Setting Goals for Learning Japanese

Before getting started on anything, it’s important to know what you want to achieve through this learning experience. Do you want to understand the language and be able to read and write? Or do you just want to learn conversational Japanese? Different methods should be employed based on the outcome you hope to achieve.

For example, if you wish to focus on reading and writing, you might want to get a textbook such as Genki, Minna no Nihongo, etc. Learning how to read and write basic characters of the Hiragana and Katakana chart will be foundational before moving on to grammar points and picking up a few Kanji characters along the way. I once took a preparatory course for JLPT N1 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) and the focus was mainly on learning words and reading comprehension passages. I learnt a lot of grammar and can read more kanji characters than before, but because I hardly got to practice speaking the language, do find myself at a loss for words at times even though I completely understand a question posed to me in Japanese.

On the other hand, while still beneficial to learn Hiragana and Katakana, if you want to learn conversational Japanese you have the option of listening to audio lessons in Japanese. Japanese language schools also offer conversational classes which are likely less intense than one preparing you for tests like the JLPT. You can also look for conversation groups around your area (usually called “Nomikai”) where native speakers gather to exchange language knowledge e.g. native Japanese will come to learn English, and native English speakers will come to learn Japanese.

Of course at the end of the day, you will have to learn a bit of everything. However, not all resources are created equal. Where one textbook may give you comprehensive knowledge on grammar, another may prove more useful in giving you the tools needed to carry a simple conversation. It’s important to remember what your true objectives are because each resource often provides different materials for a specific outcome. Bearing your main objective in mind, do some research to find the learning method most suited for you.


Japanese: The start of a series

Today I was chatting with some friends and they happened to ask some questions about learning Japanese. To my surprise, I realised that I actually know quite a bit. People actually saved the links I provided and noted down the apps I thought were useful. I’m bragging a bit, but I honestly never thought I know that much about learning Japanese. It’s funny that I actually feel useful for once *laughs*.

Given the above situation, I thought maybe others might find it useful if I gave reviews of the textbooks and apps I found useful while studying. There are quite a few good resources, and some are free too!

So as mentioned in the title, I will be starting a Japanese series on my blog to share some tips and resources to learning Japanese. I hope that it will help make things easier for those studying Japanese and by teaching them what to look out for and knowing which resources might work for them.

The need for self-care

Three-and-a-half months ago I turned in my resignation letter, telling my company that I would be leaving in two months. I knew, and everyone else did too, I needed a break. I needed some time off to myself, not just to do the things I wanted but more importantly, the things I needed.

I’ve had at least two and a half years in youth ministry, not just at work but also in church. Youth ministry is a myriad of relationships, emotions and unresolved issues. Adolescence is a trying stage, and growing up is never easy. Meeting up with youth and planning lessons week after week is no easy task on it’s own. Add emotionally unstable teenagers and you know it’s a nightmare waiting to happen – falling in love, breakdowns, fights with parents, running away from home, and the list goes on. I was never someone who knew how to deal with relationships and issues, let alone someone trained for counselling. I didn’t know how to deal with, or how I should deal with the problems of others, the things that I heard.

I was trying to take on too many problems that weren’t my own when actually I had so many personal things that needed to be settled. When I think back on all those years and months it still hurts, but having had the time to enjoy my time and do the things I need, it doesn’t hurt as much.

I always thought that things like going out and eating good food, or watching movie were the things I needed to make me happy. That because I didn’t have time to do those things as much before, I was beginning to feel depressed. That maybe I wasn’t having enough fun in my life. Doing part time studies for work meant missing out on gatherings, fellowships…I felt left out. While it is necessary for us to have some relationships, the things I needed most were far more simple: going out to the supermarket to buy my own shampoo and toiletries, managing my own meals so I eat healthier, clearing out the stacks of papers and books in my room… All these things were basic things I needed to get done in my life but I wasn’t doing them.

Oftentimes when I’m busy, I put off the things I need to do in order to do the things I want to do. The time off really gave me the opportunity to find a balance between that and I think that in all this, God has been good, in the sense that I get to take my break and can still get back to real life after I’ve rested enough.

It may seem boring, but remember to do the things you need. Drink a glass of water, take a walk and stretch those muscles if you’ve been sitting at a table all day, go pick up the meds you need if you’re sick, see a counsellor if something is bugging you. Whatever it is, remember that you should be important to yourself too. Take care of yourself out there!

For the first time in a long time

Today I looked in the mirror and asked myself, who am I really?

Slightly over two years ago after coming back from studies in Melbourne, I felt God calling me into full time ministry and was lead into to a job in that category. It must have been a miracle because the year before, God told me to scrap all the plans I had and to trust that He would give me a job. I trusted, He provided. I truly believed that I knew what God was saying and believed that no matter what the circumstance, as long as I followed, things would be okay.

Now two years later, I’ve turned cynical. What should have been a gift was more like a curse to me. I doubted that I could hear God, that I could trust that He was telling me things. It was easier to believe that the visions I saw were just hallucinations, that all those times I was given specific words speak or actions to carry out were just coincidence. Such things were crazy talk. I just wanted to be a “normal person”. I just wanted to be left alone.

But God hardly gives up on anyone and out of habit, I’d continue asking trivial questions about my life and He continued answering them in a non-trivial manner. He is annoying like that sometimes, though there is nothing wrong with it.

So today, as if forgetting I wasn’t unhappy with God at all, I dared to ask who am I really? Was who I was two years ago even real? Can I really trust You?

Then God reminded me again, I am who I am, read My word. After enough dallying and enough prompting, I gave in and let God do something I haven’t done in a while. I let Him give me a very specific page of the bible. Just because He wanted to and because He can. I flipped the pages and found myself reading Exodus 35.

It started out feeling quite dry but as I got to the end, I suddenly found myself getting excited about the passage. I went back to earlier parts I merely glossed over and read again with more focus. I felt like I really learnt something worth getting hyped about. Fine, I don’t really want to take the time to write it out but it’s something worth noting down and maybe sharing it on a blog no one reads.

I opened my laptop, logged onto wordpress, clicked on the “write” tab. Suddenly I was taken back to my time in Melbourne. I remembered sitting on my bed with a similar bible (the original was given away), doing my bible readings, getting excited over simple things, just being in wonder and awe of whatever God had inspired me with that day. I wondered, why did I stop feeling this way?

Then it hit me, I had been too obsessed over whether or not what I had interpreted was right. I cried.

Don’t get me wrong. My church friends and colleagues are nice people. But when you’re in a job surrounded by seminary students and bible college graduates, and peers who are in-depth bible fanatics or preaching in service, you start to think you should put a bit more effort into researching what you read. Worse still, I was taking classes on the side for a licentiate in christian ministry studying not just books of the bible, but items under Christianity one might find only in the text book of a seminary student.

Reading the bible alone felt insufficient. There were so many things to consider – bible commentaries to give more depth, finding out the original greek or hebrew word because translations aren’t good enough, one day I’ll learn greek or hebrew and read the original text. I felt that whatever I knew was never good enough. I thought what I felt inspired about might be historically inaccurate. I was caught up in the nitty gritty.

Looking back, it was ridiculous. All of it. I tried too hard to fit into the culture was in and in the process traded my own culture, which was perfectly good in its own way. And I think that’s what God was trying to show me. That that version of me was the person I lost but thankfully, now found again.

I need to continue reading the bible believing that the extra fluff isn’t important, but having God is all I need to inspire me.

Late night musings

Sometimes, one is simply inspired to write. Sometimes, one is not.

Given the number of articles, long or short, that I have to write for work, I wish I were more motivated. But in times of dryness, one simply stares at their laptop screen, longing only for words to magically appear. Eventually, swishing the keypad up and down. It is simply a way for me to satisfy my ADHD, it is a longing to be physically occupied. For my mental state seems so empty and devoid of understanding.

Click. Click. Click. Give me something to think. I need something to say, something to believe. At least in this moment, I must believe that this is worth something, that there is some meaning. The internet can be far more empty than you think. I sit and start questioning things that maybe I shouldn’t think. How pointless, how meaningless is my life worth living?

And so, fire away it does like a gatling gun. Tat-tat-tat-tat-tat. My thoughts transcend my mind, are born into reality, becoming an instant weapon. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. The sound of my keyboard, words dancing away. A dream, a song, yes this is what I’ve been fighting for. These words I’ve longed to say, they’re hidden no more.

I step back, proud of my masterpiece. Not bad for a mind gone mad. But no, I look up and see my enemy standing proud and unscathed. How can it be? Alas, 2AM too late and my mind wanders back to bed. The tale for tonight must end here, but perhaps I will win my battle tomorrow with a fresh mind instead.

Well. Fine. I’ll do it.

EDIT (26/02/2017): Clearly, I don’t finish what I start

As much as I suck at writing and hate doing journalling (and will likely drop this eventually), I figure it’s about time I started publishing this. Today I finally realised how difficult the passages in the daily readings of the Trackers are and so as a challenge to myself and an encouragement to them, I shall SOAP as much as possible.

…I have to read the journals of my Trackers anyway so might as well be open about it. Vulnerability is welcome in this team, you know? Yada-yada and all that jazz.

Today’s passage was Amos 1-2. Ooh. Scary. Not because of Amos Yee, but to put it bluntly the start has been very dry; one of those minor prophet books no one ever preaches from. Plus, chapters 1-2 are accusations against Israel and all her surrounding nations. Yikes.

Amos starts out by accusing the other nations of their sins and states that fire will be sent down on their walls and fortresses. He then ‘ends’ his accusations by addressing the sins of his listeners, Israel. Interestingly enough, this accusation is longer than any of the single accusations given against other cities.

Sometimes we are quick to see the surmountable sins of others before looking at our own individual sin. While it may seem like everyone around us is full of guilt and we could be nodding at each accusation. That is, until it is our turn to receive judgement. Having been caught up in what others are doing, we fail to see our own flaws and how we should be acting rather than concerning ourselves with others’ affairs.

Dear God, thank you that you are willing to show me my flaws and what I’ve done wrong. Help me to put away my pride that I may not boast in how I am better than others, but to acknowledge that I am just as much a sinner as anyone else. Forgive me for my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me. All this I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.


Icarus flew too close to the sun

Icarus thought the sun was his happiness but he flew too close and got burned…

…not really. But recently I picked up my old lit book and started flipping through its grim, brown pages and begun seeing things my 15 year old mind was never capable of comprehending. The more I read through Fahrenheit 451, the more I appreciate the story, the characters, how much depth there was in them. Perhaps it is because reality has finally begun catching up on me and I see even more of Bradbury’s dystopian society in our world today. 

And suddenly, the thought that books in that world may have been a symbol for much more – values, morals that we once held to, simply burned and tossed out, deemed insignificant, that they could never be anyone’s happiness.

I’d like to think the world campaigns for equality, that everyone should be allowed to do what they want. But the hidden agenda behind most campaigns these days is the unraveling of the fabric of society. Morals are gone, insanity is abundant. The next thing you know environmentalists will be campaigning for all books to go electronic (I never seem to get through e-books, probably something to do with the screen lighting).

Still it’s a scary thought that Bradbury predicted this almost 70 years ago. I wonder, when I’m 70 years old will I see what I think I’ll see?

Even When It Hurts | My depression 

I know I’m supposed to be setting a good example and stuff but well, I figure most of the people reading this will be my closest friends anyway. It’s part of life and for me, this is real.

I didn’t really want to talk about this because it’s pretty depressing and gross stuff and I always thought that it would just go away after a while. But the darkness never lifted and I’m still torn so I await the day my cloudy eyes shine once again.

Tonight I went out for dinner with the cousin and honestly had one of the best nights I’ve had in a while. Just tried to put all my cares aside. Dinner was great, had ramen at Sanpoutei. The tsukemen which was great. I like the noodles a bit softer for Tsukemen cos when you dip the noodles in, they don’t get a whole lot softer like typical ramen which sits in the soup for a while.  

Also had some fried chicken. FRIED CHICKEN! That’s definitely one way to perk up your day. CNY clothes+shoe shopping was very successful and so I was generally quite happy.

Then I got home and because mum has been worried about me and been like, “We need to talk,” and blah so I told her about stuff that’s been happening and then it all just started coming back and I didn’t want to talk about it anymore so I went back to my room. But mum kept texting me anyways so everything really came back and there are things I remember even more clearly now that it’s back out and I hate it. I feel so upset and I’m just crying. For a moment, I felt like I might have understood why people cut themselves. You feel so much emotional pain that you need the physical pain to distract you from the hurt before you go insane.

No, I didn’t cut myself so don’t worry. I just made an emo instagram post and started writing this post which you’re reading now.

I can’t share everything – privacy issues and stuff so this is just what’s been happening concerning me stuff.

After all the stress with church stuff and work stuff, I think that was when my hair started dropping out. I don’t think anyone in my family took me seriously when I said that but it was pretty freaky. I’d run my fingers through dry hair and a whole clump would come out and when I woke up in the mornings I’d find this whole nest of hair on my bed. And that’s without knots in there. Gross much but I had to go on with life. My parents brought up a number of things like shampoo and not enough nutrients (which I’m supposed to be notorious for) but I felt like it wasn’t working. I’ve been using the same shampoo for over a year now so I was quite sure that wasn’t it and got quite annoyed at them continuously pointing out expensive shampoos that help with hairloss.

Nutrition wise, I tried taking some leftover vitamin B complex as well as some iron pills which I had neglected over December. Hair fall decreased for like a day or so and I was temporarily relieved till it started dropping again.

I’ve also been sick on and off the past two or three weeks with my throat hurting bad. Went around three weeks ago to the doctor but didn’t really get a lot better. Anyway, I had a fever on Wednesday night and yesterday morning so I just took it as an excuse to finally see the doctor. Good news is he said my hair won’t all fall out but it IS thinning. Take more vitamin C and B as well; double the usual amount cos I need to put back everything I’ve lost.

At least regarding my health, I feel a bit more reassured now. But I’ve been listening to “Even When It Hurts” by Hillsong the past two days and tears began falling out without me even knowing why. I haven’t cried like this for over a month but now I know; it’s because these wounds haven’t turned to scars yet. You don’t just look at them and remember how you got them. Yes, they still hurt and all along I’ve simply pretended not to care. I’ve simply pretended to be alright. But I’m not and I hope, that’s okay.

Thanks for reading.

Butter-fly (tri. version), Kōji Wada

Butter-fly keeps popping up in my head lately and I’ve always wanted to spend some time trying to figure out what it really was. Even though I’ve learnt some Japanese, at the back of my mind it’s still the gibberish my cousins and I used to sing when it came on the television. Except for the part that went “on my love”. That was when we all knew what we were doing.

This song just gives me the feels every time it comes on and reminds me of my childhood heaps. The tri. version only differs from the original in terms of musical arrangements but I love how they’ve given it a modern feel without taking too much from the original sound. I’m sure the translations out there have gone through many edits, but I thought I’d try putting my own out there and giving a slightly different take on things.

Well, that’s enough rambling so here it is, my translation of Butter-fly!

Song Title: Butter-fly
Music: Ikō Chiwata
Arrangements: Cher Watanabe

Vocals: Kōji Wada

頼りない翼でも きっと飛べるさ
On My Love

Even though this image tends to stay
Even if these wings are unreliable, I’m sure that they’ll fly
On My Love

ゴキゲンな蝶になって きらめく風に乗って
今すぐ キミに会いに行こう
余計な事なんて 忘れた方がマシさ
これ以上 シャレてる時間はない

I’ll be a spirited butterfly and ride this sparkling wind
And go right now to meet you
It’s better not to think about unnecessary things
From now on there’ll be no time to act cool

何が wow wow~ この空に届くのだろう
だけど wow wow~ 明日の予定もわからない

I wonder wow wow~ will I be able to reach the sky?
But wow wow~ I don’t even know what my plans for tomorrow are

無限大な夢のあとの 何もない世の中じゃ
そうさ愛しい 想いも負けそうになるけど
頼りない翼でも きっと飛べるさ
On My Love

At the end of this unlimited dream is the real world which contains nothing
That’s right, my love, it seems my feelings might lose but
Even though this image tends to stay
Even if these wings are unreliable, I’m sure that they’ll fly
On my love

ウカレタ蝶になって 一途な風に乗って
どこまでも キミに会いに行こう
曖昧な言葉って 意外に便利だって
叫んでる ヒットソング聴きながら

I’ll be a merry butterfly and ride on this earnest wind
Wherever you are, I’ll go to see you
These words I can’t make out are surprisingly convenient
I can simply scream out while listening to this hit song

何が wow wow~ この街に響くのだろう
だけど wow wow~ 期待してても仕方ない

I wonder wow wow~ if it will echo through this city
But wow wow~ even if I have my hopes up I can’t do anything about it

無限大な夢のあとの やるせない世の中じゃ
そうさ常識 ハズレも悪くはないから
ぎこちない翼でも きっと飛べるさ
On My Love

At the end of this unlimited dream is the disconsolate real world
That’s right, common sense, there’s nothing wrong with disappointment
Having been dyed by this image that seems to stay
Even if the movement of these wings feel unnatural, I’m sure they’ll fly
On My Love

無限大な夢のあとの 何もない世の中じゃ
そうさ愛しい 想いも負けそうになるけど
頼りない翼でも きっと飛べるさ
Oh Yeah~

At the end of this unlimited dream is the real world which contains nothing
That’s right, my love, it seems my feelings might lose but
Even though this image tends to stay
Even if these wings are unreliable, I’m sure that they’ll fly
Oh Yeah~

無限大な夢のあとの やるせない世の中じゃ
そうさ常識 ハズレも悪くはないから
ぎこちない翼でも きっと飛べるさ
On My Love

At the end of this unlimited dream is the disconsolate real world
That’s right, common sense, there’s nothing wrong with disappointment
Having been dyed by this image that seems to stay
Even if the movement of these wings feel unnatural, I’m sure they’ll fly
On My Love

Japanese lyrics re-typed from:

Please credit and let me know if you’ve used my translation anywhere. Thank you!

Late Night Musings: Life is just an Otome Game

I used to think that it would be nice to get married young; find a boyfriend, get married around 24~25ish. Then I got a bit older and the older I get, the more I think, “Meh, it doesn’t matter that much.”

One thing I would like to keep believing is that maybe ‘the one’ is somewhere out there. I just need to look out and wait for him. However, people always tell me there’s no such thing as ‘the one’ and that God has prepared many ‘the ones’, just that it depends on whether both of you say yes to each other.

Well if that’s true, I think I’d feel like I’m just playing some kind of Otome game where you’ve got a couple of guys to choose from. Depending on the type of person you are, you pick the characters you like and some might be easier to get a happy ending with than others. In which case, I just need to go through the characters until I can finally get one where I pick all the right responses. That’s kind of depressing in a sense and not really how I’d like to see my life.

Still, it would make sense as to why people date so much. Then what am I doing with my single life?

Lazy. I’m just lazy. It takes effort to go through an otome game too you know? But the difference is that I don’t have to leave the house for one of them!

So cheers to singlehood. Happy much belated singles day.