日曜日, 1月 01, 2012

Teaching hiragana to a 9 year old

My son is 9 and speaks Japanese with his mum around the house and watches a fair amount of anime (mostly One Piece). The challenge we face is getting him to at least be able to relate what he hears to what he can see. In the first instance this means getting him comfortable with kana.

When I learnt it didn't take too long, just a couple of weeks. I was in Japan and basically began by learning katakana to read loan words (I knew them) then to hiragana to read the station signs on the non-JR platforms. Tomo doesn't have that immersive environment outside the house to support and reward him. He also lacks the adult intrinsic motivation that drove me to basically write out a line from the table a dozen times a day, between every lesson, until I could write the whole thing. So what do I do to create the conditions for victory?

Obviously the basis of learning this sort of thing is rote - there's no better way, but there are improved tools available. For a start we have the Nintendo DS for which we have a few games that are educational (good old Doraemon). I've managed to find a few games online that have Japanese as a context, with learning part of the game, for example this insect game from Okochama. And no surprise to see Shimajiro toward the top of the results either. If I find better ones I'll add them here too.

I'm going to need some flash cards, so these in printed and hand-written styles will be good. For the record, I won't bother with the romaji sides as that defeats my goal of making the characters natural first-language.

As an incentive I think I will use the old financial one. It has seen benefits this year in other areas of endeavour, so a simple goal to be able to write out the kana in each form for a cash reward should do the trick.

The aim will be to get recognition up first, then selection, then reproduction, controlled, then freer. Usual rules really for any learning experience. I will report back on this.

WMP NHK!? Really?

NHK Radio in 2012 uses the Windows Media Player plug-in? Really? Come on NHK guys, surely somebody somewhere can let you use something a little more, well, contemporary? I'm sure the BBC would share a little iPlayer tech if you asked nicely...

Where to go for good materials?

I find that watching films and TV are not good for learning Japanese - they don't suit my mindset. I like to understand what I am looking at and can't really learn "by ear". To that end I am in need of something in particular - a daily reading of a level would be good, and a good source of videos would also be good. I am going to have to explore the Internet. My goal over the coming couple of weeks then is to find a couple such resources. I'll post anything useful here. Oh, and thanks for stopping by. This place is looking pretty sad now - let's try to dust it off.

水曜日, 10月 05, 2011

Dusting myself off


It's been too long, eh?

I want to pick things up here and start learning again, in the peace and quiet of a semi-abandoned blog. ちょっと廃墟見たい。ね?

月曜日, 10月 18, 2010

Fear Japan

Great article in the NYT regarding the lessons Japan offers the world - kinda like the basket case local who parents use as a bogeyman - "don't mess up your economy and going in to an economic downward spiral - or you might end up like Japan."

My experience of Japan has always been extraordinarily positive, but there are strange things that point to this kind of decay that you simply don't see around the UK (as I found when I tried to find parallel examples of this for my talk at Ignite London). Seeing photos of Tomo and Kazue's trip this summer, while much of it was as bright and exciting as ever, other parts, like the photos of the water park showed a rot that is there, in the edges. Hard to pinpoint, but a bit too rusty there, or the paint is a little more faded than you expect.

The problem is that the narrative is one that is set to the framework of the endless expansion that capitalism requires. The idea that a country could downshift en-mass is not given any credibility. But if a country that once fucked itself utter by living beyond reason (the property price bubble was truly stupendous - I mean, really) then decides to behave economically sensibly for a while, no bad thing, surely.

In fact, many of the indicators that people point to in Japan are simply the same as we are seeing elsewhere, only in sharper relief - young people are more reluctant to leave the nest in Japan than anywhere else, but it's a common problem globally. Dwellings in Japan, due to the population concentration, have always been small, but I'd say that a country with good internet connectivity and excellent public transport is probably better placed to disperse and equalise this than some others.

What I'm interested to know is if the 20 year spiral of decay could ever really be a threat if it shared across other countries. When it was just Japan, a fairly insular country at the best of times, it was not much for the rest of the world to take action on, but nor was it a genuinely large problem. When you have several countries running the same risk, then as an economic block the results could be quite different - trade within those countries is more of an option and the dynamic interplay of several nations could have quite a different effect than that of deflation in a single, isolated economic block, particularly when members of that block have considerably greater clout and stronger brands internationally.

Good article.

土曜日, 9月 25, 2010

Cool clothing

My friend Tony - a genuine "we-went-to-school-together-and-hung-out-at-each-other's-house" kinda friend - has launched a range of t-shirts aimed at articulating aspects of the gaikokujin experience from his new home in Kanazawa on the northern shores of Honshu.
Featuring punny word-play, mixed with cool graphics and playing on expectations, T-Shitsu products are crafted in Japan from superior materials. But as undeniably cool as the shirts are, they are as nothing to the sublime beauty of the website - Tony's other skills lie in brilliant web design!
Check out the range and when you inevitably buy something, let him know Dan sent ya!

水曜日, 5月 26, 2010

Photo Tokyo

Incredible visualisation of Tokyo based on the numbers of photos taken at a point. I suspect that it this is massively underestimating the number of photos because the websites providing the data (Flickr, Picasa) are American, with an Anglo-Saxon bias.

金曜日, 5月 21, 2010

At last a pep pill?

I read in The Economist that Japan's big Pharma have been on a buying spree, snatching up some juicy drug and biotech companies in the US and India. This can only be a good sign.

Today Google announced GoogleTV. This incredible manifestation of all of the crazy predictions about IPTV is built with Google's own Android OS and Chrome browser technology, making the most of Flash. At the heart of the system lurks Intel, but who have they partnered with to make the TV? SONY! The definitive example of NIH syndrome have partnered up with this upstart web company to create the most awesome looking bit of kit.*

There at last appears to be some kind of acceptance in Japan that their companies need to be looking abroad, and hopefully this will bring with it a renewed energy. It's just a shame that it's happening now, when the rest of the world will be in less of a mood to take them up on their offer, but I guess it will simply make the acquisitions cheaper, certainly if they come looking in Europe...

UPDATE: Yeah, the Indy said it better.

*I literally just saw this on a live broadcast from GoogleIO, so I haven't found any images or links to any of this just yet. Wait a day then just Google it all to see more.

火曜日, 3月 16, 2010

Who has more phones?

Well now, here's something I don't have any strong feelings about:

The UK has more phones per capita than Japan - 84 phones per 100 people versus about 62. I guess that's the risk you face when a good percentage of your domestic market were born before regular phones were widespread...

Thanks to the enraged folks at JunkCharts for bringing it to my attention.