I’m awful at memorizing things. Anything requiring rote memorization was always the worst for me. My mind wants fundamentals that I can work out a solution to on the fly, not a preset pattern that I need to simply know.


So, I’m working on teaching myself Japanese. I have two syllabaries (Hiragana and Katakana), each larger than the English alphabet, and a few thousand Kanji to memorize. There’s nothing more fundamental to work with here; these are the fundamentals that I’m going to build the rest of my understanding of the language on. On top of that, the entire structure of the language is different from what I’m used to, so these fundamentals are really important.

At the same time, I’m learning how to parse sentences using Rosetta Stone. If you’re not familiar with how the software works, it uses spoken and written dialogue paired with images to slowly build understanding by forcing you to intuitively understand the differences between one dialogue/image pair and another. Rather than explaining directly how to, say, express a plural noun, it simply shows you two pictures and reads off two sentences, and the differences between the sentences are how you form understanding. It’s described as a very natural learning environment, “how babies learn”, and I’m inclined to agree. It works very well at a very basic level, and it does so without using English as a go-between language.

The first three images give me enough context to figure out the appropriate sentence for the fourth.

The first three images give me enough context to figure out the appropriate sentence for the fourth.

For me, it’s the ideal way of learning a new language. By forcing myself to separate from English, I have to go from concept to Japanese word, rather than mentally translating. Rather than using English as a go-between, I’m using my own intuition, and it’s surprisingly effective. I can’t really explain grammar rules yet, certainly not in English, but I can make sense of some sentences and I’m working on building my vocabulary to the point where I can communicate reasonably.

The whole experience parallels FFXIV for me in a number of ways. I’ve never been good with rotation-based classes, where I memorize what moves I use in what order and work on executing that string precisely and effectively. I play a Summoner, and I couldn’t tell you beyond broad guidelines what I’m doing at any given moment. I push out a ton of damage, but I intuitively understand what I need to do and when things need to happen– there’s no counting in my head or working out a set ability order, it’s all done by feel. On the other hand, I’ve memorized a lot of the fundamentals– my cast times, my ability ranges, my cooldowns, and these form the building blocks for my intuition to kick in. Thinking back, it’s also how I approached math in school. Formulae made more sense to me when I could derive them in ways that made sense to me, but I was never good with the ones that I had to “just memorize”. It makes me want to track back the things that I’ve struggled with learning in the past.


Kind of a scattered post today, but I’ve been interested in how much more effective my attempts at learning Japanese have been in a week or so than my (many, many) attempts at learning Spanish. My mom would roll her eyes if she read this.

Source: Digital Initiative

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