New Year's Resolutions - 2018


明けましておめでとうございます! Happy New Year!

Did you make any New Year's Resolutions this year?

January is a really good time to think about goals for the year ahead.  Apart from anything else, it's cold! And it's nice to be inside making plans.

Here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2018:

1) blog once a week


This one is easy (I hope!) and a continuation of last year.

In 2017 I aimed to publish a blog post a week. I actually did 26, which is one a fortnight.

That's not bad, but I definitely want to beat that in 2018.

2) play more games


In class, I mean. I want to work on making classes more fun, and one easy way to do that is more games.

 My lovely students playing fukuwarai ("Lucky Laugh") game


When we laugh together, we learn together.

(Cheesy but true).

3) read every day


This is a personal one. Last year I tried to read more Japanese fiction, and kind of failed.

I did find, though, that once I actually start reading I'm ok. It's the getting started that's the tricky part.

This year, I'm going to read some Japanese fiction every day, and keep a note in my 5-year diary when I've done it.

(16 days in, this is going pretty well.)


4) go to more teaching events


This year, I'm planning to go to more Japanese teaching and education-related events in London.

I went to a couple recently - a Japanese grammar teaching workshop at SOAS, and a bunch of seminars at the Language Show London.

I found it super helpful to reflect on my teaching practice and discuss ideas with other teachers and linguists.


I definitely want to go to more events like this in 2018.

...and it's a good excuse to go to London for the day too.


5) track these goals


Waiting until the end of the year to see how your goals are going doesn't really work.

In 2017, I actually completely forgot about one of my resolutions (to watch more drama in class). I'm going to avoid that this time by pinning them above my desk.

I'd love to know what New Year's Resolutions you made. Let me know in the comments!

How did I do? A look back at 2017's goals


It's no use just making goals. You need to assess them.

How did I do with last year's New Year's Resolutions? Let's find out.

I scored myself a pass or fail for each one...

2017's goals were:

1. Blog more


I published 26 blog posts in 2017, up from 11 in 2016.

That's not the one a week I planned (it's literally half that!) but I'm still pretty happy.

I was helped along the way by an adorable twitter bot created by my student @EliteFreq which tweeted at me when I didn't blog that week:

This was genuinely very motivating.

Conclusion: PASS. Tell your friends your goals, so they can support you along the way.

2. Finish some books


My plan was to read more fiction and to actually finish a book instead of getting excited and moving on to the next one. This didn't exactly go to plan.

However, I reckon I read Japanese news every single day in 2017. I'm pretty proud of that.

I also completed Zero Escape 999, and two (nearly three) Ace Attorney games. Visual novels are reading too...


Conclusion: FAIL but maybe that's fine


3. Watch more drama with my students


This goal didn't come to fruition either. I was on the lookout for things to watch but never found anything "just right".

I planned to use Terrace House (Netflix's Japanese reality TV show - think Big Brother circa 2003), but the logistics of showing Netflix in class got the better of me...

We did watch some Japanese TV ads in class though. That was a lot of fun.

Conclusion: がんばれ! (KEEP TRYING!)


4. Have more parties


From Origami Night, to the Summer Barbecue, to the end-of-year Christmas Party, this year has been really busy. Good busy!

We definitely had more parties and attended more events this year. Onwards and upwards!


Conclusion: PASS


5. Be reflective


I think I have actually spent less time reflecting in 2017 than in previous years, and more time actively doing things. This is probably a good thing.

Conclusion: いいじゃないですか? (That's alright, isn't it?)

How did you get on with your New Year's resolutions in 2017?

And have you made this year's yet? I'm still whittling down my list...

Plateaus in Language Learning and How to Overcome Them

The first three years I was learning Japanese I basically studied quite hard for tests and barely opened my mouth.

I like kanji, and what I saw as the oddness of the Japanese language. Three "alphabets"! A million different ways of counting things! I liked hiragana - so pretty! I studied hard and thought my university Japanese exams were easy.

Then, on holiday in China, I met a Japanese woman (at a super-interesting Sino-Japanese cultural exchange club, but that's a story for another time). I tried to speak to her in Japanese. And I couldn't.

I told this nice, patient lady that I was studying Japanese and she asked me how long I was staying in China for. I wanted to tell her I was going back to England next Thursday, but instead I said:

先週の水曜日に帰ります。
Senshuu no suiyoubi ni kaerimasu.

- "I'll go back last Wednesday."

OOPS.

I think about this day quite a lot because it shows, I think, that although I'd studied lots of Japanese at that point my communicative skills were pretty bad.

I couldn't quickly recall the word for Wednesday, or the word for last week.

I realised at that point that I hadn't made much real progress in the last two years. The first year I zipped along, memorising kana and walking around my house pointing at things saying "tansu, denki, tsukue". But after that my Japanese had plateaued.


So, I started actively trying to speak - I took small group lessons, engaged in them properly, did the prep work. I wrote down five sentences every day about my day and had my teacher check them. I met up with a Japanese friend regularly and did language exchange - he corrected my grammar and told me when I sounded odd (thanks Ken!)

(Most of this happened in Japan, but like I said, you don't need to live in Japan to learn Japanese.)

And I came out of the plateau. I set myself a concrete goal - to pass the JLPT N3. Then N2. I had some job interviews in Japanese. I wanted to get a job with a Board of Education, and a recruiter told me you needed N1 for that, so I started cramming kanji and obscure words. I was back on the Japanese-learning train.

I didn't pass N1 though.

And I was bored of English teaching and didn't want to wait to pass the test before I got a job using Japanese - that felt a bit like procrastinating - I quit my ALT job and got a job translating wacky entertainment news.

And after six months translating oddball news I passed the test.

↓ Artist's impression of me passing N1

That's partly because exams involve a certain amount of luck and it depends what comes up. But I also believe it's because using language to actively do something - working with the language - is a much, much better way of advancing your skills than just "studying" it.

Thanks to translation work, I was out of the plateau again. Hurrah!

When you're in the middle of something - on the road somewhere - it's hard to see your own development.  Progress doesn't move gradually upwards in a straight line. It comes in fits and starts.

Success doesn't look like this:
 It looks like this!
And if you feel like you're in a slump at the moment, there are two approaches.

One is to trust that - as long as you're working hard at it - if you keep plugging away, you'll suddenly notice you've jumped up a level without even realising. You're working hard? You got this.

The other approach is to change something. Make a concrete goal. Start something new. Find a new friend to talk to or a classmate to message in Japanese. Talk to the man in the noodle shop about Kansai-ben. Write five things you did each day in Japanese. Take the test. Get the job. がんばろう。

New Year's Resolutions - 新年の抱負


明けましておめでとうございます!Happy New Year!

新年の抱負はありますか。Have you made any New Year's Resolutions?

My good friend Karli of designosaur (the brilliant people who make all those dinosaur necklaces I wear to class) writes a new year's post every year, and I always find it super inspiring. I don't always make resolutions, but this year I have loads and I'd like to share some of them with you!


1. blog more


This one should be easy. I like writing this blog, but it's always bottom of my to-do list! Karli's suggestion was to make a regular schedule and stick to it, so I'll try that.


2. finish some books


I often tell people that I read a lot of Japanese books, but actually what I do is start reading a lot of Japanese books. Then find a new one, get distracted and start the new one. That's good for variety, but not very satisfying.

I'm going to try and read one book at a time (currently reading マチルダは小さな大天才) and not start any new books until I finish!



3. watch more drama...with my students


I love J-drama and it's a great way to listen to everyday spoken Japanese - especially if the programme is centred around a family or group of friends. This year I'm hoping to use some drama clips in class. I haven't quite worked out the details yet but I think it'll be a lot of fun.

I'm currently watching Beautiful Rain (ビューティフルレイン) which is adorable and very tear-jerky. Have you seen it?

4. have more parties


We had a great time at the first annual Step Up Japanese christmas party, and one of my goals for 2017 is to have more school events like this. I've got a little list in mind, but if you have a suggestion please let me know!


5. be reflective


This one is less of a resolution and more of a humblebrag.

Some days I skip home from class because everything went swimmingly. Other times I'm left thinking how I could have explained something better / given you more chances to speak Japanese / had a good answer to your question on the spot instead of telling you I'll look it up.

My point is, it's good to be reflective - and not just because you won't get knocked off your bike. I really, really want to keep improving and bring you bigger and better things in 2017!


Have you made any New Year's resolutions? I'd love to know what yours are! 今年もよろしくお願いします〜