Monday, January 31, 2011

Tweet Log 14 (October)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 13.


Blog Post: Epic Journey of Summer 2010! Part 5 (Germany)

Anyone see the movies "Shabake" with Tegoshi Yuuya? I've been watching the second one, "UsoUso." Soooo weird XD

I've been doing my epic chores and just leveled-up. I'm a Level 3 Wench of Undesirable Tasks now! #EpicWinApp

Okay. Probably a stupid question. Anyone know how to find a news article or something IN Japanese?

I click on a Japanese headline in the Japan Time Online website, and the article's in english... O.o;

HOLY CRAP, while I didn't bring magazines, I do have my Hana Yori Dango Final booklet with a ton of text! There is hope for this assignment!

A random statue we saw in Osaka. I think it was of a scientist or something..

Hmmm... anyone know how to end a news broadcast in Japanese? Like 'that's all the time we have, thank you for watching..."

I can't find a full news broadcast in Japanese anywhere! XD

Hmm.. I had a little more trouble than usual speaking Japanese today. Kept reverting to English.. hope it's just because I'm so tired @_@

The NHK building in Osaka. I was actually super excited when I saw this and had to go inside haha

Blog Post: Review of the Arashi album, Boku no Miteiru Fuukei!

Starting a series of pics from Osaka castle. Here's a shot of the moat. It was soooo hot outside!

Have a little extra time... Tonight is the Great Mouse Detective in Japanese XD

ちょっと時間があります! | Lang-8 #lang8

I've been doing my epic chores and just leveled-up. I'm a Level 4 Wench of Gainful Employment now! #EpicWinApp

A shot of Osaka-jo from the outside looking in o.-

Blog Post: Tweet Log 10 (June)

A cool little structure next to Osaka-jo. It says... something about education?? Can't read that third kanji XD

Crossing the bridge.... about to enter Osaka-jo!

Went to karaoke last night for the first time in a while! カラオケ最高〜!

The outer walls of Osaka-jo. Is there usually supposed to be water?... In any case, all of the green was pretty ^^

Blog Post: Cooking Adventures - Katsu!

There it is! Osaka castle! So pretty~ ^^

A golden tiger that's in the museum inside of Osaka-jo.

I've been doing my epic chores and just leveled-up. I'm a Level 5 Maiden of Well Made Plans now! #EpicWinApp
Pretty gold flower design! Inside of Osaka-jo~

Taking some much-needed relaxing time. Every once in a while, I have to tell homework, "you can wait." :P

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Basics of Reading Japanese

So here's my first little Japanese-centered lesson! This is just a very basic look at how the writing system works in Japan. While many of you are probably aware of most of this stuff, I wanted to go over the basics before moving on to some more intermediate materials and actual study methods.

By the way, here's a video version of this lesson :)

Many people I know who are just starting to learn Japanese aren't too worried about reading or writing - I was like that too, at first. I loved listening to the language and what excited me was the idea of understanding and speaking it, while reading and writing did not appeal to me very much. There are several reasons for this...

1. Too hard.
If I didn't know any Japanese and I looked at a block of text, it would be overwhelming. All those foreign symbols are pretty scary - how can anyone read this stuff?? There's way too much to learn, the way it all works together is way too confusing, and even if it is technically possible to learn it, the sheer amount of work you need to put into it would just not be worth the effort.

2. Boring.
Not only would learning all those symbols be incredibly difficult, the idea of memorizing character after character with no end in sight does not sound very exciting. Sure, they might be pretty to look at, but learning them by writing them over and over again? Boooring...

3. Unnecessary.
Who says I need to read or write in Japanese anyway? My goal is just learning how to understand what people are saying and know how to answer back. That's sounds like a lot more fun anyway. Why should I go through the trouble of learning a whole new syllabary? I don't need to be literate in order to learn how to speak right?

Wrong. Sometimes you may not realize just how important reading or writing can be when learning a language. Not only is being literate very useful in its own right, it's also incredibly useful in learning how to speak as well. And I'm here to convince you that it's not only necessary, there are ways to make is easy and fun too!

First, let's go over the basic elements of the Japanese writing system. There are actually three (four?) different alphabets.

1. Hiragana (ひらがな)
These are the basic building blocks of sound in Japanese. They can be used to write general Japanese words or parts of words. There are 46 of them in a set, encompassing sounds like a, i, u , e, o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, sa, shi, su, se, so... etc. What's nice in Japanese is that there are only 5 different vowels and thus a limited number of different sounds you can make, so pronunciation is pretty straightforward. Hiragana are generally pretty round and curvy.

I would start learning the hiragana first. There aren't too many of them and I find them easier to learn, probably because they all look so different from each other. This way you'll start to get used to how the phonetic alphabet works. I learned them in small groups, write each of them out individually a few times, and cemented that knowledge through flaschcards or memory games.

2. Katakana (カタカナ)
Katakana are also simple phonetic sounds, just like hiragana, and it's the same set of 46. The difference in usage is that katakana is used for foreign words (things like "coohii" and "hambaagaa" are derived from the English words "coffee" and "hamburger"and would thus be written in katakana). There are a few other exceptions where you can use these, such as for sound effects, certain names, or sometimes for emphasis. While they sound the same as hiragana, they are generally more angular and boxy.

Learning katakana is the next step, since I find them slightly more difficult to learn, mainly due to the fact that several of them look very similar (such as ソ and ン... I swear there's a difference there...) I learned them just like I did hiragana, in small groups and with flashcards, and they're really not bad either.

Together, Hiragana and Katakana are referred to as simply "Kana" and make up the phonetic characters of Japanese. Now, once you've learned them, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and go look at a text of Japanese. You'll start recognizing some symbols! Sure, you might not know what anything means, but instead of looking like a bunch of gibberish, you'll start to see sounds instead. Let yourself feel super excited, it's such a huge step, and use that excitement to get that confidence you need to know you can learn this. The next part's a little tougher, but it's just as doable as the kana.

3. Kanji (漢字)
This is the big, scary element of the writing system. Most kanji look much more complicated than any of the kana, and there are literally thousands of them. They're actually based off of Chinese characters, which were brought over to Japan long ago. Instead of signifying a sound, each kanji has a certain meaning. For example, the rather simple symbol "人" can be pronounced in several different ways (such as "hito" or "jin") but the meaning stays the same: person (or people). So not only are there tons of kanji that can be combined to make words, there are usually a couple of different pronunciations for each kanji, depending on the context. This is generally what overwhelms people (although I'm here to say don't be discouraged!)

Kanji can take months, even years to learn. But I think that learning them bit by bit is totally acceptable - you'll start recognizing more and more as you learn new words. Plus, you don't have to learn every single kanji to be literate. So it really is more doable than it sounds. More concrete lessons to come!

4. Romaji?
I just wanted to briefly mention what is sometimes considered to be a fourth alphabet: romaji. This is just spelling Japanese words out with roman letters. Instead of 日本 (Japan), you would write "nihon." Sure, using romaji is useful at the very beginning when you don't know how to pronounce anything yet, but the faster you stop using romaji the better. It's just not used in Japan, and if you use it for too long, it gets difficult to transfer into kana and kanji. Trust, me, once you get used to how things traditionally work, seeing things written in romaji will start to feel very painful to look at...(that's a good sign!)

So there you have it! A look at all the different syllabaries in the Japanese writing system. It can seem scary as first, but once you start pulling in the part you'll realize it's really not that bad. There are plenty of ways to make reading and writing easy and fun to learn, not to mention lots of methods to keep yourself motivated along the way. I'm hoping to help with that a little bit in my blogs! Hope this helps~

Saturday, January 22, 2011


So this week has been my Youtube debut!

I've been enjoying the process and hope I can continue to maintain the channel successfully. Filming myself is nerve-wracking and awkward, but I think I can get used to it :P The main thing I'm worried about is just taking the time to edit the vids together, coming up with enough ideas to keep it going, etc. I knew this would be the case, but the reality is that making videos is very time consuming, so we'll see if I can keep this up!

Anyway, here are my three intro vids I made in English, Japanese, and French...


Introduction (Japanese) 自己紹介 (日本語)

Introduction (French/Francais)

So this way you get a little preview of my plans, and hear what I sound like in different languages. I've just launched this thing a couple of days ago, so it's still a little empty over there - please drop by and leave a comment, I'd really appreciate it! :D

Friday, January 14, 2011

Motivation Ideas: Song Puzzle

So going along with similar ideas from my last post about motivation, I came up with a new activity to help with motivation. This time, the method itself deals directly in helping learn Japanese. With the previous method, I created a jigsaw puzzle from a drawing. This time, instead of a picture, I did it with a Japanese song.

It’s pretty simple: find the lyrics to a song you like (in Japanese, of course, hopefully with as much kanji as possible). Print them out with a decently sized font and then cut out the lyrics so that each piece is an individual word. Set up tasks for yourself and whenever you complete a task, award yourself a word at random. Then try to piece together the song! This way, you’ll be exposed to kanji you may not know well, pay closer attention to grammar and vocab, understand when to use which particles, etc. And you’ll also have an easier time learning the song by heart if you’re continuously exposed to it.

I used a song that I was already familiar with: Tsubasa wo Kudasai. It’s a pretty and fairly short children’s song that has rather simple lyrics. While I already knew how to sing it, I had never paid much attention to the mechanics of the sentences, the kanji, or even the meaning of some parts. I separated the song into different sections, first verse, second verse, chorus, etc., and then pieced the song together one section at a time before moving on to the next section. With this simple song and separation method, I didn’t have way too many pieces to have to put together at once, so it was much more fun and doable.

The task that I used this method for were my SRS kanji reviews. While I finished going through Heisig’s Remember the Kanji by the beginning of my school semester, it was hard keeping up with it during the semester, especially since I had only briefly seen many of those kanji at the end and didn’t know them very concretely. By the end my winter vacation started I had over 800 kanji in backlog… So I decided to create a little motivation for myself with this puzzle song. The song I picked had just over 80 words in it so it worked out very well – for every 10 kanji I would get through in my backlog, I would give myself a word. By the time I finished going through my entire SRS, I would have completed the song.

After trying this method out, as an experiment, there are things that worked, and other things that I would change. For one, I didn’t give myself word pieces as I went, that was just too much trouble to constantly have to pay attention every time I finished ten more kanji. Generally, I would wait until the end of the day, count up the kanji I went through that day, and give myself the according number of words. Also, all the bits of paper were kind of a hassle. Originally I had paper clipped each section of the song together, and would take off the paper clip one section at a time so I could draw a word from each verse in order. I kept all of these papers in a small ziploc bag, which was nice to travel with, but it was nevertheless a ton of little pieces that were hard to put together and easy to lose. So what I ended up doing was gluing them down to some thin cardboard after I finished a section so I could keep track of them more easily.

As to whether this method is effective… It was for me! It motivated me to get through my kanji, and I know the kanji in the song better than I used to. But, I was already very familiar with the song beforehand, and I think it would have been virtually impossible to piece it together otherwise. I liked the jigsaw puzzle better, I must say, with a picture instead of a song. The visual aspect is more exciting, albeit less educational. Overall, I plan to do this again and think it’s worth trying out, but it miiight be more trouble than it’s worth?

Anyway, just throwing another idea out there! Good luck with your studies~ :D

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tweet Log 13 (September)

Continuing my story through tweets... start at the beginning here.

Go back to part 12.
Go forward to part 14.


Blog Post: Tweet Log 9 (April/May)

Weeeird cat... thing... We saw this on a sign in a mall. Anyone know what it's for? O.o

A bunch of masks that was for sale in Asakusa XD

So I downloaded TweetDeck recently and have been having trouble posting anything in Japanese with it. Anyone know how to fix this?

Arashi's Love Rainbow pv is out! It's not as silly as the title makes it out to be XD But I like the song, and the video's pleasant ^^

Japanese breakfast at Denny's (where they were playing freaking classical music!?) I need to learn to like natto..

Yakiniku! This is from the first time I had a yakiniku dinner with friends and it was so fun and sooo delicious!

I'm not even sure *what* this is... But we had such pretty foods in Japan XD

This semester is craaayzaaay... So hard to find any time/energy to do many kanji reps, but I still try to watch fun Japanese material @_@

Harajuku! It was soooo crowded!

Mustered the courage to talk to some random Japanese guy! (Granted it was an 'international setting' thing-still!) Helps boost my confidence

More of Harajuku. We didn't see anyone *wearing* really crazy outfits, but we still saw some crazy outfits!

Watching Rookies! MAN does the teacher guy love to yell! haha XD

Last pic I have of Harajuku for now. I believe we actually went inside this store. Everything was just so crowded!

Reading my textbook for my Imperial Japan class might cut into my Japanese language reading time, but I'm least I'm still learning a lot :D

A shot of the pond (lake?) at Ueno Zoo. Despite the weather not being great, it was still so pretty~

Had over an hour-long conversation that was predominantly in Japanese today. A little braindead, but had a good time with nice people ^^

Mmm, soba. Got this at one of those places where you get a ticket from a vending machine and that's how you order.

I've been doing my epic chores and just leveled-up. I'm a Level 2 Seeker of Employment now!

Used my new tamago-yaki pan and onigiri molds today to make my first cutesy bento! I'll have to post a picture later ^o^

My poor blog is being neglected ;_; I don't have the pics for my last summer trip post yet, so I'll put something else in the meantime~

Blog Post: Drama Review of Last Friends

After starting it about a year ago, I finally finished Orthros no Inu. Sooo dramatic haha, but I did really like it by the end ^^

This man we met in Japan had hand made this structure that he put on his ceiling. It was really cool~

A beach at Shizuoka. This is where we went to the best onsen evaaarrr~ ^^

忙しい | Lang-8 #lang8

Just got out of lockdown - I was in the building adjacent to where the shooting happened at UT Austin. What a morning...

So I'd totally forgotten about this - FINALLY getting around to posting the first cutesy bento I'd every made ^^

Saturday, January 1, 2011

CultureQuirk: Looking Back and to the Future

Another year gone by. Hope everyone had a great year, and that this coming year goes well too! I’ve been through so much in my own life and while I’ve made a lot of progress with Japanese, I hope to progress even more this year. But in this post I would just like to take a moment and look at how I’m doing in the blogging world. I started this blog at the beginning of 2010, and I can’t believe it’s already been a year!


I wasn’t exactly sure how to manage Twitter when I first started out, and I’m still not sure how to do so now. Initially, I had a much more structured approach to my tweets, but now I mainly just make random posts that are relevant to language, culture, my blog, etc. I do have over 150 followers, which makes me happy, but I’m not necessarily focused on getting a ton more followers or anything at this point. I would still like to use Twitpic more to post photos from Japan in the hopes that it serves as interesting content, I enjoy having conversation with other Twitter users, and I’ll definitely still tweet updates on my blog and whatnot, but the rest should remain pretty random. :D


I’m fairly comfortable with how my blog is going at the moment. I would love to post more, much more, but realistically I’m not sure that can happen. I would rather update a few times a month regularly than have huge gaps between periods of frequent updates. Back when I started this blog, I posted ten entries within the first month, a couple of months later the number dropped down to two, and the frequency eventually leveled out about three times a month. In the coming year I would like to bump that up to at least four times a month, about once week, and hopefully keep that steady.

Content-wise, I think I’d like to keep most of what I do so far. Drama Reviews, Cooking Adventures, Travel posts, Lang-8 posts - I think those are keepers. I realize that the Twitter logs I keep are mostly filler posts, but at the same time there is content there and I do know some people who are interested in reading them since they don’t have a Twitter account or rarely check it. Still, not sure if it’s quite worth it to post them, but unless it becomes really bothersome, I think I might still keep them. Once I catch up to the present, I’ll probably only post at the end of each month the Tweets I made for that month.

Something I would like to put a bit more focus on is posts on learning Japanese – more tips specifically related to Japanese language, as well as on motivation in general, since self-motivation is something I’m very interested in and is clearly useful when studying a language. Maybe some culture posts as well explaining certain traditions, exploring different cuisines, etc could also pop up.

As for future, new topics… I have a couple of ideas that I’m still forming. Like I said, I’d like to make more posts about Japanese learning, but I’d also like to maybe go even more specific than that. Maybe find a way to write progress reports on my own learning, detailing what works and what doesn’t for me. Also, I think I would like to try out making mini Japanese lessons as well. More about that down below, but I’ll see how it goes ^^

I also mentioned self-motivation, and while this may seem like something too general for this blog, I want to try to write about it in a way that specifically applies to learning Japanese. I have a couple of ideas, but again, I’ll see how it goes!

Other future topics I have in mind may not be easy to implement right now. I wish I had more Japanese video games – I would love to write reviews on them. Same with manga – I haven’t read too many different series in Japanese just yet, but I would also like to review those when I can. I may write about what I do have experience with so far if I need more material to post, but these topics may just be addressed at a later time.

Any opinions on content especially would be appreciated – and if you can think of new topics you’d like to hear from me, please let me know!


I plan to create a Facebook page very soon for CultureQuirk. Don’t necessarily have huge plans for specific Facebook-related things just yet, but it would be another way to connect for updates and whatnot (hopefully special content in the future though!) I know plenty of people who check Facebook a lot more often than they check Twitter, blogs, or even their emails. Expect the fanpage to come in the next month or so.


This is my biggest endeavor for the new year, and I’m not sure how it will go… I would like to join the jvlogging community over at Youtube and start making videos! I’m usually pretty camera shy, so this should be pretty interesting… at the same time, I do have some experience with making videos, and I have some ideas, so hopefully it will turn out alright. Mostly I think the videos will simply accompany the blog posts I’ve already made and will continue to make, but this is where I would also like to try some of my new ideas. For example, I’m thinking of making a video or two with some Japanese lessons (and then replicate the lesson in my blog). Hopefully the extra content will be helpful! I’d also like to take all of my footage from the trip I made to Japan and edit it into travel videos to talk about my experience, although that’s going to be sooo much work~

I definitely realize how time-consuming making videos is, so Youtube is a channel where I don’t want to promise too much! I have no idea how often I would be able to update, so this is more of an experiment. But I’d still really like to try it and hope I can make some interesting vids!

I actually already have the Youtube account made (I’ve just been using it to comment on other Jvloggers vids and whatnot) so if you’re interested in subscribing for future updates, here’s the link: Hopefully I’ll also be starting that up in the next month or so.


This isn’t too big of a change, but I actually have my own domain name! From now on I’ll be promoting my blog as “” (instead of ""). For now, it simply links back to this blog, but it’s a lot easier to remember and promote that way.

And there you have it! Please let me know what you think about how I’ve been doing things and my plans for the future – I would love to provide interesting and useful content for you guys! I’ll always try to improve this thing and have some high hopes this year – it is the year of the rabbit, after all!

I’m happy with how the past year’s been for this little blog. I don’t have a ton of subscribers or anything, but that doesn’t bother me – this has still been a really fun experience for me. I appreciate each and every visit and comment I get from you guys, the discussions I’ve been having on Twitter, Youtube, Lang-8, etc., and all the support I’ve been getting both online and off. I hope you’ll continue to follow me into 2011! Happy New Year everyone! あけましておめでとうございます!^o^/