New Improvements for 2012

2012 ImprovementsI resolved to make some big changes here in 2012, and so far it has been a bit of a slow start. Some of that was because I took a good 2 weeks off to go back to the States for the holidays, and some of that is because I’ve had a lot on my plate since I came back.

But, I want to do some improvements and provide some services for some folks here on the site. I’ve noticed that there are a few things that are missing from the landscape of language learning and the Japanese learning world in general and I thought I’d offer up some ideas.

It has been my experience in the past though that you can build a bunch of cool gadgets, but if nobody is interested in them, they just sit around and rot. So, I’d like to run a few things by you, the reader, to see if it is something that would get you excited about passing the JLPT, or something you’d rather skip. How does that sound?

Basically, there are 6 ideas that I came up with: forums, mini social network, user reviews, ability to submit blog posts, games, and buy/sell used books. Let’s take a peek at what each of those might look like.

Forums

There are already a few great forums out there on the net that cover Japanese learning and/or the JLPT, so I’d like to go a little beyond that and have a forum that has a little bit more ummph to it. Maybe having a weekly/monthly challenge or a place to post your accomplishments and goals. A place that you can publicly declare that you will pass the N1, etc…

Anyway, it would be good to have a more casual place to share things and discuss tricky grammar points and such.

Mini Social Network

Now, I’m thinking about replacing Facebook or anything, but a mini social network would involve features that allow you to network and find other people studying at the same level as you so that you can swap tips and share ideas. There would be the ability to customize profiles and make it your own place so to speak.

The advantage I see in this is the ability to organize virtual events a lot easier and possibly post a few photos so everyone can get to know each other. If you are worried about maintaining this monster, it would be tied into Facebook, so there could be cross-posting (post to one and it posts to the other and vice versa), so you don’t have to do double duty.

User Reviews

This is pretty straight forward really, the ability to rate certain books and programs, leave your thoughts about something. This would be a great way for the community to choose what books and resources are worthwhile and which are better to be passed over. That way you can make an informed decision about what you want to buy.

Ability to Submit Blog Posts

I try my best to write up some juicy tidbits for you to read and enjoy here on the blog, but in the end, I am only one overworked dude. I love hearing from readers suggestions and ideas on how to do things and how to successful study for the JLPT, and I’m sure you would too. The ability to submit blog posts would give you the ability to submit a blog post to be published on the blog (and give you appropriate credit of course.)

You can in fact do this now. If you are interested in publishing something, I’m always interested in hearing from you. But, this feature would be more of a special section devoted to user blogs about the JLPT.

Games

I’m not exactly talking about some 3d adventure game or anything. Games would come more in the form of word games to be played on the site with points being awarded for each win. Points could later be redeemed for discounts or raffle tickets for drawings. Nothing overly complicated or immense. Mostly some simple practice to help you sharpen the sword.

Buy and Sell Used Books

There are numerous books available to help you study for the JLPT. A lot of them are immensely useful while you are studying for the test, but then start to gather dust on your shelf the minute you pass.

It would be good to be able to recycle these and pass them on to fellow JLPTers as well as potentially cut down on shipping costs if somebody has a book you need and they happen to live on your continent or even in the same country.

Also, at the higher levels, it is almost essential to digest a lot of native materials, which can be difficult to get if you are outside Japan. I get a lot of my grammar and vocabulary practice/review from just doing a lot of reading of native books. I think this is critical for those outside of Japan as well. There are blogs and such that you can visit from outside Japan, but book reading is still huge in Japan (lots of businessmen read books on the commute).

Skype Lessons or Tutor Sessions

Being that I live in Japan, I tend to bump into native Japanese teachers a lot.  A lot of them are eager to teach a few folks Japanese and seeing that pretty much anyone reading this blog is really interested in studying Japanese, except for that one guy (I know who you are and I’m watching you), I figured it might be helpful to offer some lessons.

Skype lessons could focus on anything that you want to go over.  If you are having trouble with some reading, or want to practice a tricky grammar point or what not.  I know a few experienced native teachers that would love to get their hands wet teaching a few folks via Skype.

Tutor sessions would be somewhat similar but would be more of someone that you could ask questions too about things and wouldn’t really be a ‘lesson’.  It would be more of a ask a bunch of questions to a native kind of thing.

Lessons would probably cost somewhere around Y2000 to Y6000 each depending on experience, length, and what you want to do. Tutor sessions would be a bit cheaper.

What do you think?

What would you like to see on the site? Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments.

At the very least, can you take 5 seconds and answer this incredibly short poll?

What features would you like to see on the site?

  • Forums (24%, 25 Votes)
  • Buy/Sell Used Books (Native & Drill Books) (24%, 25 Votes)
  • User Reviews (16%, 17 Votes)
  • Games (15%, 16 Votes)
  • Skype Lessons / Tutor Sessions (13%, 14 Votes)
  • Mini Social Network (8%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 113

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Thanks for your time!

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Photo by Alvin Chua

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Sarah February 26, 2012, 3:53 pm

    Wow, so many cool ideas! I already voted!

    Thank you for doing all this. This site helps me a lot while learning!

    • Mac February 28, 2012, 2:15 pm

      Good to hear Sarah. I hope to add in a few cool features to make this a nice little site.

  • Virginia February 28, 2012, 11:57 am

    Hi Mac! I like the Social Network idea. I think it’s more complete than just a forum, and if it is tied up to facebook it will be easier to access. I sometimes find it hard to catch up with the forums I sign to because I’m too much into facebook.
    Selling used books it’s a great idea, specially for people who live in countries where japanese books are not sold.
    I think it would also be a good idea to organize reviews by JLPT level, and reviews of books we could use to study. I find your book reviews very useful, however I’m still not at N2 level, I’m starting N3. But I’m definitely buying Kanzen Master when I reach N2 🙂

    Thank you for all the good work you put into this site, this is one of my favorite JLPT study page

    Virginia

    • Mac February 28, 2012, 2:26 pm

      I wish I could review books for N4 and N5. Maybe somebody will send me some? hehe. I can only hope.
      Yeah, I thought it would be nice to have a place where we could exchange used books because there are a lot of good Japanese study books that you can only find in Japan. Also, people need native materials and it is hard to get a hold of them outside Japan as well.

      So far it is looking like the forum idea is going strong, but I might put in a limited social network just to make things easier in the future. Anyway, step by step, we’ll see what grows!

  • Libuše March 1, 2012, 9:17 pm

    Dear Mac,
    I cannot stress enough how immersion in real-life Japanese helped me pass N2. Using games (mainly rpgs), books, websites etc. about topics I was interested in, but switching the language to Japanese, helped me jump from N4 to N2 level in a year.
    I would definitely suggest going in that direction 🙂

    • Mac March 4, 2012, 2:13 am

      Yeah, you have to immerse yourself!

      Even living in Japan, I have to keep myself from running away and hiding in English (which is still possible believe it or not). With total immersion, your brain just absorbs so much more and doesn’t have to work as hard. I’m trying to do more and more gaming in Japanese.

  • vivzilla March 4, 2012, 11:46 am

    Hi Mac,

    I voted for the forum idea because I think that could encompass the most things out of that list. Eg, forums I have posted on have become their own social networks and sub forums can be created for buy/sell and skype lookups (on that topic, if anyone wants to listen to an Australian butcher japanese on skype let me know!)

    Another idea I just had was filtering the podcasts so you can subscribe to the “n5 podcast which would only have things that effect N5 or are so general any test level could subscribe.” I realize you can d/l podcasts individually but having it all in one place would be handy (although maybe more work than its worth…)

    • Mac March 5, 2012, 4:12 am

      I’ve thought about doing that for the podcast for awhile. I have that ability now, but just haven’t implemented it because I’m afraid of having to try to keep up with 5 different podcasts at once. I might make the podcast less frequent for each level, like 1 podcast a month for every level and split it all out. The alternative is just doing all one level a year and losing a lot of listeners.

      For the forums, I might put in a mini social network that has a pretty nifty forum built into it, just because it will have more features and play well with my current site. But don’t sweat, it is looking like it will be optimized around the forums and you won’t have to do any extra work because it is a social network.

  • Geetha March 5, 2012, 9:07 am

    Hi Mac, Konnichiwa,
    I like the site very much. I tried the N2 exam last Dec but could not clear it. But I dont want to give up. I do a little bit of N5 teaching too. Now I want to clear N2 sometime. I want to be able to teach better. Please help me Mac.

    • Mac March 7, 2012, 3:19 pm

      The N2 is a tricky test. I know more than a few people that have tried it a few times and failed. It really takes some intensive study to push yourself over that barrier. Good luck!

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