Tag Archives: metalearning

How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Head

Get ahead without losing your head.

Get ahead without losing your head.

I finally got around to picking up a copy of The Last Samurai:  The Life and Times of Saigo Takamori.  After watching the Hollywood Tom Cruise version of history, I realized it is time to get a real historian’s re-telling of this transitional period of history.   Saigo Takamori is the “real” last samurai, who rebelled against the central government.  Long story short, Takamori loses his head.   The central government tries to find it but can’t.  That becomes a problem.

For me reading this chapter was an opportunity to turn great history writing into a schlocky self-help mantra:  How to Get Ahead Without Losing Your Head.   In truth, this is what this whole blog is about: how to move your mind and life forward without self-abuse.

One of the key germs for this life approach was All Japanese All the Time.  I was beating myself up about how I wasn’t learning Japanese and stumbled upon this website.   Khatz, the founder, explained that you could learn Japanese by doing more fun things in Japanese and through consistent but micro moves such as SRS flashcard reviews, and a whole host of techniques.  What AJATT helped me to do was be gentler with myself and keep trying, probing, and most importantly looking for the fun opportunities.

I haven’t made learning Japanese a big priority though I still make it a daily habit.  (I am treading water, but I still know a hell of a lot more than if I had kept on beating myself up.)  However, through my AJATT methods I’ve learned how to get ahead without losing my head.  Khatz explains in “Why are Third Rate Ideas Better than First Rate Ideas”:

Here’s the trick to making deep, long-term, self-directed language-learning work.

Don’t do ten good things.

Do one good thing. One day. At a time.

And not even a very good thing. Just a good enough thing. Just barely good enough.

I think this is a great idea for making “deep, long-term, self-directed” growth work in areas beyond language.  Be gentle but push forward.   The samurai mind notebook is a great way to do one good thing.  Put your daily inspirations/vital information and review–just a little bit if you can’t do more.
Get ahead without losing your head.

Take time each day to reclaim your samurai mind.

Samurai Grammar: Pullin’ Ain’t Pushin’.

Screen shot 2013-09-20 at 6.58.36 AM

This is a screenshot of one Japanesepod101 lesson. I like “moving” the bar of progress and I like that the grammar explanations are brief. But the rest of the day, I have Japanese music in my ears or I am doing something in Japanese that isn’t pushing. The grammar seems more useful because through immersion, I already have some of the language. Be careful. If it isn’t fun. Don’t do it.

Grammar is a big block for people who are learning a foreign language, but grammar can be one of your many friends as you learn a language.  Here is one way how!

With my mind on my grammar and my grammar on my mind.  Not.  Lately I have been on a Japanesepod101.com rush.   I listen to a listen on my 35 minute walk to the Writers Room and then using timeboxing, I try to finish up a lesson and then move on to other fun stuff in Japanese.  I have changed my method a little bit.  I used to follow ten or more different kinds of lessons but I have limited it to three (onomatopeia, lower intermediate, and beginner lessons).  Limiting the lesson types to three satisfies my game-playing mind by allowing me to see the progress bars move a little faster from day to day.  Because I am using time limits, it feels more like a mission impossible spy game than mind-numbing study.

I am enjoying the grammar explanation in the Japanesepod lessons.  You would think that this goes against the immersion techniques that AJATT writes about, but I think the fact that I also “immerse” makes the grammar study more fun.  My grammar study is more like a confirmation.  I’ve heard so much Japanese dialogue, movies, Youtube, songs, podcasts et cetera that the grammar is “in there” somewhere.  My quick in and out grammar reviews are less “I have to memorize this!”  and more “Oh, right, that’s what I’ve been hearing.”

Grammar pullin’ ain’t grammar pushin’.  I give a quick listen to grammar lessons and read over grammar explanations but I keep it quick and dirty and don’t really stop to review.  By doing this way, I am probably learning a whole lot more grammar than if I put on my hair shirt and tortured my way through grammar.

Big ups to Khatz at AJATT.com.  I’ve been reading his blog for a long time and while he has recommended grammar resources like Tae Kim and a few books, he keeps riffin’ on the don’t kill and drill message.  Here are a just a few choice tweets were Khatz points the way to Stephen Krashen and his view on grammar:

“The students who did reading did better on grammar tests than those who had grammar classes!” youtube.com/watch?v=DSW7gm… #FVR #krashen

“We don’t need to focus on grammar because if you give people enough…input, the grammar is there” youtube.com/watch?v=shgRN3…

Stephen Krashen says: put conscious grammar study in its (very small, very peripheral) place. youtube.com/watch?v=shgRN3…

I’m not suggesting that there is one way to approach grammar in a language.  Find the approaches that are the most fun and useful to you.   If you enjoy studying 20 pages of rules and exceptions go for it!  Grammar off, grammar on samurai!


May the Non-Force Be With You

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town.  Easy enough and a little adventure to boot.  You don"t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new.  Look for small but powerful shifts.

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town. Easy enough and a little adventure to boot. You don”t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new. Look for small but powerful shifts.

I’ve been in Japan for about three weeks now.  The jetlag has gone away and I am coming to my senses more.   But I’ve noticed one strange thing.  Up until a few days, I had not bought reading material.  Reading is part of my immersion path (I don’t want to say strategy-because that sounds a little too calculated).  I go to a manga cafe almost every day and I have the opportunity to check out magazines and manga every day and I do.   There are a few bookstores close by and I’ve taken the opportunity to go browsing there a few times.  But I’ve only taken one item home.

I’m not worried.   First of all, the fact that I can stroll into a Japanese bookstore, browse, and realize that I am not interested in anything is a big victory.  I know what each section is, I can skim the titles, the table of contents, etc.  One of the things that I rediscovered through AJATT is that reading doesn’t have to look pretty.  In “Why the Way We Read Sucks” series AJATT really explores how to really get the most out of reading by avoiding the stifling obligation patterns we learn at school.  For me, reading is fun but what makes it more fun is also about making choices, rejecting,  and jumping around the text.  Browsing is a powerful reading activity.

Browsing is also a powerful review though it may not feel lik it.  Browsing is a reminder that the most important review is in real-life, in navigating, hunting, and just plain old having fun.  There is a time and place for hard work and effort in real life but fun can work too.   There is a time to be the worker ant and soldier on for the colony.   But there should be time to be like the hummingbird, flitting around and looking for nectar.  There is a time for “force” and “study” but the fun stuff reinforces it and gives it life, too.

Lots of pictures.  Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know.  All part of letting the non-force be with you.

Lots of pictures. Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know. All part of letting the non-force be with you.

I finally found a book at the local Numazu bookstore.  It is a visual guide to how to use an i-Pad mini.   Recently, I’ve been looking for books with a lot of pictures.    Besides the pictures, the nice thing about the iPad book is that I kind of know how to use an iPad already and I am really interested in learning how to use new apps.   I already have the inner motivation to use the knowledge in the book.   I already know a lot of vocabulary but what really helps to “read” this book is my slowly growing knowledge of kanji.  I don’t look up words, write down key sentences, etc.  I am enjoying what I am reading and that enjoyment is sealing the deal on whatever worker ant work I’ve pushed through.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa.  This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa. This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Currently, I am in a manga cafe in Mishima, a quick train ride away from Numazu, where I usually go to the same chain store.  But it was a little bit of adventure to find this place, the books and lighting are different.  I  have work in English to do, but with frequent breaks of intentional Japanese study and just “goofing off.” Currently, I am browsing and looking at book about the pop culture (video games, pop stars, and manga) of Japan in the 80’s.

Use your hard power.  Use your soft power.  Fly like a bee and sting like a butterfly and vice versa.  May the non-force be with you.


Ronin Samurai: Go for Nuggets

No matter how long the path, don't forget to stop for nuggets!

No matter how long the path, don’t forget to stop for nuggets!

Yeah, well I don’t really know a lot about samurai despite the title of the blog.  But I do know that ronin samurai were masterless samurai, who lost their position through various events.  According to Wicker-pedia, in Japan “ronin” also refers to “salarymen” who have lost their jobs or students who failed to get into university and will try again.

In this shifting economy, we can all become ronin at some point.   That can be terrifying and at the same time liberating.   Furuichi talks about spending 30 minutes each day in continuous improvement.   I think in terms of placing little nuggets of inspiration and skill in my samurai mind notebook.   I love self-improvement books and one of the ways I reward myself for study “pushes” is by using little five minute explorations of self-help books.

One of my recent nugget discoveries is the career guide What Color is Your Parachute?  2013.   What I never realized about this book is that Richard Bolles, the author, updates it every year.   Every year he rethinks his advice and also thinks about the economic climate.   In the 2013,  he makes a point of really addressing folks who are unemployed.  He paints a useful picture of the difference between two unemployed folks.  One is glum and ready to blame.  The other one is not happy about his situation but:

 . . . he wakes up each morning glad to see the sun, puts on beautiful music, walks a great deal, counts his blessings, is in a job-support group, focuses on other people’s troubles, not just his own, is a great listener, spends each new day trying to be a better person than he was the day before, remains active in his job-hunt, tries to learn something new each day, essentially sees life as an adventure, and is willing to wait patiently for the next Act to unfold . . .

I think this is great advice even if you currently have a job.   Job hunt your own job to make it more interesting.  It’s also great as you are approaching your various learning projects.  Khatz over at ajatt.com  points to this “hunt for the nuggets” approach when he explores how to learn a language:

The journey of getting used to a language is so psychologically long that it can’t merely be a means to an end. It must become an end in itself. It must become its own joy, its own reward. And this perspective, this mental state, doesn’t require too much imagination or discipline or training to reach. Anyone who’s been on a road trip with friends knows: the destination is almost incidental.

Wherever you are in your ronin journey, find something to enjoy.  Don’t forget to stop for nuggets!

You will never get “there”: The Now Samurai

Talk about life long learning.  I love that there is a book dedicated to teaching seniors how to play The Ventures.   But why wait until you retire to do what you want to do?

Talk about life long learning. I love that there is a book dedicated to teaching seniors how to play The Ventures. But why wait until you retire to do what you want to do?  My Japanese father-in-law is taking up guitar.  I’m thinking of seeing if I can join his classes.  Japanese and guitar, wow!

Yesterday, I decided to stop at a cafe to have an iced latte.  Because it was hot outside and their air conditioner wasn’t on, it was relatively empty.  Then they turned on some Best of Jimi Hendrix, which I hadn’t heard in a long time.  Listening to Hendrix after a long drought is like drinking a cup of coffee after I’ve “given it up”–it blasts me to the stratosphere.  What was interesting was that as I was listening to it, I was thinking things like, “oh he slid up the strings there” or “how and where did he get that idea?”  I didn’t do the usual hero worshiping, practice stopping rant.  “I will never get there.”

If you think you never will “get there” you are right.  You will never get there because where you are is right here right now.   So what are you going to do about it?  Find a way to hit just one string clearly or worship the rock gods?  (Hey, why not do both 🙂 )  Will you find a way to just push for a few minutes to write a little scale or moan about how you wish you could write songs?

Part of pushing is  allowing yourself to “suck” while you move forward.  Part of why reading alljapaneseallthetime.com was so liberating was Khatz’s concept of “suckage.”   As he explains, you have to be comfortable with were you are with your skill but not so comfortable that you aren’t doing something about it.  “Accepting permanent suckage is not humility. That’s resignation. Sucking is a temporary condition. Contact is the cure.”  Have contact with your desired skill at many ends from the theoretical pushes to just having fun listening to the “masters” without being threatened.

You will never get there.  You are always here, now.  Push. Play. Repeat.

100 Secrets to Becoming a Better Player: Samurai Thru-view

There is a lot of good information in this book that can be applied to general skill development.

There is a lot of good information in this book that can be applied to general skill development.

After reading Daniel Coyle’s Little Book of Talent, I realized that I was spending too much of my free reading time in English and needed to veer back to Japanese.   I pulled out ギター上達100の裏ワザ  (100 Secrets to Becoming  Better at Guitar) by Masaki Ichimura.   Following your interests in your target language is a little something I like to call hybridizing your crack, doubling the learning power.

Right now, I am mostly interested in the soft skills and philosophy of playing guitar.  Here are just a few interesting principles that could apply to whatever you are trying to learn.  (My translations are inexact and include other context.  Take with a dash of soy sauce.)

If you practice 10 minutes a day you will accumulate 3, 650 minutes of practice.  You will make a difference in your playing.  続けたことによって発見する物事があります。基本練習を毎日10分やるとしても、1年で3,650分やる人と、やらない人で差があります。

In order to become a guitarist who looks at the audience, practice blind folded.  各席を見られるギタリストになるは。。。。目隠し練習.   This hint reminds me of The Little Book of Talent.  If you want to become better and more natural at a skill, you have to change it up.

If you take lessons, you won’t get better if you don’t practice at home.  ギター教室に通うひとは。。。自宅練習しないと上達しない  Of course this is common sense, but engaging and choosing with your skill is all part of the fluid choices that you get to make with your life.  To tell the truth, I kind of suck at guitar.  But I’m trying to practice a little bit each day, so I suck less than I did when I started.   Khatzumoto recently got all neuroplastic on us and spit it like this:  “Your mind, your body, your skills are fluid and mutable. While you’re alive, it’s up to you what you flow and mutate (?) them into; you have the power to choose.”

To Go Up in Your Level of Playing, Reach for the Next Hardest Level Within Your Reach.  上達という階段を登るには。。。。手の届くレベルにトライし続ける。Coyle would call this looking for “the sweet spot” or “reaches.”  You won’t become Eric Clapton overnight, but where is the next “reach” or do-able “stretch” in your learning?  Not just for guitar, kids.


Don't forget to have fun doing it your way!

Don’t forget to have fun doing it your way!

t’s Important to Do What You Like.   一番、好きなことをやろう。Reaching, stretching, etc is important but a key and often forgotten element is to do what you like and reach for what you think is fun with your skill.  Ichimura illustrates this with a wonderful cartoon of a middle aged man playing guitar dressed in his socks.  Happy feeling make happy learnings.  🙂

Tip 100:   You are the “Producer” of Your Life.  あなたは、あなた自身の人生のプロデューさーです。 No matter what age you are, you get to mix it up and do it like you want to.  You get to write the score, choose the instruments, and write the dance track to your life.   Enjoy.




Content Samurai: Know More, Do More, Play More

I celebrated with neighbors and friends in NYC on New Year's Day.  A mix of traditional Japanese osechi and other delicacies for a tasty new year.

I celebrated with neighbors and friends in NYC on New Year’s Day. A mix of traditional Japanese osechi and other delicacies for a tasty new year.

I’m not a New Year’s Eve guy.  I have nothing against other people’s celebrations.   For me, I like to start the new year well rested and not hung over.  I went to bed at 9:30.   I celebrated New Year’s day at a mid-day party with Japanese New Year’s food.  I don’t necessarily have resolutions, but I have some general directions I’m taking.   Maybe they’ll help you become a content samurai and help you know more, do more, and play more in 2013:

  • read the table of contents before and after I read a book
  • add speed to the game
  • play/study with the things that intrigue me
  • turn the things that bother me and seem impossible into a game
  • honor the vessel aka find ways to get off my derriere
  • go a little berserk (which I discovered is also a manga while trying to figure out the exact spelling)

Read the table of contents before and after I read a book

I can be a perfectionist and that sometimes prevents me from playing around with really helpful books, in English and Japanese.  I feel like I have to read it cover to cover and I get the いやいや attitude about reading.  Lately, I’ve been re-reading Study Hacks! and focusing on the table of contents and just having fun with it.  Let the content warm the cockles of your heart.  More of that, please.

Add speed to the game

Speed is one way to override perfectionism.

Play/study with the things that intrigue me

I was looking at my notes from Furuichi’s book ,1日30分を続けなさい!Each Day 30 Minutes. Learn to Win! and was reminded of his hint to study things while they are hot for you.   That is the best time to study.  Looking at my notes on Furuichi’s book he seems to do a lot of calculating of how much time you can gain and up your skills or become a better person.  But he also emphasizes the joy part of the game and that you never know where it will take you.  Follow the rainbow.

Turn the things that bother me and seem impossible into a game

Osechi ryori includes sweet black beans and other foods, some which symbolize health, wealth, and happiness.  I say yes to it all!

Osechi ryori includes sweet black beans and other foods, some which symbolize health, wealth, and happiness. I say yes to it all!

I bought a guitar tuner and have a guitar strategically placed in a hidden location away from home.  Am I going to be Jimi Hendrix?  Probably not.   But I can take one part of the piece and dip into Jamplay.com.   If music is a language, then maybe taking a little piece every day will help me communicate with music.  Today power chords.  Tomorrow the world.

Go a little berserk!

Steve Chandler, in his book, Wealth Warrior, asks the question:  “Are you willing to go berserk?  . . . .  It’s usually a person’s unwillingness to go crazy (in a good way) that has them stuck with a boring and financially demoralizing life. ”  Study and act on your dreams, inside and out.   Don’t be afraid to pull out from the crowd and do what you need to do.  Read the book backwards.  Find ways to serve. Go berserk!  Join me.

“Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)”

I love it when a song pops in to your head and it fits what you’ve been thinking and reading about.   Enjoy yourself (it’s later than you think).  I just discovered the Louis Prima version but I was introduced to the song by a ska group called the Specials.

Sometimes you just have to jump into your desired skill to enjoy it.  The sign from this ice cream shop in Japan says,  "If it drinks and it eats the dessert, it becomes happy feelings about this shop."  That's my philosophy about deliberate practice in one confusing sentence. :)

Sometimes you just have to jump into your desired skill to enjoy it. The sign from this ice cream shop in Japan says, “If it drinks and it eats the dessert, it becomes happy feelings about this shop.” That’s my philosophy about deliberate practice in one confusing sentence. 🙂

Hi my name is Juan and I’m going to enjoy myself first.  (obscure song reference 🙂 )  What got me thinking in this vein was a quote from my current carry around town book,  1分スピード記憶勉強法:  Study Method with One-Minute Speedy Memorizing:


If you read things you are interested and read in a relaxed way,  reviewing is easier, and bit by bit the you will be steeped in more vocabulary.    If you ride the waves of this “Nice  Environment”,  you will be able to [read English] without knocking yourself out.  Masami Utsude

I actually finished this book a while ago but decided to just carry it around for subway rides, waiting for appointments, etc.  It’s fun, easy but with a lot of new vocabulary, and just reinforces positive thinking and methods I want to incorporate into my life and learning.  It’s like All Japanese All The Time except it’s written in Japanese most of the time!  (There are sample English sentences for Japanese learners who want to learn English.)

A big part of learning involves controlling and nurturing your environment and ensuring that you will both push and relax into your hoped for skill.   In the morning I create and study flashcards and all that other Silverspoon-push stuff.   In the off moments, I may be listening to Japanese music or watching snippets of Japanese youtube videos.   Then, I “read” my Japanese books.   I may read every word on every page or just read the chapter headings or the table of contents.  I don’t worry if I know every word.  I may look at a new kanji compound and think, “Wow, I haven’t seen you before.”  And then, I move on.   I’m light years away from where I was months ago, when a page of Japanese text put me into a cycle of self-loathing.

Whatever you are doing or try to learn, there is a place for “pushing” and practice but an equally important place is relaxing and enjoying your skill.  Create a “nice environment””

  • Begin by being nice to yourself.  Be as nice as you would to a child learning to walk.
  • Think in terms of games.  I just realized that some people have crosswords and sudoku and I have kanji.  I’m not going to master “kanji”  I’m going to play kanji.
  • Find the teachers and tools that you enjoy or at least choose to enjoy your teachers.  Currently, I am watching Steve Eulberg’s lesson on the Circle of Fifths on Jamplay.  (They have a sale in December!  Follow the link on the right)  It’s wracking my brain but, hey, I like the guy.
  • Make time on your side.  Use timers to turn the “pushing” part of your day.   Lately, I’ve been going at the Japanesepod101..com lessons (check out yet another link on the right) but using incremental and decremental timers (an AJATT tool) to make it all mission-impossibly fun.  It’s also part of adding speed to my game.
  • Let yourself play and play “bad.”  I’ve been playing a lot more guitar since I’ve given myself the opportunity to play badly.  In fact, it’s been liberating to give up.  Nope,  I am not going to play like Keith Richards tomorrow.   But I can practice this G scale pattern and noodle around afterwards.

I’m glad we all survived the apocalypse.  But the timer is still ticking.  Enjoy yourself.  It’s later than you think.

Power Your Morning! Samurai Disappearing Acts

Greet the morning with what you want to make happen–in your mind or your “practice.” Thirty minutes a day for your life. Photo source: unprofound.com.

Hello, I am back!   I have been in the all-consuming depths of teaching and all the work and preparation that this entails.   Additionally, I am in the final months of my Silverspoon Japanese immersion experience.   Every morning, I wake up and get suggested “sprints” for Japanese immersion.    Silverspoon usually includes scheduled “chillax” periods where I can do other non-Japanese related stuff while having Japanese in the background. It is usually in these 5-10 minute breaks that I play around with the blog and write.   Lately, by the time it is time to have a “chillax” period, it is time for me to leave and go to work.

Lately the Silverspoon mornings are “packed.”  Yesterday, I flipped through a Japanese book, did sentence and kanji flashcard repetitions, and made new flashcards from “Scuzzy” sentence packs that I chose fun sentences from.   After a little more flashcard reps,  shuffled through Japanese websites using Khatzumoto’s url shuffler.  Fun stuff, but the time ran out and I had to leave the Writers Room and head to work.  (There’s not a lot of time for writing these days, but in 74 days I will have my own schedule “back.”  Right now I am creating a rich Japanese environment of websites, flashcards, and just plain old fun immersion experiences that will be there for me for a lifetime.)

My copy of Furuichi Yukio’s book on how to incorporate mornings into your life. For coolness factor he adds an English subtitle: “The early bird catches the fortune.”

This all reminds me of a Japanese podcast that asks listeners to “Power Your Morning.”  I used to go my favorite coffee shop that opens up at 7 a.m. and then get to the Writer’s Room and only have 15 or 20 minutes to write, study, and do “me.”  Now I am making my coffee in the Writer’s Room and getting an extra half hour every day to write, study Japanese, and play it forward.

It was a shock at first but I am enjoying the benefits of the morning and I think you can, too:

  • You start the day with a “win” towards your “goal.”  If you can do it in the morning, it might slip into the rest of the day.  If you are too “busy” then you will get your win in for the day.
  • The morning can be the most free from outside distractions.
  • There is an after-burn.   The idea you are trying to work on in the morning might kick around for the rest of the day.
  • Your mind and body might get used to showing up on a daily basis and help you produce more constantly.  Creating, learning become a habit.
  • When you “disappear” in the morning before most people are awake you don’t have to explain or justify yourself.   You just go into your mad scientist lab and create your own Frankenself.

I wasn’t into the book a month ago, but I might give it a whirl again. I left the $2.00 Book off sticker. You don’t have to bust the bank to have a Samurai Mind.

This morning I am shaking it up.  Silverspoon is saying I should be watching anime all day.  I am watching “My Little Monster” but only for five minute stretches, while working in writing and a little exercise (also in five minute) stretches and then I have to go to work.   I am designing the precious time that I have in the morning.

Design your morning.  Power your morning.  As Bob Marley says, “Wake up and live!”



Samurai Online Learning: How I Use Japanese Pod 101

First of all, a disclaimer.   I have a sponsored link to Japanese Pod 101 on this website.  The occasional link to this service, if you think it fits your needs, might one day help me to pay my web-hosting fees and buy more Japanese books fuel a mighty financial empire. Click JapanesePod101.com – Learn Japanese with Free Daily Podcasts 🙂 The other disclaimer is that I have no authority to judge whether this service will make me fluent or not.  Otherwise, I would be writing to you in Japanese and getting ready to learn Spanish through Japanese materials.   These techniques are just the way, I have played with to learn more Japanese everyday.  It might help you think about any online learning materials or courses that you might be interested in picking up in the future.

Here’s the cheatsheet:

  • treat every lesson like a game and find something to challenge you–use your headphones for good!
  • play the money game
  • find the sweet spot–lessons at the level where you are challenged but still finding some comfort or review of material you already know
  • you can also go back to fundamental or basic lessons for review or go a few levels above you to just overwhelm your mind
  • use self-tracking tools–progress bars and other tools are great ways to keep track and also get the game factor going
  • find something to like about every online host or teacher
  • take it all a little bit at a time . . . . turtle power activate!
  • on the other hand, sometimes its good to add velocity to your game … go through the lesson and move on
  • don’t forget that the real game is the language/skill/game …. listen to real Japanese, listen and play real songs…what is great is when deliberate practice and real life reinforce each other

    There are 1,000’s of lessons on Japanese Pod 101. I prefer music and immersion but sometimes it’s great to get a little grammar. At the free level, you can listen to the lesson or watch the video. The basic level includes the PDF, and the Premium level includes a line by line transcript with audio, sample sentences with audio for new vocabulary, and a host of other features. It’s not the end all and be all and may result in “lessonitis” but it can also be fun.

Treat every lesson like a game and find something to challenge you

As a busy teacher and dad of two, I don’t have a lot of discretionary time.  I get my so-called exercise by walking to the writers room and school.  In those 35-40 minutes of walking I often listen to Japanesepod101.com lessons on my iPhone.  Most lessons are 15-20 minutes and include a short Japanese dialogue, vocabulary explanation, grammar explanation, and then a repeat of the dialogue. There are also line by line audio transcripts.  With a quick click I can listen to small chunks of the dialogue.   There are also sample sentences for the vocabulary and I repeat the sentences I hear out loud.  (If you have headphones and a phone you can get away with looking like a weirdo. Maybe 🙂   When I am at a desk or cafe and not negotiating traffic (do be careful), I read the PDF and count the lesson as finished. If I am not in the mood to do a lesson, I don’t push it.  I listen to fun Japanese podcast or music instead.

Play the money game

There are all kinds of pricing structures on Japanesepod101.com and there are sales and discounts throughout the year.  But I like to think in terms of, “I’m going to get $1,000 worth of value out of this $____ investment.  This is true with any online learning service.  I’m old enough to remember when Space Invaders moved into the pinball arcade.  Part of the fun was seeing how long you could make your quarters last.

Find the sweet spot

Play around with levels and hover between being completely lost and easy mastery.  These days I alternate between upper intermediate, lower intermediate, and beginner lessons (they also have absolute beginner lessons).  They also have some video lessons on animals that I’ve found fun to throw into the mix.  The advantage of Japanesepod101.com is that they love grammar and love explaining it.   With the higher level lessons I just listen through to get exposure to the grammar points but I don’t try to memorize the grammar points.    The lower level lessons help me solidify some grammar points that I have already been exposed through flashcards, immersion, etc.

Hit the Bars: use self-tracking tools–progress bars and other tools are great ways to keep track and also get the game factor going

I do go for long periods without studying Japanesepod101, because I am busy or doing more interesting stuff in Japanese. When I get back into it,progress bars are a low-tech game to keep you moving forward.

Sometimes it’s fun to just see a little bar moving forward, piling it up like monopoly money.  Yes, it’s a game but so is professional basketball.  Touchdown!  Japanese Pod 101 has progress bars that fill up as you finish lessons within each level and season.

Slow Down and Hurry Up!

There is no need to force feed yourself lessons in order to be virtuous or feel accomplished.   On the other hand, I sometimes like to speed up and get through a lesson, get a little exposure to the grammar and move the heck on.  What’s nice about Japanese Pod 101 is that as you go up in levels, the grammar and cultural points are explained using more and more Japanese.

Don’t forget that the real game is the language/skill/game

As I watched my daughters learn to speak, I noticed that they didn’t take any online or traditional course work.  Shame on them! 🙂  They listened to us singing and speaking to them, watched cartoons, sang songs, repeated what we said or just “babbled” in language practice.  Now my oldest daughter has to explain to me what she is saying in Japanese.   This is ajatt (Language is Like A Video Game) and antimoon stuff.   The pixie dust and nitty gritty of real life.  Keep it real, よ!