In Depth 2k19: Blog Post #4

Astonishingly, it is already halfway through In-Depth. Since my last blog post, I met with my mentor two times. The content of both sessions was different, but in a nutshell, this is what we discussed:

  • Asking and answering questions: During our sessions, my mentor and I took turns asking and answering questions off the top of our heads. This gave some room for creativity, increased my confidence in speaking the language impromptu, and allowed my mentor and I to learn about each other while still practicing Japanese.
  • Vocabulary: Vocabulary learning has taken a shift from flashcards to going through different scenarios, such as asking someone directions. At the end of every scenario, I have the chance to ask my mentor about any words or phrases I didn’t understand, which indirectly increases my knowledge of Japanese vocabulary.
  • Basic Grammar: This time’s major takeaway was the usage of the particles が‘(ga) and は(wa). While very similar and almost interchangeable, there are certain cases where ガ(ga) is not appropriate. For example, when asking a question は(wa) is almost always used. The usage of the particles differs depending on the situation, and my mentor was reluctant to overwhelm me with too much information, but for now, this is my understanding.

Progress Report:

Kana is out of the way now, and kanji is all that remains. Unfortunately, my momentum has slowed down, and since last time, I have only added a little more than two hundred new kanji and their readings to my knowledge. Finding time to sit down and create stories for the individual kanji and reviewing them has been difficult. My plan is to find a way to make more time, whether that means staying up a little bit later or waking up a little bit earlier.

On the up side, I’m unwittingly finding out the pronunciations of certain kanji from my mentoring sessions and my immersion. When my mentor taught me the word for water, which in hirigana is みず(mizu), I realized I already knew the kanji for water, which is 水. Using logic, I then concluded that one of the pronunciations for 水 is みず(mizu).

Immersion is going well. I’m enjoying a lot of the media I immerse in. In terms of word variation, sentences, and grammar, podcasts are my go-to, but for keeping motivation high and reminding myself why I chose to learn the language in the first place, music and Japanese shows usually do the trick. While I am not able to fluently understand my immersion, I understand a lot more than before, and the context of different conversations aren’t as obscure as before, especially with shows that provide visual cues.

How to have a Beautiful Mind:

How to Listen:

Mentor: Oh, you already know some kanji?

Me: Yes, I’ve been learning it on the side. Do you think it’s okay to do so?

Mentor: Yes, that’s a good thing. If you enjoy doing kanji, keep doing kanji.

Me: I see. I guess it is important to make sure I enjoy learning the language as well.

Mentor: Yes! Of course.

One of the concepts in “How to Listen” is taking notice, “especially of the adjectives” (p.70). Underlined above, you can see my mentor using the word “good” to describe my learning of the kanji. Since “adjectives are almost always subjective,” I can know more about how my mentor “feels” about a particular idea “rather than objective reality” (p.70). This allowed me to draw inferences, such as how my mentor believes that learning kanji even at an early stage is beneficial (some teachers strongly disapprove against this).


Me: So, I’m a bit a unclear on when が(ga) and は(wa) are used. Could you clarify for me?

Mentor: Well, it really depends on the situation, but for example, when asking a question, you almost always use は(wa). Also, when answering in the negative, you use は(wa) not が(ga).

Me: I noticed that you didn’t mention any instances where は(wa) cannot be used. Does that mean は(wa) can be used in any situation?

Mentor: It could sound awkward, but it wouldn’t be grammatically wrong.

Me: I see. So は(wa) is the only particle that can only be used for negatives and questions, but if I don’t know whether to use は(wa) or が(ga), a safer bet for me would be to use は(wa)?

Mentor: Yes, but usually that doesn’t happen.

De Bono describes the idea of “shooting questions” in How to Have a Beautiful Mind (p.79). “The main purpose of a shooting question is to check on something,” and in my mentoring session, this “something” was my understanding of the Japanese particles, は(wa) and が(ga) . By asking “shooting questions,” I verified my knowledge of what my mentor taught me, which made sure I didn’t walk away with incomplete or false information.

We are halfway there. *DEEP BREATH* Let’s keep going. さよなら。