Since 2.3 months I am working with KO.2001 and today I reached frame 700 so only 400 more to go *やった* By learning with RTK, and since I am learning with KO.2001, I really start to realize what I am capable of. But while learning with Genki, RTK, and other books, I have not once asked myself one essential question. What was it that makes my learning effective? I was pointing out factors that were influencing my learning experience in a positive way. The settings in Anki for example, the set-up of my deck, and other things. What I haven’t done so far is to think of ways to improve my learning. When I start learning something new, I always like to discover and experience everything in a playful way first, and then narrow and focus on particular things that I need to know. 1 year and 6 months after starting to learn Japanese, the time has come to start thinking about it, and work out a way to reach my first real big goal.
The goal is to take and pass the 日本語能力試験 next year. From taking various old mock-tests, I can safely say that I would be able to pass 3級 right now, but I am not planning to take it. I am aiming for the 2級. This means that I have to focus on grammar, on reading, on vocabulary, and listening. If I learn 4 hours now to learn vocabulary, I will work 8 hours or more then. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t plan to extend my time for learning in order to cram as much material as possible. Cramming is not an option. And even if it were, I certainly wouldn’t do it! My aim is to understand the material I am going to learn thoroughly. This is because I am thinking ahead of time. It would be a real waste of time to study for a year, and forget half of it after the test is over, because I was rushing through the material. This can be done with vocabulary, or the Kanji with RTK, but not with Grammar, which takes time to internalize.
For all this I need the material to work with, meaning more books, a good plan, and overview of my strengths and weaknesses, and a strategy how to learn. I will be using either the Unicom or 新完全マスター series to prepare for reading, listening and Grammar, the どんな時どう使う books for sentence structures and as supplement for grammar, as well as my Dictionaries of Basic, Intermediate and Advanced Japanese Grammar as another supplement. This means spending more money for new books just one last time. It has to be, because I simply can’t work with pre-made decks, it isn’t working for me. And I have to work the way that best fits my learning style, to really learn effectively, everything else would be a waste of time and effort.
What I am doing already is working on my vocabulary, reading, and listening as much as I can. I also started to read a book called The Smart Study Guide Psychological Techniques for Student Success. The book contains very helpful tips, you can learn what type of learner you are, what kind of intelligences there are, what you can do and best avoid to do, in order to be a successful learner. This book has taught me that I am a very strong visual learner. I knew this already, however, the following information was new to me. Being a visual learner can mean that if I only hear or read about something, it is as if the information doesn’t really exist for me. Only by taking notes, or writing things down, the information becomes real. Also a visual learner has to create charts, mark the information, or represent the information in other ways, to be learned effectively. And this kind of hit me. I did all this, marked passages in books, by using Post-It Notes, highlighting text on websites, creating maps and charts among other things. Even writing off text that is already there is what I did, and that helps me the most, to learn new facts.
I also found out that I am a serial, or “bottom-up” learner. This means that I like well-defined, ordered chunks of information presented in a linear sequence. I prefer to work through a framework step-by-step, concentrating on the details before conceptualizing the overall picture. This is a valuable piece information for me. Before I will start working on the preparation for the JLPT, I will try to take a top-down approach on the material, once it has arrived. Eventually I will be able to create a layout, to effectively learn the material, in a way that fits my needs. This, among other things, is only a fraction of what I was able to learn about myself, my learning style, the intelligences I possess, and how to improve my learning. I am only into chapter six right now, marking all the facts that seem to be important to me. And I am sure that by having a good learning strategy, changing my environment, and doing other things the book suggests, I will be able to learn the material I will have to learn.
For now, however, I will continue with KO.2001. Before I reach the end of Level 2 which will most likely be in 16 days to 20 days, I hope that I will have the books, so I can directly continue to learn. Time is precious!