell myself that I don’t have to be perfect. Most of the Japanese ladies realize I’m learning Japanese and they don’t mind my bad grammar, and the important thing is that they can understand what I’m trying to say.

For the past week or two I’ve been experimenting with different online resources to try to make learning Japanese more fun. I joined the LearnJapanese subReddit group but many of the conversations are just too high a level for me yet. However, it’s a good place for me to ask questions (I got a quick answer for my question about how to pronounce the symbols you often see on Japanese novel titles).

What got me really excited was an app I discovered a few days ago, HelloTalk. It’s a social media app specifically for people learning other languages. When you create your profile, you indicate what country you’re living in, what your native language is, what language you’re trying to learn, and your proficiency level in that language, and those four stats are all shown on your profile in HelloTalk.

Then the app specifically filters the social media posts so that you can choose to see (a) people who speak the language you’re trying to learn (for me, Japanese speakers), or (b) people like you who are trying to learn the new language you’ve indicated (for me, English speakers learning Japanese). The posts from (a) are sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English or another language that the users are trying to learn.

As an English speaker, I can help other users because the app allows you to actually correct someone’s English in their post. Likewise, Japanese speakers can correct the Japanese in my posts.

You can also randomly send a message (through the app) to other users to do a foreign language exchange chat and get to know them. I haven’t done that yet, and I probably would only do that with women users and not men users, just to feel safe. Some aspects and etiquette of foreign language exchange chatting are explained in this Youtube video.

So far, I’ve been trying to read the posts from Japanese users. Sometimes the posts use more vocabulary and kanji than I understand, but sometimes they’re readable and I only have to look up a few words. HelloTalk also has a really nice feature where you can tap on a word and it’ll translate it for you in the app, but the free accounts are only limited to a few translations a day. You can instead look up unfamiliar words in a free online dictionary like Jisho.org but if you don’t know the pronounciation of the kanji, then you have to try to look it up by radicals.

You can also follow users you interact with and choose to see only the posts of the people you follow. It’s been a nice way to get to know other users through their posts.

I was pretty burned out on Facebook and I haven’t been on social media at all for the past year, but HelloTalk suddenly made me excited to be on social media again! I forced myself to respond to posts in Japanese, and to comment on other users’ posts in Japanese when I could. The nice thing is that I can stop and look up a vocabulary word before typing it in. I’ve used a lot more Japanese in the past few days than I have in several months of learning it. It really helps to be forced to recall the grammar I’ve learned and figure out what to use.

If you’re on HelloTalk, please email me to let me know! I’ll send you my HelloTalk ID.

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