I’ve been sticking stubbornly to the 5 month plan I laid out a few weeks ago. I’ve made some good progress with New Kanzen Master N1 Listening book. It looks like I’m almost half way through it and still going strong. Overall, I think it is going to be a great book, but I do have a few mixed feelings about it.
At the beginning it walks you through some listening strategies which are pretty useful, but they give you so many questions to answer for one particular listening that it is difficult to concentrate on it all. I understand that they are trying to teach you some great listening strategies that are pretty useful, but it can be a little confusing as to what they are exactly going for in each section.
Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as to how effective the book is and wrap it all up with a nice review, so stay tuned for that.
As a consequence of me just being incredibly busy and also focusing on listening a lot, my vocabulary practice has slowed down a bit. I still do a good 30 or 40 minutes a day, and plenty of reading, but I’m not trying to digest as many words as I once did. I figured I’ll be picking up a lot from listening and natural reading, so I’m not too worried.
I also feel like my speaking ability is starting to decline with all this book studying. I went into the post office the other day and had a little trouble sending off a package. I still got the job done, but not exactly the most elegant conversation I’ve ever had. I’m looking forward to going back to doing some good speaking practice on a regular basis.
Look Out! Obstacles Ahead
During the time you study a language, you will inevitably run into a few obstacles along your way. There will always be that grammar point that refuses to be understood or that vocabulary word that just won’t stick. We all run into these.
I specifically remember spending hours trying to figure out the difference between は and が when I first learned Japanese. Every time I thought I got it right and tried to test it out, my Japanese tutors reluctantly told me I was incorrect. It was incredibly frustrating.
The funny thing is the whole は vs. が battle will give you fits all the way up to the N2 level. There is actually a whole section on it in the New Kanzen Master book for that level believe it or not. I thought it was a joke until I got half the answers wrong. 🙂
These grammar points and vocabulary words just never seem to stick in your head. So, what do you do? How can you get that little guy to keep from falling out?
I was always a self-learner with Japanese. I spent a lot of time pouring over books for answers to my questions when I could have saved myself a lot of time by simply asking someone about it. I really don’t know why I didn’t learn to speak up sooner because as soon as I did I started to learn Japanese a lot faster.
One thing that really helped me out early on, was getting a Japanese tutor. Take note here that I didn’t say teacher, but tutor. It is invaluable to have someone that you can touch base with and ask questions about the finer nuances of the language. Especially when you are first starting out. I think it is important to get the basic building blocks very clear in your head because with these smaller points, you can glue together a lot.
You may also want to splurge a little and buy another textbook that goes over the same material. I’ve personally bought two grammar textbooks for the N2 and the N1 for this exact reason. I want to be able to look at each grammar point from two different angles so I know it really well.
Leave it For Later
Sometimes words or grammar points just aren’t going to stick on a particular day. Maybe you woke up wrong, or the juices just aren’t following or whatever. It’s just a bad language learning day, so it might be a good idea to leave something until later.
In a lot of cases, this grammar point or vocabulary word will inevitably come up again in another drill book or in some native material that you are reading or using. Hopefully, this later exposure to the grammar or vocabulary will clarify its usage.
It might be difficult for you to set aside a particular grammar point or vocabulary word because you think that you have to know absolutely everything for the test. And it’s true that knowing all the grammar points and vocabulary words will really help you get a good score, but it is also true that knowing the more common grammar and vocabulary for a particular level very well can also boost your score. So, by spending less time on stubborn grammar (that you might not need anyway) you can spend more time studying grammar that is more useful and will show up on the test more.
What do you do when you hit an obstacle?
Do you go around it and spend more time on something else? Or do you attack it head on? Let me know in the comments below.
Photo by John Haslam