3 Reasons To Diversify Your Language Learning Notes With Colour

3 Reasons To Diversify Your Language Learning Notes With Colour

We’ve all been there before, stuck behind an imaginary wall of boredom while we slowly go insane scribbling in black and blue ink.  The idea of looking at your bland notes after a long day of study isn’t the most satisfying thing one can imagine. In fact, I bet half of you reading this don’t even look at your notes after you’ve written them. I know I’m guilty as can be. The fact is though, we just can’t help not looking at them, they’re so… dull.  But don’t fret there are more than two colours in the spectrum, so today I am going to share with you all 3 reasons why you need to start adding colour to your language studies.

Coloured Notes In Language Learning
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

Colour Is An Attention Seeker

We are visual creatures! Colour grabs our attention more than anything else, this world isn’t black and white, so why the hell should your notebook be? Splash a bit of rainbow here and there. Colour pens are like a gift sent from the heavens, the sibling you never knew you wanted, the puppy you didn’t expect for Christmas. All of this and more! Colour adds a whole new dimension to your language learning experience. Imagine writing all your vocabulary in purple, grammar in blue and conjugations in green. The sheer amount of effort you put into cycling through colours will not only ensure the quality of your notes, but also the amount of attention you give them.

My notes
A mixture of my notes in Japanese and Spanish

Have You Seen The Instagram Logo?The Instagram Logo

Christ! That logo is probably the best thought of social media logo I can think of. It’s an entire rainbow spectrum, furthermore, there is a camera lens in the middle. Then when you open the app, you get even more colour, and vivid imagery because obviously, the app is photography based. Compare this to your language notebook, if people aren’t snagging your notebook from you to look at it, then you’re doing things wrong. How many likes do your notes have? Has anybody ever taken the time out of their day and said to you “Damn, that’s a really nice notebook?” Think about it, if everybody is writing in the same ink nobody is going to care what you’re writing down…unless of course, you’re writing from your paint palette.  Be like the Instagram logo when taking down your language notes, have an entire spectrum at your disposal, attract eyes instead of boredom.

Coloured Language Learning Notes
My Swahili Notes

Colour Helps Us Remember Better

Let’s be honest right now, how many of you have taken down notes from your Japanese language class, but because it looked so typical and bland you ended up remembering nothing that was said about the ~て(te) particle until you later sat down with the professor only to be re-lectured face-to-face. 🙋🏾‍♂️

Colour helps us to remember better
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The reason behind this is that colour helps us create memories, and studies have shown that the more vivid the memory the better the brain remembers it. Writing your language learning notes in colour creates these vivid memories while keeping your attention. Its a twofer, and furthermore it looks amazing.  Try writing the word cat in three different colours in your target language, sure it might take you a bit longer but I can assure you, that you will remember it better than if you just wrote it down once in black ink.

So What Kind of Colour Pens Are Best?

Personally, pens that are extra fine are an amazing asset. As you can see in my study notes,  I used extra fine 0.4 pens. These provide for my accurate, precise lines and save on space in the long run. However, I also make good use of my blue gel pen. It has a smooth glide and it has a good weight to it when writing on the page.

Special Cases Non- Romanized Script

Screenshot_2018-08-13 Kiandro Scavella on Instagram “Confessions of a Japanese Addict #iregretnothing”(1).png

Now If you’re studying a language that uses a pictographic alphabet, then I recommend a brush pen. It’s a beautiful supplement if you want a set of heavenly brush strokes with an authentic feel to them. I highly recommend this brush if you’re practising kanji, Chinese or any other language with a none romanized script. There are coloured fude pen brushes, but the one you see me using here is just black ink, unfortunately.

 Have Fun Using Colour

Seriously, adding colour will add an entirely new dimension to your language learning journey. Even if its just only a combination of 3 colours! You will immediately notice a difference in your mood, motivation and cognitive skills when dealing with your target language. Its a form of therapy for all language learners and it works wonders in both the short and long run.

3 Perfect Japanese Learning Books For Beginners

3 Perfect Japanese Learning Books For Beginners

Japanese books for beginners aren’t all made the same. Language learning is a tedious process and finding the right materials to take you through to each stage can be bothersome. Today I’ll be guiding you through the basic layout of 3 Japanese books for beginners.

Here are my top 3 Japanese Learning Books For Beginners!

Genki I

Target Audience: Elementary Level I

Method: Dialogue Conversations, Vocabulary, Grammar, Speaking Repetition, Audio

Place Most Likely To Be Used: Any Japanese 100 Level Course

What Genki Will Do For You: Teach you how to read hiragana, a few basic kanji, introduce you to grammar concepts, get you accustomed to speaking Japanese

Recommendations While Using Genki I: Supplement your study time by reading the stories in the textbook aside from the dialogue.

Mary Genki I

Story Line: Mary is an exchange student you just arrived in Japan. If you’ve ever been an exchange student in Japan you know just how scary it can be at first, literally terrifying. Mary is looking for all the help and advice she can get while trying to learn more about Japan and Japanese. She meets a young man named Takeshi and they go on adventure after adventure. The storyline is designed to teach you a new aspect of Japanese culture while learning the language, just like Mary. Its an extremely interesting tale, and quite frankly I don’t think you’ll get bored of it… it reminded me of a comedy-drama.


Reminder: Be sure to also use the workbook to supplement your studies with written content.

Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese Workbook I [Second Edition] (Japanese Edition) (Japanese and English Edition)

Genki II

Target Audience: Elementary II- Lower Intermediate

Method: Dialogue Conversations, Vocabulary, Grammar, Speaking Repetition, Audio

Place Most Likely To Be Used: Any Japanese 200 Level – 300 Level Courses

What Genk II Will Do For You: Improve your reading speed, expand your common word vocabulary, teach you everyday grammar usage, expand common kanji knowledge.

Recommendations While Using Genki II: Supplement your study time by reading the stories in the textbook aside from the dialogue. Also be sure to practice the new grammar by creating new sentences of your own each and every day.

Story Line: Mary has become a bit more adapted to the lifestyle at this point and more or less she’s just doing her own thing now. Takeshi begins to come on to Mary (in a more friendly way of course, because this is a children’s book) and he starts to offer more social outings and hangouts to Mary. However, Mary becomes a bit rebellious and troublesome due to her homesickness, and the situation just flairs out of control for a couple chapters. How will it end?

Meet Mary Genki

Reminder: Be sure to also use the workbook to supplement your studies with written content.

Genki: An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese, Workbook 2, 2nd Edition (Book & CD-ROM) (English and Japanese Edition)

The combination of Genki 1 and Genki 2 are the ultimate Japanese books for beginners.

James: Heisig Remembering The Kanji

Target Audience: Elementary II –  Any Level

Method: Mnemonics, Kanji Memorization, Radical Memorization

Place Most Likely To Be Used: Independently, or alongside a kanji software such as WaniKani

What Heisig Remembering The Kanji Will Do For You: Upon completion, you will have memorized nearly 2,500 kanji’s English meaning, their radicals and have a creative story for each of them.

Recommendations While Using Heisig Remembering The Kanji: Since the book only teaches the English equivalent of the kanji, you want an alternative source of knowledge. If you plan to finish memorizing all 2,500+ basic kanji its recommended that you find a route that also allows you to memorize the kanji’s onyomi, kunyomi and gives you some vocabulary in context. The Kanji Study app is a great reference for that purpose.

The Crazy Kanji Rollercoaster

The Kanji Rollercoaster- An Epic Journey

If you’ve ever studied Japanese before you know exactly why that headliner caught your eye. Learning kanji is an entirely different process altogether than learning Japanese. That probably sounds strange because kanji is a part of the Japanese language, but there is a good reason for that statement. I finally decided to stop dicking around with my kanji studies in 2017, this would’ve been my third year of Japanese language studies. Yes, I put kanji off for three entire years! I certainly do regret it, because I am so much further behind than I should be in terms of literacy. In Japan, in order to be considered literate, you need to have knowledge of approximately 2000 basic kanji characters. Naturally, native Japanese speakers have a higher capacity of kanji – think about how many words you know in your native language (you probably can’t because you haven’t been counting), that’s how many kanji characters there are in existence.

The Great Ascent Up The Kanji Rollercoaster

Heisig Holds My Hand

The very first thing I turned to when I started to learn kanji was a book focused on mnemonics. It was James Heisig (Remembering the Kanji), and this book was a priceless resource (until I lent it out in college and never got it back, but that’s a different story). The book consists of all 2000 basic kanji characters plus a couple more, each with their own little unique mnemonic to help the reader visualize, memorize and internalize the kanji. The downside to this book was that it only gave you the English meaning of the kanji. So I ended up “knowing” about 800 English meanings of kanji (newsflash – I never finished all of 2000). It was still incredibly helpful though and revolutionized my approach to learning kanji.

Climbing The Kanji Coaster

WaniKani Helps Me Get To The Top

After my pleasant experience with (Remembering the Kanji), I began searching for similar resources with the same approach behind them, mnemonics. Suddenly, I came across a blog by the name of Tofugu. Just so we’re clear if you study Japanese and you haven’t heard of Tofugu you’ve been living under a boulder *clears throat* pardon me, a rock in the words of Spongebob. Tofugu is like THE Japan/Japanese blog, and it is packed to the brim with useful resources, tips and strategies for all things Japan. One of their resources was an online software program Wanikani. Which translates into crab alligator in Japanese, I thought “Wow, this is kind of crazy… I like it.”. Wanikani promises any serious learner that it is possible to learn all 2000 kanji, their readings and 6500 vocabularies in a span of a year using their platform. For those of you who know me, you know I like results, but you also know that I can be very lazy. I went into this program and 1 year 6 months later I’ve yet to complete it, however, I’m almost halfway done at level 27 out of 60, 950 kanji and 3200 vocabularies. You know when you think you know something, but then get exposed to something completely new in that area and then realize that you knew nothing? That’s kanji in a nutshell.
Wanikani Dashboard

Trying To Come Off The Kanji Coaster

Whose Helping Me Get Down?

Well, you don’t ever come off the kanji coaster, you’ll be on it for the rest of your natural life…at least I know I will. Kanji is such a beautiful yet complex structure of language, it’s so hard to leave it alone once you’ve started. And god forbid that you do leave it, it’ll hurt you much more than you hurt it – like a bad breakup. Our memory loves to recycle junk, so to be sure that kanji doesn’t end up as junk you just have to keep exposing yourself to it. Eventually, your brain will say “Hey I kind of need this, and that, oh and I can’t forget these other 2000 over here.”
Another great program that’s really assisted me with the descent down is a software called Glossika. Its mainly focused on audio repetition, but its always a great feeling when you can read the sentence in Japanese before the audio is voiced.
Netflix, of course, is in its own league when it comes to kanji. If you’ve never tried buying a VPN, setting it to Japan and binge-watching your favourite shows with Japanese subtitles, are you really living?

Personal Goals

Currently, I’m attempting to stuff down at least 500 more before its time for the JLPT 2 in December 2018. Apparently, I’m not that far off from knowing the kanji required and I’m actually blazing through my Wanikani levels. With the right diet, mindset and stress balls I think its quite possible. Let me know some of your goals in the comments!

Kanji With Heisig: A Method To Leaning Kanji


RTK- James Heisig

Ever wish there was a method for learning kanji that didn’t involve hand cramps and migraines? Well, you’re in luck if you’ve stumbled upon this post…provided you have a bit of imagination. RTK stands for Remembering The Kanji, it is a learning method designed by James Heisig.  It’s designed to be a fully loaded series designed to help you memorize all two thousand essential kanji in a short span of time (3 months even!). He preaches that memorization is not about the repetition but rather imagination, so he came up with this unique utilization of mnemonics to introduce different radicals and “memes” to learn kanji.


Putting The Pieces Together

Each kanji introduced is given a unique story based on its radicals, your job is to piece together this story in your head as graphically as possible and keep it with you as long as you live, every time you draw the character for 猿 you, must remember the wild beast cloaked in a yukata standing in the soil, what animal could pull off such a feat? The monkey of course, what else? Heisig holds your hand throughout the first half of the book with his stories but then you have to start making your own, that’s when the going gets tough. The stories will begin to look something like this; animal…soil…clothe. You have to fill in the blanks 🙂

Using Radicals To Make Kanji
Putting it together.

The Problem…

However,  since the book is in a series you won’t learn all the kanji components at once. For example, you have to go through the first book first with only English meanings for the kanji in order to get to the second with kunyomi and onyomi pronunciations.  If you are an avid learner you can run through both series in a matter of months, but it gets increasingly demotivating as you realize you are only learning the English of said kanji, and you  may want to stop, and we all know what happens once you stop anything in a language learning journey …bad …unspeakable things.


Another thing the series doesn’t do is show them in context, in Japanese, there are several words for what you think would be one definition. For example 顔付き (facial expression), here you can see the characters for face and attach…imagine this; in RTK these two characters can be separated by pages and pages of other kanji. You’d be learning kanji and then wondering “I wonder what would happen if I added this to another…?”

*If you are curious as to what learning platform can do this check out WaniKani. ⇑

Overall, RTK does teach you patience and shows you just how fun kanji can be if you’re creative enough that is… I find that the negative reviews on this series usually come from hardcore learners who don’t have the time or patience to comprehend that they are only learning a kanji piece-by-piece and not in its entirety.

Remembering the Kanji 1: A Complete Course on How Not to Forget the Meaning and Writing of Japanese Characters


How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese

Japanese is a language that often takes an extensive amount of progress. Even with accelerated programs, learning Japanese can be very different from other types of languages.

Picking up the Japanese language however in almost every stage can be an extremely fulfilling task. When you start to master the language and when you start to become fluent in using Japanese as you travel or communicate, this can be a huge benefit in business, for your confidence and more. If you are thinking about going through the process of learning Japanese in the classroom or with a language learning program, you may be interested to know just how long Japanese traditionally takes to learn.

Learning Japanese often requires around 1000 to 1200 hrs. of study when it comes down to getting comfortable with the language. This usually represents around five years of dedicated language learning and four hours per week minimum. Of course you can ramp up your efforts and dedicate more time to learning the language too. If you’re actively immersed and learning Japanese eight hours a day, you may just need around three months to reach an intermediate level.

A few factors that could help you to speed up the way that you learn Japanese can include:

  • Some of your previous experiences with learning languages.
  • The learning strategy that you take on and if it worked well as a learning technique from your past.
  • Your dedication and exposure to the language in everyday life.

By considering just a few of these top factors and remaining extremely motivated and dedicated, you can work at learning Japanese in anywhere between three months up to a long and spaced out study of 5-6 years.

“How Long Does It Take To Learn Japanese?” Rocket Languages – Speak And Understand A New Language Faster, http://www.rocketlanguages.com/japanese/learn/how-long-does-it-take-to-learn-