Notes from the classroom: I'm done with classes, now what?


Not everyone has the opportunity to take two years of college classes. Some of you might have already, and still aren't up to par for passing the Level 2 or Level 1 JLPT test. Well don't worry, that's how a lot of us are.

Right now, I'm done with my two years of Japanese class, and don't really have anywhere else to go. I'm lazily doing a scanlation project, and reading through manga in my spare time. That's not going to be enough to keep my Japanese skills up until I take the JLPT. I really need to buckle down and do some more work. 

So, assuming you're in a similar situation as I'm in, hop past the jump to check out some tips on what you should be doing between now, that test, and the eventual job you can reap from it.

Don't stop writing

If your education was anything like mine, you were generally restricted to responding in short, one or two sentence answers to some prompt from the textbook, or you had to describe your weekend in some fashion. Well, now you don't really have any outlet or driving force to do those things anymore. I guess that means it's time to just move on, right?

The first thing to go when you're studying on your own is the ability to express yourself. Set phrases and whatnot will be burned into your head for a long time, but actually developing your own voice in Japanese will become an impossibility if you don't try to actively maintain it. It seems like something impossibly hard to do -- I've been avoiding doing this for a while myself -- but you just need to buckle down and do it. There are many places where you can go ahead and find a place to express yourself, as well as get others to give you feedback on what you're writing.

If you want to just take baby steps, and work in small sentences, then turn to Twitter. The site has become rather popular with Japanese people for the ease of use and pervasiveness of SMS messaging over there, so there is certainly no dearth of people to follow. If you start reading through several Japanese twitter accounts, and respond to them, as well as tweet your own goings-on in Japanese, you'll be set for talking about the daily activities of your life.

If you want to step up your game a bit, head over to [Lang-8], an international community of people who want to try and improve their writing in a second language. Usually you end up writing ten or fifteen sentences, and then some native speakers will come in and correct your writing, as well as respond. You're able to have a much larger discussion there, and can actually elucidate on ideas that you've been rolling around in your head and get a discussion going if the topic is interesting enough.

And finally, find some way to get a pen pal. Even in Japan, they lament that people use the computer so much because kids are forgetting how to write some kanji. Since everything that I'm suggesting here requires you to be on a computer, I must urge you all to pick up the pen once in a while to remind yourself how these kanji go, because if you're planning to use these skills professionally, then you'll need to know how to write.

Challenge yourself with reading

Reading really is like building muscle: you need to constantly keep working at it in order to get any sort of improvement. It also requires a balance of continually beating yourself over the head with difficult material and by doing simple aerobics and read something more simplistic.

This is my basic plan for when I read: I tackle a more difficult series like Highschool of the Dead, and then take a break and read something a little more relaxing like Yotsubato or Negative Happy Chainsaw Edge. When I read through the first volume of Highschool of the Dead, I encountered at least 200 words and kanji that I had never heard of or seen before, and so it was a tough trial to get through that. I took notes, tried to remember some of them, forgot almost all of them.

So, not wanting to stress myself out, and feel better about my reading ability, I picked up two volumes of Hourou Musuko and read them in an afternoon each. I felt like I was on top of the world. It probably took me twice or three times as long as it would to read the same volume in English, but imagine that! I have a fairly competent reading speed with this, compared to the two weeks it took me to read Highschool of the Dead.

Thus, I went on and tackled the second volume of Highschool of the Dead. This time, it only took me a week. While I didn't remember all the words that I had read the first time around, some things stuck, and it made me feel like I had accomplished a lot more. Next up is tackling The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi light novel, which is a task I'm not looking forward to, but I know I have to do it.

Find someone to talk to

Admittedly, this is the hardest part to do. If you don't live in a major metropolitan area like Portland, San Francisco, or New York, you'll be hard-pressed to find people to talk to. That doesn't mean you should just give up. Search your local area for any Japanese schools. I remember back in middle school, many of my Chinese friends had to go to Chinese school on Saturdays to practice Chinese, study the culture, etc. Well, that's a good starting ground to find someone to talk to. Ask the headmaster if you could leave a flyer asking for a speaking partner, or such like that.

Then again, you can always just turn to the Internet for friends to talk to. Really, it's a shot-in-the-dark whether or not you'll find someone in the dark caverns of Skype or whatever else you might be looking for, but you might be able to find someone. Give it a shot, really. I've yet to, because I mostly just talk to myself in Japanese. It's a little bit crazy, but I still haven't found someone to talk to yet. I'm so lonely...

So that's about it for this little segment of Notes from the Classroom. Any other tips you guys want to add in?

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Brad Rice
Brad RiceFounder   gamer profile

Brad helped found in 2006, and currently serves as an Associate He's covered all aspects of the industry, but has a particular preference for the business-end of things, more + disclosures



Filed under... #learn japanese #Weekend Reading



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