Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Sun That Never Sets

I ain't gonna lie - the past week has been quite a struggle. Trying to settle into a groove has proven to be a challenge, and my progress has stagnated over the past couple days because of it. I've given myself some time to look back and reflect on what I've been doing that's made this week the struggle it is, and I've come to a few very simple conclusions.

First and foremost, I'm just not really enjoying my studies lately, and that's a problem. I haven't watched a drama in that period of time, I haven't played any import games, and the bit of Japanese music I've listened to has mostly been filtered out through my passive listening. Meanwhile...

Secondly, I really like iKnow, but their sentences tend to be way bigger than my originally proposed 10-character limit. Furthermore, they tend to break from the principle of i+1 frequently, introducing sometimes three or more new words in one sentence. Eventually, these bigger, beefier sentences built up to the point where I wasn't satisfied passing them with a "hard" when I could barely recall their meanings and readings, but became too frustrated failing them over and over and over again. Not fun, not productive.
[What is i+1? It's the principle that a new sentence should contain ONE new item, on top of what you already know. i = your current knowledge, 1 = the new word, or whatever. Obviously, this makes for much easier sentence cards, which is a good thing - easy, obtainable goals is key!]

I could further dissect things, but I think we all know that I'm guilty of overanalyzing as it is, so I'll simply leave it at those two main points. So the question is, what can I do to solve these problems and get back into a groove? And, if at all possible, stay there?

I'm not sure if I want to drop iKnow's sentences completely... in fact, I'd really rather not. 
What I've begun to do is mine unknown words from iKnow's sentences (mining within mining!), run them through Yahoo Japan's dictionary and then add example sentences based on those, in effect reinforcing my understanding of said sentences while also following an i+1 model. I'm of the school of thought that one really can't develop too many connection between a word, so every little bit helps, even if it feels redundant.
On the subject, I'm also experimenting with not only audio dictations, but images. Of course, iKnow uses images extensively to add more context and connections, and I think that's a big part of why their application works as well as it does. Besides, as long as it doesn't take that much more effort to embed an image, it can't really hurt, can it?
Also, while reviewing iKnow's sentences, I'm going to put an emphasis on learning one key word in a sentence. This way, for more complex sentences that introduce multiple new words, as long as I know the meaning of a sentence and the reading of my key word, I can pass the sentence without guilt. (All the while, adding new example sentences for the unknown word or words, of course)

And of course, I'll give myself more time to do the real fun things, such as watch dramas, play games, listen to music. That should be a given, but (perhaps due to the busy week) is something I've somehow forgotten lately. [Though, I do find it difficult to read some kanji on a DS screen... How does one look up a kanji that's been squished and simplified beyond recognition?]

Phew. Now to put these new practices to work and see how it goes. If worse comes to worse, I'm firing up a marathon of Densha Otoko, SO HELP ME GOD.

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