Learning a language

When I first bought this I just presumed its more of a kiddy dictionary or just for more commonly used words. Turns out they have got nearly every anatomy words I have thrown at it so far! Just needs furigana -.- so awesome though!

Being Singaporean wasn’t easy sometimes. We grew up having to learn both our mother tongue and English. I started off being stronger in mandarin and shittier in English – my parents were both, to the best of descriptions, chinese educated. I had tutors from age 4 to help with my English, a library of books at roughly the same age that were in varying levels of English that I struggled through on my own half the time with sometimes awkward results. I still remember that while I wrote fantastic stories, I couldn’t pronounce the words I used: Is-land instead of I-land (which resulted in a shouting teacher and a group of laughing classmates).

So I grew up determined to be best at my English, but my mandarin was sadly neglected because, in my opinion, it was hardly useful.

About a decade ago, I wanted to learn German. I learnt about 2 semesters worth of it but I was terrible at the grammar and stopped as it was stressing me too much. At the same time, I discovered anime… and it sparked an interest in the Japanese language itself. Since then, I was learning Japanese by myself on and off. I am not good at it, but at least I can ask for directions. HAHAHA! However, I decided to do it more seriously this year.

Everyone learns things differently, and language is no different a subject to learn. One thing for sure though – it is not something you just learn by reading. There is a few things that works for me:

Yay... Got more manga on the pretext of improving my Japanese (because, we use rasengan and talk to shinigamis in real life)! Thanks Kinokuniya!

a) Total immersion: I am completely swamped by it. It doesn’t matter how much I understand, it is that it is around me. Ages ago, when I had to pass my mandarin exams, I spent weeks listening to 93.3fm (hahaha!!!), watching chinese news and trying to read chinese news.

In the case of Japanese, it was far easier that I actually like anime. So I watch anime, buy japanese manga and light novels (and attempt to read + translate them) and read out aloud my comprehension passages.

Working my way through my first light novel, again, this time with post its and dictionary. Couldn't find the meaning for some words though :(

I must admit that even though I was only in Japan for 17 days, those 17 days actually added to my vocabulary.

b) Different forms of study aids: One is never enough. I might not finish them exercise quizzes and so on, but one is never enough. Case in point: Flash cards

Learning Japanese: Flashcards

I bought MoeKana last year and really enjoyed it, then bought MoeKanji this year. Personally, I REALLY like the art that goes with it, and they make me want to bring out the cards to read often too. However, I like to test myself or get someone to help test me. These cards are single sided and doesn’t come with a katakana set, which limits me to a certain degree. I buy them though, for the extra motivation then I got White Rabbit Press’s Kana Flashcards.

Learning Japanese: Flashcards

These are not only double sided, they come with the memory aids and stroke orders plus some vocabulary. Really helpful, really like them. They also have flashcards for the kanji too, which I might consider getting them at some point later.

A variety of study aids helps break up the monotony in my opinion

c) Writing it out: finally, whether or not, I end up writing it out. Smartphones these days are awesome – but writing it out often nails it into my memory. Not only am I thinking how the word is written, I am also thinking how it is pronounced.

I really enjoy the process of learning a language though. It’s fun being “suddenly” able to understand what you are reading and hearing. There’s a huge sense of achievement :)

Not to mention, plenty of ability to find something to make fun of  in whatever language it is in your head.

Learning Japanese: Flashcards

Current Mood: (drained) drained

Almost a year…


Dear Dad,

As I prepare for my pilgrimage home for your death anniversary, I am struck by how quickly this year has passed. There were weeks where I really lost track of time and the calendar on my fridge didn’t actually change for 2 months.

It’s been a crazy year, learning to handle mum without you, sorting out Lishan’s life for her as you have asked. There were days when I can barely manage to hold myself up, and even now I still have days when I just don’t want to face the world because I don’t think I could. And yet, each day I have to plod forward because if I don’t, things don’t get done, life still goes on and bills still need to get paid.

To say I miss you would be a huge understatement. While some days felt like I have just forgotten to call you for a very long time, or one of those times when I was throwing a tantrum, other days I feel so helpless because you’re the one I usually talk to who understands me and gives me weird but somewhat deep advice – or politically incorrect ones.

I have to make the decisions you used to make, but without the wisdom that you have built up over the years – which makes me doubt myself some times and made me so scared to do some stuff.

This past year, I have done so many things and also so many “nothings”. I finally hanker down and started on my nursing degree while setting Lishan up for a diploma that I think is within her field of interest. I have organised therapies to help her get better at handling life – but, as you have said, it’s one small step for a very long (yet over due) process.

I found Lishan a job thanks to my friends, enrolled her in a bunch of things and I think she has made some new friends thanks to that. There are some days where I worry because she doesn’t say or do things the right way. Thankfully, people are incredibly forgiving and helpful towards her, so I am hopeful that in the long term, she won’t as lonely as you feared she might be.

I have also given some of your books to the local Chinese Medicine Library. I can only say, I am SO thankful you use to write and read in traditional chinese. The nice old man from the library only sends me text messages in traditional chinese and I had a hard time trying to understand his very formal, polite responses. We are still sorting out the rest and will hopefully get at least half of those out when I return in August. I am, however, holding on to your Da Yan Gong book and some of your older TCM books, as well as anything that english that at least I can read. I know your love for TCM, and you know my love for western medicine. It will take me a life time to read your books that I am more interested in spending it reading Grey’s Anatomy.

I think that would make for a fantastic life time of discussion though, should we ever meet again.

There are still more books left belonging in the other categories of your favourite topics in life, such as wushu and buddhism/taoism. I have no idea who to give those to nor who would want them. There’s too many of them in the house with virtually no one being able to read them. I know you wouldn’t want them to go to waste.

By the way, I found your very questionable collection and have thrown them away. While I have NO IDEA why you have those things, and I need no explanation, I would imagine you wouldn’t want people’s last memories of you as them.

I went home for chinese new year and for the first time, actually bothered to turn up to visit my own relatives instead of my friends on my own.

I guess, what I am trying to say in this very long and rambling mail is that we had our tough times trying to deal with our loss as a family and yet, we have started moving on. There are days when this is hard, small steps and few steps backwards at time, but we are moving forward and there’s nothing for you to worry about. I am still a long way from fulfilling my promise to you entirely – but the promise I made wasn’t some thing that’s done and dusted, it’s a long continuous process of looking after my sister, our bonds and family.

There’s a lot of repairing that needs to be done first, and I know I suck at it, but it is getting done and even I am amazed.

So thanks for everything dad, and I will come see you in August.


Current Mood: (thoughtful) thoughtful

Sea Bream A La Monaco

Sea bream a la Monaco! Very tasty!

I made this a while ago and I am not sure why I have not actually discussed this. It was easily one of the easiest and quickest meal I have ever made – and also quite tasty! I love my rice too, and the sauces accompanying “juice” both complimented the fish and the plain rice.

Recipe (Adapted from “I Can Cook”)

Splash of oil
1tsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 sea bream fillet, cut into pieces
400g tomatoes
100ml white wine
salt and pepper

skin, de-seed and chop the tomatoes

Heat oil in a pan over low heat. cook the garlic and parsley for a few minutes, stirring frequently. add the sea bream and cover with the tomatoes. Pour in the wine and season with salt and pepper. cover and simmer for 30 mins.

Serve over rice.

Current Mood: awake