Motivation, Meltdowns, and Motherhood Mental Health: My First Four Months of Japanese Self Study

Four months goes by fast, you guys. Not only am I four months into my Japanese studies, I’m only four months away from my big trip to Japan.

picard

I know that the trip doesn’t require any Japanese language skills, but I’m pushing myself like a crazy lady because really really REALLY want to be able to chat a bit with natives, my host family, and believe familiarity with Japanese will help enrich my overall experience in Japan.

I was doing great with my studies until February when we got our income tax returns filed in February. I was hoping to use this money to pay for my trip (including spending money), but the amount was half of what I was expecting. I dry-heaved and cried for a few days, and gave up on studying for almost a week while I wallowed in self-pity and snacks.

heartbroken

After a week, I told my husband that one way or another the rest of the money would come. I wasn’t sure how, I just believed it would. My dream was too big to me to just let it fizzle out because of stupid money. Even as I write this, I’m still short on funds. I’ve sent in my application fee of $200, and need to pay the first installment in early July, then the rest in early August.

The rest money will come. I just gotta believe.

believe

Picking up language learning after that week or so break was rough. I was surprised how much I’d forgotten. It totally bummed me out, but the experienced was good motivation for never making the same mistake again. It took around a week or two of super diligent practice to get back on track again, but I did it.

Language Learning Tip: If you can help it, don’t miss a day of practice! A few minutes of practice is better than doing nothing at all.

Once I got my groove back, I hit yet another wall in my studies. Memorizing phrases and vocabulary wasn’t enough. I needed to study grammar, but I was scared. I spent the entire month of April tearfully navigating grammar.

grammar cry

Honestly, grammar isn’t so bad once you have learning resources that bore or frustrate you. The Japanese from Zero videos (info below) and the Memrise App grammar levels (info below) have worked best for me so far. What I love most about grammar is finally being able to write and read basic sentences, not just memorizing them. It’s so rewarding!!!

So let’s move on to the tools I’ve used during my first four months of learning and my goals for the rest of the year.

Study Tools for January – April 2017

Memrise App for iPhone

I friggin’ love Memrise!!! I don’t think I’d be as far along in my learning without it.

What I completed from Jan. 2017 to April 2017:

  • Basic Katakana
  • Introduction to Japanese
  • Japanese 1
  • Japanese 2
  • Started JLPT N5 Grammar & JLPT N5 Vocab

My next Memrise App learning goals are to complete the levels listed below along with Japanese 3, JLPT N5 Readings, and Beginner’s Japanese Grammer 1 (JLPT N5 Grammar) before my trip to Japan in September.

I don’t know how or if my phone will work in Japan for the 10 days that I’m there, but I’m hoping to at least keep up with my review words while I’m there. If not, my plan is to spend the rest of September catching up on reviewing all my words.

Oct. through December goals are to get started on JLPT N4 Vocab, JLPT N4 Readings, and regularly review all completed words as needed to keep them fresh in my mind.

MLC Learning Center (Meguro Language Center) Free Online Resources

My goal for my first year of learning Japanese is to learn the first grade level kanji, along with any others that appear in my Memrise studies.

I have the Basic Kanji 120 MOSTLY memorized.

  • Basic Kanji 120 Lesson (first grade kanji). Sign up to get the e-mail lesson for free HERE. There is also an option on the page to download the whole booklet at all once.

Japanese from Zero Video Series on YouTube

I didn’t discover these until my second month or so learning Japanese. The videos are created to go along with the book series, but have a lot to offer even if don’t have the books.

View the Playlist HERE.

JISHO.ORG

Website HERE. Jisho is a free online Japanese dictionary. It’s crazy useful for learning kanji, vocabulary, and general reference. I use it a lot when I’m trying to figure out words or kanji in captions on Instagram by native Japanese speakers. It’s also useful for learning stroke order of kanji if you’re practicing handwriting.

Instagram

I wrote a post HERE about accounts to follow on Instagram if you’re learning Japanese. The other way I use Instagram is by making friends with natives speakers and other nice folks learning Japanese. I absolutely love my IG friends! 🙂

Instagram has forced me to look up kanji, read/translate, figure out how to create sentences, and have conversation with native speakers through a sort of digital immersion.

The Results (So Far)

I’m pretty darn with happy with how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time. There is no reason to let limited funds or limited time set you back from learning a new language. I’m proof of that.

Thanks to the Internet, there are hundreds of incredible free ways to learn a new language without ever having to ever leave your house or put on pants if you don’t want to. If you have a smart phone and/or computer, you can learn a new language.

As far as finding time. Well, it really comes down to priorities. I spend WAY less time in Facebook, which has not only given me more time to practice Japanese, I feel like I have way less negativity in my daily life. I also feel like spending my last half-hour before bed practicing Japanese has helped me sleep better, too.

And as crazy as this may sound, I feel like learning Japanese is making me a better mother.  Instead of having a glass of wine at night to unwind, I practice Japanese. And to be honest, I think my nightly “wine-down” was negatively impacting my health and well-being, including my sleep habits. As of today, I’ve been “sober” for a little over two months.

I also feel like the intellectually satisfying part of learning Japanese has given me more self-confidence and self-appreciation. It’s like the self-care practice I’d been missing to help maintain daily balance in my life. If I’m feeling stressed out or in need of “me time,” I grab a cup of tea or coffee (sometimes a snack), and study Japanese. I love it.

I look forward to what the future holds for my Japanese learning experience. I’ve even recently thought about how I might be able to use my skills for some kind of job, perhaps once all my little ones are grown up and done with homeschooling. A bit of extra income around these parts would be a huge bonus, for sure.

Thanks for reading!

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

LET’S CONNECT AT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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Today’s Weather Is… {Japanese Lesson} + Free Worksheet

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This week we’re learning about how to talk about today’s weather in Japanese.

This is the closet door in our dining room, where I’ve set up a little sticky note station for this activity. The kids enjoy fighting over who gets to put up the daily weather sticker each morning. 🙂 And because we live in Michigan, sometimes we get to change this out multiple times a day.

mich weather

 

JAPANESE WEATHER RESOURCES

Here are a few other places to learn weather related Japanese lessons:

My Weather – Japanese Pinterest Board

Japanese Vocabulary – Weather in Japanese – Tenki 天気   (perfect for younger kids)

Waku Waku Japanese – Language Lesson 17: Weather  (older kids, teens, & adults)

Japanese Weather & Word Vocabulary

Japan Meteorological Agency   (Has both English & Japanese)

FREE WORKSHEET

I also made a worksheet for my older kids that I thought I’d share here for those interested. It’s nothing fancy. Just something I whipped up on Canva quick for my older kids. Click The Weather Is… to download the free printable .pdf worksheet.

The Weather Is...

 

See you later! またね! (matane!)

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal.

ありがとう // Arigatou // Thank you!

 

LET’S CONNECT THESE PLACES TOO  🙂

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How to Count to Five in Japanese & Two Free Worksheets

Count to Five

 

A few years ago I found these cool dry erase marker boards pictured above, and they are one of my favorite homeschool tools. They allow you to put traceable worksheets underneath a clear dry erase board to save you paper and make learning easier on the go. If you don’t have these boards, a simple plastic pocket page  works just as well.

Another fun way to use these worksheets is to simply print them up and use watercolors to trace the kanji. This is also a good small motor exercise for children. Of course, you can always just use markers or crayons if you’d like, too. And adults are free to use these too, I’m just sharing how I use them as a part of homeschooling my children.

How to Count to Five in Japanese 

Here’s quick phonetic run-down of the pronunciation of 1 through 5 in Japanese.

ONE: ichi (ee chee)

TWO: ni (knee

THREE: san (sahn)

FOUR: yon (yone)

FIVE: go (go)

For the worksheets, just click and it will open up a .pdf for you to print and save. If you have any problems or questions, feel free to post them in the comments section.

1-5 number writing practice sheet

kanji 1-5

Thanks for reading,

Shiga Shar

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, please share it on social media and consider donating a few bucks toward my 2017 Goodwill trip to Shiga through PayPal. Arigato/Thank you!

The Oldest Sister State Relationship in the U.S.

oldest sister state rltnshp

Last month we decided to start studying Japanese language and culture and as a part of our homeschooling. It only took a few days of practicing the language and exploring the culture for me to fall in madly love with all things Japanese.  I found myself staying up way past my bed-time practicing Japanese, watching tourist videos, and dreaming of one day visiting this far away land.

Since actually going to Japan seemed like a far-fetched desire (especially for a stay-at-home mom with five kids), I scoured the web for any kind of Japan themed trips here in Michigan to satisfy my wanderlust and double as a homeschool field trip.

One of the things I stumbled across during my search was the  Michigan-Shiga Sister State Program website. Up until this point, I had no idea our state had any kinds of connections with Japan. And I certainly didn’t realize that we’d been sister states with Shiga, Japan since 1968, making our partnership the oldest sister state relationship in the United States.

How cool is that?!

The best part of discovering the Michigan-Shiga Sister State Program was finding out about the Goodwill Mission to Shiga, Japan.  Every odd numbered year, residents of Michigan have the opportunity to spend 11 days in Shiga, Japan. Five of those days are spent living with a host family, fully immersed in Japanese culture.

Again, how cool is that?!

I don’t quite know how it’s going to happen just yet, but I’ve got to find a way to go on the next trip. The cost of the 2015 trip (which seems quite reasonable) was around $3,000, which should be about the same cost in 2107. That means I have about a year and a half to come up with a few grand and sharpen my Japanese skills if I want to go to Shiga in 2107.

This blog will serve two purposes:

1) To share my love of Shiga and Japan, including sharing facts, tasty recipes, language learning tips, and more to get you guys just as hooked on Shiga and Japan as I am.

2) To serve as a fundraising platform. For those of you who find this blog helpful and informative, it would be super awesome if you’d consider donating a few bucks (or more if you’re so inclined) toward helping me get to Shiga.

 

Sayonara  さようなら,

Shiga Shar