New book

I was aiming to study for level 3 of the French test administered in Japan, but I have realised the content is above my level. I need to step back and learn some basics, so I bought a textbook for level 4. (I also bought the textbook for level 3 in the same series.) I’m going to try and do a few units a week.

Studying never ends for a translator

I used to think that once I became a translator, that would be it. I would be a fluent reader, writer and speaker of Japanese, and I wouldn’t need to study anymore. I was wrong.

I’ve been a translator for 16 years, but I’m still studying. I study for exams in my specialist fields. The exams are all in Japanese. I specialise in cosmetics, skincare, marketing and tourism, but at the moment, I’m focusing my study on cosmetics and skincare.

I’m using these books for the Cosmetics Meister and Skincare Meister exams. I hope to pass these exams this month.

Then in November, I have another cosmetics exam. I’m going to take level 2. I should have taken it earlier in the year, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. I’m using these books.

Shortly after that exam, I’m going to take the Cosmetics Ingredients exam. I’m aiming to take level 2, and am using these books.

Next year, I’m going to take a beauty-related pharmaceuticals exam. These are the books I will use.

And, as if that is not enough, I’m going to take level 3 on a pharmaceuticals exam! I’ll use these books to study.

I’ll take the higher level exams the following year. And somehow, I’ll fit the French and Chinese tests in!

Learning multiple languages at the same time

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When I was studying Japanese, that was all I focussed on. My goal was the highest grade on the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), and I dedicated all my spare time to that goal.

At the moment, I’m learning Chinese and French simultaneously. At the beginning of the year, I decided to learn two new languages every three years for ten years. I want to pass the highest grades on tests of each of the languages.

But…I’m feeling myself being pulled by other languages…Italian, Spanish, German, Korean, Russian… They are all on my ten year list, but I don’t want to wait that long!

Someone I follow on Twitter is learning around ten languages at the same time. The person is taking exams in each of the languages, albeit at the lower levels. I am wondering if I should do that. Or am I just being attracted by the idea of learning something new. I tend to multi-task, so I think this is just my personality. Do I do what I did with Japanese and go narrow and deep, or go shallow and wide? What do I want? A basic knowledge of a lot of languages, or a detailed knowledge of a few? Hmm….

I am also studying for a few licenses and exams in my specialist translation fields. These are all in Japanese. I plan to take six of them over the next year, so I’m already studying a lot.

Maybe I should stick with just Chinese and French at least until I have passed the intermediate levels on the tests. I’m still learning the basics, especially in French, so it’s an important time. I need to concentrate, but still…. 🙂

Back to daily study – vana12

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I’ve had a break from regular study. I have needed to focus on my businesses, and studying languages has fallen down my list of priorities.

But I’m back! On Twitter in Japan, there is an initiative called hashtag vana12. This stands for “virtual summer holiday homework”. It is now in its 12th year. People who study languages decide what they are going to study over summer and post a daily update of their progress. I participated last year, and got quite a lot of study done.

I thought that no matter how busy I am, and however much my businesses need me, I can spare an hour a day (or find an hour a day) to do 30 minutes of French Duolingo and 30 minutes of Chinese HSK4 textbook reading.

I’m hoping this will develop into a routine which lasts even after the summer holiday has finished.

Change of plan

I started my language journey with an ambitious study plan. COVID-19 has forced me to alter my plans. I have to spend every spare minute I have on my businesses and studying for qualifications in my specialist translation fields, so….that leaves little time for language learning.

I hoped to take exams in French and Chinese this year, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. The ones I hoped to take have been cancelled anyway. So, I now plan to take HSK4 (one step higher than 3!) next April, and 3rd graded on the French exam next June.

The tests in my specialist fields are all in November and December, so I will devote most of my spare time in the rest of the year studying for these. They are all in Japanese, so at least I’ll maintain my Japanese skills.

I’m not giving up on Chinese and French or my 10 languages in 10 years study plan. I will study when I can, and try to make use of any spare moment I have to study languages.

Last night before I went to sleep, I did some extensive reading with my Easy French Reader. It had been a while since I studied French (a few weeks anyway), but I could understand most of what I read.

So, I’m not giving up, I just have a change of priorities!

New books

I got the official guide to the French exam for levels 5, 4 and 3. I am planning on taking level 3 this year, but looking at the practice tests that are in the book, I realise that I’m still level 5…. Got a long way to go! My test in June has been cancelled, so I have more time to study. I think the next one is in November.

I got two new Chinese books. I am studying for level 3 on the HSK test, but there is a high chance that it will be cancelled in June. So, I’m thinking about skipping level 3 and going for level 4. I bought three level 4 books – one is the official guide, one has practice tests in, and one is a workbook. I’ve studied the level 3 material multiple times now. Perhaps I will improve if I just keep pushing on and aiming higher.

New Chinese book

I bought a new “Ondoku” Chinese study book. “Ondoku” is Japanese, and means “read aloud”. I already have the French book in this series, so I bought the Chinese one. (I also bought the Korean one for when I study Korean.) Each unit is short, with a series of sentences to read aloud, and then there is some vocabulary practice. I haven’t started it yet, but am hoping to start soon. I need the listening practice!

New French books

I got two new French books – one is about pronouns and prepositions (I need so much more practice with these), and the other is for conversation. I’m going to start them when I’ve finished my main textbook as I need to know more words and expressions to complete some of the exercises.

These will become my main textbooks once I’m done with the grammar book, and the other books I bought recently (the “reading aloud” book and the numbers book) will become supplementary texts.

I should also make a start on the books for the test in June…so many books, so little time!

New French books

I bought two new French books. They are both published in Japan, so all the explanations etc. are in Japanese.

The first one is all about numbers. What a great idea for a textbook. It has lots of listening exercises to get used to numbers. If I start using it now, I should be used to numbers by the time the test comes around.

The other one is a “read aloud” book. It has sentences and words which you read aloud along with the CD. I’m looking forward to starting it. I already use a reader for shadowing, but that one has long(ish) passages. This one has short sentences.

I have two more books on the way too. I won’t be short of study materials for a while!

FSI Language Difficulty Ranking – Don’t Let it Put You Off

The Foreign Services Institute (FSI) has developed a difficulty ranking of languages based on the time it will take an English speaker to learn the different languages. You can see the ranking here: https://www.state.gov/foreign-language-training/

It ranks the languages on their similarity to English. For example, Spanish and Swedish are in category 1, requiring an average study time of 24 weeks. At the other end of the scale are Chinese and Japanese, ranked category 4, and requiring a study time of 88 weeks.

Of course, there are variables – does the language learner live in the country where the language is spoken? Is the language learner a “natural”? Does he or she pick up languages easily? How much opportunity does the learner have to practice the language?

Over the years, I have studied a number of languages. My language learning experiences do not correlate to the ranking. For example, I spent five years studying German in school. German is category 2, which should take approximately 36 weeks to learn. I struggled with the grammar, and didn’t get beyond the most basic level, even though I enjoyed learning it and spent much longer than 36 weeks studying it. I found Japanese to be much easier to learn. For me, the grammar was a lot easier than German. I think it is ranked so highly because of its writing systems. There are three to learn – two can be learnt in a few days, one takes considerably longer. Another reason it is ranked as the most difficult is its honorifics, although if you live in Japan, you get used to these pretty quickly.

I am now studying Mandarin Chinese, another language ranked category 4. Having a background in Japanese is really helpful, and I am progressing at a satisfactory pace. In fact, I am finding it a lot easier than I find French, which I have been trying to learn for a while. French is category 1, and should be easy for me. For some reason, it isn’t. Maybe I just don’t dedicate enough time to it. Maybe I’m just not a natural when it comes to European languages. I also want to learn Russian and Korean. Russian is category 3, and Korean category 4. I have dabbled in both, and in the few hours I have spent on both languages, I have made much more progress in Korean, despite already being able to read the Cyrillic alphabet, and only having a basic grasp of the Korean characters.

Everyone learns differently. Everyone has different motivations for learning a language. Don’t let the difficulty ranking put you off learning a language you really want to master. If you have struggled with an “easy” language like me, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to find a “difficult” language impossible. You might be suited to the more difficult languages. Try it and see.