[GEEKY THOUGHTS] I Bought Things & I Tell You Why

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I went to NYC the other day and bought a ton of things, like I usually do. Some things are for the future, while others are for now. I feel like writing a blog entry just explaining some of my future plans. I figure that it’ll be interesting to look back at this post to see what I wanted to achieve and what I have or haven’t. I mean, that is kind of an awesome concept, right?

The first thing I want to start talking about are the arguably least important things to me, which was the batch of Pokémon plushies and the piano book I got from Nintendo World. IMG_1214The piano book has an obviously link to my previously mentioned interest in music. I want to learn how to read, write, and play music, starting with my keyboard (a musical keyboard, not a computer keyboard, even though that does make music itself with all its pretty clacking sounds), which is essentially a piano (you’re welcome to correct me if I’m wrong). I need music to practice how to at least read and play and I felt something that had “Easy Piano” in the title would work so wonderfully. The music book contains “The Song of Storms”, arguably my favourite piece in the entire Zelda franchise simply because it whisks me away so easily. I plan on using the book for music practice.

The Pokémon plushies seem irrelevant. I’m sure some people would say they are a waste of money and I already have enough plushies. I disagree in both aspects – I do not find them a waste of money and I do not have enough plushies.

When I first moved into this house, I never felt one hundred percent comfortable. One day it occurred to me that my room was missing Pokémon. My previous room had Pokémon plushies all over the place, while my new one did not. Since then, I realized that Pokémon plushies were the single key to making an unfamiliar place more like home to me.

Pokémon plushies, for me, are both objects to cuddle with that won’t make me feel awkward, unloved, or afraid, and objects to decorate with. Part of my reason for wanting so many Pokémon plushies is entirely for decoration! I hope that when I have a home in the future, every room you step into will have at least one Pokémon plushie on display. Pokémon are kind of my protectors have happiness and inspirations. I really hope that never goes away or it’s one of those things if it does, it’s only temporary.

I bought the Meloetta plushie primarily to go with my other Meloetta plushie (she has two formes – yes, formes, that’s how it’s spelled). The Mijumaru/Oshawott one was to honour the fact I haven’t chosen it yet as a starter in generation 5 and I feel kind of bad for that.

The Fokko/Fennekin and Keromatsu/Froakie ones were just because I always wanted another huge Pokémon plushie. They make me wanna sew a life sized Pikachu one that can chill on my shoulder if I ever cosplay Ash again. Also, they’re great to hug. Like, super great. I’m pretty sure they’re life sized too, which just adds to the appeal for me.

Overall though, everything is a decoration, like a pillow or a curtain.

Second not-as-important things are all the non-study books I bought (and Phantom Hourglass). IMG_1204Now, unlike Pokémon plushies that don’t really do anything but help me release oxytocin and act as decorations, these all provide me with reading materials and reminders that, hey, you know, I gotta get back to studying Japanese so none of these go to waste.

I know, I know – I have a lot of reading materials already. They vary with reading level. A lot of the manga series I own have multiple volumes and I would like to have most or all of them when I start reading. I haven’t read one Japanese manga all the way through and I think the only one I started flying through was Conbini-kun, only because it’s one of my favourite manga and I have read it several times in English (also, the artwork is both beautiful and adorable).

Doraemon (the cover with that blue cat thing) and the Pokémon manga were both bought because I wanted them. I’ve been wanting Doraemon for a while now, particularly because the character is so well known and so beloved in Japan and wanted to know more about it in a more active way than a summary. The Pokémon one was just because it was Pokémon. The Beelzebub volumes were simply to continue the ones I already own (up to volume 10).

I’ll admit, I’m buying Beelzebub post-anime watching and at this point it’s making me unsure if I should collect them or not. Am I interested in reading the manga? Yes. Am I interested in seeing how different the manga is from the anime? Yes. Do I still feel the same way about the series? I don’t know. I actually want to go rewatch the anime to see. I still might like it though, since it has that “everyone comes together to fight a greater evil” sort of trope. I doubt the series will be released in English too without many edits (I doubt that a naked baby would go over well in the USA), so I would like to be able to read it in its original, unedited form.

Beelzebub is meant to be a “gift” to myself for reaching a certain level of Japanese. I was going to do so after I complete the Genki series, but I think I might wait until after I’m past Intermediate. The words are harder than a book for children (despite the series is target towards a younger audience, probably between 10 to 13) and I would feel better reading it if I didn’t have to pick up a dictionary every couple of seconds.

I’ll probably read Doraemon after I brush up on my Japanese, as well as the Pokémon manga. Both of those manga I don’t mind the idea of opening up a dictionary every few words simply to “pretend” I know more Japanese than I do. I’m actually sick of going through stuff and only understanding bits and pieces of what it says, so putting the effort in to understand everything will be great.

I’m particularly interested in the Pokémon manga since it’s an adaption of one of the Pokémon movies. I have found that I either like the manga adaptions as much as the actual movie (in the case of the Darkrai one) or I liked them better than the actual movie (in the case of the Manaphy one; note I love the regular Manaphy movie too – I just liked that the manga had May do more and the overall story was more entertaining than the actual movie). I didn’t like the first Best Wishes movies (they had a double feature) that much, so I’m hoping the manga adaption is better.

The Phantom Hourglass game is for study purposes. The Legend of Zelda games are super awesome, as they contain kanji WITH furigana (if you don’t know what that is, please go look it up – I’ve mentioned it many times in my previous entries). At least, the most recent ones I’ve played do. It’s really helpful for studying. Sometimes it teaches me new words that are usually written in kanji, while other times it tests me in remember what the word means. It’s definitely worth playing if you’re studying Japanese.

Off topic, but the main Pokémon games have disappointed me in the Japanese learning aspects. While they, quite awesomely added kanji as an option in the Japanese version, it’s either you have to have kana only or you have to have kanji turned on with no furigana. For me, it’s a debate between do I want to be able to read everything or do I want to read what I can and have gaps in the reading? I usually opt for kana in that case, so I can read everything. I don’t know why they can’t have kanji with furigana though – the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game on the 3DS had it, as did Pokémon Conquest. I know those two aren’t made by Game Freak, but I don’t understand why Game Freak just couldn’t do the same thing with the kanji with the furigana.

Back ON topic, the Shouko Nakagawa autobiography is something of interest to me and I hope to be able to read it one day. Shouko Nakagawa is a VERY famous Pokémon fan in Japan – she even works as a TV personality on the Pokémon variety show, currently called Pokémon Get*TV (previous Pokémon Sunday and Pokémon Smash!), if I remember correctly. She’s kind of hated over here, probably due to when one of the movies were coming out, they pushed “a new Pokémon”, which turned out to be a Notch-Eared Pichu, making a lot of people over here very upset. She did the voice for the notch-eared Pichu. A lot of people over here think too she doesn’t like Pokémon that much and she only appears that way for money…but according to those who read the autobiography, it seems like it’s otherwise. I personally want to read more about her and feel like an autobiography would be a great start. Of course, it’s in Japanese. I think the biggest blockade of reading it is not knowing enough kanji. I’m actually kind of good at picking up grammar usage and I would be at kanji if I saw it enough with furigana. This book lacks furigana, which means it has to be put aside until I get further into my studies.

I honestly picked up 「クリスマスのおばけ」(Christmas no Obake or The Christmas Ghost) simply because it look cute and hilarious. It’s clearly a children’s book and the adult portion of me is like “this wasn’t worth it,” but another part of me is like “TOTALLY IS”. It’s a really, really simple book for children. While children who grew up with Japanese know more than us non-native speakers do, the grammar is still a lot simpler and contains a lot of really familiar words. I’m not necessarily picking it up for reading or translating practice, but more for simple enjoyment. I wanted something a bit out of the ordinary and I would say this would be it.

The last non-study-but-study material would be that magazine with the terribly busy cover. Japanese magazine front covers either look like our magazines or look like somebody opened up Photoshop and dragged as many pictures as they could onto one page. The magazine is Pokémon Fan. It’s PACKED with Pokémon information about all aspects of the franchise. In short, it’s what I would call a Pokémon fan’s ideal magazine (which is probably the point). It came with free keychains, as well as a free pencil case that you have to build yourself. I haven’t played Pokémon X or Y yet, so buying this magazine spoiled some stuff for me. Totally didn’t know Gardevoir got a mega evolution form, but I’m super glad and not surprised by it. Actually, most of the mega evolution forms look awesome. Erm, anyway, there’s an anime song poster with the TV size lyrics of the song “V (Volt)” (current opening theme), stickers of various Pokémon, a type wheel, information about upcoming anime episodes, various manga, and so much more! It’s actually the first thing I want to sit down and read. I actually want to translate some of the comics in there really badly for my friends. And me.

The last bit of stuff I bought, minus the candy, are the study materials. At some point I’ll get back to Japanese and at some point I will work on what I’m weak with. Hopefully.IMG_1209 Before I go over what I bought above, I just want to take a moment to look at the awesome kanji poster I bought. IMG_1212I’ve wanted this for so long. It’s a poster that contains all the kanji that people are required to learn. An official list of kanji, if you will. I really have no idea where I will put this, but I’ll find a place. I think I might put it over my TV for now since it no longer has the Doctor Who poster of it and then move it into my closet once the sewing desk is taken out. I mainly want it so it can stare at me in the face and tell me “HEY, LOOK, YOU GOTTA MEMORIZE AND LEARN ALL OF ME”.

Anyway, let’s talk about the other books I bought.

The all red and all blue book with the yellow text is the 「日本語単語スピードマスター」(Nihongo Tango Speed Master or Japanese Vocabulary Speed Master) series which are these big books of vocabulary. I have two of them already and wanted the remaining two. I hope to one day use them to increase my vocabulary in a fun way. It will give me word lists to work off of and it will be interesting to see what I come up for studying them. I know I want to sit down and make an SRS deck with them, but that’s gonna take a while and I want to figure out how I’m going to divide them up. Anyway, if I do manage to use the books how I would like to, I should end up with a vocabulary pool of 9,500 words (okay, some of the words I already know from other sources, but still).

Nihongo Notes is an interesting bit. It’s a semi-study material item for me. While it doesn’t necessarily teach speaking, grammar, or the like, it teaches about a VERY important aspect of the language – culture. The entire book is about cultural notes. There’s a lot I haven’t seen other sources cover, so it’s nice to have them in something so small. The entries are short too, presumably because it’s all from a column from The Japan Times, but contain just enough detail to answer questions one might have. I actually would highly recommend this one to people who are studying Japanese, but need more cultural notes than what their textbooks can give them and know they aren’t going to Japan for a while.

NOW we get to the learning materials. The workbooks. Okay, yes, I have a lot of workbooks already. However, they all focus on different things. Most of my workbooks either work along side my textbooks, covering everything, while the others focus on everything (mostly for the JLPT) or kanji.

You see, my original plan was to learn the basics of Japanese from Genki, then move onto focusing on kanji since I believe, and still believe it is the key for me to get better at Japanese (knowing more kanji theoretically means I’ll be able to read more, which means I’ll gain a much bigger vocabulary, have an easier and better time practicing, and be able to pick up what I hear because, hey, I’ve learned that word before probably through kanji) faster. However, when I was studying for the JLPT, I very quickly realized that my weakness wasn’t kanji (kanji is actually really easy; it’s memorizing and learning everything that makes it “hard”), but rather certain aspects of grammar. I think the only aspect of grammar I’m actually good at is conjugating verbs, while everything else, I only get part of the time. This made me decide that I need to focus on grammar before I move onto kanji.

Now my new plan is to finish the Genki series and get the basics down, then focus on reviewing everything I should have hammered into my head now and improving my grammar. I hope I am able to actively study grammar and have me understand what I’m studying, rather than passively taking notes and not really retain much.

In addition to using the N5/N4 study books I already own, I plan on using the grammar-focused 「日本語チャレンジ 文法と読む練習」 (Japanese Language Challenge: Grammar & Reading Practice) and TRY!N4 which has a grammar focus. Pretty much anything to practice grammar is very welcome to me. I figure I’ll have to get it at some point.

I want all the vocabulary, grammar, and kanji pounded into my head where I can’t forget it. If I do forget it, it’s only temporary and I can pull it back up after thinking for a while. I want it to become as second nature as English is to me. I need everything I learn to float over to the parts my brain that come out automatically, without hesitation. That is what I want. I’m pretty sure with enough review, it will do that. If I use it enough, it will have to, I suppose. I hope.

The next bit of practice I want is writing. I actually feel kind of bad that I don’t write that often in Japanese. Sometimes it’s my lack of vocabulary that prevents me from writing in Japanese, while other times, it’s that I simply see no reason to. While both reasons are annoying, the latter one is particularly annoying because I could technically take anything I do in English and just make myself do it in Japanese. I still want to take notes in Japanese of any subject at some point, so I could do that (but I don’t think I can with my limited vocabulary). I also want to totally write a story in Japanese. I want writing in Japanese to be part of my life just as much as writing is part of my life in English. I also want to point out too that I want to write in Japanese, not type. Okay, I want to type in Japanese too, but I want to be able to scribble down notes in Japanese. It’d actually be a great way for me to observe people and not have them actually know I’m observing them. Same thing with getting ideas and writing them down and whatnot.

The book I got to help me practice this is a book called 「わたしのにほんご」(Watashi no Nihongo or My Japanese). The very expressive cover pulled me in and when I flipped through it, I had to really think about whether or not  I wanted to get it. Obviously I eventually thought it was a good idea. The aim of the book is to help people learn how to express themselves in Japanese and get writing practice in. At first I was hesitant about it – would I really use that? I could technically write in Japanese myself and do whatever I wanted. However, when I really thought about it, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to pick up the book – I know in reality, I needed something to force me to practice writing in Japanese and this book was just the thing to do it.

Okay, so all this reading, writing, and grammar stuff is awesome and all, but what about speaking and listening? I really hate when people ask me about speaking Japanese. I don’t really talk about it because when I speak Japanese, I’m either shadowing audio or I’m just speaking to myself, often in frustration about something (you often hear me say things like 何これ・・・ (nani kore… or “what is this…”). Speaking Japanese is one of those things I feel like when I’m actually ready to do so, I will, but if I’m not, I won’t. Some people might say “well, you won’t be able to speak it if you don’t practice”. The thing is, I do practice. I do and don’t practice at the same time. I’m sure if I was in a situation that required me to speak Japanese, I would be able to (yes, with some majour pauses in trying to remember which words to use and how to use them since some things I have pounded in my head don’t work for certain situations) and it would be something I would be able to get better at very quickly. Not to mention, speaking will get me only so far with learning the language – I need other things too, visual things like words on a page to help me further along. Very rarely am I an audio learner, so I tend to go away from audio-only ways of learning (though, I have gone the audio route numerous times before).

Listening is kind of a different beast all together. Listening and actually hearing the words entirely depend on the situation. If I’m in a setting where I can visual see what’s going on or am in the visual area of whatever is being spoken about, I can usually pick up most, if not all the words (regardless if I understand them or not). This is very evident to me when I go to places where people are speaking Japanese, like Kinokuniya or Book Off and when I watch TV shows (anime or live action). Of course, as time goes on and I lose interest, I start to hear less, as I do with English. When it comes to audio-only, where I am not visually in the situation, it’s a lot harder for me to listen and pick up on the words. If I’m just sitting in my room or sitting in the car, listening to an audio conversation from one of my textbooks that’s talking about a man checking into a hotel for a business trip, I’m probably only going to hear words that I have heard a billion times. Comparing my attention span for audio-only non-visual situations in English and in Japanese, my English attention span is only a tiny bit higher. For instance, I usually can’t hear the lyrics of songs in English the first few times I listen to songs. Sometimes I hear a line or two, but for the most part, the people sound like they’re mumbling. When I listen to videos or podcasts, only parts of them jump out to me, while everything else becomes a passive sound of blah blah blah. The most obvious difference between the audio in English & the audio in Japanese is that I generally understand the English one, while the Japanese ones, I mostly don’t. I can’t tell if I want to work harder on my Japanese audio-only listening or not because my English one is almost just as bad.

I decided some speaking practice should be thrown in with my learning activities, which has brought me to a book that has the English title Japanese Pronunciation Activities. While Japanese is a fairly monotone language in comparison to English, their pronunciations do have variety. I mean, I’m sure they’re not that important to learn when comparing it to Chinese, and you would be understood without them, but it just adds a bit of authenticity to how you speak if you do. I actually love how Japanese sounds and how it jumps off the tongue, so anything to make my pronunciation better would be great. Also, anything that will just improve my speaking in general will be awesome. So there’s that – speaking practice!

I’m hoping I get to use these books next year when studying Japanese…assuming that I put that as a focus. I haven’t decided on that yet.

I’m excited to see everything in use. I hope you guys are too!