How I Do NOT Learn Languages

This is one of those “mistake” posts, cause language learning isn’t all good stuff.  Sometimes I screw up.  Then I share it with you guys.


I’d been ignoring my SRS for a while now, and I decided to change things up.  First, I noticed that while I was flying through 100-300 reps from my Japanese deck everyday, I would cringe at the mere thought of doing 30 reps from my Korean deck.  Now what the heck was going on?

I decided to go through my deck and I think I realized the problem.

Vocab lists are not for me

I previously posted about how I’m picking up Korean again.  Yeah, I don’t think that is for me. The language, yes. The method, not so much.  At first, I never even thought of using simple vocab lists to learn because there was such a big fuss over using them on several sites that I, admittedly, followed at first without any second guessing.  That is the first no-no.  I’ve talked about this before, but experimentation and doing things on my own terms is how I learn best.  I guess I just needed a good reminder of that.  This experiment was a really good reminder.

My thinking was that I could learn the most common words, then just read a lot.  Over time I realized that:

  1. Adding cards wasn’t fun.
  2. Reviewing cards wasn’t fun.
  3. Deleting cards was VERY fun.
  4. I don’t like forced material.

The only cards in my Korean deck now are quotes from variety shows.  Every single word from my frequency list is gone.  Because the list was clearly not engaging enough to keep me committed.  Since that realization I’ve only been adding cards from my sources of entertainment.  Now it feels more like when I started Japanese: very exciting and very addictive.

Grammar books are not for me

I decided to pick up The Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar and sentence mine the crap out of it.  Why?  I wanted to try it out.  Skip to a few weeks later and it felt like a part of me died with every rep. Wait, so if I delete one of those cards does a part of me disappear forever?  Oh God. Needless to say, that deck has gone to a better place.

Grammar mining and Frequency Lists were things I avoided simply because I thought I had to.  Yes, I broke my number one rule in language learning: remember the “self”.  But now, I have a legitimate reason to avoid them: they’re boring as hell.

Author: Koyami

I'm Koyami. I am a freelance Japanese-English Translator and I enjoy learning new skills and reading in my spare time. Current pursuits include juggling, piano, and collecting all of the 十二国記 books. Follow me on Twitter and Google+ for blog updates, my Japanese word of the day, and more!

  • AndyMeg

    I guess you were using The Dictionary of Advanced Japanese Grammar in a wrong way. That book is a reference book, just like any dictionary. Many people try to uste it as a text book and to learn it by heart, but I don`t think they try to do the same with an english dictionary. In a dictionary you just look for the things you need at the moment, and that`s the way I think you can get the best out of the Japanese Grammar Dictionary`s series.

    • AndyMeg,

      I actually know of a few people who have had success using the dictionary in such a way to learn sentence patterns, but that’s definitely not the way for me.

      Good point about the english dictionary. I totally agree.

      Yes, I was using in in a wrong way. But to me discovering (and ultimately eliminating) “wrong” methods is part of the fun of experimenting.

      Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it.