I am hitting the bars once again. No, it isn’t what you think. I’m hitting the progress bars on learning websites.
I recently got a great discount on Japanesepod101.com and signed up for a year. I’ve been reading Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Peformers from Everybody Else and decided that I needed to do some “deliberate practice” on Japanese grammar. Jpod101.com is one of the best resources for Japanese grammar that I know, so it was a winning combination.
I came back to the jpod lessons with a new samurai at play attitude. I noticed that at each season and level of lessons there is a progress bar. Every time you successfully mark a lesson as complete, the bar moves a little further. I’m moving the bar. 🙂
Moving the bar has become a game. I’ve focused on a specific season of Lower Intermediate lessons. I listen to the 15-20 minute lesson on my morning walk to the Writers Room. I usually have enough time to play the line by line audio of the dialogues as I walk, sometimes shadowing the dialogue as I walk. I “collect” any words I don’t know in through the Word Bank and Flashcard options. I upload the PDF Lesson notes on to my iPhone to read at any available sit down time–usually riding home on the subway. When I’ve done all of these things, I mark the lesson complete and the bar moves a little bit further.
I’m also leveraging my “cheapskate” aspect as well. I paid money to have access to these lessons, so I’d better take advantage of it. I pretend that I am “sticking it to the man” by listening to my grammar lessons. (Yes, I know. What a geek 🙂 )
But what I’m doing by moving the bar is what Khatzumoto at All Japanese All The Time calls “winnable games.” “Learning Japanese” is such a big, abstract goal, but moving the bar is a visible, doable goal. To quote Khatzumoto yet again, “Play it like Farmville.” If you are going to play little games, you might as well do it to something that you want to learn.
It can be hypnotic to watch the bars move. On one Japanese learning website, IKnow, there are several bars. You can set a bar for study time per week. (I set it for 30 minutes because I don’t believe Iknow is the most efficient use of my time.) Just a few minutes a day helps me move that bar. After a study session, you can watch the progress bars move for each individual word. Little bells and whistles go off when you reach a number of certain weekly targets or finish lessons.
The key is that you have to listen to the voice or boredom. Deliberate practice is targeted practice, but it’s not the whole game. Japanese is a living language and just studying grammar and being hypnotized by bars is not going to do everything. I listen to Japanese music. Lately I’ve been using the Surusu website shuffler. I load this website shuffler with Japanese websites that I’ve stumbled upon or that I’ve received through emails as a Silverspoon member of All Japanese All the Time. If I can’t think of a website that would be fun, I shuffle until I find my brain candy and read, listen, laugh, cry, and learn.
Progress bars won’t do everything. One of the interesting functions of Jamplay, a site for guitar lessons, is its progress report. You grade yourself on your progress in the lesson and you can see the little green bars. You move the bars by practicing until you feel you have improved–and move the bar.
However, to move the bar means that you need to pick up the guitar and practice. I’ve been focusing this year on Japanese, writing, teaching, and those two funny little people that claim to be my children. 🙂 I could feel bad about that, but maybe I’ll hit the bars instead.