Plans for Next Year

Written by Yuri Karabatov | Follow me on Twitter

Sorry for missing a couple of posts, I caught cold, had to work a bit, so all in all had not enough time to concentrate and write properly. My head doesn’t work in short chunks time, I need several uninterrupted hours to do serious thinking and writing. I’ve made a note of this and now will write up some posts in advance when I have enough time, so as not to go off schedule.

I’ll be rocking next year along the lines of Chris Guillebeau’s annual review, which is about creating a roadmap for the whole year, with categories of actions and their deadlines.

This year I’ve fully embraced planning, daily and weekly, and now it’s time to take the next step. In the past years many things did not happen because I hadn’t written a year plan; every December I feel bad because of so much not accomplished. Next year everything will be different.

Main Course

I’ve thoroughly studied Tyler Tervooren’s “Be Unreasonably Reasonable” and couldn’t help coming up with something. What language to study, which is unreasonably hard to become fluent at in one year, and prove it by taking a certified exam? For me it’s definitely Japanese. Don’t close the page yet, let me explain :)

Why Japanese?

I’m actually feeling guilty because of this choice. It’s become sort of a default second language, mostly because of wildly popular anime, but I have other reasons.

One of the reasons to start on Japanese is reading. I’m actually interested in Japanese history, especially 16th century, haiku poems, and contemporary fiction. When I was studying English some fifteen years ago, reading became my strongest source of motivation for further study. When I was thinking about reading my favorite writers’ books in English, I was thrilled and studied twice harder.

Other reason is philosophy. I believe every nation has its special mentality, and Japanese have a very peculiar one, of which I would like to know more. Isn’t it better to study Japanese philosophy using Japanese originals, rather than translations into English or Russian?

One more reason is my wife. She is much into Japanese music and anime, and that’s why she speaks the language at a decent level. This year she visited Japan and had no problems talking to natives whatsoever, which is great. When I know more than two words, I’ll be able to talk to her; and we’ll speak only Japanese between us, once I reach a certain level. It will make a big difference, because it will switch our thinking to Japanese, which stimulates brain to understand more of what it’s thinking.

The last, but not the least, is seeing those squiggly signs on a page and not being able to read them. Sometimes it’s really annoying :) Besides, I find them rather beautiful, which leads to one more reason: calligraphy. I can’t even think of studying Japanese calligraphy without understanding what the hieroglyphs mean.

Well, I have a few reasons and for me they are quite convincing. You may think of me as you like, but I’ll go for it, because I know it will be fun! That’s the only reason I need.

The Test

As some of you may know, every December the Japan Foundation holds a special test for evaluating knowledge of Japanese, which is unpretentiously called JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test. There are five levels, first being the hardest and demanding the knowledge of 2 thousand hieroglyphs and about 10 thousand words, as well as advanced listening skills. At the end of 2011 in December, I will be taking the first level of JLPT, or “N1” as it is called in the revised version of the test. There’s not much information on the internet, but they say reaching the N1 level takes from two years upwards in general. I will try and pass it after one year of study.

Now I don’t want you to think I’m making the JLPT my goal. I don’t! JLPT is a test which doesn’t show real level of proficiency: it doesn’t test speaking and writing, for example. Nevertheless, it’s a standard and passing it will make me happy big time. My real goal will be the ability to read the books which I’d like to read, to watch movies I’d like to watch, and to talk to people about anything. Remember, language is for speaking. I will be talking about proper goal-setting in my next post.

The Blog

Learning Japanese will not hinder the development of this blog in any way. On the contrary, it will help, because I will be using the exact same techniques and tips I will be posting on this blog for learning Japanese. In a year I will have to reach the level of reading contemporary fiction and talking to people on a variety of topics. It won’t be easy, and that’s why I’m writing this blog: to help us achieve more in less time.

There are a lot of things which can speed up learning a language, like mnemonics, enabling people to remember and recall long lists of words. Mnemonics are an evident learning aid, while decent sleep, about which I wrote in “The Simplest Way to Improve Memory”, is quite obscure, but it really helps when you’re fully alert, doesn’t it? So this blog will be about these evident and obscure techniques and hacks to accelerate language learning and supercharge memory.

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