📕️ kuirin's study nook

In a fit of procrastination, I’ve decided to start a language learning log here, for my Japanese, Mandarin, and Cantonese adventures :smiley: (read: motivate me to start learning Chinese again)

I don’t really know how to organize this, so might update this in the future.

Background

Japanese 日本語
The Beginning

I “started” learning Japanese way back in middle school-ish after finding some VNs that were not really translated into English, and went through the whole rigamarole of setting up a text extractor. I tried to read it by looking up everything in the dictionary, having only learned hiragana and zero grammar, so as you can guess, I didn’t make it very far.

I still watched a lot of anime and read a lot of manga. I even dabbled in typesetting for a scanlation group, but didn’t do that for very long. It was pretty fun though!

2017 - 2018

My next foray into Japanese was in college. I took a year, going through Genki I, and then stopped, because I was also learning Chinese at the same time. Despite the short learning period, I think I got a pretty solid foundation in N5 material, because I only needed a bit of review when I went back to it later on.

2019 - 2021

I continued with Japanese on and off with Duolingo, a bit of WaniKani and Bunpro, but never seriously until now, because I always thought, “if I’m going to be learning a language, I should learn Chinese because heritage reasons”, but as a result, I didn’t learn anything at all. When I found WK and the book clubs there around 2021, I was excited, but then quickly burned out. :sweat_smile: I did manage to review all of the N5 grammar points on Bunpro in around a month, though, and started a bit of N4.

2023

I continued with Duolingo on and off, but kept feeling like I wasn’t learning anything, and my time would be better spent actually reading things. I didn’t act on it though because I had a ~400 day streak and I didn’t really know where to start. But then, in October, I went to Japan and bought some manga and found Natively, and decided to learn Japanese again, because why not?

Anyway, I dropped Duolingo. I don’t think Duo has tracked me down yet…

Chinese 普通話 / 粵語

I’m a heritage Cantonese speaker, but I am far from fluent, because I only speak it with my parents and we don’t really talk about anything other than simple daily life things. I figured I should improve it so I could have deeper conversations with my family and took ~4 years of Mandarin in college. Well, my Mandarin got better, and so did my reading, but I didn’t take it in traditional Chinese nor did I actually improve my Cantonese speaking skills. Who woulda thunk?? (insert surprised pikachu face here)

I also briefly tried conversation practice in Cantonese with italki teachers, but I found it quite awkward. Might give it another go sometime…

Current Goals / Activities

I’m bad at goals so this is mostly just current planned activities.

Japanese 日本語

Currently, I’m working my way through N4 grammar points in Bunpro and slowly building up my vocabulary. I don’t feel like learning from a textbook or doing Anki, so I’ve been just reading a lot with the dictionary + some jpdb.io for upcoming book clubs. A lot of the books (mostly manga) I want to read are around N3 level by Natively standards, which seems doable, so I want to try to get to the point where I can do more extensive reading with fewer lookups.

I also signed up for way too many book clubs next year (children’s book, beginner light novel, ?jojo?), not to mention the ABBC and BBC book clubs (though those have been very doable so far). I might drop some of them so I don’t burn out.

Mandarin 普通話

I guess my current goal for Mandarin would be “read (anything at all)”! And start learning traditional Chinese. I’m currently stuck in the intermediate (??) plateau but I really don’t feel like reading children’s books, so I might just dive into some easier webnovels and spam the popup dictionary. Better than not reading at all!

I also got some graded readers in Pleco, so I’m planning to work my way through those as well.

Cantonese 粵語

I keep saying I want to learn to speak Cantonese better, and therefore should probably get more 1:1 conversation practice, but that’s… stressful and intimidating. For now I want to find a decent thing to watch or listen to and just be more consistent about it. I have a couple of podcasts and YT channels that I should check out more often.

I wish there were more Cantonese-subbed content that I could watch since my reading skills are decent, but unfortunately a lot of Cantonese content is subbed in Standard Chinese (Mandarin). Not a big deal since there’s shared vocab, but does make it harder to look up words…

Misc (non-language)

Next year I am restarting my job search (currently between jobs due to burnout) – as I’m in software engineering but haven’t interviewed in a couple of years, I have a lot of studying to do. So I probably will have a lot less free time for language learning. We shall see!

Expectations

I will probably be using this log to track my weekly and/or monthly activities across all three languages and figure out what’s working for me, and maybe put some fun misc things that I’ve run into and want to share.

For example:

16 Likes

2023-12-24

Meta (Yomitan, Anki, etc)

Recently I finally installed Yomitan (which has Firefox support!) and spent like an hour fiddling with Yomitan settings and downloading a bunch of dictionaries from GitHub - MarvNC/yomichan-dictionaries They even have Cantonese which is nice.

I’ve managed to configure it so I have a default profile with Japanese dictionaries that activates on Ctrl, but Cmd + Ctrl activates the profile with Chinese dictionaries. No need to manually toggle between popup dictionary extensions every time I want to switch!

I’ve also set up AnkiConnect, but don’t really want another SRS on the pile… maybe I’ll look into it later for Chinese as I don’t have any good vocab SRS going for that right now.

Japanese

I started going to a weekly in-person Japanese language meetup which is supposed to be a self-study group, but we mostly just get distracted talking to each other. It’s fun though! I learned that there exist Japanese escape room books, and I wish that my Japanese was better, because I like puzzles.

Reading

Ongoing:

  • 怪しくゆかいな妖怪穴 | L30?? - I’ve been keeping up with one entry a day for the Yokai advent which has been surprisingly not so bad so far (with a dictionary, ofc). I don’t know if I will continue reading it next year, but maybe it could count as my nonfiction bingo square if I read more than half of it in 2024 :thinking:
  • Satori Reader - Considering my tendencies to “just guess the meaning and roll with it” it’s nice to have in-depth grammar explanations about nuances I haven’t really thought about. I’ve managed to get away with the former because I’ve been reading manga, but once I read more text-only stuff I assume guessing will get a lot harder.
  • この美術部には問題がある! 1 | L24 [WK BBC]- I would like this more if the comedy didn’t depend on ““anime tropes”” (aka fanservice)/one of the main characters being into 2d waifus so much…
  • 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん 1 | L21 [WK ABBC] - might just read the whole volume because the book club pace is very slow.

Finished:

  • レンタルおにいちゃん (3) | L18 - Probably going to leave the last book for the 2024 bingo challenge, but this has been a very heartwarming series to read.
  • ルリドラゴン 1 | L19 - Learned a decent amount of casual Japanese from this book. I really want to know the backstory between the mom and the dragon. It’s kind of entertaining to read a story set in the modern world with a fantasy element that is just treated as “normal”.

Maybe:

  • Tempted to join the Christmas Tina VN club because it has both Japanese and Chinese, but also I have way too many other Japanese book clubs I want to join in the next month. Decisions… Maybe I could read along with the Chinese version instead.
Mandarin

Reading

  • the Chinese translation of 弟の夫 2 | L21 - the series so far is a good read for me (I think I am pretty close to the recommended 90~95% known words for extensive reading for this one minus the informational blurbs between some chapters)
  • Book of No Sleep 無眠書 - I picked this up in HK. It appears to be a bilingual collection of short scary stories from /r/shortscarystories or other subreddits of dubious quality… in the store they were up to book 4. The English (and I assume original) versions of the stories are… okay. I mostly got this because it seemed like a relatively easy way to get used to traditional Chinese and have something to read in short chunks instead of giant walls of text. The most interesting thing about this book is that it’s basically all black, even around the page edges, and the title/blurb is glossy black against the matte black of the cover.

I also found Hack Chinese™ Official which is an SRS for Mandarin (kind of like jpdb.io with much fewer built in lists), but it’s pretty expensive. I’m trying out the free trial for now.

Cantonese

Audiovisual

  • Listened to a couple of episodes of 茶嘖 which appears to be a podcast about life philosophy, etc. I think I like having short episodes to focus on or otherwise I’m just going to lose interest and tune stuff out, like I do with podcasts in English…
  • Also started 模擬生存空間 which seems to be a podcast of two friends talking about various topics or nothing in particular.
  • Found a Cantonese let’s play channel GamePlayHK and watching their playthrough of 《夜迴三》 , I like it so far. Gives me an excuse to swap out the random YT videos I watch while eating.
  • Signed up for a trial Cantonese lesson on italki for Jan 10 because I might as well ask the teacher for learning resources as well.

Fun video of the week: Twitter X in the '80s

7 Likes

I saw on Natively you also finished https://learnnatively.com/book/5723112d75/. Well done for a second read or so at your level, seems like it’s pretty rough difficulty-wise with a butt-tonne of kansai-ben?

3 Likes

Yeah, the whole thing is in kansai-ben, but it was… not bad. I first skimmed through a few “kansai-ben 101” articles etc and I was doing a lot of dictionary lookups anyway. I think if I’d read some of Colloquial Kansai Japanese―まいど! おおきに! 関西弁 (Tuttle language library) | L15 it would have helped more (in terms of some of the conjugations/funky -nai form). After a bit I knew enough to get the gist of things, even though I may have misinterpreted some dialogue sentences.

It’s the only manga I’ve read so far where there’s a whole section that’s completely flown over my head comprehension-wise, though I wasn’t reading it super intensively. I also bet that a couple of the key scenes that I didn’t understand would have been a little more comprehensible if I knew about 花物語 at the time, because to me the characters were just vaguely talking about a book. The kansai-ben definitely made this harder too…

2 Likes

2024-01-07

Decided I’m not going to do weekly updates because I don’t finish things quickly enough for them to be interesting.

Japanese

Reading

  • 奇譚ルーム | L24 - A book about a person who gets caught up in an SNS VR death game. I was bored and didn’t feel like reading more slice of life, so when I saw this in the activity feed I thought it was a pretty interesting concept and maybe an accessible mystery/murdery/book for my level. So I guess I managed to start a real book before the two natively book clubs later this month? I like it so far from a learning standpoint, the prose is simple and somewhat repetitive. Can’t call it striking prose, though, ha.
  • 四つ子ぐらし 1 ひみつの姉妹生活、スタート! | L22 - Got a copy from the library since I recognized it as one of the Children’s Books Book Club nominations because why not (even though I definitely don’t have time to read all of these). I started reading this in the evening during my “electronics off” time period so I couldn’t do any dictionary look ups, but I could still follow the story so far (even though I’m def missing a lot of the details), so maybe good practice for less intensive reading.
  • ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 1 | L30 - Started the JJBA book club. It’s been not so bad so far despite the inconsistent furigana. I didn’t bother looking up all the obscure vocab in the prologue but I think I got the gist of it because of Chinese, nice. I have no idea what to expect since I’ve never watched JoJo (didn’t even know Dio was the villain, lol) but from the start I could hear the dramatic narrator voice in my head :stuck_out_tongue:
  • (Finished) 可愛いだけじゃない式守さん 1 | L18 - cute story. Decided to finish it early because ABBC was a bit slow. Art was pretty good too.

Audiovisual

  • (Finished) ポケモンコンシェルジュ | L20 - Easy 5 stars, this was so cute! I hope Pokemon makes more slice of life stuff. I went in not knowing what to expect but I could understand most of it (except the Japanese pokemon names, haha…)
  • ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 Phantom Blood & Battle Tendency | L30 - Watching this alongside the manga with JP subs, it’s interesting to compare what they changed. I found it harder to parse the JP subs though (I was using Animelon) because sometimes the sentences run on each other, whereas the manga has proper breaks.
  • ふらいんぐうぃっち S1 | L20 - For some reason I find it more tolerable to watch the anime instead of reading the manga :thinking: Maybe it’s because I found ch 1 to be particularly lookup heavy while being not very interesting. I haven’t read any further but I’m a couple of episodes into the anime.
Mandarin

Reading

  • 弟の夫 3 | L20 - continuing with the series, a good read.
  • Christmas Tina ‐泡沫冬景‐ | vndb - reading alongside the Natively club in Traditional Chinese though it’s a Japanese reading club. Figured I was reading too much Japanese already and one of the protagonists is actually Chinese, so. Definitely would not be able to keep up with the club in Japanese. Unfortunately the VN is kind of frustrating me right now for story reasons. We’ll see if it gets better…

I guess if I keep reading Chinese translations of things I will learn a lot more Taiwanese specific vocab :thinking: For some reason most foreign media translations are done by Taiwan (so I’ve heard) or are in Traditional Chinese (so definitely not done by mainland China).

Other

I mentioned last time that I was trying out Hack Chinese but I didn’t actually keep up with it, RIP. I think I’ll just use Pleco if I ever figure out a good way to use SRS via extensive reading instead.

Cantonese

Oops! No progress here. But I took a look at the Refold Cantonese discord server and learned about these free graded readers which have a quite interesting (if inefficient) way of marking tones. For example, from 00248p:《食月亮嘅巨龍》The Dragon Who Ate the Moon - 冚唪唥粵文讀本 Hambaanglaang Cantonese Graded Readers:

Though the stories don’t seem that interesting, I probably should go read through some of these to visually ingrain the tones → tone number in my head, because I have no intuition around that…

I also found a podcast 絮言.狂想 舊文 - Rhapsody in Lingo on linguistics and language, which actually has Cantonese transcripts (only the first chunk of each episode is free though). I really wonder how common writing in Cantonese is. I know I’ve seen people write in it in YT comments, so I guess blogs and more informal sites might do it.

I’m going to be a lot busier over the next few months with studying programming stuff, so will have less time for language learning, sadly. I hope I can still do a bit of reading every day, and at the very least keep up with existing book clubs. I’m pretty doubtful about starting both the beginner LN and children’s book book clubs at the end of the month though – my reading speed is quite slow.

7 Likes

bonus: this intentionally terrible string of kanji

3 Likes

Hi kuirin! That’s impressive that you’re studying multiple languages at once. I’m a heritage Mandarin speaker, and studied it for a while a few years back, but I have not yet studied it simultaneously with Japanese.

That’s a good idea to watch the Jojo anime along with reading the manga!

Good luck in your studies!

3 Likes

That’s impressive that you’re studying multiple languages at once

Thanks! Well, I’ve mostly been studying Japanese with some Chinese reading now and then. Nowhere near, say, @bibliothecary levels of multilingualism :stuck_out_tongue:

Though I’m trying to refrain from picking up Spanish again now that Natively has it, because what is free time

8 Likes

I’m Japanese and French, currently, and trying not to go back to German now that it’s on Natively. And also not Mandarin. Don’t you dare start Mandarin… I mean, friends are overrated, right? :joy:

8 Likes

You’re all very impressive! :hushed:
(If Natively adds French or Mandarin I might also be tempted)

6 Likes

Same here. Mandarin is awfully tempting, but the absolute last thing I need is another character-based language on my plate. @.@

5 Likes

2024-01-21

Japanese

この美術部には問題がある! 1 | L24 - Finished this today and left a review. The genre isn’t for me, so no plans to continue with the series.

四つ子ぐらし 1 ひみつの姉妹生活、スタート! | L22 - Still enjoying this! I put off reading it though and am now contemplating if I can finish the remaining ~170 pages within a week before I have to return it. If I can speedrun it, that will be my first completed Japanese book lol. But so far I’m taking like 1 hour to read ~20 pages without any dictionary lookup, so that’s going to be pretty daunting.

I do like how it’s at a level where I can infer the meanings of some of the words I’ve never seen before (even though there are definitely a lot of adjectives etc that I have no idea about). I tend to lean heavily on immediate dictionary lookup but actually spending some time to guess the meaning kind of helps? And doesn’t break the flow as much. I’m trying to do this with Cantonese videos as well.

ジョジョの奇妙な冒険 1 | L30 - enjoying this a lot so far. I wouldn’t have guessed myself to be a fan of over-the-top shonen drama but it’s just Fun. It’s definitely a nice change of pace from slice of life too.

Mandarin

Finished My Brother’s Husband, really liked it. It was a quite interesting read, seeing the Japanese main character contemplate his biases and prejudices around gay people and grow as a person. (I don’t know how realistic it is – but one would hope…) There were also informational interludes by the POV of Mike, the Canadian main character, which explained aspects of the LGBTQ commuity and history from a Western viewpoint. I wonder how many of these concepts/terminology regarding gender, sexuality, etc were adopted from Western culture and if any of them had unique Japanese origins as well. It’d be cool to reread this in the original Japanese to pick up the language used as well.

Continuing with Christmas Tina. Actually noticed some bits of Cantonese used in the latest week’s reading which was fun. Wondering if I should bring my windows laptop (which I’m just using for texthooking) when I visit home early next month. Otherwise I’ll have to read on my steam deck for the rest of the book club, which, well, I tried getting Textractor working on it earlier but have to futz around with steam/proton/wine prefixes and I don’t know if I feel like it. Maybe I’ll just go without and take the comprehension hit.

Cantonese

I started italki lessons with a Cantonese tutor who is also a heritage speaker, which helps a lot in terms of understanding where the gaps in my knowledge are and knowing how to address them. (For example – I have no idea which tones are which.) She gave me this immersion worksheet where I’m supposed to write down any word that I don’t recognize and guess the meaning before checking the dictionary, which I think I should do more often at my level.

She’s having me watch some videos from https://www.youtube.com/@pomatohk to assess my comprehension level. It’s a comedy skit channel and the videos are pretty good, I just wish they didn’t have hardcoded english subs so I don’t have to awkwardly position my browser window to hide them lol.

Otherwise we’re having conversation practice and I am very painfully aware of the big gap between my speaking ability and my comprehension – it feels like I revert to being 5 years old when I try to talk (and I blank a lot too). Maybe partly nerves, partly lack of practice, and partly my habit of thinking really slowly in general…

Misc

I haven’t filled out any of my bingo squares because I haven’t been finishing anything in Japanese really. I wonder if I should do a Japanese-Chinese combo card…

7 Likes

I keep on seeing this get really good reviews and I’m like, her? But I think I’ll need to pick it up soon because it has an audiobook and I might also use it for extensive reading (which I also never do because lookups on my phone are so darn fast).

1 Like

Her?

Anyway, so far, it’s pretty wholesome and fluffy (though I just got to a part with some mystery). For a children’s book it’s actually fairly thoughtful in exploring how each of the sisters’ upbringing affects the more mundane aspects of their lives/behaviors. There’s a lot of inner monologue rather than plot though, which YMMV.

I started it yesterday. Only through chapter 1, but it’s a lot better than a lot of the other kids bunko series I’ve read. I’m trying to read along with the audiobook at normal speed but I can’t help myself and am stopping to look up a few words as I go. Glad I finally took it up. :slight_smile:

tenor

sorry for the hot mess, I couldn’t get the animated version working from my phone :joy:

2 Likes

2024-02-13

Very hectic couple of weeks! Traveling and such. I wrote a partial update like about two weeks ago and never posted, so some of this is from that.

Japanese

Finished

  • 四つ子ぐらし 1 ひみつの姉妹生活、スタート! | L22 - finished this in time mostly by not looking many things up. First Japanese book completed :tada: I enjoyed it and understood more than expected.
  • グッドモーニングレオン GoodMorningLeon 1 | L22 - Finished this before flying out instead of packing. It was very lighthearted and fun. I enjoyed reading about cat shenanigans, the cat in this book is very hoity-toity heh. I want more of this genre…
  • スーパーの裏でヤニ吸うふたり(1) | L25 - Sped through this (relatively speaking) because vol 1 was temporarily free for a week. I really liked it! Normally I’m not a fan of romance (especially if it’s straight – tired tropes and dynamics) but for this I mostly vibed with Sasaki’s eternal exhaustion, lol. And secret identities are always fun, even if in this case Sasaki is just oblivious. I’m still not sure about the age gap but it feels like it could work?

Reading (mostly book clubs)

  • また、同じ夢を見ていた | L25 - pretty difficult because of the abstract subject matter and longer sentences, but so far a pretty interesting read. It does take a lot of energy to get through the week’s reading though, but using my commute as an excuse to get my reading done.
  • ふしぎ駄菓子屋 銭天堂 1 | L24 - only one level lower than また夢 but feels way easier to read for some reason. Probably because it’s plottier and more fast-paced. Quite enjoying it so far!

Mandarin

  • Catching up with Christmas Tina book club. Going to be traveling again next week, probably falling behind…
  • Picked up 鬼地方 by 陳思宏 (Ghost Town by Kevin Chen) from the library and it seems not too impossible for my level. I guess now I have to read it because of the return deadline. This is probably the best way to get me to actually finish things on a timely basis outside of book clubs… Even though I prefer ebooks for ease of lookups. (Still haven’t started reading it though, it’s been almost a month. Oops!)

Cantonese

Got a recommendation for a Cantonese time travel drama by my tutor - 尋秦記 01/40 | TVB 2001 - my lack of patience for watching TV shows extends to language learning too… Even though I watch super long let’s plays just fine. Going to slowly watch this over a week eventually.

I was reminded of my attempt to watch the Cantonese dub of Death Note a while back, but the YT playlist seems to have been taken down…

Also got recommended How to write in a foreign language (even as a beginner) to help with production - haven’t watched it yet but apparently the gist is that you pick a weekly topic, consume input about the same topic, and write daily journal entries and such regarding that topic. I probably should do that for Chinese because my production is way behind my speaking. (Hell, I should probably do that for English too!)

Misc

  • I keep looking at my stats page and feeling sad that I’m not reading as many pages as I was in November, but I am reading 1) harder books (+ much less manga) and 2) am much busier, so I really should be happy with however much I do get done :thinking:
  • I am not joining the spanish book club. Nooope. i am not looking for a spanish popup dictionary either
  • I finally redrew my avatar to be less of a half-assed sketch and more of an actual fanart. wonder if anyone noticed :eyes:
8 Likes

Congratulations!! This is huge!! And it looks like you’re on the way to many more!

5 Likes