Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Learning a Language

I often get questions like: "Is it hard to learn Japanese?" or "What is the best way to learn it?". Now, I'm not a teacher nor an expert on the subject, but I do have some tips for aspiring learners of the Japanese language. If you're interested in learning Japanese, consider the following tips:

1. Learning a language takes effort. No matter what language it is, you need to work hard to learn it. If you're serious about learning a new language, be it Japanese, Russian or even Esperanto, be prepared to invest a lot of time and effort. If you don't have a clear goal in sight, it's easy to lose motivation. So be clear on what your goals are, do you want to learn just a few phrases so you can get by as a tourist, or do you want to become fluent?

2. The easiest way to learn is to be taught. Of course, this may differ individually, but I find it much easier to learn if someone who knows the subject at hand is there to guide me. I believe this holds especially true for languages, since you'll need to hear it spoken to pick up on pronunciation and intonation. Look for language courses in your area, either at a university or some other language school. If you have friends who speak the language, ask them to teach you.

3. Use good learning material. This, in combination with number 2, will help you greatly. I recommend getting hold of a textbook in the language you want to learn. In the case of Japanese, the "Genki" series of textbooks are quite good for the beginning Japanese student. The books will insure that you learn useful phrases and sentence patterns as they become relevant.

4. Make use of entertainment as education. This one, when used right, can be very effective. If you're interested in Japanese, you probably know about some animes or TV dramas available for viewing on the internet. Watching anime can be helpful for picking up words and phrases, but you should not rely on it too heavily, as the language used in animes differs significantly from "real" Japanese. In anime, characters use so-called "role language", which basically means they speak in a very stereotypical manner, a manner in which ordinary people do not speak. So don't think you can learn Japanese solely from anime. However, as long as you are aware of the role language and know to avoid using it, you can still use anime and dramas as listening comprehension exercises.

5. Speaking of listening comprehension, let me tell you of a trick that has helped me a lot, perhaps even more than anime: Music. If you know of a good Japanese band, try listening to their songs every now and then. As you learn more, you will start understanding and picking up more of the lyrics, and eventually you can even learn more words from the songs themselves. If you don't know any Japanese bands, I recommend giving Bump of Chicken a listen. (Yes, it's a funny name isn't it?) A lot of their songs are fairly easy to follow, and it is largely thanks to them that I remembered a lot of grammatical conjugations. (After studying them in school, of course.) For example, this song:

When I first started out, I could maybe pick up and understand about two-three words out of the entire song. Now, I understand the whole song, and know the lyrics by heart. Music is powerful, and used right it can be a very effective study tool.

Well, that's all for now. I hope this helped anyone of you who are interested in learning Japanese. If you really want to learn, you can do it! Good luck!

Monday, May 30, 2011

365 Days

Fun fact: Today, the 30 of May 2011, it is exactly one year since the first time I went to Japan.

I went there to participate in a summer course at Gifu University (Gifu being a fairly small town smack dab in the middle of the country.), and of course to travel around and see the sights. In all I spent short over two months there last summer. And what a summer it was! Easily the most fun I've ever had. (So far anyway.)

Although the weather was pretty cruel, never a day under 35 degrees Celsius (Which, if I'm not much mistaken is close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, correct me if I'm wrong.) and humidity that soaked you to the bone in seconds, it was a lot of fun. I made a lot of new friends and got closer to old ones, and I met the woman of my dreams.

Returning home in the beginning of August last year, it felt like this day would never come. A year is such a long time, after all. And yes, a lot of things did happen; I continued my studies in Japanese, applied for exchange studies, my girlfriend came over to visit, and I even wrote a Bachelor's Thesis on interjections in Swedish and Japanese. Quite a busy year, in other words!

And yet, it feels like only yesterday that I boarded the plane at around 10 in the morning and took off towards the east. It feels like yesterday, but it was really 365 days ago. Wow... Time is a mystery indeed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lucid Dreaming: A quick introduction

"What is lucid dreaming?" one may ask. If you've never heard of it before, let me take a moment to give a brief explanation of this phenomenon.

When you sleep, you go through a cycle of different phases of sleep. During one such phase, known as the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase, you dream. This occurs every night, or every time you sleep. The longer you sleep, the more REM phases you go through, meaning that you dream more. However, you don't always remember your dreams when you wake up. Because of this, many people think that they don't dream, but we all do.

I'm sure you have at least once woken up from a dream and thought to yourself: "Wow, what a weird dream! I can't believe I didn't realise that I was dreaming!" Indeed, some dreams can be very weird, and impossible things can happen. But while dreaming, our sense of logic is thrown out the window, letting us accept all these impossible things without questioning them. But sometimes, we end up questioning them anyway. And it is at such times that we can become lucid.

Becoming lucid means that you become aware that you are dreaming, and everything around you is all part of your dream. Once lucid, a whole new world of endless possibilities may open up to you. In your dream, you are the master. And since it is all a dream, anything goes. Want to fly like a bird? Go ahead, take off! Want to eat a skyscraper with mustard? Dig in! Want to turn yourself into an animal and experience new incredible sensations? Just do it!

Of course, this can be a bit tricky to do if you're not used to it. I am still far from mastering lucidity myself, and I've been doing this on and off for over a year now. But with practice, motivation and time, anyone can become a lucid dreamer, and have awesome adventures every night, from the comfort of their own bed. Neat, huh?

I hope I've sparked your interest in lucid dreaming, and I highly recommend you to try it out. I will make some more posts about the subject in the future, discussing techniques, things to watch out for, and other things. In the meantime, try looking up lucid dreaming on the internet. There are plenty of sites and forums dedicated to lucid dreaming, with extensive guides and explanations of techniques and research into the subject.

Until next time, sweet dreams!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting Started

Well, this is my first post in the blog, so I might as well introduce what it's going to be about.

I enjoy video games, and a lot of them really inspires thought in me. Some of these thoughts I really want to share with the world, just get it out there. Whenever I get another interesting or amusing train of thought regarding video games, I'm going to post it here.

Another subject that I will most likely write a lot about is lucid dreaming. For those who do not know, to lucid dream is to have a dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming, which is quite an interesting feeling. If I have an interesting lucid dream (LD for short) I will write about it here.

Since I am very interested in Japan and the Japanese culture, a few posts will probably be made on that subject too. And, in September this year, I am going to Japan on an exchange study program, which is going to be totally awesome!

So, I hope you'll enjoy reading the random thoughts I have about various things. Have a good day!