The Tortoise and the Hare – Japanese Week 5

There are many people on the internet who claim that they mastered hiragana and katakana in a few days. I choose to believe those people are liars.

Seriously though, learning Japanese is hard and you shouldn’t measure your progress against others. Competition can be healthy, but if you start feeling like you’re not learning as quickly as you should be, that doesn’t exactly encourage you to keep going, does it? If, like me, you’re learning just because you want to, there’s no reason to rush. Remember that your studies are for your own personal satisfaction and there’s no gun to your head.

I truly don’t have much to report this week. I was mentally out of sorts for the first half of the week and barely got any studying done. Thus, I’ve only been able to get 2 rows of the katakana chart inside my brain.

Since my mind was being a bit obnoxious, I decided to work on my handwriting skills. Your brain cannot easily rebel against muscle memory.

This was my first attempt at writing the hiragana chart (from my first or second week of studying, I believe):

I painstakingly spent an hour writing this down, not even knowing that “wi” and “we” are no longer in use – and “we” was one of the hardest ones to write! I would say that “wo” was actually the one I struggled with most though. I must have erased and rewritten that one at least 10 times.

I now see a lot of problems with my writing, but I still think it was a solid first attempt, especially considering I picked one hiragana chart and decided I was going to write just like that one.

When you try to write like a computer, it just doesn’t turn out right. My lowercase e in English looks like an e in most computer fonts (you can see it on the far right above) and the vast majority of people who try to read my handwriting tell me that my e looks like a t. (Yet I refuse to change my ways because I like the way my handwriting looks and don’t think it’s that hard to read.)

This week I practiced with my brush pens and my handwriting was considerably sloppier. With brush pens, you have to write bigger than you do with pencil and there is no erasing. It’s very unforgiving. However, the bigger your mistakes, the easier they are to spot and work on fixing.

Finally, I have two app recommendations this week. Learn Japanese is the only app that I’ve downloaded that will check your pronunciation (and, yes, it’s free). So far, I would say it works fairly well. When I know I’ve butchered something, it agrees. I’m not sure how fine tuned it is, but something is better than nothing. Regardless, the app forces you to practice speaking, which is always a good thing.

The other thing I like about the app is that you can set it to display new phrases on your lock screen. I wouldn’t recommend this for your cell phone/primary device because then you have two lock screens to get through (unless you disable your password), but I like having it on my tablet. While your screen is still locked, you can tap to hear how the phrase is supposed to be said. That doesn’t force the app to open when you unlock your device, so it’s not super intrusive. The lock screen does, however, display a small ad toward the bottom of your screen.

Kanji Samurai is a fun resource as well. It has a simple plot that I enjoy, and it’s a fun way to learn new kanji. It doesn’t have any mnemonics – you just practice writing over and over again in battle. You go through three rounds with each group of kanji, and during the final round, the only hint you get is where the kanji begins. Repeated exposure works well for me, so I’m fine with it not offering a lot of shortcuts. The one feature I wish it did have was to hear how each character is pronounced.

Time to hit the books! See you all next week.


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