Elementary Japanese in 10 Weeks Challenge (Day 1)

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A short term goal that I have at the moment is being proficient in elementary Japanese within the next 10 weeks. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not impossible. I’ve already got 2 semesters of elementary Japanese under my belt, now is the time to review and create a firm base in this language so that come fall semester, I won’t be struggling in the first half of intermediate Japan.

I chose this goal for a few reasons:

  • I need to be proficient in elementary Japanese because I am required to take two intermediate Japanese courses in the next school term.
  • It is something I’ve been meaning to do for over a year now, but just “never got around to”.
  • I needed a topic that I could see myself progress through using different learning and review techniques.

I’m sure that I can come up with a much longer list of reasons as to why this has become my new immediate short-term goal, but for the sake of progression, allow me to continue.

My first day into this challenge, I had to really look at my weaknesses. I noticed that I was a little weak in grammar, but further insight has allowed me to identify that my ultimate weakness was in my limited knowledge of vocabulary. During my JAPN 101 and 102 courses, I recalled being behind in vocabulary, but telling myself that I would catch up again later. I never did. Most questions that I failed to answer on my exams were because I literally had no idea what was being asked of me. For those of you currently learning a language or wanting to learn a language, let me give you a vital piece of advice: vocabulary should be your first task when starting out, then grammar.

Let me give you an example:

Two men were raised speaking English as their first language. Man A is well-versed in various texts and has quite the vocabulary. Man B is not as well-versed in English but still functions just fine in his daily life. One day, Man A and Man B meet and begin to converse. However, Man B finds himself having difficulty comprehending some of the things Man A is talking about.

Now, how could this be? Both men are speaking English. On the surface, both men can communicate successfully, but once you get beneath the surface, it becomes apparent that both men are not of equal proficiency in this language. Man B stopped at basic proficiency while Man A went beyond into intermediate or advanced proficiency. The same could be said of my Japanese: I functioned just fine in the beginning of my elementary Japanese course, but once I got into the latter portions of the course, I could no longer function as successfully as other students could. I knew the grammar well enough, and the things I didn’t know as well, I had no trouble picking it up as I went along. It got to a point where the readings were getting more involved and my proficiency level was staying the same.

The moral of the story? Vocabulary will help you form a firm base in your language studies.

Now, you may be wondering what it is that I am now doing to correct this weak area in my studies. This concept is by no means new to me, but it has taken me a long time to finally tell myself to get right into it. I wish now that I had done this much sooner.

For learning vocabulary or any new concepts, spaced repetitions can be your best friend.

Benny Lewis of the Fluent in 3 months website has his very own article further explaining his own experience with spaced repetition and how you can do it, too. You can go here to read more. For more about spaced repetition or language learning in general, I’d like to recommend AJATT. Feel free to check out these two sites. I’ll be sharing more in the future.

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