Analyze This – The Ups and Downs of Analytical Language Learning

Analytical Language Learning

Wow! Ain't theys purty graphs!

I’ve been blogging now for about a year, and over that time, a good number of people have started visiting my site. Every day, I get hundreds of visitors from all over the globe that are reading all sorts of articles and downloading my resources. There is a lot of little things going on in the site, and it can be hard to keep track of it all.

Luckily, Google has created a nice little package called Google Analytics that, for free, tracks everything that is going on at and gives me pretty little graphs to boot. It helps me get a broad picture of things and see patterns of web traffic that in turn helps me decide what to write about next.

Having these analytics available is immensely useful because otherwise all my web traffic would look just like a big jumbled mess. And, I, in turn, wouldn’t be able to tell what is popular and what isn’t popular. In other words, analytical skills can really help the human mind grasp something that seems un-graspable.

Analytical Language Learning

This also holds true for language learning. If you try to shove down a bunch of raw information without really analyzing it, you are liable to get confused and the information ends up not sticking. This results in a waste of your precious study time.

So, it is important to relate new information to the information that you already have in your head. It’s great to know grammar rules so that if you encounter a difficult sentence somewhere down the road you can refer to those rules in order to form a proper sentence or understand a sentence that you are reading.

It is in fact refreshing to know that word A in English means word B in Japanese. It allows you to have confidence in your speaking and also increases your ability to answer those difficult questions on the test. If you know and study the rules enough, you’ll be able to quickly and easily recall that information later in your time of need.

Paralysis by Analysis

But, and this is a mighty big BUT, don’t take it to extremes. There will be times when there is going to be a situation in which there are multiple different correct answers, and all the studying in the world isn’t going to give you the rules to tell you which ones are correct. This is when you are going to have to be able to ‘feel’ the correct answer.

You are going to have to accept some level of ambiguity in Japanese otherwise you are bound for paralysis by (over) analysis. I’ve seen it a hundred times in  (English) classes that I teach. The student is in the middle of a conversation and then freezes and quickly looks around for the teacher in a hopeful attempt to get the one true correct answer.

But, there’s a secret I’ll share with you. There is no, one true correct answer. There are multiple ways for you to convey ideas. The more you study a language the more ways you learn to communicate essentially the same thing. You’ll reach a level where there will be no textbook to tell you what the exact correct phrase is. You are just going to have to make something up and hope the other guy understands you.

You are going to have to take risks with the language and look like a fool a few times (or in my case a lot). Especially if you are used to seeing everything in nice little boxes and being confident of having the one true correct answer. That might hold true for math, but not for Japanese.

But, the JLPT DOES have One Correct Answer to the Questions!

Ahh, yes, you are correct sir. It most definitely does, so what to do about this quagmire?

Well, there is no easy answer to that. On the test, there will be questions where the answers won’t contain anything you would have thought is the one true correct answer, but it will have something very similar to your idea or something that, through the process of elimination, is your best hope.

And that’s the tricky thing about the higher levels of the test (N3+). You are going to have to keep your eyes and ears open for alternative answers that might not be the exact thing you were looking for, but none the less fit or at least fit better than the others.

So, don’t get bogged down in over-analysis or you might find yourself with 5 minutes to go and 10 more reading questions to answer.

Don’t Just Stand There, Say Something!

Do you suffer from ‘paralysis by analysis’? How have you overcame it?

P.S. Do you like pretty graphs? Sign up for the newsletter then!

P.S.S. Do you like to take risks? Then join my Facebook Page for all the latest updates and enjoy the thrills of all that JLPT Boot Camp has to offer.

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