Work Smarter, Not Harder – Japanese Week 4

edit 2This week, a lot of light bulbs came on for me. I rarely make snap decisions, but learning Japanese was one of them, so it makes sense that I’m having so many, “this would be so much easier if…” moments now.

I made a Reddit account this week and have probably never been later to the party. I joined r/LearnJapanese. The first thing I read was so simple that I facepalmed. Practice writing on graph paper to make sure your proportions and spacing are correct. Why didn’t I think of that?? I had considered printing off worksheets to practice writing kana since my workbooks are all for kanji, but decided against it. (So much ink!) Instead, I started practicing on regular notebook paper, like a dummy.

The sad thing is, I’m pretty sure I actually watched a YouTube video of someone practicing kanji on graph paper and it still didn’t click. Sigh.

The next resource I found that was a real game changer was Memrise has helped me out a lot, but this site makes it so much easier to focus on what you are struggling with. You can select as many columns of the hiragana/katakana chart as you need and study in multiple fonts.  It’s absolutely wonderful. Using the site has really cemented hiragana in my memory.

The other epiphany I had this week was about using the kanji practice apps. (I rely very heavily on apps to learn because I hate wasting paper.) Instead of practicing “writing” kanji by swiping with my finger, I should use a stylus. I know, I’m a regular Einstein.

Sometimes, my approach to problems in life is a little too similar to this:

Click here if you don’t get this reference.

All that being said, I still hit a bit of a wall this week. After making so much progress with hiragana, starting on katakana felt like returning to square one. I know this is the next thing I need to do before I really dive deep into kanji, but my brain is in rebellion.

edit 1Therefore, in order to make learning fun again, I decided to download even more apps to make the process as pain-free as possible. By far, my favorite app has been Tabekana. It is an early access download, but I haven’t had any issues with it so far. Why is Tabekana great? Cats. Cats make everything great.

My other app recommendations for the week include Infinite Japanese for learning colors, Learn Japanese with Anna for conversational skills, and 72 Seasons for cultural education. You can practice numbers in addition to colors with Infinite Japanese, but the audio for numbers sometimes cuts off the beginning of words a bit and you have a 50% chance of getting the number right every time so I don’t find it nearly as useful as the colors. (You will need to learn to write the names of the colors separately; this app will only help you with listening skills. While it does show you what the kanji characters are, your focus is generally elsewhere on the screen so it doesn’t really help.)

edit 3I have only listened to one lesson of Learn Japanese with Anna so far, but I feel like it is a very trustworthy source of information. The audio is from “Easy Japanese,” which was produced by NHK  (the PBS of Japan). NHK also has their own app where you can listen to Japanese news in a wide variety of languages.

72 Seasons is based on the ancient Japanese calendar. As the name implies, it shares information about the 72 seasons as well as related haiku, photographs, and illustrations. Since there are 72 seasons, the app updates approximately every 5 days. (You can only see the current season.) It’s a gorgeous, simple app.

I know I’ve had a lot of recommendations this week, but I’m not quite done throwing them out yet.

Since the only books I’ve purchased are kanji workbooks, you may have noticed that my studies are a bit all over the place. However, I think in the coming weeks things are going to stabilize because… I found some excellent stuff. This Japanese Grammar Guide is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It’s free, for one thing, and it also doesn’t focus on teaching you a bunch of quick phrases. While videos that teach you the basics of how to introduce yourself and ask for directions are great if you are in Japan and just need some quick information, those rely far too heavily on rote memorization. I don’t learn well that way, and rewinding videos gets old real fast.

Typical learning resource approach: Here are some phrases. By the way, you should also know that “ka” is a question marking particle, “no” is used to make possessives, “ha” is used as a topic marking particle (but then it’s pronounced as “wa”), etc. Grammar is always introduced as an afterthought because what is important is that you have phrases to say immediately. While it is important to work on your pronunciation from day one, understanding proper sentence structure is, too.

This is why I love “The Japanese Grammar Guide.” It is what its name says it is: a grammar guide.

In addition to all that, I’m about 80 pages into Haruhiko Kindaichi’s “The Japanese Language.” It covers the history of Japanese and examines the strengths and weaknesses of the language. I never studied linguistics so some of it goes over my head, but for the most part it is very engaging. Did you know that Shiga Naoya, a very well-respected writer, once wrote that Japan might as well “adopt French as her national language?” I can’t imagine what it must have been like to feel that way, especially for a writer.

For the next week, I plan to carry on with katakana and continue reading the grammar guide and “The Japanese Language.” Wish me luck!

A couple other things:

  • Thank you to Ben from Project Believe in Yourself for featuring me in a blog review this past week! I love hearing people laugh at the jokes I write and your feedback was much appreciated.
  • I finally got rid of my beach header last weekend. It was a good temporary placeholder while I figured out what to do for a logo, but it wasn’t… up to scratch. I finally buckled down and spent at least 4 hours on Canva (which I do not at all recommend unless you’re willing to pay for things) designing a logo. I’m very happy with how it turned out, though the process was not so fun.the writing waifu Of course there’s a cat.
  • I made the images in this post! Me, who is not so good with drawing and has no graphic design experience! (To be fair, I only added text for the meme.) I have been playing around a lot with Silk Paints because it makes me feel a lot more talented than I actually am.
  • If you have a good recipe for yum yum sauce, please share it with me. Hubby and I tried one out and it was a total disaster.



5 thoughts on “Work Smarter, Not Harder – Japanese Week 4

  1. Haruhiko Kindaichi’s “The Japanese Language” is a fascinating read! I came across it at my university’s library, and I’m reading it as well! 🙂 Using a stylus to practice handwriting on apps is an excellent idea. (I own two fine point styluses for my iPad, and I never thought of using them! Whoops!)

    As for using graph paper to practice writing, you can buy quad-ruled (graph paper) notebooks from any school supply aisle or office supply store. The only thing I don’t like about them is that the lines are too dark and the squares are too small, which makes it difficult for me to write in pencil. I have come across notebooks on Amazon exclusively for Japanese handwriting that seem like a worthwhile purchase (

    I do agree with you that katakana feels… strange. It feels a bit more difficult to learn than hiragana for some reason, and I’ve been struggling a small bit with the handwriting as well (エ in particular is giving me a hard time. I keep writing it like the letter “I!”).


    1. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones, haha. 🙂

      Yeah, I picked up a pack of graph paper at Target and discovered the same thing. I have been using my brush pens (which I adore!) and that keeps me motivated to keep practicing.

      I would love to see your handwriting practice!

      My approach to katakana might be to practice writing the corresponding hiragana characters every time I write the katakana characters to help with association – kind of like writing Aa Bb Cc, etc. It feels difficult for me because my brain is like “you just did this!” Thinking of it as an extension of what I already know will hopefully help with that.

      I’ve accepted that handwriting is just going to be a struggle with Japanese in general. I was hoping that katakana would be easier to pick up on because I have always struggled with cursive/curved writing but my lines and print are on point. We’ll see how it goes.


      1. Indeed! A great philosophy to have, no need to complicate things~
        Oooh, brush pens? Those sound awesome! What kind do you have? Were they expensive?
        Alright! 😀 I’ll post some pictures of my notes soon, in another language studies progress update post!
        That’s a great way to practice katakana, association is important! That’s why I’ve been using mnemonics, either ones that I come up with on my own or ones I find on the Internet. The more modalities you give your brain to associate with a piece of new information, the greater the likelihood of retention and recall when you see it again later! 🙂
        Ah, I thought so too! I’ve always had neat handwriting in English, and I didn’t have much trouble writing in hiragana… Perhaps the straight lines and angles in katakana characters is what’s making them difficult. More practice is definitely in order!


      2. I got this colorful pack from Michaels, which was pretty expensive in store (should’ve looked online!): I haven’t opened these yet – I’m saving them for a special occasion I guess, lol.
        I got this less exciting 3 pack, which was a lot cheaper in store (under $5): They do bleed through graph paper a little bit. However, they are good to practice with because you can’t erase them and they make your mistakes bigger, so you know exactly what you need to work on.


      3. Thanks for the links, I appreciate it! 🙂 I have been considering laminating printed grid paper (with different size squares) so I can practice with dry erase markers and just wipe it off. (That way, I don’t have to use actual paper or waste printer ink!)

        Being able to see flaws in one’s handwriting is useful, especially when just starting out! Katakana is tough! XD


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