So I know I've briefly discussed Smart.fm before in my Japanese Learning Methods post a while back. I still think it's an awesome tool, but in the past few months I had been focusing on other methods of learning. Now I'm coming back and wanted to have more of a discussion of my current Japanese learning methods.
So here's some background on my personal learning situation. A year ago, I was taking a Japanese class in college (my fifth semester) and was still in the earlier stages of the first volume of Remember the Kanji (which I talk about in my discussion of kanji). At that point, while I still felt like I had so much to learn, I also felt pretty "well-rounded." My listening and speaking skills, as well as my reading and writing skills, were all at around the same level, with maybe my listening skills being just above the rest of my other skills since I was already watching a lot of doramas and variety shows.
Then, last semester, I took a semester off from my Japanese course, since my other classes didn't really permit it. It didn't really bother me, and thankfully my skills didn't really drop or anything. I had managed to keep up with my Japanese decently enough, but my focus definitely changed during that semester. I wasn't practicing speaking too much and was focusing on kanji. I started reading Japanese manga, so I was getting much better at reading, but I never took any time to learn new grammar points or vocab, only naturally picking up a couple of things every once in a while. It was all about Remember the Kanji at that point. Well, by the end of the summer, I had finally finished the book! And then the fall semester had started, and I'm taking a Japanese class again.
Finishing RTK has definitely made a difference in the learning process. I'm not an expert on the kanji yet by any means - I'm still reviewing them everyday, and the backlog's pretty hefty. But whenever I see a new word, I'll have an idea as to what it means, or at least feel like I've seen it before, which does wonders for remembering it. So I'd just like to take this moment to reiterate how ingenious Heisig's concepts are and urge you to check it out if you haven't yet!
Anyway, while I am still doing my kanji reps now, my focus for the past couple of months has shifted once more. I'm learning new grammar and vocab through my class now, but the biggest difference has to be in my speaking practice. I realized during my semester off that, even if I don't always feel like I learn enough from my class alone, it still forces me to listen and speak Japanese for a solid fifty minutes, three times a week. I am thankful for that class for giving me that small opportunity to practice speaking. Something else that's made a difference is the fact that I've joined an organization that matches you up with a language partner, and now I'm meeting up with two Japanese friends once a week and can practice speaking with them.
I've already felt a difference from the past couple of months. It's not that I've necessarily learned all that much that allows me to speak more, but I'm really starting to just feel comfortable and less afraid to make mistakes when I speak. I'm often told that my Japanese sounds "natural," even if it's not perfect. I really feel like I'm overcoming a hurdle with my speaking skills here, and that feels great - I'm so much less shy, which really does wonders.
So now I feel like I have a good base - a couple of thousand kanji to help with my writing, the necessary confidence and naturalness to help with my speaking, not to mention a basic understanding of grammar to help me with both. And now I'm really wanting to take the next step, which is: vocab.
I honestly just feel so limited when it comes to vocabulary. I can hold a basic conversation now, which makes me happy, but I want to take it to that next level, and now I have the tools to do so. I don't think it will be as dramatic change of focus as my last two stages (in fact, I feel like I'm still in the midst of the stage where I'm improving my speaking skills). But it's something I want to slowly edge into and add to the rest of my Japanese learning.
So the point of this long-winded post? (If you've stuck around this long, I do appreciate it!) I'm getting back into smart.fm and am resuming my progress on Japanese Core 2000. Now, it's true that my original plans a long time ago would be to follow the AJATT way of doing sentence practice once I'm done with kanji. I'm not abandoning that, and I do plan to write my own sentences later on. But I'm still reviewing my kanji cards on Anki, and I think that creating another deck right now from scratch may not be the best choice. I had already been studying Japanese by the time I stumbled onto AJATT, so I haven't really been able to follow the "standard" order of things. I don't feel like I necessarily *need* sentences right now, since I have a decent understanding of basic grammar, and what I'm really craving right now is more vocabulary.
I've actually already started the core 2000 a long time ago, and I realize that there are a lot of words I already know, but I'm not too worried about it. The fact that all of the flashcards are already made for me helps so much. Besides, each word comes with their own example sentence, and I know that the goal is to aim for 10,000 sentences, but 2000 is okay for a first step, right? Also, I think having something outside of Anki will be nice. It's a change of setting (I find smart.fm to be much prettier than Anki is heh), and because I haven't bought the iphone app for Anki (yet?) but I have the free smart.fm one, I can focus on my kanji reps when I'm at the computer, and do my vocab reps when I'm out and about.
I'll see how things work out! Has anyone else done the core 2000 set? What methods do *you* use to learn Japanese in general? I'd love to hear from you guys :)