Japanese progress, weekend of 2/3/12

Ups and downs since a week ago… I reached the end of the N2 deck quicker than I thought; somehow before I knew it I’d made it through most of it and in this past week I eliminated all the red words that were left and now I’m just cycling through the deck again for a review. I can safely say now that I know the readings for just about all the words, but meanings are another story. I don’t have all those locked down and memorized for every single word. So now when I go through the deck I’m also making sure I can recite the meaning in my head as well before inputting my answer for the reading. Some things are harder to make stick than others, especially very similar terms that use the same kanji.

But having vocab more or less down is a big, big step. It’s so big that for a few days this week I started to feel like, “I might already have this and don’t need to study as hard as I thought in the next three weeks. I pushed through! I’m on the other side!”

Suffice it to say that was an overly hopeful thought and in reality I still have to buckle down hardcore. I finished taking a full N3 practice test and while I’m fairly confident I’d pass if I took the real thing, I still made tons of mistakes in a few sections (mostly certain grammar ones) and it’s worrisome, especially considering that I need to be able to pass N2, not N3. Then I took a reading practice that was supposed to determine my weak points in reading, and it was timed at 45 minutes, and in that time I only finished half and I wasn’t confident at all about my answers (but I think I did get most of them right?). So it looks like my old problem, that I struggled with when taking the real test, that of not being a fast enough reader, is still with me and seems an insurmountable problem at the moment. So that, and reading some things that made me realize again just how audaciously ambitious my plan is and how unlikely it is that it will all somehow miraculously come together for someone like me (who has no prestige, noble goals, etc), took the wind out of my sails. I started to get so overwhelmed with everything I still wanted to cover before the end of the month that I wrote out a study schedule/timeline, which was slightly reassuring, but the tasks I set out for this past weekend were too optimistic and remain undone. I’ll have to try to finish them on weeknights this week but it’s still a lot and I don’t even know if that will allow me enough time to get through it.

But this weekend I did a lot of work in my grammar and listening textbooks, even though sometimes (with grammar especially) it was slow going. I hate how with grammar, it all seems so easy when you’re learning each point–and a lot are already familiar to me so I always think I have it down already–and then when the time comes to choose how best to use it in a sentence, or choosing which term among similar ones is best to use (this is the worst!!), it’s just insanely difficult. Last night I took a quiz that covered the first six sections of the book, and I got like half wrong. Uuugghhhh!!! Frustrating because there are other times when I get everything right and it feels so easy I don’t even need to check the answers in the back to know. But I guess I’m still just getting into this and getting used to it, and I’m learning from every mistake, and hopefully if I took a similar quiz again I’d get less wrong. But ugh, why do some things have to sound exactly the same! I just have to keep rereading the example sentences, absorbing the right contexts, until it sticks I guess. And I must say again that having vocab down is a big step. I can at least understand the words in a sentence, and that is key. It’s fundamental and essential, really. Also, my grammar book is entirely Japanese, so I have to be able to understand all the explanations too, and fortunately I can (but I’m also writing in the English translation of each grammar point; makes it easier to remember and differentiate). But unfortunately that’s not enough. Have I said before that just when you’re feeling proud of yourself for mastering one aspect, there’s still a million more things to learn? I feel like I climbed a mountain, though I’d reached a nice flat clearing, and then discovered an even taller climb ahead of me. Making progress is like fighting my way through molasses, but at least each bit of success then feels hard-won and like I earned it.

Still very jealous of everyone at a higher level than me, especially those who make it seem soooo easy and effortless. Does it seem to anyone else like people who are more or less fluent at a language–not just Japanese but any one–never talk about their difficulties and frustrations? It always just sounds like “Oh, I get everything easily, no problem. I’m super fluent, no big deal.” That doesn’t seem realistic to me. Is it just that you don’t want your abilities called into question so you have to always appear perfect? I don’t get it, and it just makes me suspicious that you might not actually be that fluent especially in speaking. In contrast I try to be honest and admit my weaknesses, like here in these posts. Yes, I have a badass native-sounding accent (which always makes Japanese people think I’m more advanced than I really am) and I’m on the N2 spectrum, but I still have a ways to go. Even when I’m fluent–please let that day come someday–hopefully I don’t take on that same arrogant-seeming “I’m perfect already” attitude. Of course, it goes both ways too; I sometimes feel like friends who know that I call myself advanced in certain languages don’t really believe I’m actually at the level I say I am. Obviously we’ve all witnessed people who took Spanish in school claiming “I speak Spanish” when they really don’t, but that isn’t me! I actually do know those languages! Frustrating. A random aside: I had to laugh when I was reading a scanlated manga the other day and while the translation seemed legit (no real way to know until you compare against the original though–I know I discovered tons of things that were wrong or misleading in Sekaiichi Hatsukoi once I went from the scanlation to the original, but then I never like anyone else’s translation upon closer review anyway), 生ビール was translated as “raw beer.” Heh. Raw beer! (That’s a very clueless literal mangling. It should be “draft beer.”)

Unfortunately I spent all of Sunday on grammar (only finishing half of what I needed, too!) and didn’t even get to my reading textbook, so that’s another thing to make up over the course of the week along with the other half of grammar. Ahhh not enough time for everything.

Just feeling anxious and overwhelmed… I need to be a master of N2 by the end of the month and it’s such a lofty goal… I just need to remember, I could at least get half the test right with no real studying two years ago, so hopefully the addition of actual studying will mean I can at least get a 70-80% this time on a test at a similar level… please!

I also told a few Japanese friends I was studying, and one who’s local offered to help any way she could while another (in Japan) that I’ve been exchanging long Facebook messages with recently told me “今の[Séri]の日本語なら大丈夫だよ(^o^)自信を持って、挑戦してね!! [You’ll be fine if it’s your current Japanese! Have confidence in yourself and challenge it!]” so that was nice! It’s always hard to tell though if a compliment on your Japanese from a Japanese person is real or just the result of them being easily impressed by anyone who can manage it at all (after all, in an earlier message she expressed amazement over my ability to read and use kanji!!! Clearly Japanese people don’t know we have the ability to deploy and abuse Rikaichan so it doesn’t matter if you use kanji we haven’t learned as long as it’s online). As for the local friend who offered to help, I’m not really sure what she can do except conversation practice (which would equal listening practice) but I also don’t really have time to go meet in person. I guess I could ask her whenever I don’t understand why an answer in a quiz is this one over the one I was so sure was right (most of the time I see my mistake, but there are times when I’m like “What! That has to be wrong, why would it be that?”) but it would take time to type out that question and email it to her, then wait for her response, etc. So, not sure if I should take her up on that. In any case though, it’s really good to have support!! And what my friend in Japan said meant a lot even if she was just easily impressed.

This is the hardest I’ve ever studied in my life, probably. In school I always slacked off on studying and did the bare minimum all the time (with lots of cramming the night before). I never made study schedules, for example. So it’s kind of crazy to be so good about it now. Good thing I’m actually enjoying the learning process, even though I wish I had more time.

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