Learning Tips, Miscellaneous, Resources

rhetoric.

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Hi guys! I realised that I was due in for my monthly update on this blog, so here I am 😀 Thankfully, it’s my 1 week mid-semester break at the moment so I have a minute to bash out this post.

My 9-week Italian course finished recently. We had a little class party with lots of food and we did a fun speaking activity to cap things off – we were split into groups and we had to invent our own pub, before introducing it to the rest of the class in Italian. Somebody brought wine and needless to say, I have never cried so hard with laughter in class before – I have subsequently learned that alcohol and language learning mixes molto bene! My voucher actually covers two terms so I think I will enrol for the next 9-week session. In the meantime, the teacher has given us some ‘holiday homework’ to do so I am hoping to tackle that before lessons kick off again in mid-October.

did end up signing up for JLPT N2…but to be honest, I really wasn’t sure about it. But then Dad was just like, “yolo, it can’t hurt” so here I am, $90 poorer (after paying that damn registration fee). I haven’t started studying for it though. This is terrible! I have listening materials and kanji and vocabulary flashcards lined up…but does anybody know if there are any free reading practice materials for N2 floating around on the Net? If you do, please leave a comment and I will give you a beautiful ramen photo in my next post 😛

But in more proactive language learning land, I have recently signed up to Conversation Exchange! I decided that it was finally time to grab the bull by the horns and just open my mouth lol. I have had a Skype session with a French guy living in Paris. I am using Wechat to talk to and send Mandarin messages to somebody living in Tianjin, China. And I met up with a Japanese girl here in Sydney to have a chat in person! She likes ramen too!!1! We have started a two-person ramen club (pls join guys!). I was really hesitant about getting that first message and having these first meetings but the site is really busy (I get several messages everyday) and although you will get some weird messages, you aren’t obliged to respond to them and it’s all very safe and positive – because nearly everybody else just wants a language exchange partner too! I’d recommend the site ^^ If you’re on the site as well, just leave me a comment and I’ll happily link you my profile details 🙂

Conversation Exchange

So that’s about it from me. Just super burned out from university and super hyped up from language exchange. What a wonderful state of mind to be in. But I hope that you guys are well at least – let me know what you’ve been up to do, and happy language learning ^^

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Japanese, Japanese Resources, JLPT N2, Miscellaneous, Resources

in with the new.

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Hello! This is my last post before semester starts again and I neglect the blog. Kinokuniya was having a start-of-semester sale so all Japanese textbooks were 20% off! Bless. So here are the goods! ^^

I’ve started working though the Shin Kanzen Master N2 Grammar book (on Chapter 2!) and this is the series I intend to use to hopefully help me on my way to JLPT N2. I’ve found downloads for all the books in the series except for the listening book, so I thought I may as well buy it. I also decided to buy Unicom’s listening book because I liked what I saw as I flicked through: it appears that Kanzen listening focuses more on improving your listening skills in general, whereas Unicom is more test-specific. So I think they should make a good duo a bit later down the track. I don’t know why both publishers decided to use a red/pink colour for their books though, it’s an odd coincidence! Is there some neurological study linking red and pink with err…listening? I don’t know. Perhaps somebody can shed some light on this 😀

And the third book is of course Benny Lewis’ Fluent in 3 Months. Because I read his blog fairly regularly, I didn’t really feel the need to buy it at the time of its release, but I have since decided to attend his meet up here in Sydney in late March, so I figured the polite thing to do would be to actually have a book for him to sign! A lot of the advice is quite familiar to me, but I’ve been reading it to and from work on the train and I’ve been enjoying it very much. The book is inexpensive and well worth a read. I’m really looking forward to meeting him! But I suspect that I will probably just end up tongue-tied T.T Ah well. We’ll see.

So that’s about it for this week. If any of you have experience with these listening books, or the Shin Kanzen Master books for N2, please let me know – I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. As I mentioned before, I hope that I can keep this blog updated (I’ve been doing so well, this is unusual orz) during semester, but my priority during university is first and foremost not failing law school so we’ll have to see >.< But I’m determined to continue to have time in my life for my beloved languages!

I hope your learning is progressing well, and until next time! ^_^

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Japanese, Japanese Resources, Resources, Textbook Experiences

Textbook Experience: An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese

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Hello everybody! As promised, here is my post on AIATIJ (because who has time to type out the whole title). I have labelled this post as a “textbook experience” rather than a review because I am just a person who blogs about my own language learning and I don’t really feel particularly qualified to review it ‘properly’ as such and I don’t want people to think what I have written about it is definitive. This is just my experience with the book and a chance for you guys to take a look inside and see the structure of the text if you so wish – take from it what you will. In any case, the text and CDs are available to download on the Internet ^^ (I bought the book so I could take it to university + I like paper books). I considered doing a video to accompany this but I decided that my voice sounds too horrible when recorded, and my mum loves to talk on the phone so it’s hard to find a spot in the house to film where the air is not dispersed with Cantonese chitchat =_=

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The book comes with 2 CDs inside the front cover. Every dialogue and reading passage (except for the speed reading exercises) has a corresponding track on the CDs, as well as separate listening practice exercises. The pace of the recordings is quite fast.

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Table of contents: there are 15 chapters, covering a wide range of topics as you can see. However, if there is one issue with this book, it’s that it is heavily geared towards university students (seeing as it was written by university professors for their students originally). This means that a lot of of the book’s dialogues and reading passages take place in a university or homestay context e.g. dealing with misunderstandings with host parents, university clubs etc. This can be a bit unengaging if you are not a university student and/or not going on exchange. I am a university student and I was sick of it at times. The whole content isn’t student-centric but I’d say about 80% of it is.

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Chapter cover page: outlines what the chapter will be teaching you.

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Dialogues: There are three dialogues per chapter, incorporating each chapter’s grammar points and topic matter. I appreciated how the conversations were a mix of both formal and informal language by introducing a variety of contexts (speaking to teachers using honorifics, talking with friends etc.). I think this is important for many intermediate learners because most easier textbooks only use formal ます language, leaving people frustrated about not knowing how to communicate in daily situations using more casual forms. The book also has a good section on 敬語 (keigo).

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Reading Passages: There is usually one reading passage per chapter, two for the last couple. The passages are a good length and some were a good challenge. They have drawn extracts from a variety of external sources, including books, essays and even a newspaper article (which fits in to the N3 criteria of understanding everyday texts). The first few passages are written horizontally and from then on, they are written vertically, also good practice if you wish to start reading authentic Japanese books.

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Vocabulary and Kanji Lists: To be used as one wishes. The kanji lists are divided into kanji that you should be able to read and write and kanji that you should be able to read in each chapter.

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Grammar Notes: Each chapter introduces 8-10 points. It might seem like a lot (?) but some of the ‘grammar’ points are actually more like phrases so it’s not that hard. There’s lots of good sample sentences so you can see the points in use and a short explanation to accompany each one. If I felt that I needed a bit more help understanding the point, I just looked online. You could also potentially invest in a grammar dictionary to aid your studies.

I think you could safely say that the grammar is N3 level. Some of it might even be N4 level because I already knew some of it.

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Other activities: the other activities included per chapter include classroom speaking activities (maybe if you have a study buddy?), writing practice and listening drills. There are no answers or transcripts provided in the book though, which could be a problem if you want to see how you’re going with your listening :/

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Speed Reading: And last but not least, each chapter finishes off with a speed reading exercise – this is to practice reading quickly and learning how to make educated guesses as to the meanings of unknown words by examining the context (as they don’t want you to look up the words you don’t know).

Thoughts on the book: 

GOOD STUFF

  • It’s a good book! 😀 Seriously though, I quite enjoyed it haha
  • Quite self-learner friendly! 🙂
  • I learnt a lot of interesting cultural bits and pieces from it (because not everybody gets to go to Japan =.=)
  • It’s quite thorough
  • Some of the reading passages were quite challenging, but in a good way

NOT SO GOOD STUFF

  • THE UNIVERSITY STUDENT-CENTRIC CONTENT – I DON’T CARE ABOUT HOW TO ASK A TEACHER TO WRITE ME A LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION TO GO ON EXCHANGE ETC ETC Sorry for the caps, but it was just annoying that the book’s target audience is so narrow ie a university student studying Japanese and going on exchange in Japan. Having said that, the reading passages are often broader in context and audience.
  • Lack of transcripts and answers EDIT: transcripts and listening answers can be found on the Japan Times website (thank you almantina!)

I think that’s about all I have to say about AIATIJ – this is why I feel so ill-placed to review things. I have too much fun learning and studying and these endorphins just kind of blind me to any possible objective faults of resources T.T In any case, I hope that this was helpful / interesting. If any of you guys have used the book or might want to use it in future, let me know in the comments! As I said in my last post, I’m still working through Tobira but I hope that I can post about my experience with it at the end of summer break.

See you guys next time ^_^

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Resources

Read an Infinite Number of Foreign Language Magazines Online!

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Uni has started again, so I unfortunately will probably not have as much time to post / write long posts, but I thought I’d just quickly share some links to reading resources.  In my opinion, reading in your target language is one of the best things you can do to improve your skills across all areas, because:

  • you can see grammar used in context, and hence remember it better
  • you can note written expression to use in your own writing practice
  • you can pick up expressions only unique to that language / slang / phrases for conversation
  • you can learn more vocabulary in a quick and engaging manner, which will help you with your reading
  • …which will then feed on to continue this wonderful cycle of benefits!

So without further ado:

  • pdfmagaz.in – magazines in all sorts of languages, for all sorts of interests 

Bonus Tofugu post with links for Japanese reading practice:

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French, French Resources, Miscellaneous, Resources

Snippets + French News Resources

My laptop still isn’t quite working so I am unable to do photo posts, but fear not (!) I promise that I have some recipes and France photos still to come ^^

I’ve been at university for 2 weeks now. I’m studying Law / Arts (Media & Communications), so aside from my core Law and Media subjects, I managed to squeeze in French and Japanese for the Arts component of my degree, and I’m really enjoying it! The language part that is, the rest sucks.

Some bits and pieces from the language learning front:

French

  • I was allowed to skip straight to Senior French 9 (out of 10 levels!! eek…).  The level is okay but I’m beginning to realise that my grammar is not up to scratch though…must add grammar study to the never-ending list of to dos =_=
  • We are studying the work of contemporary French philosopher Michel Serres – do any of you guys know him? He’s eloquent but a bit of an old windbag
  • We are practicing writing compte rendus (written summaries of audio / audiovisual texts in one’s own words). The teacher asked me to read one of mine in front the class and she said it was good!!
  • We will be studying Amélie Nothomb’s novel Les Catilinaires and writing an essay on it (oh dear…)

Japanese

  • I’m in Senior Japanese 5 – smack bang in the middle, but it’s intermediate level work and suits me well
  • We’re studying using An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese – I really like the book, but if you’re not a student, the constant student-based content can be a bit >.< The pace of the class is good too, we do a chapter every week ^^
  • Our Japanese is broken up into 3 1 hour tutorials per week – Reading, Grammar & Speaking, which will hopefully force me to improve my non-existent Japanese speaking skills
  • N3 prep is chugging along…started amping up my listening practice, but the recordings are so fast…I’m in deep shit T.T

Uni Life

  • Joined the French & Japanese societies so I could go to their conversation groups but realized they clash with my timetable so I can’t even go this semester T.T
  • The joy of packed lunch! Occasional late starts mean that I get the time to pick out a new recipe and cook it for my lunch ^^ I’ve tried out Okinawan taco rice (comfort food heaven) and will be cooking something Thai-inspired this week – stayed tune for a recipe (hopefully!)
  • Some reading for any bento / packed lunch fans (who else can’t afford to buy food), a Tofugu interview with a bento artist.

Useful French listening links:

am a Media student, but I must say that I’m a huge fan of current affairs/news! Our first French assessment is a listening test (where we then write a compte rendu summary afterwards) so I’ve found myself doing a lot of listening on the French front. Some useful links if any of you want to practice your French with French current affairs:

  • SBS French: you can listen to podcasts of SBS French radio, foreign films or catch up on the French news (le JT/ le journal télévisé). Otherwise, you can catch it on SBS1 every morning at 8:40am.
  • Replays: another site where you can replay the TV news
  • For those short on time: France Info offers “France Info en 3 minutes” – an audio clip compression of the day’s news in just 3 minutes! It’s absolute gold ^^ It also provides links to more detailed (yet still succint!) written articles featured.
  • For multitaskers: I’m forced to spend a lot of time everyday commuting to uni so I make the most of my train trips (if I’m not sleeping…). Download a wide variety of short podcasts (topics include travel, world news, arts etc) on the Radio France Podcast app and listen to them later.

I hope that these links are useful to any French learners out there ^^

Bonne écoute et à la prochaine fois! (happy listening and until next time!)

x

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