How to Learn Japanese Without Really Doing Anything

There are many different things you can do to help with learning Japanese that really aren’t all that difficult and require little to no effort on your part.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.tofugu.com

Careful with passive learning, being too “lazy” can have its drawbacks. Always pair passive with active for the best of results. Great read from tofugu!

Foreign Language Learning: Does Your Personality Change?

Within the realm of language-learning, we often find ourselves lost in a flurry of unfamiliar words, sounds, and sophisticated grammatical structures. Thankfully, all of this doesn’t drive us crazy (well at least not to the extent that we think).  We face a brief identity crisis which in turn creates a personality we would’ve never thought possible from our original.

But how exactly can language-learning bring about a personality change? Think about it for a second, at birth you were gifted with the language in your most immediate environment. From this language, shaped several aspects of your personality through everyday interaction with society and the world. So how does this change when taking on another language? What clicks in your brain and makes you say, “This is a part of me that I don’t associate with my first language?”?

Unlike our first language, the second, third, fourth etc… are not passively acquired. They are gained through various means of exposure and reaction to the world. The morphologic content of second-language learning relies on an individual’s methods of acquisition.  For instance, how would an individual’s personality change or split if they began to learn German with a first language background in Spanish?

My theory is that The cultural dependency on the first language would inevitably, at some point in time intersect with that of the second-language, thus creating a new identity.

If I had to describe my personality in the languages I can speak it’d be like this:

  • Bahamian Creole : Sharp, Snappy, Bold
  • English: Smooth, Neutral, Creative
  • Japanese: Jovial, Curious, Excitable
  • Chinese: Confused, Clumsy, Light-Hearted
  • Esperanto: Courageous, Hopeful, Proud
*Disclaimer: I grew up in The Bahamas, a nation whose first language is English as we were ruled by the British in the past, BUT we also speak Bahamian Creole which is a constructed form of the English language made by our African ancestors in the days of slavery.

I believe the direct result of these various aspects is the factors I had to face in each period of my life using these languages and developing a core for each of them.

So, what do you’ll think? Can learning a second language affect your personality type? Or is it just myth, and all in our heads? What language do you coincide with, and how would you describe your personality when speaking it?

Glossika Promo-800x400

Learning Japanese and Chinese Simultaneously : 3 Observations

My goal in this lifetime is to become multilingual…I am talking about learning as much as I can before my time on this conflicted planet ends…Chinese is the second language on my list of global competence. I decided this after taking multiple Chinese history courses and the result was wanting to expand my knowledge on a nation that had went through some millennia of geographical, social, and political change. (Also, the fact that I’m an Asian Studies major)

However, having studied Japanese for four years now there are some common misconceptions I would like to address.

  1. Japanese does not equal Chinese: PEOPLE… These are two completely different languages – yes Japan did borrow China’s hanzi writing system, converting it into kanji but other than that these two languages virtually have nothing in common linguistically. However, culturally the two nations do share some of the same cultural facets. Just to name a few: filial piety, tea, Buddhism.   I constantly find myself blurting out the Japanese pronunciation of Chinese characters in class, while it is a bit frustrating it’s thrilling in its own way.

2. Japanese = Syllabary, Chinese= Tones: Mandarin Chinese has four tones you need to be aware of always. These tones will make or break a word in an instant, and training your mouth to say them correctly is a workout. However, you do have a bit of wiggle room in Japanese because it uses something called pitch accent rather than tones. Meaning, you can alternate your voice in a variety of ways and still be understood, because of Japanese being a contextual language – Chinese can also be contextual, but not to the extent of the Japanese language. To be honest I have been completely underestimating my tones in Chinese class, I think everyone has – it’s as if we know they are there and realize their importance but we just cannot deal with them…yet.

3. Hiragana…where are you?: For those of you unfamiliar with the Japanese language there are essentially 3 alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana can be mixed with kanji to form a word or it can just be written by itself to form the phonetic composition of a word. However, in Mandarin Chinese or any dialect of Chinese for that matter fillers like hiragana don’t exist. It’s like you’re thrown into the lion’s den in a violent carnage of hanzi. You cannot rely on the little curvy script you know and love when you forget a character. Funny story is though, although we are learning simplified script in Chinese class – the moment I forget the traditional, I am writing that **** in Japanese (the traditional form). While I do feel guilty sometimes doing that, its life saving on tests because I still manage to mark up 3/4ths of the points. Sense- I mean Laoshi says that it will take some time for me to get adjusted but I am just cruising at this point in a world of words *float* float*


LingQ

4 Tips for Learning Japanese Through Audio

Language exists in the world of sound, we perceive sound as a means of communication. We use it to receive information and distribute the proper response. Regarding language learning, sound is the first building block to solidify an individual’s language core . Here are four tips to help you learn Japanese by audio.

  1. Actually Listen: I know it can be difficult to actually focus when you are listening to your favorite J-pop band or watching your #1 anime, but the truth is…passive listening doesn’t work. Certainly, in the beginning of any language learning journey, the sound of a language has not yet registered with your brain— its simply noise. However that doesn’t grant you the excuse to be lazy and throw on a pair of headphones and go to sleep hoping you will magically absorb the word for “phantom” or “heartbreak”. Paying attention to the audio is 80% of the battle.
  1. Find Interesting Content: Imagine a lecture in your native tongue on a topic that you have ZERO interest in- naturally you will lose focus and maybe even fall asleep. You need to find engaging content to keep your attention. This can be anything from politics, morality, human nature, space, the fishing industry…keep your options broad, because language is not stagnant. The broader the topics, the better the exposure you have to the outside world. Furthermore, the more interested you are in what you are listening to, the better the chances of retention.
  1. Listen to yourself: This is disturbing to say in the least, because when you hear a Japanese native speak and then compare your subpar nothing of a voice to theirs you question why you even started to learn the language in the first. The trick here is to listen to your failure of an accent so many times, that your brain gets sick of hearing you, Literally, tick yourself off with your own voice and see how much better your pronunciation will improve.
    • Record yourself on a smartphone app.
    • Listen to yourself speak about a topic of interest for a few hours or so.
    • Record that same topic AGAIN but after you’ve listened to yourself and note the differences.
  1. Music Videos: Often, our eyes snag our attention away from the world before our ears do- lets be honest, in music videos are you watching the video or listening to the music? If you answered both then you are on the right track! Music videos don’t only provide audio, but they provide a story to go with the audio. Meaning you can pair certain audio to their actions in the music video (a bit harder if you are watching an anime op), but regardless you will be picking up on certain things you didn’t even know was in the lyrics. This passive recognition of the language is an essential key to fluency. In a conversation between two native speakers even, the key content is held in their mind even after being blasted with a barrage of context. For example,  if you watch a music video about a relationship struggle and the lyrics are going light-speed, chances are you can assume the vocabulary is going to be based around betrayal, loyalty, caring, heartbreak etc … if you actually manage to stick to #1 mentioned earlier.
three-monkeys-1212617_1920
Three Wise Monkeys- See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil

Some of my favorite Japanese Artists are :

Click here for Japanese Video Lessons!

The Monbukagakusho Scholarship

Recently, I was awarded the Monbukagakusho scholarship from MEXT, Japan (Ministry of Education Sports Science and Culture) for graduate studies. This scholarship covers basically everything while you’re conducting your studies in Japan and it even allows you a monthly stipend. Today, I will be sharing with you my process of applying and obtaining the scholarship.

Things to Know

  • Applications open up somewhere between late February and early March.
  • This is a global scholarship, each country, represented by a consulate or an embassy.
  • There are two categories for collegiate studies:
    • Undergraduate – This is the same as when you graduate high school and go to college, only in Japan. You are expected to WANT to learn the language and focus your studies at the same time. In addition, you are expected to do research on schools you want to attend and which ones offer degree programs in English if you are not up to standard in Japanese.
    • Research Student- This is the one that I applied for and got; and its essentially the same offer as the undergraduate but at the graduate level, and you start as a 研究学生 (research student) and have the opportunity to extend the scholarship into your doctoral studies. The way it works is that while conducting research on your area of focus you will have a chance to take your universities exam to test into the master’s program, if you pass and the embassy still favors you then your scholarship will be extended. The doctorate follows the same pattern.
  • There are other opportunities with this scholarship too, such as: Language schools, technical schools and teaching opportunities, but the two categories, which are, focused the most are the Undergrad and Research.
  • You will be expected to show an interest in the Japanese language in culture, even if you do not expect to be fluent in the language, there as to be at least a spark.
  1. The application process: As stated earlier this began in March 2017 for me, but I was aware of this scholarships existence about 2 years in advance. With that being said my #1 tip here is preparation. Have all your documents and identification together, my mother always told me make copies of everything, even if you don’t need them, to this day I still carry at least 5 copies of every official document I have with me (but that’s another story). The application seems long and scary at first but it is really just a lot of information you need to give up. This is a lot of money they are giving you after all (free +stipend +the opportunity to get a part time job).
    1. If you are a research student and have not written your thesis yet, you need to write a detailed well mapped out proposal of what you are going to research and how your research is relevant to Japan AKA is your research worth going to Japan “WHY CAN’T YOU RESEARCH THIS IN ANOTHER COUNTRY? Is the question you should be trying to answer at all times when writing this?
    2. Finding your schools of interest (I will talk about the hard part later): So this is just the part when the embassy ask your first, second and third choices for education. This can always be changed later on in the process but this part is somewhat stressful early on…because it is freakin’ Japan.
    3. You are going to want to get some SOLID letters of recommendations; I am talking about SOLID, ROCK HARD, CONCRETE, “I LOVE YOU” recommendations. They really take a good look at these – I have a story later about this.
    4. Health Certification: They require a detailed, and I mean DETAILED physical, from your doctor/clinic and it must be stamped and no older than 6 months. However, they will not ask for this unless you have passed the interview stage, but since you need all of your documents by the time of the exam, you should aim to have it by then (and it never hurts to get a physical done). If you do not happen to have it by then you can contact the embassy and explain that you will turn it in later.
  1. The exam(s): This is the part where the stress kicks in; in my scenario I was applying as a research student with the proposal of exploring the cultural barrier in SLA, with future plans of pursuing a masters/ doctorate in Japanese language & Culture – So studying for me really wasn’t an option. However, in general they usually do not pay any close mind to the Japanese segment of the exams if you are major or field of research is not pertaining to it, but you do have to get above a 75/100 on the English exam. There are also topics other than Japanese and English if you are going into a field of science etc.

*Music/Art majors have to submit a recording (music) or their portfolio (art)

*But all applicants must take the English exam (no exceptions)

  • During the exam, they examine your application right in front of you, and they will call you up to the desk if there are any errors on it or incomplete sections. One person barely had anything in his application folder and the exam overseer simply said “No.” If you are wondering, how many files should be in a complete application, your folder should feel like a decent sized book. The person I mentioned earlier had about eight sheets of paper and his photos.
  • TIP: During the Japanese portion of the exam, even if you do not know anything do not leave until you finish that entire paper. This shows that you have guts and a sincere intention to obtain the scholarship- I was the last one in that room and used up the full 3-hour time slot. This in and of itself is like a secret interview.

EXAMS ARE DONE…WHAT NEXT?

  1. Interviews: If the panel (panel as in whoever oversaw the exam) approved of your marks/effort then you will be called to schedule an interview- I received my call the very same afternoon that day. During this interview, they will try and BURN your research topic to the ground, your primary goal in this interview is to prove that your research is worth it. Keep your cool and show them that you know what your goal and purpose. If they even sense a fiber of weakness or doubt in your body, they will instinctively pounce on it. Your secondary goal in this interview is to demonstrate your knowledge about Japan (however as mentioned, this is secondary do not focus on it too much.) Thirdly, they want to get a sense of how independent you will be once in Japan. They do not want to give the scholarship to someone and then have him or her breakdown in Japan. Overall the interview will test three things:
    1. Purpose
    2. Independence
    3. Experience
  1. Contacting Schools (LOA): So if you have managed to pass the interview you will be required to contact the schools of your choice (this is when you can change things up a bit). You will be mailed tamped documents from your embassy as proof that you have passed the secondary screening. Your job here is to ensure that you have a spot at your school. As a research student, the goal is to go to your school’s website get faculty and graduate school information and contact them ASAP. The difficult part is that usually the faculty you will be speaking to will be speaking in Japanese , so this is where you may need an interpreter or manage by yourself (if you can). On the other hand, you can send the professor you want to study under an email explaining your situation and that you have passed the interview, in need of a Letter of Acceptance.
  • Once you get a Letter of Acceptance, send it to the embassy right away, as they usually need these before a certain date.

DO NOT TAKE THIS PART FOR GRANTED. THIS PART IS THE GRAND FOLLOW-UP FOR THIS SCHOLARSHIP

Rumors have it that once you’ve gotten your LOA(s) you have a 99.9% chance of the getting the scholarship.

I contacted about ten graduate schools by phone and email and out of ten, only two accepted me. In addition, you can only apply to three graduate schools at a time. Therefore, the game plan here is:

  1. Have a fallback school
  2. Apply early
  3. Contact by PHONE AND EMAIL (Using only one will slow things down)

The Long Wait: So after you have done all of that listed above, it should be around September at this point…remember you started in February/March. You have done all that is humanly possible and now your one mission is to wait for the final yes or no.  Depending on which country you are from dates may differ by a few weeks, but people hear back between Late December- Early March *this is a yearlong application* (I started my application in the month of March 2017 and received the final “Yes” in January.)

Final Contract Acceptance: As all scholarships have some terms of agreement, this one is no exception. Should you accept these terms (I know I will: /) you will be on your way to Japan to start your graduate/ undergraduate career.

-Peace!

Island Boy Dro

I forgot to mention throughout this whole post that undergraduate students do not have to sit in interviews.

 

For more information please follow the link  http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/en/toj/toj0302e.html