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:
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.
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
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.
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.