Pic of the day: Passing time leisurely isn't so bad!
Learning for the lazy
I know I wrote about Mnemosyne and its commercial forerunner SuperMemo as late as on last Thursday and before that on August 19. But there is one aspect that I think may have not come across clearly enough: How little work there is actually involved.
Of course, this has a lot to do with one's ambitions. And the encyclopedic homepage of SuperMemo does specifically warn people against taking on too much, for those who do tend to burn out and give up. Being a naturally lazy person (or perhaps it just became second nature during my childhood), I took this advice to heart and entered the 50+ hiragana characters over a period of 4-5 days. The first couple days after that took about as much time (if not more) since I had forgotten a lot of characters and had to repeat them again. And again. Even so, it is not like it took a big bite out of my day. A quarter of an hour perhaps?
Now, it is more like five minutes. And that includes learning the new kanji for the day. (Kanji, like other Japanese words, is the same in singular and plural, but so far I have stuck with one each day.) Mnemosyne attempts to repeat facts at the time where 10% of them are forgotten and 90% still remembered. (In SuperMemo you can set that percentage within reasonable bounds, but 10% is the default there too.) It seems to work eventually, once the program has had time to assess your learning speed, or should I say forgetting speed. These days, I do get around 10 questions each day, and I tend to have forgotten one or two, and nearly forgotten one or two more. So a little worse than plan, but closing in.
As I keep learning, the first questions will show up less and less often, but on the other hand the total number will continue to increase with 1 a day. From what it looks like, learning is outpacing new material at this speed. I will probably start increasing the input. Because spending 1-2 minutes a day repeating is embarrassing even for the lazy!
Mnemosyne (and probably SuperMemo) has a feature called "3-sided card". It is used for exactly the situation I am in, learning languages who look strange. On one side is the word as seen in the alien glyph, on the other side is the pronunciation, and on the third side is the translation. I have not used this for the kanji, but I intend to when I start on actual words. (While some kanji can be used as complete words, that is not really the norm. They are roots of meaning, and each kanji will normally appear as part of different words.) So far I have concentrated on the meaning of the kanji, although I have also written the on-reading and the kun-reading (most kanji have two different pronunciations) so I can repeat them when I revisit the card anyway.
When all the hiragana become trivially easy, then is when I plan to start making my 3-sided cards. Because I plan to use hiragana to write the pronunciation. Since Japanese is mainly written in kanji, hiragana don't have a lot of conflicting pronunciations (although "wo" is generally pronounced "o"). It is not like English where "women" is pronounced with an i and "laughter" is pronounced with an f.
On the other hand, each kanji often has different meanings and different pronunciations, which means that you cannot look at a word written in kanji and know how it is pronounced. No seriously, you can't, even if you know the kanji by heart. (Words are commonly written with two kanji, sometimes more. Oh, and Japanese does not use spaces between words. Horrible puns are possible this way.) Japanese school kids are sometimes embarrassed when they see a word they think they understand and it turns out to mean something entirely different. I am bound to make a lot more such mistakes than they.
So I certainly have my work cut out for me, if I want to learn passable Japanese reading. I may even have to increase my daily study to 10 minutes!
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.