Great news! I finished reading the first volume of よつばと! It’s always mega boost to my confidence finishing a book. It also helps that I’m in the middle of the Tadoku reading contest (readMOD.com). It’s an online “contest” (and I use quotes because it’s really just a leaderboard) for reading extensively in your target language. Here’s a great blog post about extensive reading for anyone who’s curious. I didn’t set up a specific goal at the beginning just because I’ve never done it before and didn’t know what would be a realistic goal. Regardless, I am having a lot of fun and am definitely reading more Japanese than I used to. I encourage anyone to check it out.
Speaking of contests, I also signed up for the February edition of the 6 Week Challenge. The 6WC “is a challenge to upgrade your language skills in one language from beginner to something more worthwhile, and to see if you can find more time to study languages when competing with other participants in a global highscore” (6wc.learnlangs.com/howto) You record the amount of time you spend studying/anki/reading/listening/playing etc. You can compare yourself to others, or just see where you dedicate your time studying. It also has a cool web interface with numbers and graphs and such.
In order to gear up for the 6WC, this week I started keeping track of anything I do in Japanese. I just downloaded a time tracker app on my smartphone and I turn it on whenever I sit down to do Anki reps or when I’m reading manga. It’s actually a real eye opener in terms of where my time actually goes.
Time Distortions and How They Relate to How I Study Ineffectively
For me, Anki has given me a distorted sense of time and accomplishment. I do some reviews, go check my email, do some more reviews, browse facebook for a bit, then do a few more reviews. The same thing happens when I try to sit down and read. I think about all the things I need to do, how I need to start cooking dinner, how I don’t exercise enough, blah blah blah. The amount of time I actually spent actively studying was in minutes, not hours.
Now that I’m keeping track of the time, I consciously turn on my time tracker and set it down in front of me. This is a constant reminder that I’m in review mode. The way I have my time tracker set up is that it can not create a new entry unless I spend at least ONE MINUTE doing whatever it is that I’m tracking. One minute is not a long time at all, and I’m free to stop at any point after that and go dick around on the internet. However, the majority of the time I just keep studying, and for much longer than I used to. Forcing myself to dedicate at least a single minute of my time doing Anki reps, reading Japanese, finding good source material, or whatever has boosted my motivation to keep studying.
Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone. Most people would probably find it tedious or useless to keep track of exactly how much time you spend in your target language. However, I have found that a more structured method of learning works MUCH better for me than a go-with-the-flow type of method. Internal interest and motivation just isn’t enough for me to keep up with such a time-consuming habit. I need some external forces helping me out.