to go faster, go slow longer

I am a laughably bad runner. Absolutely terrible in fact. Because of this, I keep running.

I’m training for my first half marathon now (time goal: finish same day I start) so Monday I ran the longest I ever have in my life so far – 15km. Today, two days later, calves still sore, I did 5km in the fastest time I’ve clocked in several months.

When learning Japanese, the time it takes to comprehend things is one of the biggest sources of frustration there is. Even once you can get through a short story or a manga chapter in reasonable time, it might take months before some of the details snap into focus and you finally understand the points that were beyond you the first time.

But the mind and the body are built much the same. If you want to run fast, you have to put in a lot of distance. If you want to read fast, fully understand fast spoken dialogue, speak without hesitation – you have to plod through characters in the tens of thousands at whatever pace you can manage, listen to days and weeks and months of audio, and practice conversing until even the fencepost gets tired of you. And if you do that, the fluency will come, the speed will come, that feeling of effortlessly flying along with your favourite author will come.

Physical or mental, there’s no shortcut, but the proven path is well proven, if you will only stick with it long enough.

Comments Off on to go faster, go slow longer Posted in Motivation

it’s not the method, it’s the madness

Once upon a time there was a wealthy old tortoise who had a large garden. The garden was very beautiful, and at the end of it there was an enormous wall. On the other side of the wall was the sea. One day the tortoise decided that it was time to change the view and that he would like to be able to see the sea behind his garden.

He called his four gardeners, the rabbit, the bear, the dog, and the tanuki, and said, “This wall must come down. I want to see the sea. I know it is a very large wall so I will give you as much time as you need, but eventually, the wall must go.”

None of the gardeners knew anything about demolition, so they were not sure at first what to do. They read a little here and there, and got some advice from the other animals, some of whom sounded like they knew something about the subject.

The rabbit was very clever, and decided that he had to understand the structure of the wall in order to break it down most effectively. He studied for a long time until he knew exactly how each brick and post and pin was put together. Then he got some good but simple tools, and once he finally got started, the demolition went smoothly. It still took a while, but after two years of steady work his section of the wall was down.

The bear wasn’t especially smart at all, but he was very very strong. He tried to do what the rabbit did, but gave up after a few days of puzzlement, and set to work furiously with his enormous paws. The wall came down in no particular order, but after two years hard graft his part was cleared, and he was also stronger than ever.

The dog thought the best way would be to get the very best tools he could find and learn to use them as effectively as he could. No one spent more on equipment than the dog did, and no one was better at blasting, disassembling, bulldozing, and so on. He also had to work every day for two years, partly because it took him a while to master his formidable arsenal, but his part of the wall came down neatly and steadily.

The tanuki had no great inclination for work, but needed to at least look busy, so he also began studying how the wall was put together, and started collecting tools, and started a little manual labour, but his study was never good enough to satisfy him so he kept getting different books and plans, his tools didn’t seem to suit him quite right so he kept changing them, and as for grunt work with the sledgehammer, he didn’t like that at all at all, so never lasted more than a few minutes. He discussed the work at great length with the other animals, and understood it perfectly (from the standpoint of several different theories), and frequently mustered up some fresh resolve and began work again, but after two years his wall was a little dented and scratched but just as high and thick as ever.

finding the right serving size: a simple search

Anime is of course excellent immersion material, and part of the reason for that is the convenient 24-minute length of a typical episode. Sometimes it would be nice though to have something even shorter so that you could fit it in between the cracks of an ordinary busy day. Maybe you have a 15 minute coffee break, or a 10 minute bus ride, or similar, and it’s nice to fit in a complete episode instead of leaving something unfinished. To this end I’m planning a series of posts on anime with short episodes, ranging from 12 minutes down to 3 minutes, or maybe even less.

If you want to find your own, it’s surprisingly simple. ANN always lists the running time and always in the same format. So just search for “running time: 10 minutes”, substituting whatever time you want, like this.


haiku friday



The wind carries it through the night, from north to south – the Gion music.


RTK2 Anki deck update


Have finished making the deck, and decided to work through it to check for errors and decide on settings before releasing it. Have found quite a few typos and other errors, and have dispensed with most of my more experimental settings, so this is a good thing. I did get permission from Dr. Heisig to make it available. Unfortunately he did not want the primitives as part of the deck. So users will have to add that back in themselves.

I’m about halfway through, and Kiriyama who has kindly agreed to help proofread is a little further. So the deck will probably be ready in a bit over a month from now. I want to get this done because the portion of my day spent in Anki has gone completely out of control …

background looping, floating phrases, and gomes the hitman

There are different points of view on “passive listening”, whether very useful or not at all; and to go with that, different ideas of what it actually is. Olle Linge over at Hacking Chinese has been having a very useful series on listening, and what I’m talking about here is background listening – the sort of thing you turn on and tune out, not paying any serious attention to at all. This is probably what most of us have the most time for, but does it actually do anything for your language learning? Continue reading