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Our guest tonight is a man of the world: born in England, raised in Canada, anxious to socialize with his future in-laws from Japan… Meet Norbi Whitney, a professional circus artist slash photographer and a proud LingoDeer User!
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LD: Tell us about yourself!
NW: Hi. My name is Norbi Whitney, and I’m a full time professional circus artist (when global situations allow it, at least) as well as an avid photographer.
I’m from England, but have spend the past 10 years or so based in Quebec City, Canada.
LD: What got you interested in the Japanese language?
NW: I’ve always thought it was an interesting culture, and I had some Japanese friends in the circus world, so I learnt a few phrases here and there. “おはよう” (Good morning!), “元気ですか” (How are you?), and “またね” (See you later!) for example, but it never really went any further than that.
Then a few years ago, I met my now fiancée, a Japanese lady from the outskirts of Tokyo. Her English wasn’t great at the time, so I made an effort to learn at least the basics. Totally unexpectedly, I fell in love with the language too! I also speak French fluently, and can get by in German… but they were both kind by obligation (due to living there), and never really fascinated me as languages.
Japanese’s writing systems, etymology, and its whole different way of thinking, really piqued my interest from the beginning.
LD: Name three things you want to do with your Japanese skills. Please explain why as well.
NW: First and foremost I’d like to be able to communicate with my future in-laws with a reasonable level of comfort. No one in my fiancée’s family speaks even a word of English, so it’s always a chore to try and hold, or even start, a conversation. I’ve visited 3 times already, and each time is better, but I’m still too reliant on others to translate.
2. I guess “watch anime without subtitles” is a pretty classic answer. Unfortunately I’m not a big anime watcher, so it’s not a huge goal of mine. Along the same lines though, I’d like my partner to be able to show me a funny clip on Instagram or whatever, without fear of if I’ll get the joke or not.
3. I guess just general comfort in the language. Now having a direct connection to the country, it’s somewhere I’d like to spend more time in the future. I was always surprised by the lack of English even in places like downtown Tokyo. It really is important to have a grasp of Japanese if you want to experience the most of Japan.
LD: What’s your learning routine? How do you use LingoDeer?
NW: When I started using LingoDeer, I would do about 30-45 minutes before going to sleep. I felt that it was a good idea to think about that as the last thing in the day. Then the next morning try to remember what I learnt.
I would also redo courses, or do reviews, whenever I was travelling or waiting (thanks offline learning!).
After going through Level 1 and 2 of Japanese on LingoDeer, which really helped to introduce various grammatical concepts and drill vocab in a comfortable, intelligent matter, I started working mostly from textbooks. I think handwriting answers definitely helps to enforce it in your mind, and I’m lucky enough to have someone close by who can check my answers.
These days I still refer to the LingoDeer Lesson Tips, and Knowledge Cards, when I want to clarify something. They’re fantastically laid out, have built in human audio, and are in my pocket all the time. There’s really no better resource for quick refreshers.
I also use LingoDeer+ when I’ve got some spare time and want to keep my mind active. The challenges are really fun, and a great little motivation boost of education disguised as gaming 🙂
LD: What do you do when you feel stuck or frustrated by Japanese?
NW: Stop, haha. But seriously – while it’s obviously very important to stay motivated even when things are difficult, as there are no shortcuts in language learning… it’s also important to listen to your body and mind.
Japanese, like any language which doesn’t share roots with a currently spoken language, has so much information to take in. If you’ve given yourself a challenge of learning 5 kanji every day, but after a week you can’t remember any and start feeling… bad, then maybe rethink your goals realistically.
It’s important to keep pushing through difficult times, and it’s as important to reset your head for a moment when the times are too difficult.
So to answer the question – I’ll cut way back on information intake and just review what I know.
Also instead of trying hard to create whole perfectly natural sentences at home, I’ll just try incorporating 1 new grammatical concept as much as I can for a week.