Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Language Programs on the Cheap

I just wanted to make this quick second post to address language programs for the PC. Learning a second language has been made a lot simplier than in my days when I first started to learn Japanese. Now with PC language programs, the price of studying a language will probably continue to fall. Yet, only 1 out of  5 Americans speak a second language. And the ones that do are usually sons or daughters from a immgrated family. However the rest of the world does not share that sentiment: Mandarian is spoken by over 890 million people, Japanese is spoken by about 170 million and Spanish is one of the most widely used languages next to English.So why not learn one of these languages to compete with the international job market? (Note: the rarer the language; the harder it is to get materials for it.)

When I think of language programs 3 come to mind: Berlitz, Rosetta Stone, and Instant Immersion. Those are the main ones that many will have access to. When looking for a foreign language program you need to actually to some personal accessments. How far are you willing to go in the language? How much time can you spend on it. What do you want out of the language? If you cannot justify a reason to study something, then the efforts behind it will be for naught.

Pricewise: Rosetta Stone will run about $230 per level. It will be about $560 for a level 1-3 compilation and $1200 for a 1-5 combination set! My advise is do not believe the hype behind Rosetta Stone. You can learn a language way cheaper by going with Instant Immersion or Berlitz. Berlitz Language Primer Series will run you about $40 and Instant Immersion will run you about $50. Depending on the language, I would actualy suggest that you pick up supplementary writinig material due to the complexity of the various language scripts. For the Japanese and Chinese Premier by Berlitz for example you should probably find either a website ( ) or writing instruction books 250 Essential Kanji.

If you want to get technical with a language, there are  plenty of online language websites that can accomodates your needs. For Japanese I know there is and for reading in various languages there is Note that the best way to become fluent in a language is to reach an intermediate level  in a language and go visit the target language's home country. And there is no subsitute for becoming great at a language other than constant pratice. When I am studying, I probably study about 8 hours a week. I would study more if I had a set schedule, but my hours change all the time. Without pratice, all the language material that you have would just be expensive coasters for your drinks--so use them!

Why Bother Renting?

Okay this is just a quick thought on this whole "recession". I wonder how many people are actually looking at today's home prices. It might hit some people (who bought their homes before the first crash in 04) at home with seemingly no end to the crash in sight. Is it a  bad thing though?

Now people can actually buy homes instead of renting. A home on a 30 year mortgage at 6% for 40,000 would actually run you $118 per month. This means that you are able to buy a home no problem. Want to buy one outright in a safe neighboorhood? Reno's neighboorhoods are not that bad. You can actually pick up a 1Br/1Bth for as little as $25,000. If people are renting because they are scared to buy a house, they are just throwing money away. If you do not believe me, you can check and see for yourself. Trust me, there is absolutely no need to throw money away needlessly when you do not have to.

By the way, whatever is bought now will turn around in the next 5 to 10 years. So you will really win if you can hold on to the property as long as possible.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

JLPT N3: To Take or Not to Take

Another year of test taking is coming up for all the JLPT test takers. And lo and behold there is a new N3 in the midst that is supposed to be harder than the level 3 I took last year. I actually had a discussion on study resources for Japanese earlier and I have to say preparing for the test was a godsend indeed! I know that I was perhaps a bit over qualified to take the Level 3, but in actuality I was a bit under qualified to take the Level 2-- so I weighed my options and went for the sure thing. After all those who "fail to prepare, prepare to fail". With languages I am all about strategy when it comes to test preparation. If I was going to take the N3, here's what I would do:

First I would gather as many study materials that I can find that focuses just on the N3. seems to be the winner in selection.

Next I would sort obstacles from easiest to hardest to study with the least amount of resistance possible. For the level 3 I just studied grammar (which was really all I needed), but that would not work for N3 because it is a merger of difficult between Level 3 and Level 2. It is the middle sibling so to speak. I would get a Kanji book, vocabulary book,  reading book, listening book grammar book, comprehension book and a mock test book! Seriously if you want to ace the JLPT it is best to know the structure right? I believe the N3 is supposed to have 800 Kanji and 2000 words so if anyone has difficulty with this test I would suggest getting some Kanzen Master level 4 and 3 books for review. I would actually like to see them put out a N3 book but I have yet to come across it.

Okay now here's the strategy: sit down and just go through all the kanji and make flash cards of the ones you do not know. For the lazy people White Rabbit does make some, but they will run about $50. Just cycle through them all and you should be able to command the Kanji. Once you have the Kanji down, you should be able to take on the next part of the preparation which is vocabulary. You will find books with reading combined with it so make the words stick better. Afterall, the words are being used naturally.

At this point you should be comfortable with the next task which is probably the easiest up to this point: reading. Reading should be done with continuity: do it over and over again for best results. While I did  not have any material for this, I found that the book Read Real Japanese actually helped for the JLPT level 3 because some of the material I was going through was in the fiction works. Also it is a fun breather from the serious aspects of studying for this test. I would actually go through it again for the N3. Next is preparing for listening. This is the most daunting task of the test mainly because listening for the JLPT is the least straight foward thing on the test. In other words, no Japanese person will ever ask you to pick the 3 incorrect responses and 1 correct response. So you can let out a sigh of relief there.

Well hopefully the next hardest part of the test just got  simplified a little with a ton of due diligence and preparation. (Remember I am here to save you time and money.) While it ranks the hardest on N2 and N1, grammar on the N3 level isn't too bad. In fact listening will probably be harder. What makes the grammaer portion hard is that it combines the vocabulary and Kanji into sentences (which is why I asked that you studied those 2 beforehand). Now you must learn about 200-300 different sentences patterns including all the stuff from the old JLPT tests! Good luck! I recommend that you study the Kanzen master level 3 before you take on any grammar book designed for JLPT N3. You want to land at least 180 points on this one because it will be a huge deciding as to whether or not you will pass. So do not underestimate the grammar. I made that mistake on the Level 2 about 3 years ago!

Next is to bring everything you have learned together with a comprehension book. It will have questions and exercises which will strengthen whatever you have learned so far. If  you have difficulties with certain aspects of the JLPT please go back and review what you are not getting. You are only hindering you ability to perform if yyou are just drudging  through the material. You will not be a nihongo no tatsujin that way!

Finally it is time to show the JLPT whose boss. While you cannot cast a "Slow" spell on the test and then prepare your Limit Break, you can take a mock test to access your mad study skills. If you get a lot of  missed questions during a certain portion of the test, stop and go back to the section where you are having difficulties and prepare for the section again and then come back to this test. At this point there should be thoughtless execution because you will not have a lot  of time to ponder which answer is right or wrong. You need to be able to pump out answers quickly and steadily. You might have some time to rest your eyes during the grammar portion (I seriously had 45 minutes) you will find that time is not much of a luxury on this test, especially when it comes to reading.That's about it! Good luck with the test!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Spam is the Death of Me

Do not bother spamming my blog with your incessive comments on breast creams, Japanese Horse Races and pyramid schemes. I actually review every comment and post the non-spam ones. Your chances of getting posted are nil, nada, ziltch. Trust me: unless I am somehow getting compensated for your forced upon ads, it will not see the light of day here. I will just let the comments keep piling up until I find a legitimate one. So do not waste your time.