Finding time in a busy life

I must confess, I’m a pretty fickle person. I usually start work on something, ignore it for a long time, and come back to it when it’s fresh and exciting again. I’m sure some of you have noticed long periods of neglect on certain projects of mine (such as this blog). As it is, it’s pretty much impossible to work on everything I have going on at the same time with a (completely unrelated) full-time job and a family. I could decide to just work on a single thing at a time but since Japanese is my hobby, I have no obligation or inclination to work on anything unless I feel like it.

Lately, my speaking has been getting very rusty so I’ve been trying to find a conversation partner via mixxer. However, I found out that the west coast is pretty much the worst in terms of time difference for conversing with people in Japan. Also, most of my activities are done in small spurts, 5-10 minutes at a time (like this blog post) so allocating a contiguous block of time is difficult.

On the other hand, I’ve also been reading/listening a lot and learning tons of new vocabulary. I probably learned hundreds of new words and expressions in the last year. These include words in my twitter feed and more such as: うなぎのぼり、くまなく、鬼が出るか蛇が出るか、甚大、にっちもさっちも、もどかしい、色白、往生際、大往生、雑然、しらばくれる、張り子の虎、森羅万象、波乱万丈、前途洋々、後悔先に立たず. So how much has this improved my speaking?

Not one iota, zilch, nada, zip

So don’t fool yourself into thinking studying hours and hours with classes, dictionaries, and books will enable you to speak Japanese.

Anyway, my (admittedly poorly-made) point is that while you might not have as much time as you’d like to devote to something, the important thing is to do as much as you can and to get enjoyment out of it. I listen to podcasts on my commute and read things online here and there whenever I have the chance. This morning, I learned the word for fuse (信管), reading this short article. This word in particular took no effort to remember because I know the kanji and it’s a memorable combination (“a pipe I believe/rely on” = fuse).

What did you learn by doing what today?

PS: Lately, I’m totally addicted to Disgaea. It’s evil. Even though the game is in Japanese, even I have to admit that the education value vs time spent (wasted) is extremely low.

15 thoughts on “Finding time in a busy life

  1. I’ve been playing Japanese games lately… Even some that I wasn’t sure I *could* play. Turns out, I’m much better at reading and listening than I thought I was. Virtue’s Last Reward and Time Travelers were both really great for my Japanese practice. If Ciel No Surge was a better game, it’d be good for practice, too. “If I were alone in a room with a girl I’d XX” is slightly pervy, but turned out to be fun and good practice. Even Professor Layton is within my grasp now, which is awesome.

    Now if I could only find some easy books that were as engaging…

    • Interesting, so those are for PS Vita? I might think about buying one since it appears to be region-free and stupid Nintendo decided to region lock their new DS handhelds. I’m pretty much done with Nintendo at this point.

      As for books, it’s not so bad if you get one with furigana and take your time. In the beginning, I spend days if not weeks on one page but I still had fun.

      • Ciel No Surge and Time Travelers are for Vita only. VLR is both Vita and 3DS. (I played it on 3DS.) And the “if I were alone” game is 3DS only, I think.

        I bought a JP 3DS because most games I want come out there anyhow. I’ll miss a few US-only games, but oh well.

        The Vita is also sad because you can only sign into 1 PSN account. Signing into another erases the first, and you can’t use the same memory card… Also erased. The PS3 handles it way, way better.

  2. A couple of months ago I started playing this story-oriented dialogue-heavy RPG which I imported because I wanted to know how the story continues after the first installment (which was the only one localized up until now, although XSEED are working hard).

    I don’t regret that decision, but I gave up after around 20 hours nevertheless. It’s hard to tackle a game with a textload of more than a million characters (see this graphic, the book in the middle contains all the story-relevant dialogue: ) if you don’t have convenient tools like Rikaichan. I spent a lot of time looking up kanji (yeah, that’s quite a hassle without copy&paste) and tons of words, struggled hard with the colloquial language and eventually couldn’t bring myself to be satisfied with only understanding half of it. Since I was a bit frustrated and though it was a waste not to be able to enjoy the experience thoroughly, I decided to either wait for an English release or pick up the game later when I’ve gotten more practice.

    Err, okay, I didn’t answer the question at all. Okay, what did I do today?
    There’s this doujin Visual Novel called True Remembrance which is seriously the warmest and most beautiful story I have ever read. Insani’s English translation is more than excellent, but I want to try it in Japanese, too. Recently I have installed some tools that help me to extract and translate the text from all kind of programs. That’s realy convenient.

    So I copied the first couple of paragraphs, used some basic HTML to create a simple website, created an index site and some sub-pages containing parts of the story or vocabulary tables.

    I want to divide the story into smaller parts that I can conquer on a daily basis, so the reason behind all the structuring and additional work is just that I like the “feeling of progress” (=smaller segments) than having to conquer an entire mountain of text at a time. This helps me a lot to stay motivated.

    New words I learned today are:
    ぽつり, 減る, すっかり, 集落, あたり, 雑木, 林, いつの間にか, 踏み出す, ごとに, やわらかい, 感触, 周囲, ぐるりと, 石, 塀, 囲む, ところどころ, 腐る, 崩れる, 建築物, 晒, きしきし, 悲鳴をあげる, 正面, 鉄製, 潜る, and とうとう.

    I will probably forget many of them again if I don’t encounter them again soon, but that’s okay. It’s easy to re-learn them when I’ve taken a look at them once before, and it’s not worth the time to try to be a perfectionist and keep remembering all the new information everytime.

    I’m kind of happy that I am even able to figure out some more challenging sentences without help from time to time, that’s really a satisfying feeling. I think I’m getting better, though slower than I wish I would, but that’s okay, too.

    • By the way, those 30 new words are just from two paragraphs:

      その建物に近づくにつれて、民家はぽつりぽつりと減っていった。やがて集落街をすっかり抜け、あたりは雑木林に変わる。 舗装道路もいつの間にか終わっていた。一歩踏み出すごとに靴の底にやわらかい土の感触を感じる。

      目指す建物は、周囲をぐるりと石の塀で囲まれていた。ところどころ腐って崩れかけた古い建築物は、冷たい風に晒されてきしきしと悲鳴をあげている。 正面には鉄製の壊れた門があり、それは僕の目の前で風に吹かれて揺れていた。その門をくぐったとき、とうとう灰色の空から雪が落ち始めた。

      As you can see, the density of unknown words is still really high for me, especially in the descriptive parts. I used those very same words to pick up lots of new English words around four years ago, I think.

    • Oh, and I forgot to say that I agree with your blog post. You really shouldn’t force yourself to learn something if you don’t enjoy it a bit, but it’s good to be diligent. Diligence can be the activation energy, the fuel to get started. And though learning can be challenging and straining sometimes, I don’t think I’ve retrospectively ever regretted overcoming the wall called “no motivation”.

    • Which RPG is that?

      I have True Remembrance installed too but never took the time to go through the story. Lots of good words you got there. You missed the す in 晒す. In case you didn’t know, it’s in the passive+te-form in your text as 晒される→晒されて.

      What tool did you use to extract the text?

      • The RPG is called “The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC” (= Second Chapter), or in Japanese: 英雄伝説 空の軌跡SC). Pretty classic RPG with a great story and characters, the best stuff I’ve played in recent years. Available for PC, PSP and soon PS3.

        Ah, yes, I missed the す in 晒す. Or rather, I somehow chopped it when copying it here. And yep, I knew it was the passive te-form. I’ve been getting more comforable with most verb conjugations, although there are still some I regularly struggle with. (Especially those colloquial endings with ちゃ and the like).

        The extraction tool is called “ITH”:
        It’s pretty small, simple and effective. I think it works with many things. Some additional tools can be used to get a live translation (usually pretty crappy), or, what I find much more attractive, a mouse-over dictionary (similar to Rikaichan).

        Reading through my recent vocab list again, I have to smile when I read then people are scared of all the kanji when learning Japanese because I find it much easier to remember Kanji words (at least reading them, I’ll forget how to write them soon enough because I don’t need it frequently, but that’s okay) and have problems memorizing all those kana words, especially similar to each other (like all those onomatopoeia words).

        As for True Remembrance, I contacted the auther a few months ago (she’s a really kind person). I still want to play her other (still intranslated) visual novel 送電塔のミメイ, but she told me that even Japanese people said it was difficult to read so it’s still way to go for me, I guess. I won’t stop halfway, though. It may still take a few years, but I’m willing to accept that.

  3. I got hit by a car and had to spend more than a month in hospital recovering. There’s nothing quite like necessity for increasing your vocabulary in a hurry. 骨折, 手術 (and all of the words that go with it), 麻酔, リハビリ, 杖 and 松葉杖, and a bunch of other words that have gotten so baked into my vocabulary by having had to use them so much in the last few months that I’ve quite forgotten I’d just learned them.

  4. I’ve been playing the tales series (mainly xillia) on my PS3… SOOO MUCH FURIGANA-LESS KANJI. Also I’ve been watching a crap load of Detective Conan learning words like 被害者、殺人、殺害、警部、推理、事件、and stuff like that. Then I’ve been reading anime transcripts while listening to the audio. Today I was listening/reading さようなら絶望先生 and I learned 桃色、若社長、お大臣、自ら、粗末にする、満ち溢れる、絶つ、and a bunch of other stuff.

  5. Thanks to you I was able to use my Japanese 3DS and play Medarot 7 while being able to understand the dialog fully!

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