Things I've been doing right:
- iKnow sentences and resources.
Easily one of the most invaluable assets I've come across in my studies, iKnow is packed to the brim with practically everything one needs to attain an excellent grasp on the Japanese language (and, in time, many other languages as well). With a generous Creative Commons license and free access, their fantastic collection of audio dictation, sentences and pictures are open to all.
One flaw I did realize early on is that their example sentences can be a little on the long side for a sentence mining beginner. This can easily lead to stressful SRS reviews when a sentence contains several elements you're unfamiliar with - I know it did for me. My solution was to concurrently use iKnow's solid web application to reinforce my vocabulary, as well as focusing on one key word per sentence, and the result has been very effective.
Having completed the first 400 words (out of a current 6,000, with more to come), I feel like I've obtained a very solid base in which to branch off from.
- Keeping up sentence reviews
I believe I've missed a day or two, but I've become self-disciplined enough to prevent these situations whenever possible, and to catch back up quickly when not. ... Usually.
- Input from everyday-Japanese sources
So, on top of my daily sentence reviews, I think I've been doing a pretty decent job of absorbing Japanese from various sources outside of iKnow and Kanji.Odessey and so forth, such as import games, music, literature, websites and television. Not only does this help with my learning the language, but it's also fun, allowing me to experience a lot of the content that pushed me to learn this language in the first place.
Things I've been doing wrong:
- RTK reps + lazyass = BAD
I really wish there were an easy solution to this problem, as it's a major one - indeed, probably my most major problem. I fear that further neglect will cause me to forget a lot of what I worked so hard to learn in the first place, so I'm making a very conscious effort to review at least 100 kanji a day. That shouldn't be so bad, right?
But no matter how hard I try to force myself into reviewing these suckers, no matter how much time I allocate for a timeboxing session, the sheer monotony, frustration and mindnumbing boredom of it all causes me to lose interest very quickly. How can I make RTK reviewing fun? This is a question I've been struggling to answer since the beginning. Perhaps I should just brace and accept that it's a necessary evil, because it's certainly necessary.
- Overreliance on learning material
Don't get me wrong, though - I think that iKnow is incredibly helpful, and I still recommend it to beginning learners. It's served as a very solid foundation for my Japanese vocabulary, but I feel that it's about time to move upward and use my current knowledge to build the rest of this structure without the aid of a learner's resource. (Though, there will definitely be exceptions)
For the past couple of days, I've been spending my "study" time quite differently, with good results. I certainly have a ways to go before I'm able to fully understand most material, but as long as I'm exposed to things I really enjoy and want to experience, I'm positive that I'll get a lot more out of it.
Obviously, timeboxing aids in blocking out distractions quite well - if you're on a time limit, you're not as likely to shift your focus to something else. But sometimes, timeboxing isn't quite enough to keep my attention.
Another nifty tool I've come across is SimplyNoise, which... well, generates white/pink/brown noise from a Flash interface, really. Now, why would you want to blast literal noise at yourself willingly, you might ask? I'm not a big fan of white noise, but give pink and brown a shot and maybe you'll see why I recommend this site as a tool for blocking distractions. Not only can the noise effectively muffle out outside sound, but it's oddly relaxing as well. I've actually used more than one noise tool in the past, with varying degrees of success - read up on binaural beats if you're interested.
Perhaps the most difficult thing has been limiting my time on instant messengers, but alas - when I'm this serious about acquiring a language, I can't risk losing focus, especially at the phase I'm currently in (having just transitioned to monolingual dictionary). Sorry, guys.
ConclusionThis has obviously been a learning experience, and one of intense trial and error. What works wonderfully one day may become useless the next, as I've witnessed many times over since I began in September of 2008.
The important part has been continuing what does work, identifying what doesn't work and why, and then refining the process over and over and over again, picking up bits and pieces of the language all the while.
Since I began in September, I feel as though my self-discipline has grown greatly, and my brain works in ways that I've seldom experienced before my discovery of RTK mnemonics and real language study. It's a wonderful feeling, and I encourage everyone to learn at least one foreign language if they haven't.
Clearly, this has been far from an easy task, but as I've said before... I like a challenge in everything. Japanese gives me this challenge and then some.