A Wild Pikachu Appears -To Demonstrate Positions

To express positions in Japanese, we use the particle の to link a noun to a position word. The lovable Pikachu will demonstrate these positional phrases by hiding in various places.

Before we start, let’s familiarize ourselves with the grammar involved.

Post-position Grammar

Japanese is a post-positional language, unlike English, which generally uses prepositions. Both preposition and post-positions combine a noun (noun phrase). As determined by the prefix (pre/post) – the preposition comes before and the post-position comes after the noun phrase. Since Japanese uses post-positions, the noun comes first, and  the position word follows. The particle の connects the two. This is the particle used when describing possession, which makes sense here.

[noun] + + [position word] + (に or で)


Right of the Flowers – 花の右

Here Pikachu is hiding to the right of two pink tulip flowers. Using the formula above, the noun flowers (はな) comes first, then の, and finally the position word, right (みぎ).

Full sentence? ピカチュウは花の右にあります。

To be honest, I’m not sure whether to use いる (animate) or ある (inanimate) for this Pikachu. Since this one is stuffed and doesn’t move, I’ll use ある.

Pikachu is right of the flowers. 花のみぎ

Pikachu is right of the flowers. 花のみぎ

Sound fun? Let’s learn more! Below is a table with the most common positional words. As with most tables on my blog, you can conveniently sort and search. I’m only using the most basic nouns that hopefully you will know if you have a few months of Japanese under your belt.

Position Nouns

うえueabove; over; top
したshitabelow; under; bottom
なかnakamiddle; inside
まえmaefront; before
後ろうしろushirobehind; back
そばsobanext to
へんhenaround here; near
あいだaidain between

Left of the Stone – 石の左

Next up, one of the first kanji I ever learned – 石 – stone. Pikachu is to the left of the stone.


Gawa (側) means “side”, so 左側 means left side.

Left of the stone - 石の左

Left of the stone - 石の左

When taking these pictures, I know now that I should’ve spent the extra time making the noun a different color than the positional nouns, but I had a frantic dog (you will see at the end) going crazy in the backyard wondering what I was up to.

Under the Tree – 木の下

I felt like an idiot scooting around on my belly to get this picture and make sure the lowest swooping branches of the tree were included, just like the kanji character!

Under the tree - 木の下着

Under the tree – 木の下着

In Front of the Gate – ゲートの前に

He’s small, but he’s in the picture, almost buried in leaves!

In Front of the Gate

In Front of the Gate

I had to stop here, this is where my dog was able to get too close to Pikachu… I don’t want this to happen…

Pikachū wa watashi no inu no kuchi no naka ni arimasu.
Pikachu is inside my dog’s mouth!

My dog thinks any stuffed animal is her domain and supposed to be ripped to shreds. 🙁

Not safe around inu!

Not safe around inu!

Inside the Poké Ball  – ポケボールの中

Rather, let’s put him in a place where he’d be more comfortable… Until next time!


I Choose You!

I Choose You!

Thanks to…

Thank you to my assistant, my lovely daughter who went around with Pikachu and a basket to place all the chalkboards while I shot the photos! Everytime I called her “Assistant”, she asked me if I was going to call her Christina next (from Stein’s Gate’s Kurisa).


Listening to Japanese

This past week I’ve been making a valiant effort to listen to more Japanese. My workouts usually consist of walking on my treadmill while watching shows (favorites being Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story). Well now I’ve started to watch more anime in Japanese, with English subtitles. Before this, I’d just watch in English, thinking I’d return and watch again in Japanese once I understand it better.

It’s been a coincidence that as I watch some shows, I also learn the kanji via WaniKani. For example, within days of learning the below vocabulary in kanji, I see them in my shows!

東京 – “east capital” – Toyko (in Tokyo Ghoul)

未来 – “not yet, come” – Future (in Future Diary)

So it’s all fun that I can recognize quite a few kanji now, but I need to learn faster! So I’ve started Attack on Titan (Shingeki no Kyojin) in Japanese with subtitles. I was already starting to read the manga in English.


Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan


I particularly love strong female protagonists, she is strong in both combat strength and intelligence. She’s quiet, yet extremely determined, passionate and loyal.

What I can Understand

Am I understanding anything? Haha, not at all, really, just a few common phrases and words. I’m picking out adverbs like ほんとに and such though. I’m seeing how they use family names to call out to strangers, something I had just learned recently – おねえさn, おじいさん…

I’ll continue to watch at least one anime at a time in Japanese going forward. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep learning more grammar and vocab!


I love walking my dog, but of course have to multi-task somehow. So I renewed my JapanesePod101 subscription this month. I first started it a few months ago, but quickly got in over my head, and then my month expired. This time I’ve splurged on a 24 month subscription.

The picture below shows my tools I use when I listen to JapanesePod101! Of course my cellphone and headphones while out walking, but I don’t walk anywhere without my dog, so her leash is pictured here too.

JapanesePod101 on walks

JapanesePod101 on walks

They are perfect-sized chunks for my walks – about 15 minutes. I usually listen to about 2-3, depending on the walk. I have *only* been using the audio podcasts, but each time I listen, they tempt me with the resources they offer on their site – the lesson notes, the kanji, transcript, and more. Just looking at one lesson shows me so much more, such as quizzes, dialogue in audio/kanji/English/romaji/kana/all. They have a very active community, each lesson has a ton of comments.

I’ve been all over the place, trying to find just the right level for myself, right now I’m mostly listening to the Absolute Beginner/Beginner lessons. I’d love to blog more in-depth about this amazing resource as I get more familiar with the various lesson tracks.

How about you? What are you using to listen to Japanese? 


What I’ve Learned (4/17 to 4/24)

With the weather turning nicer I’ve been outside a lot walking my dog, but also last week the mmo I’ve been playing for 6 years released Eternal Weapons, so I’ve been questing for that. But I have not neglected my Nihongo studies!

Something new that I’ve added is trying to get more Japanese listening opportunities in. I’ll go over this in more detail in my next post.

NihongoMaster (40% into Beginner)

  • Two “to be” verbs: いる (for animate things that move) and ある (for inanimate things)
  • Describing locations with the above verbs using particle に
  • Review on particles that can be confusing: に, で, and を
  • Learning the Japanese concept of uchi and soto (in-groups or not) and how to speak about family members to various people
  • More Kanji:  (I knew all but “language”, second kanji listed, from WaniKani)
  • Using と to list nouns, “with”, meeting people

Human Japanese

I’m at the end of a big review, so my progress has been slowed. I just want to make sure I completely understand everything before going forward. It nicely parallels NihongoMaster, in a very readable chapter format. Concepts I’ve been focusing on the past week include the “to be” verbs, と usage, particles, family member vocabulary and how to use it when talking within your own family, talking to a friend about their family, or talking about your own family to other people.

  • Chapter 29: Verbs, The Return
    Part vocabulary builder and part grammar lesson, this chapter introduces more verbs, then shows how to create sentences that join multiple verbs in a single statement.
  • Chapter 30: Interrogatives and Ga
    Tracks down the who, what, when, where, and why, which require the use of a new particle, ga.
  • Chapter 31: Cultural Notes: Prices
    Looks into the myth that Japan is an expensive country, relating a recent experience the author had staying in an apartment near Tokyo.

WaniKani – Level 8

forest, woodsしんもり
comfort, ease, pleasureらく, がくたの
talk, speakはな, はなし
answer, response, replyとうこた
number in a series, turn, ordinal numberばん
interval, interval of time, time intervalかん, けんあいだ, ま
bureau, departmentきょく
somebody, someone, bodyしん
someone, somebodyしゃもの
road, street, path, wayどうみち
helpじょたす, すけ
suit, fit, joinごう, がっあ, あい
dwelling, reside, dwellじゅう
service, dutyやく
decide, decisionけつ
support, branchささ
count, number, amountすうかぞ, かず
location, placeじょう
drawing, painting

My Kanji Wallpaper (generated today) is filling out nicely!

Kanji wallpaper

Kanji wallpaper

Looking at some of the very first kanji I’ve learned, it won’t be until four months until I review them again – and hopefully burn them!

Next Review: 

Unlocked Date: February 28, 2017

End of August… seems so far away.

I Have Reached Enlightenment!

This is a major day in WaniKani for me! I have reached the “Enlightened” level on some of my terms. Just 10 Radicals, but Kanji will be following soon too! It took me exactly 7 weeks and 2 days to reach Enlightened. I also reached my 1000th Guru turtle! Yes, we call them turtles, and we want to burn the kanji on these turtle shells.

WK Enlightened

WK Enlightened

Level 8!

Also tonight I reached Level 8. Don’t worry, I am not going to celebrate every one of my 60 WaniKani levels, it’s just that getting to the next level “Enlightened” is special! And you’ll definitely see me post when I “Burn” my first items as well. 🙂



WaniKani Stats

Below I’m sharing some WaniKani stats from a site called WaniKani Stats, featuring very useful graphs to chart my progress.

SRS is the spaced-repetition system WaniKani uses – the learning technique that increased the intervals of time you review. There are a total of nine levels, split across the five groups below. Starting with Apprentice, your reviews will come within hours or a few days. The highest group, Burn, is when you can recall an item after 4 months.

  • Apprentice (3 intervals)
  • Guru (2 intervals)
  • Master (2 intervals)
  • Enlightened (1 interval)
  • Burned (1 interval)

SRS Total Breakdown

I only have a sliver of Enlightened, tons of Guru and Mastered, a few Apprentice for now, and no Burns yet. But I have only been at it for less then two months, I will get there!

Level Progression Time

This chart shows my average time to complete levels. Level 4-5 was when I was on Spring Break in Mexico for 10 days, I still worked on WK everyday, just not as fast as I do when I’m at home. Looks like my average level takes 8 days. If I keep up this pace, I’ll be done in about one year exactly – to Level 50.  It’s okay if I take longer, I’m not racing for any reason. There are an extra 10 bonus levels, so it’ll definitely take me longer than a year to finish it all.


WaniKani Progress and JLPT Kanji Progress

This handy chart visually shows me my progress through the WaniKani program, as well as the JLPT levels.


More Progress Visuals

As you can see, I’m very far from the JLPT N1! But maybe soon I’ll be ready for N5. This chart can also show Joyo and Frequency charts.


Human Japanese app review

Human Japanese is one of my most favorite learning apps, I have it on both my phone and tablet. The software is available for any platform – PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, Windows phone. There are two versions – Basic and Intermediate. You don’t have to know any Japanese to start, the Basic will teach you all the hiragana and katakana and get you up to reading sentences like below in no time. Intermediate will introduce kanji and advanced grammar.

Human Japanese

Human Japanese – Chapter 30

Voice Recordings and stroke animations

All kana, vocabulary words and sentences have voice recordings. The hiragana and katakana lessons include stroke animations and tips on writing the characters. Mini-quizzes inside these lessons will quiz you on your reading skills, allowing you to hear correct pronunciation.

Sentence “Ingredients” Feature

As you learn to put together sentences, you’ll be able to click the sentence for a voice recording, or click below and show the English translation. To the side is a yellow note, which opens up an “Ingredients” window that breaks the sentence down to all the parts of the sentence, in order. You’ll see all the nouns, particles, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and more. Below is an example for “There’s a cat on top of the fridge.”
ねこが れいぞうこの うえに います。

Human Japanese - Ingredients

Ingredients breakdown for ねこが れいぞうこの うえに います。

Chapter Review Quizzes

At the end of most chapters are a Chapter Review quiz and any related quizzes (kana, vocabulary).  Each of these quizzes has 10 questions. You get points for answering each question correctly, which increases your XP and level. You can revisit each quiz to get more points, up to a total of 4 times, and can “master” the question. You can see in these screenshots, I’m currently:

Rank: Adept
Level: 14
XP: 2751

Chapter quizzes will unlock the next chapter. This ensures you understood the material before you move on to new lessons, but you can disable this feature and move around freely if you like. One quick note: You can see above that I unlocked all these chapters within a few days of each other. That is because I got a new Samsung tablet this month, so I ran through all the chapters real quick to “unlock” them. I didn’t need to, but I like to see my progress, so I have “Unlock as you go” checked in the Preferences.

Here is a sample question, testing on the vocabulary word “right”. I hope I get it right! (I did.)

Human Japanese quiz

Human Japanese quiz

Japanese Culture

Some chapters are culture lessons, so in the basic Human Japanese version, you will learn about geography, ofuru (bath), trains, countryside, and more. They have stunning pictures and wonderful descriptions of fascinating Japanese culture.

Japanese onsen

Japanese onsen


Once you buy Human Japanese on one platform, you can download it to any device that uses that platform. So since I got the Android version for my tablet, everytime I update it I can install it again on my Android phones and tablets without paying again. However, it won’t save your progress, at least not at this time. It is on their future feature list to synchronize user data. You can however have multiple profiles on one device, allowing family members to also learn! I used to homeschool, so I can see this being very handy for families with multiple children using it.

Need more  Practice?

As I mentioned earlier, you can always go back to a specific chapter to “master” the questions from that chapter. There are also three “Freestyle” cumulative reviews, so you can indicate if you want more practice in vocab, kana, or numbers. I just tried the Vocab freestyle quiz, set to a specific chapter and all previous chapters (you could also choose just one chapter or just the questions you miss the most). And I leveled up to 15!


Like I’ve mentioned before, I read a bit of Human Japanese a bit every day. It reads like a book to me, with beautiful pictures and backgrounds, so I curl up with the app at night and use it as a review for vocabulary and grammar I’ve learned in my other programs I use. The interface is very soothing, yet very user-friendly.


You can purchase it on Amazon for your PC, or via the app store on the platform you use. Most offer a “Lite” version where you can try out the first 8 lessons for free.

My Personal Progress

My progress with Human Japanese has been steady this spring the past few months. There are 45 total chapters and I’m currently on chapter 30. I look forward to ordering Human Japanese Intermediate and seeing more kanji in my readings as well!

What I Learned This Week (4/9 to 4/16)

Here’s what I learned this past week! Sorry it is up a bit later than I wanted, it was a busy end of the week.


New Kanji, level 7. The first few days of a new level keeps me pretty busy, plus I tried my best to do some KaniWani, the reverse site, I am pretty far behind.

summerげ, か, がなつ
house, homeか, けいえ, や, うち
boat, shipせんふね
reasonゆうよし, よ.る
tall, expensive, highこうたか.い
not yetま.だ, いま.だ, ひつじ
areaへんあた.り, べ
group, association, teamくみ
strong, strengthきょうつよ.い
by means of, by the means of, by way of, by the way of
wind, styleふうかぜ
write down, recordしる.す
time, o'clock, hourとき
teachきょうおし.える, おそ.わる
family name, last name, surnameうじ
peoples, people, nationみんたみ
bill, label, noteさつふだ
pass throughつうとお.る, かよ.う

NihongoMaster (35% into Beginner)

  • へ particle – indicating direction of motion (its only use). Pronounced as “e”.
  • New Kanji – 
  • Polite past tense
  • Negative past tense (えいごのじゅぎょうはおもしろくありませんでした。)
  • particle で  with verbs and objects: フォークピザをたべますか。
    in using locations: としょかんべんきょうをします。
  • Knowing when to use に and when to use で
  • Particle  が and describing people: ジョンさんはせがたかいですか。
  • From Here to There, using から and まで
  • Honorific Where どちら
  • And lots of new vocab and verbs relating to the above lessons

I also joined their Daily Jōyō Kanji Challenge, where I get three new kanji sent to my email everyday. What I’m doing is adding these to my NihongoMaster drills everyday. So far I know all of them, they are all having to do with numbers.

HumanJapanese App

I did a massive review, took all the chapter tests from the beginning. You get more points until you “master” each question, which I think is if you get it right 4 times in a row.

  • Chapter 24: Objects and Wo
    Opens up new grammatical vistas by introducing the particle wo, which marks the direct object in a sentence.
  • Chapter 25: Existence and Ni
    Introduces a second use for the particle ni, which is to indicate the location of existence for some verbs.
  • Chapter 26: Friends and Family
    Teaches the vocabulary needed to talk about everyone and their brother.
  • Chapter 27: Recreation and Leisure
    A vocabulary lesson packed with words related to sports, recreation, and leisure.
  • Chapter 28: Post-positional Phrases
    Puts the particle no to use in a new way by showing how to construct sentences that use what are called prepositional phrases in English, such as “on top of the refrigerator,” or “inside the car.”

Remembering the Kanji

Remembering the Kanji

Remembering the Kanji

New to my blog’s weekly updates is this book – Remembering the Kanji, by James W. Heiseg.

So many people have used this book to learn their kanji, and many new programs are heavily influenced by Remembering the Kanji (RTK for short). I figure I’ll go through some of the lessons to check out what it’s about.

Peep with Japan flag

Why I Love Learning Japanese

Everyone has their reasons for learning a new language. Whether for work, entertainment, travel – I think at one time all of these were reasons for me. In this post I’m going to try to explain why I’m fascinated with learning Japanese, and am finally pursuing this interest.

I’ve been interested in Japanese for most my life. When I was growing up, I was told it was the language to learn if you wanted to be successful in international business (my second degree was in business). It wasn’t as easy to learn back then as it is now though. Fast forward to now – where a plethora of learning tools are at our fingertips! Not only is it easier to teach yourself, but we have more motivation in terms of entertainment.

My reasons have definitely changed over the years for learning Japanese. Japanese culture has permeated our culture – through anime, manga, and games. Right now I’m watching anime and reading manga in English, but I would really love to be able to understand in Japanese, and without subtitles. This is a huge reason why many people are learning it now, the forums I frequent are full of people who love anime.

I love the culture, the history, and want to learn more. While I don’t see myself living and working in Japan, I will visit someday soon, hopefully several times in my lifetime.

I love the way languages in general open the world to me just a bit more.

But my biggest reason? I just enjoy learning it. I love listening to it, and speaking it. I think written Japanese just looks so awesome! I love the challenge, how it makes me think. The more kanji, vocab, grammar I learn, all the pieces fall together; it’s like a lifelong puzzle that I’m working on.

Going Forward

I know it’s going to be a long journey. I know most who take on such an endeavor drop it within the first year. Japanese is not easy, it is going to be painful at times. But now is the time for me to do this. I have no big distractions with school or work. I have the passion and motivation.

Peep with Japan flag

Peep with Japan flag

Hope to see you in three years! I hope to be actively blogging even then, and someday sharing photos of trips to Japan!


— Angela

How about you? If you’re learning a language, what are your motivations?


Slowly, but surely, I’m going to try to write in more Japanese, as I learn more words and grammar. I hope the sentence below sentence means: I am busy with my Japanese studies!


The day kicked off when I woke up to 120 WaniKani drills! That just could be my highest drill count yet. I had just leveled up late last night, and it took a few hours to complete all the new lessons and the first round of reviews. I’m so happy to be level 7 though, I’ve made it a goal to try to listen and read more Japanese (easy level) outside my studies once I’m level 10, so that’s one step closer.

WK Overlay Script

As I learn the new kanji, I get to play with the user scripts I installed. The one below is called WK Overlay and it displays the appropriate radical or kanji tags. Of course, they’re added after you answer the drill, otherwise that would be cheating! I find this helps reinforce the building blocks which helps me figure words out with those radicals/kanji next time.

So “Summer” was a new kanji presented to me for level seven. Most of the time the radical/kanji tags start off all in a clump, but for the kanji character page, you can move them around. Here I separated them a tiny bit, so you can see the radicals better. I chose this kanji at random.

And then I move them around all nice and neat, near what they represent, while memorizing the little mnemonic I’m given. For Kanji, they provide radical tags, with the radicals outlined in blue.

WaniKani’s mnemonic to help me remember “Summer” kanji

The eye leaf grows only in the winter. Every other leaf, however, will do the opposite, which is to grow in the summer.

Here’s another example for “school”.

You find your father with a lid on his head, up in a tree. He yells down at you. “Hey! Welcome to your first day of school!”

The stories may seem silly, if you’re not used to mnemonics. But they work!

Here is a more complex vocabulary word (in a higher level), this was a sample on the script page. This script will add black kanji tags to vocabulary words.

My Own Mnemonics

Also, as I learn new kanji/vocab, I get tested right away. If I know something is definitely not going to be memorable enough for me, I don’t hesitate to think up my own mnemonic. Below I added my own “Reading Note” to remember the kanji “Weak”, both its meaning and reading, it’s on the bottom of this image. Poor Jacku, Rose should’ve been a bit less weak…

Kanji for weak

“I’ll never let go, *Jacku*! Oh wait, I’m too WEAK, goodbye Jacku!”


Once I was done with so many hours of WaniKani, I went to their forums, and somebody started a thread asking how many KaniWani drills you had piled up. I don’t think I ever covered KaniWani in detail on my blog yet, I’ll do that another time, but it’s basically a fan-created site that tests WaniKani in reverse.

I hadn’t done KaniWani much, so I had 418 drills to do! I only started it right before vacation and was frustrated that it took time to get any to “Master” level. (Anybody who uses WK knows you just need patience, drills are spaced out. No matter how good you are, you won’t “Burn” your kanji in just a month of starting.)

A few MORE hours of working in KaniWani, and I got it down to 233. (I actually got it down to 140, but of course more drills came to join the fun.) And look! I started to “Master” my first words!

A lot of similar words with the same or very similar meanings always trip me up in KaniWani. And some just tripped me up anyway. For example, the kanji for “Sell” confused me, in the vocab words, it almost always had the り kana after the う. I hadn’t seen that before…

Then, lo and behold, in NihongoMaster, I learned the kanji for sell, and they showed me the polite form of うる was うり! (To be honest, I had just learned about the various forms of verbs last week, so it all makes sense now.) But I don’t think I will ever miss that change again.

Progressing in NihongoMaster

Speaking of which, I also worked very hard today to get to level 10 in NihongoMaster. Levels don’t mean as much here, as your points slide with inactivity, even after a few hours. I think it does show how hard you work with their program, all the top learners are in the level 20s. I feel like such a newb at 9. I do know you lose points steadily, and I’m not sure yet how to optimize points gain. Do the points start to drop after a certain timeframe of inactivity?I emailed their support last week to ask and they never answered. I’ll probably ask the question in their forums. I get about 100 drills a day in this program, although it’s hard to tell with timed SRS drills – I do them several times a day as they pop up.

You may think I’m crazy for using so many different programs to learn Japanese, but I very carefully choose my main ones I work with everyday. I love how new concepts are reinforced in various ways, whether it’s conjugating the verb tenses, seeing the kanji, grammar explanations and more.








Pen or Stylus? How to Take My Japanese Notes

I was always that girl in school with organized hand-written notes taken from my lectures – color-coded, organized, and neat. While it’s been years since I’ve had to take notes in a class, I naturally fell back into physical pen and paper note taking once again while studying Japanese. I have several notebooks laying around that I take notes from my main sources – NihongoMaster, Japanese From Zero and now Genki I.

Last night I started writing down the grammar lessons I’ve learned in Genki I. I used a soothing highlighter to highlight important passages in the book and wrote down in my notebook vocab words I don’t have memorized yet.

Using a notebook and pen for Genki I

Using a notebook, pen, and highlighter for Genki I

But I am really more of a techie geek and gnawing away at me was the fear that I’m missing out on all the technical features that digitized notes offer! For someone who has been databasing info from her games for the past decade, how could I fall behind on such amazing tools?

After slowly hand-scrawling one page of notes, I fired up one of my electronic note programs and tried taking notes. Below is a screenshot of Microsoft OneNote from my tablet.

Screenshot on OneNote

Screenshot on OneNote

It took me some time to figure out how to include tables on my tablet (very easy), and most importantly, how to include kana and kanji! That’s a future blog post in itself, heh… But look! I did it, and I can write in Japanese on my keyboard! I can use my stylus to handwrite as well! I can be organized and neater than ever! I can share my screenshots easily here!

There’s a lot to get excited about when using a program like OneNote, Evernote, or Google Keep. It took me more time to do the above page on my tablet than on physical paper, but I’m sure with time, it would become faster. For those of you who are “fluent” in such a program, it makes life so much easier!

Benefits of Digitized Notes

  • Searching – instantly find anything
  • Categorizing with notebooks, pages, tags, categories
  • Easier to share (cut/paste and post to blog or email)
  • Integration with pictures, web clips, links
  • Synchronization across multiple devices (pc, laptop, tablet, and phone) – Take Notes Everywhere!
  • Backups – Never Lose the notes you worked so hard on
  • Looks good!
Using OneNote for Japanese notes

Using OneNote for Japanese notes

But I gotta admit, it took me a long time to make that electronic note page. And it’s buried inside my apps, so I can’t see myself picking it up and re-reading it much, I can see forgetting it easily.

I looked back upon my hand-written notes. It’s so easy to make little drawings, oh the freedom to draw/write whatever I want! So I reflected upon some of the advantages I enjoyed while using physical pen and paper.

Japanese From Zero Notes

Japanese From Zero Notes

Benefits of Pen and Paper

  • Ease of use – just pick up a pad of paper and a pen!
  • I find it easy to read when my notes are laying around my desk
  • Freedom to add kana/kanji, drawings… (you can do this digitally too, if you have it setup)
  • Silly, but I find it gratifying to write and fill up a notebook with notes!
  • I’m more focused and less likely to “tab out” to one of Internet’s many distractions
  • Studies have proven retention is best with good ole pen and paper

That last point though! Is it true? I fired up google to see which note-taking method is best, and while digital note-taking these days is more prevalent, according to this study, writing by hand is superior in terms of better understanding the material and retention.

Here’s a few links summarizing that study if you want to learn the details:

TLDR: Laptop note-taking seems great since you can type faster than you hand-write, so students can copy a professor’s lecture verbatim. Recording the lecture is even possible with a laptop. But transcribing word for word means less thought is given while taking notes, and thus, less conceptual understanding of the topic. Slowly writing by hand forces you to listen and comprehend the material so you can write concise notes. Even the act of writing things down by hand helps solidify the topic.

You might think, well those laptop users who have basically recorded the entire lecture word for word will fare better a week later after reading their notes? Nope, then, the physical note-takers performed better.

Notetaking for Meetings

I asked my husband, who works in a large corporation, how people take notes in their meetings. He says all kinds – pen and paper, OneNote, you name it. These are mostly older people, so not people who grew up with cellphones and ipads or even laptops.

He personally prefers pen and paper, he loves his Moleskin notebooks and his cheap hotel pens.  He seemed very excited about his notebook and how he loved his expensive, quality notebook, but he can justify spending $10 every ten months on a new one. And free pens from conventions and hotels are, of course, free! Upon hearing that, I slowly backed out of his room, thinking about how much I spent on pens and paper…

As an example, with his permission, I snapped a quick pic of his notes he took while on a conference call (I blurred the notes for privacy reasons). As I was looking on his desk, I did notice all his free pens…

Result after Researching the topic

That sold it for me – knowing I’ll have better retention! Deep down I wanted to keep using my notebooks anyway. I’ll keep using my awesome pens and notebooks!  I still sometimes use OneNote/Evernote for planning things, but I don’t use it enough to make the most optimal use out of it.

Ironically, I admit I hardly have time to take notes yet from grammar books. Too much time spent researching “how to take notes best”, selecting and shopping for the most inspiring notebooks and pens, and then blogging about it all… but that’s just me, and I’m a weird perfectionist. But with all that out of the way, I can proceed with no qualms on learning Japanese grammar with hand-written notes!

Fun notebooks and pens for note-taking

Fun notebooks and pens for note-taking

How about you? Do you take notes on the things you’re learning about Japanese? If so, what do you use – pen, keyboard, or stylus?

Kanji and Hanzi Writing Practice Day

It’s Hànzì and Kanji Day! You may have remembered that my daughter is in her second year of learning Mandarin Chinese at her school. One of the things that makes it so much fun is that we can study our characters together! They pretty much look exactly the same and even have mostly the same meanings!

So I thought once a week we’d sit down and practice writing together. I know most but not all the hanzi that she writes, and she knows maybe half of my kanji. To make things more fun, I spread out some fun colorful pens and papers; if you haven’t noticed yet, you will soon — I have a serious pen addiction. We gathered in our loft, which is all spacious and bright and set about our work.


Satori’s Mandarin teacher gave her this writing practice book, and so that is what she’s using to write her characters today.

Satori practicing her hanzi character handwriting

Satori practicing her hanzi character handwriting

Look! I see the characters for mouth, eye, ear, hand, and day! Wait… one of these things are not like the others…


Across the table, I start off with some katakana handwriting practice. Although I’m pretty good at writing katakana,  I still have a few characters I forget sometimes or just don’t have the stroke order memorized. So practicing kana once a week or so is very beneficial for me.


Next, I took the time to write down my new Kanji characters I learned this week. With the WaniKani app on my tablet, I do my best to write them down, just guessing at the stroke order. Writing them down helps me remember. I choose some black paper and Uni-ball Signo Angelic Gel Pens to set off the characters.

WaniKani App and writing Level 6 kanji

WaniKani App and writing Level 6 kanji

According to my daughter, I have “rookie” handwriting. She says in her class all her classmates painstakingly write their Mandarin Chinese han zi all neat and precise. Then Miss Yang Lăoshī (her teacher) writes on the board and her characters are written all hasty and well… maybe not quite sloppy, but just not-so-neat. So apparently, anybody who writes all slow and carefully are “rookies”! Which is probably quite true…

WaniKani Level 6 kanji

WaniKani Level 6 kanji

Message for Mom

Before she left, I asked her to write me something in Mandarin. Right now she mostly just knows how to say things and not write whole sentences down, but here she tried her best to write “Mom eat rice.” And I recognize the kanji for woman and rice!

Daughter's message

Daughter’s message

This was our first time practicing together, I hope we make a habit of it, even if it’s just for a few minutes of bonding. Eventually we may get into writing Chinese and Japanese calligraphy together, I know at least I plan to learn shodo and maybe Suibokuga!