Dear reader, the first month is over, and the Ko.2001 is getting easier. My reading ability has improved since I started with the material, but production is falling short which I will work on it again, once my reviews start dying down. The emphasize right now is learning vocabulary, and this is more important than production. The only thing I don’t like about Kanji Odyssey right now is the high amount of business related vocabulary. The names of cities, companies and people could be more creative. A社, S社, Aさん etc. is a bit of a waste. Having real names and places names would have been great, because they could be learned along with vocabulary. But this is only a minor complaint. In one sentence I took the freedom and changed A社 to ACME社 because it fit so well. The sentence reminded me of Looney Toons and ACME 研究所 so I just had to change it. In case you are curious what the sentence is that I changed, it was this one. ここはＡＣＭＥ社の研究所。この研究所には最新の設備がある。 Other than that there was no real necessity to change anything.
Although I said there was no need to change anything, there is always some space for improvements, to make the whole process more efficient, and the reviews easier. This is what I did. First of all, there is a theory that says that one should review I+1 cards, which is hardly possible with Ko.2001. The program contains many I+3 or I+4 setences. In the beginning I added the readings for words not learned yet next to the word in Kanji in round brackets. In reviews I didn’t grade them as hard, when I forgot what the word means, not the best way but it worked. In an attempt to improve this, I started to copy and paste the word into a browser window, and copy the translation of the work back to a field on my cards. The translations are on the front, and if I need it, the information is there. I still have to know the vocab, the correct reading, and the general meaning of the sentence to pass it. Here is a screenshot demonstrating how this looks like.
I improved the review process in two ways. The first improvement was to start adding a number of cards, until new reviews were due, doing the reviews and go back adding new cards. The new cards were suspended for the first two or three rounds of reviews. After two or three hours, while adding cards and doing reviews, I would unsuspend the new cards and get them into the review cycle. That got them out of the way and I started adding more cards.
At first I thought that this would lead to an unbearable amount of cards in a relatively short time. Or making it harder to memorize everything. This is not the case! For first seen cards I have 82% correct and this is not bad at all considering the high numbers of cards. This number was higher in the beginning of course, with the highest being 93% slowly dropping to an average of 86% in later stages, and 82% right now. The number of correct answers for young cards is as high as 95% on average. With a number of 2062 cards in my deck at the moment this is very good. I don’t grade a card easy, or very easy, unless it is. And I don’t pass cards just for the sake of getting them out-of-the-way. I am really satisfied with my performance.
The second improvement found its way into my review process a short while ago. I used to use timeboxing with a setting of 10 minutes or 39 cards as limit. The first few sessions at the beginning of a new day are used to get a large number of due cards out-of-the-way. This is where the following change really helps getting things done. The average number of due cards when getting up is 79 to 130 cards, depending on how long I sleep, so nothing that would take ages to get done. The following change took place that sped up the reviews, and made it feel as if no time at all was passing from start to finish.
Since I do my first reviews of the day in few consecutive sessions, I always knew that 10 minutes have passed, 20, 30 or even 40 by the end. Now I started changing the number of minutes for each timebox session. The first is 10, the second 9, the third 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. In case I reach 1 minutes and there are still cards left, I start raising the number of minutes. When a new review session is coming up between adding cards, I start with the number of minutes set in the last session, and increase or decrease the value. What I noticed is, that the shorter the number of minutes is getting, the more I get done. Once the number of minutes has reached a certain limit, a big part of the reviews is already done, and the shorter time limit leads me to speed up to get more done. It feels as if almost no time has passed at the end of a session.
This is not a simple psychologic trick that lets it seem as if less time has passed. There is a real and noticeable improvement in both speed and efficiency taking place. It takes less time to get things done, and more things are getting done, with less time available. My best guess is that it has to do with the brain being aware if there are 10 minutes or only 2 to solve a number of problems. And when there is more time available, it will take its time to find the correct answer. Having less and less time available, the brain will have to retrieve information as fast as possible. The only thing that can be measured is the time all reviews were taking.
What else has changed? I read more, take breaks in between to watch an Anime episode, YouTube videos in Japanese, and other fun activities. This motivates me to keep going, and it shows that it is worth investing time into learning. Pretty soon I will reach the end of Level 1 in Ko.2001 on will move on to Level 2. I will also sign up for evening school starting from next year. This has nothing to do with Japanese, but another dream that I held for almost 11 years now. I want to study and get a degree, but since I have only learned two professions, which is not enough to study what I would want to, it is time to go back to school to make the Matura. This will probably take 2 years, but I will see how I can get there faster, which is possible. Being an adult has its advantages after all. Doing this was what I set for a goal if my interest does not wear off by the end of this year. The end of the year is still some months away, but it is clear that I will never let go of Japanese. Thus I decided to sign up for it. One thing is clear, I will need all the motivation and mental support to follow this through. But I will do it, since it is my dream, and dreams can come true, and nobody is going to stop me!