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Mnemosyne

A few months ago, I wrote about a learning program called Mnemosyne that I found and I am now ready to write a little review about it.

Since I am always on the computer working or procrastinating anyway, I found this program quite useful because it makes reviewing new kanji and vocabulary very easy.

Although there are some places where you can download word lists for various languages (I will tell you where later), the strength of the program really shows when you make your own flash card deck. Making a “deck” is time consuming, but later on it really pays off.

After creating a card, the program asks you to give each one a rank from 0 to 5. A rank 0 card means that it is something you have never seen before while a rank 5 means that you more or less know the information cold. Items that are ranked as 5 will show up every now and then while lower ranked cards will pop up either daily,  a few times a week, or once a week. The goal is to have the information you want to keep show up just when you are on the verge of forgetting it, so applying the proper rank is important.

As I mentioned before, I found this program really helpful for learning vocabulary and kanji. I made a grammar deck, but it didn’t work out because many grammar items depend on context so much, writing the “meaning” wasn’t especially useful. Many times, translating those items ito English was useless because although two points may have the same meaning on the surface, the usage was sometimes way different. English tended to oversimplify things and gloss over the nuances I need to be able to delineate on the test or when reading something.

My final verdict is that I am going to continue using the program because it makes things so easy for me. If anyone else out there is using the program and would like to trade data lists, please tell me.

Blogs on Kanji

Well, after teasing me about my wife “helping” me with my homework a few weeks ago (hey, I was busy and we needed to know the answers right away, right?) Our friend Angeline has provided us with a list of other blogs that share our interest in kanji study. I will add them to the blog roll or whatever, but in the meantime, check the out for yourself:

Today, I searched for some blogs that wrote about Kanji study in wordpress and I found some very nice blogs about Kanji. I’ll list them all down here:

1) http://goddesscarlie.wordpress.com/2007/05/19/kanji-websites/

2) http://nihongonobenkyou.wordpress.com/kanji/kanji-notes/kanji-breakdown/

3) http://dshock.wordpress.com/2006/08/18/japanese-kanji/

4) http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/about

5) http://www.saiga-jp.com/kanji_dictionary.html?

6) http://atylmojapanese.wordpress.com/

7) http://www.thejapanesepage.com/

8) http://www.1nichi1kai.com/

9) http://dejima.wordpress.com/learn-japanese/

10) http://pavsjlpt.wordpress.com/

So far, these sites looks good to me …the rest is….. unknown….

This Months Wired

Today, I finally got a chance to sit down and read something that was not work related. On wired.com, I found an article about a guy named Piotr Wozniak who was struggling to learn English and ended up creating an adaptive program called SuperMemo. Basically, it’s a flashcard program that keeps track of what you forget and keeps stats for you. Now for anyone else out there who has a ton of stuff to memorize, something the knows what you don’t know is quite useful. Sure, you could just make two separate stacks for the things you know and the things you don’t, but how about if you have thousands of cards? Or how about the kanji you can read, but not write? Or the ones you can translate, but you don’t know the Japanese or Chinese reading?

This lead me to an open source program called Mnemosyne that can take that into account. I am trying it out right now, but I plan to write a little review about it. I will say one thing about the the program though: if you have a test next week, the techniques behind SuperMemo and Mnemosyne will not work for you. It’s made to put the info into your long term memory which usually takes time. Cramming is out, but once you go through the process, you should be able to remember the stuff for years. That’s a lot more valuable.

Differences

Last Saturday we all met for our weekly Japanese study session. This time, we worked on a test from 1995 that Angeline was kind enough to find online and send to us. While going through the test, I noticed that for the most part, things felt pretty much the same until I got to the word usage part. In the old tests, they provided you with a definition, then you had to find the sentence where the word is used in the same context. In more recent tests, they give you a sentence where you can hopefully infer the meaning of the word and choose the corressponding answer.

I think that this change makes that section a bit harder because if you run into some usage you don’t know, then you don’t have anything to help you out. All you can do is look at the answers and check your gut to see which one feels right. That means that all those past tests will have lists of those alternative word usages making them really nice for studying. They hand everything to you and you don’t have to bother guessing, but you still have to be able to find the right answer.

Now that things are calming down a little, I found some time to post. I wanted to tell everyone about www.manythings.org/japanese.

Here, you can find literally hundreds of quizzes from the basics all the way up to JLPT 1. A few quizzes I found useful: 260 commonly used ii-type adjectives, and Japanese newspaper words that use no kanji (a lot of tricky, grammar point type words pop up). There is also an abundance of straight up kanji practice.

This is a very cool site for a Japanese magazine.

It also has very cool navigation controls when you access the site.

Lots of very professional and cool photos in the site.

JLPT Kanji Project

http://www.jlpt-kanji.com/

This is a nice website for learning Japanese kanji according to the JLPT level. One thing that makes this site nice is that once you have logged in, you can save the kanji that you want to study under your user name and print flashcards. Another handy thing is that in the definition, it provides not only the meaning and examples of the kanji where it’s various readings are applied, but also has other characters that are very similar like 先 and 洗, or 未 and 末.