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Japan UnderGround >> Advice for learning Japanese


3/3/04 2:02 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 03-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
Posts: 111
 
I have tried studying Japanese off and on for 5 years or so. I have had very limited success, mainly due to lack of consistency. There are a lot of Japanese students that attend the local University (University of Arizona). I know there are opportunities to find people to speak with using Japanese. Give me some suggestions... Should I buy books? Audio CD's? Use flash cards? Should I spend 10 minutes a day? Should I spend 1 hour a week? 30 minutes every other day? Should I start off learning the japanese characters? Should I start off learning common phrases (the way most people seem to want to learn)? Should I simply build up my vocabulary as quickly as possible? Should I focus more on grammar at first? Give me your thoughts. There is someone locally who offered Japanese tutoring for $10/hour (1 hour sessions). I lost his number, but I could probably find it again. Thanks
3/4/04 10:46 AM
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lautaro
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Edited: 04-Mar-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 599
I just came back from a year in Japan. I was very busy working, so I unfortunately did not learn as much Japanese as I had hoped. However I made a noticeable improvement just before I left when I spent some time actually trying hard to communicate as much as possible in Japanese. Since you have been studying for 5 years, you may not be at the lowest level so I would strongly suggest getting together with some people and speaking in Japanese, even if it is very basic conversation. You should use as many resources and put as much time and effort into it as you are able to handle. Books, tapes, cds, flashcards, etc, are all useful only if you actually USE them. If they are just going to collect dust, then do not bother with them. Study as much as possible, as often as possible, every day if you can. I suggest learning the grammar, vocabulary, common phrases and characters, in moderation, together whenever possible so as to obtain a more comprehensive approach to your learning. Hiragana and katakana are VERY useful and do not take much time to learn (compared to kanji). Hope this helps. Lautaro
3/7/04 6:42 PM
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Sha Bi
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Edited: 07-Mar-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 84
It might be helpful if you could state your reasons for studying Japanese and your goals. For example, to be academically proficient you will probably need between 600-1000 hours of classtime plus the required homework and test prep. To become a good translator, you will probably need even more study. This might get you to a level where you could study in a Japanese university, for example. If you want to say, live in Japan, teach English, and find a MMA school to work out at, you would need considerably less ability in the language. In this case you could do a lot on your own, if you are dedicated. As general advice for non-university study, I would suggest the following: 1. Find a tutor - he/she does not have to be Japanese, but should have good knowledge of the language. 1 on 1 help cannot be beat. Even one hour with a good teacher is invaluble and will help keep you motivated. Do as much as possible in Japanese, but a quick explanation of a grammar point in English is often best to save time. 2. Find a good self-study textbook. There are many avaiable and with the help of a tutor, even meeting once a week, you can make considerable progress. 3. Find reading material appropriate to your level. Low to intermediate level works will have Hiragana written for all Kanji, so anyone can learn to read them. Find really easy stuff to read. Manga are probably the best source, as they come in all levels, but can be hard to find. Rote memorization of vacabulary is VERY HARD, imo, so reading short stories will help you pick up a larger vocabulary while also being entertained. BTW, Lautaro also had very good advice above. Use the language as much as possible to make the fastest gains. It can be hard, but can also be a lot of fun. Good luck.
3/8/04 6:42 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 08-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
Posts: 151
Thank you for the reply My reaons for wanting to learn Japanese are 1. I want to visit Japan someday. I'm interested in many aspects of the country, mostly related to fighting, of course. 2. I would like to experience at least training there at a few gyms. 3. I'd like to see some Japanese MMA and Kickboxing events live someday. 4. I currently run a popular KB website and I'd like to plan website projects that focus on bridging the gap between english-japanese speakers. A few years ago, I found this website which I thought was a WONDERFUL resource for anyone learning Japanese... http://apricotweb.com It has forums and chat rooms with English speakers wanting to learn Japanese and vice versa. People post questions on there that are similar to the questions that you see on this forum section (re: getting a job in Japan, etc). I'll have to do a search to find the Japanese tutor. I lose the dude's number. I'll keep you posted on my results in learning Japanese. Thanks again
3/8/04 8:39 PM
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Opash
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Edited: 08-Mar-04
Member Since: 03/14/2002
Posts: 189
Again it depends what your motivations are when learning Japanese. I know a whole bunch of people who studied Japanese in College and University for 5-6 years, they had passed a whole bunch of tests, etc. However, when they arrived in Japan they could hardly understand a word. This is because the books and universities usually teach you super perfect, polite form, etc. (my friend has a conspiracy theory that they don't really want gaijin to learn real Japanese - lol) At the same time I know people who have lived in Japan for maybe a year or so and may not know 1000's of kanji or have a big vocabulary, but have fantastic conversational day-today Japanese that far supasses some of those who put in the hours at the classroom. If you wanna train the dojos you will probably need to learn from scratch, gutter/slang Japanese. The only way to do so really is spend a lot of time around it, maybe movies and music would help though.
3/10/04 2:54 PM
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Sha Bi
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Edited: 10-Mar-04
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Posts: 89
Opash is correct that universities teach language mainly for academic and professional puposes. Therefore slang and very informal speech are often omitted. It would be like studying English to read Melville or to watch the Sopranos - two vastly differet skill sets. However, to the defense of university programs, the further you get from youth culture and the closer you get to the professional world, the more inportant formal speech becomes. Relatively speaking, it is also easier to go from formal to informal than vice versa. Japan has very clear distinctions between formal and informal, and one must often be careful not to offend the people around you with constant gutter-speak. But I'm not arguing the fact that a BA in Japanese may not prepare you for chatting with your new friends in a bar. I think that is true of learning any language. The only way to pick up slang is to be around it constantly in one form or another. I guess the bottom line is to study as much of the basics of the language as possible, then find a way to talk as much as possible with the people you will be associating with. p.s. - I knew a Swede whose language study program involved a lot of work with popular music. They would learn vocabulary and practice pronunciation with the aid of a computer program their professor was developing. The music was quite an aid to memorization, and the modern songs contained modern language (including some slang). I bet there could be a lot done in this area to help language learners. You know, the Tupac method of English teaching. ;)
3/10/04 9:53 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 10-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
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Ok, has anyone here used any computer-based learning programs? I was looking at one tonight at this computer store and it looked impressive. It had games to help learn the kana and kanji. It also had an audio speach program that would compare your pronunciations to those of a native speaker, and compare audio wave forms. It was $30. I've looked at those $70 CD + book combo packages that are sold in chain book stores. I thought they were a rip off after buying them. No way were they worth that much money, especially for the CD versions, because audio CD's are so easy and cheap to produce. They had to have made 90% profit on those book/CD combos. Also, I tended not to enjoy the style of teaching they used. I had three of those packages. The worst was the one that was supposedly used for teach US Government officials before going to Japan. Poor guys. If I buy one and try it out, I'll let you know how it goes.
3/10/04 11:07 PM
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DemonClown
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Edited: 10-Mar-04
Member Since: 06/21/2002
Posts: 1155
I have no idea about either that program or whatever text you are talking about, but of course the most important thing is the effort that you put in. You can buy whatever and drop hundreds of bucks, but it is your motivation that will determine how much you get out of your studying. One of my instructors told me a very helpful thing, and that was to not study a language as a sterile, academic subject, but to study it as a form of communication. That is, don't study a grammar point without thinking of when/how you could apply such knowledge. Just memorizing random lists of verbs and nouns that won't ever come up is not terribly helpful. (Of course, you will be surprised what can come up in conversations...) More practical advice would to be to learn katakana and hiragana ASAP. It will help with your pronunciation and is IMO the only way to really start to learn the language. Do a little bit (if you can, more) every day, as opposed to cramming 3 hours in once a week. And of course, to improve speaking and listening, nothing beats a native speaker. Make friends with Japanese people, (hopefully not JUST to practice your language skills). Also expose yourself as much as you can to the language spoken at various speeds. Listening to normal speed speech will be intimidating at first, but ya gotta do it sometime. I don't think I've added much compared to the other sages on this thread, but there you go...
3/11/04 12:42 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 11-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
Posts: 168
That was a good post. Studying a new language is not a simple thing, though most people treat it as such. The details matter. Your practice advice about learning Kana first is a good one! It makes sense. I also apprecite the 'little bit per day' as opposed to cramming a 3 hour session per week. Well, I found the phone number for the Japanese tutor. :-) I'll setup either 1 or 2 times per week to meet with him @ $10/hour. He is a native speaker. I'll let you know how it works out.
3/13/04 9:19 AM
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DasBeaver
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Edited: 13-Mar-04
Member Since: 03/28/2002
Posts: 9219

Great advice on this thread. Let me know how your progress is coming with a tutor, that sounds like the way to go.

I'm signing up for a course at the Japanese Cultural Centre, I'll post my results.

3/14/04 4:13 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 14-Mar-04
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I signed up with the Tutor for this next Friday. It costs $10/hour, which I think is a great price. He asked me what I wanted to learn first. I told him that someone suggested that I learn the Kana (Hiragana and Katakana) first and go from there. He thought that was a good idea. He speaks English really well. He teaches Japanese at a local community college. I think this is gonna work out well. I'll post results.
3/24/04 12:28 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 24-Mar-04
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Ok, I just had my first tutoring session in Japanese last night. It was fucking cool, to say the least. The guy tutoring me is also a teacher at the local college. He is also an artist, and thus, doesn't have a lot of money. That is why he only charges $10/hour, I suppose. It is well worth $10/hour. I've studied a little bit of Japanese before, but I told him to treat me like I was a beginner. He started off by showing me a chart of Hiragana, the 50-something Japanese symbols that represent sounds, much like our 26 character alphabet. (There is also Katakana, which is a newer version of Hirgana characters, from what I understand. More simplistic looking. We started with Hiragana). Just to clear things up for people new to Japanese language, Hiragana and Katakana are referred to collectively as "Kana". The Kana are different than the Kanji, which are the thousands of characters borrowed from the Chinese language to represent various things. The Kanji are called "idioms" in that they are characters that represent an idea, or an object, within one character. Hiragana/Katakana characters represent sounds. Kanji represents an entire "thing". I remember an example of Kanji that I read in a book that showed the Kanji for the concept "New". The Kanji character looked similar to a rising sun. I'm probably messing up the details of that example, but you get the idea. We went over the hiragana for "a i u e o" and "Ka Ki Ku Ke Ko". I started writing the characters, about 12-15 of each character. Then he would make notes on my characters to show me which ones were right and which ones were wrong and why. He circled areas of the characters that I drew properly. I felt like I was getting the "inside scoop" on how to write Hiragana. He then took a blank sheet of paper and drew a character on it. He asked me what the character is by saying "what is this?" in Japanese. At first I didn't know what he was saying, so he explained that he was asking me "what is this?". He then told me how to respond to that question in Japanese. I was to respond with either "It is Ke" (ke desu) or "I don't know/understand" (wakarimasen). If I got it right he would say "Sore" which I believe means good or correct. If I got it wrong, he would say "No, please try again" (I have forgotten the Japanese for that). He tried using a handful of Japanese phrases when going through this exercise. I've forgotten most of what he used, but I'll recognize them in the next session. He then went through all of the characters and would jump back and forth between all of them until I started recognizing each character and remembering the sound for it. He then used flash cards doing the same characters. He said that I did very well and that I should get through the entire set of Hiragana in a month, if I maintain going twice a week. This is cool :) I'll keep you updated, if anybody cares.
3/24/04 12:38 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 24-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
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oh yeah, he also showed me how to peice together the Hiragana that I had learned to create a word, just like peicing together english characters to make a word. From what I understand, Kanji is the hardest thing to learn about the Japanese language, since there are thousands of them to memorize. However, the Kanji can be written using Hiragana/Katakana. For example, there is probably a Kanji character for the word "love" but he showed me how to write the word "love" using the hiragana characters that I had learned. He also gave me homework to write out each of the Hiragana that I had learned 20-40 times, depending on how comfortable I felt with writing them.
3/24/04 1:03 PM
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DasBeaver
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Edited: 24-Mar-04
Member Since: 03/28/2002
Posts: 9424

I took my first class last night as well, but it didn't go as smoothly as yours.

The instructor was a really cute japanese girl, but she would only speak japanese in the classroom. I was following pretty easily at first when she was teaching the basic introductions, but when it came time to ask longer questions (like Are you from Brazil? no, i'm not from brazil, I'm from canada) I would get really lost.

 

3/24/04 2:12 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 24-Mar-04 06:56 PM
Member Since: 12/18/2002
Posts: 190
Damn. I like the concept of starting with writing and recognizing the characters, not getting crazy into the phrases. I want to read Japanese Websites as soon as possible.
3/24/04 8:45 PM
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Opash
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Edited: 24-Mar-04
Member Since: 03/14/2002
Posts: 232
Dude - I wouldn't pay to learn Kana. You can teach your self Hiragana in about a week and another week for Katakana (I mean properly stored in memory). I currently teach my self around 15 kanji a week right now, although the single kanji are the easy bit. Its getting all the different compounds and how to read them which is taking me more time. Oh and by the way - I am neither particulaly intelligent nor good at languages. So those that are could probably reduce this time even more.
3/24/04 9:09 PM
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Solidus
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Edited: 24-Mar-04
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Posts: 399
Damn, $10/hr sounds nice. The only person I could find in the Boston area charges $30/hr, but I don't have that kind of cash as a student right now.
3/25/04 3:46 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 25-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
Posts: 195
Opash...I'm a very busy person right now. I'm perfectly happy paying this guy a measily $10 to teach me how to properly write Kana. It makes my time more efficient. Especially since he is teaching me other words/phrases in the meantime. I learned a lot of things in 1 hour.
3/28/04 11:04 AM
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lautaro
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Edited: 28-Mar-04
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Posts: 609
That's really great that your tutoring is going so well! I, like Opash, taught myself Hiragana, Katakana and several Kanji (at least 150 so far). However, I really like the fact that you're incorporating Japanese into your Hiragana lessons. Plus, it's nice getting a personal tutor to correct your writing along the way. I got together with a lady earlier this week for Japanese/English exchange. She's actually Taiwanese, but she went to university in Japan, so she knows both Chinese and Japanese. In our lesson, we spoke almost entirely in English (I can speak only very little Japanese) to get to know each other. Afterward, we dealt with some Japanese words and grammar, but it was too complicated for me. I sent her an email afterward to tell her that we should focus more on basic conversation than advanced grammar (at this point). She agreed. I'm looking forward to our future lessons! If we all keep it up, we'll eventually be able to start posting messages in Japanese! Gambarimashoo! Lautaro
3/29/04 6:24 AM
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jhenwood
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Edited: 29-Mar-04
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I agree, you don't someone to teach you how to write kana or kanji. Very cheap books can show you the proper stroke order and then the real work is just writing them over and over again until you've memorized them. A week or 2 to learn Hiragana, then move onto katakana. Kanji takes years, I don't think you ever stop learning them. The most important thing is consistency. Whether it's 10 mins/day or 2 hrs/day, just be sure to keep going. Obviously the more you can do consistently, the better. I've been in Japan for 5 years and this year I'm making my 2nd attempt at the level 2 proficiency test. When I first started out I bought the 'Japanese for Busy People' set, 3 textbooks and 3 workbooks. I found it a very good base for studying. About halfway thru I added some real kanji textbooks. I do bjj in Japan and it is all in Japanese. Most of the BJJ moves are called by their Japanese names, which you can learn from a Judo technique book. Boxing punches are mainly called by their English names. Watch a few of the Japanese Pride broadcasts and you'll learn a lot of MMA Japanese. Good luck
3/30/04 12:11 AM
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TheAx
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Edited: 30-Mar-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
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Well, I see your points, but I wanted to add that I really don't *need* anyone to teach me Japanese at all. However, there are more factors involved. Lately, I've been learning a lot of things. I've been learning weight training and nutrition from a personal trainer friend of mine. For my job, I am studying topics such as PHP/MySQL website programming, E-Commerce, merchant accounts, shopping cart shipping modules, Linux, HTML 4, Cascading Style Sheets, and Flash. This is all within a 2 month span. On top of all of this, I am also learning Japanese. So, yeah, I don't mind paying a native speaker $10/hour to teach me Hiragana. I'm kind've honored that he takes the time to teach me for such a small fee. If nothing else, he is helping me stay focused. That is invaluable right now. So far it's been one week and I know 20 Hiragana. I can draw them with my eyes closed, although I hesitate on a couple of them. We're covering 10 hiragana per session, two sessions per week. He said the quality of my Hiragana writing surpasses most Japanese. Of course, have you ever noticed how people from other countries who learn English tend to know English spelling and grammar better than the average American? Most American adults do not maintain their spelling/grammar skills, as adults. Anyway, I'm having fun. I'm doing my Japanese homework right now.
3/30/04 8:49 PM
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lautaro
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Edited: 30-Mar-04
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Posts: 610
Hey man, if you're having fun, then just keep doing it! We're just pointing out how easy it is to learn Kana, but as you mentioned, you're learning not only the writing but some of the spoken as well. It's all good! You should definitely keep it up! Lautaro
4/9/04 4:29 PM
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DasBeaver
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Edited: 09-Apr-04
Member Since: 03/28/2002
Posts: 9578

If any of you are interested, the Pimsleur Japanese lesson cds vol 1-3 are available on soulseek and suprnova.org

 

 

4/12/04 8:29 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 12-Apr-04
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Whew...I've gotten so busy with work that I had to pull back on my japanese study. I'm now doing the tutoring once per week. I'm almost done with the Hiragana. I'm expecting the Katakana to go faster. What is helping most with retention is two teqchniques.. 1. Trying to draw the hiragana with my eyes closed. 2. Making, and using, my own flashcards. You know what is cool? My favorite restaurant is a Japanese restaurant called Yoshimatsu, in Tucson. They have Japanese writing on the wall. I realized the last time I went in there that I recognized 75% of the characters on the wall. I still don't know what it means yet, but building vocabulary will probably be the next step after learning Kana. When I get to the vocabulary step, I'm going to try out some Japanese learning software that is on the market. They use things like games to help you remember words and definitions. I'll post feedback on these when I get to that step.
4/26/04 5:46 PM
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TheAx
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Edited: 26-Apr-04
Member Since: 12/18/2002
Posts: 280
ok, I know all of the hiragana now...I'm moving onto Katakana. The flashcards helped the most. I took index cards and cut them in half, making small, pocket-sized flash cards with the hiragana on one side and roman/english characters on the other side. I would sit at a coffee shop or wherever and flip through them and guess the pronunciation of the character. If I got it right without hesitation, then I would discard that one. I would end up with the ones that I had the most difficult time memorizing. Ok that much is obvious, but then I switched it. I got a notepad and pencil. I went through the stack of flash cards the opposite way. I looked at the side with the english letters (romaji) and tried to draw the hiragana characters for them. Before doing this, I thought I had all of the Hiragana down. I found out I got stuck on about 10 of them with this method of recall. At the same time as starting the Katakana, I am also starting on Kanji, starting with two per week. At a local used book store, I found some kickass japanese books. There are a lot of Japanese in my city, mostly college students. The local book stores reflect this as there are TONS of books written in Japanese. I found an easy book that was written with mostly hiragana (very few Kanji). I'm going to translate that to Romaji to test my Hiragana knowledge. I also found a great book for Kanji, with 1900 Kanji, definitions and stroke order. I got a high quality japanese(romaji) to english dictionary. (with that, I could translate most of that hiragana book). I got a book that talks about japanese grammar, and I got a book that teaches vocabulary with drills and such. All I need now is an English to Japanese dictionary and I'm set (for now).

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