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23 October 2017

Study Tools for Mama

One of the big challenges in trying to learn Japanese in this area is that there are no native speakers in my circle of acquaintance, and not very many speakers at all. So finding ways to learn, basically in the absence of live humans who know  more than me, is challenging. But I feel like this is the language that both my interests run to, and the direction of the Spirit points this way, and things happen.

Every year, the Daddy heads to Japan, and he always asks, "What do you want me to bring you?" And, always, this is a hard question. Several years, I've had him bring me books. A couple years he brought me some brush pens. This year, I asked for notebooks. Because they have these cool notebooks that are designed for learning kanji.

I think they're for little kids, like the American notebooks that have the dotted line down the middle to help new learners know how tall to make the lower case letters. Only, kanji all fit in a square, and so these are set up to help you learn how to draw them well-proportioned in a square space. I love them. I had bought some graph paper, trying to have something that would work well for this, but it's too tiny: like a kindergartner, I need to make my first forays into literacy with enough room to write with large letters.

So, the Daddy brought me these, and I was excited and wanted to use them... but I'm really not very literate, and I didn't want to waste them. So I tucked them away, figuring that something would show up that would work. And this morning it did. I looked in my Tofugu email, and they were talking about this cool set of graded readers. The first one is free. It also covers kanji that I know well already, for the most part, but the very first phrase is one that I wasn't familiar with, so I'm planning to work through the set anyway. And I'm pretty excited about it. This is some of my favorite mother culture: after the kids go to bed, get out the chocolate and the fancy Japanese paper, and relax into studying. That's a great way to wind down after bedtime.

But it's not the only thing that turned up. Yesterday, I was over to my friend's house, and she was running late, but before she could call and tell us to come a little later... we knocked on the door. But she had this game, GardenScape, going on her computer, so while she played catch-up, I checked it out (she doesn't like people to help, so I didn't). It's pretty fun. You've inherited this estate, and the house is ok, but the gardens are in sad shape. So you go around them and clean them up. In English this isn't really my kind of game -- in fact, I let Hero play one of the levels for me tonight, and I just did the reading. But I like it anyway, because I get to learn a bunch of new words. There is so much vocabulary in a new language! This is a pleasant way to get some.

It's fun to find new ways to integrate my adopted language. And, if the kanji thing goes as well as I think it's going to, then when the kids get to the point that they're ready for it, I'll have them start on the same book. I like the way that it puts things in context, rather than learning words in isolation. And they've apparently gone to some significant trouble to make sure that old words pop up at good intervals so that you get practice at using real words in real for-native-by-native sentences (paragraphs, at the higher levels), and do it in a sane beginner-friendly kind of way.

Mother must have time to herself. And we must not say 'I cannot.' Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we 'cannot' get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for 'Mother Culture?'--one half-hour in which we can read, think, or 'remember.'
-Charlotte Mason 

It really is true: when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I think it's one of the cool ways that our Father blesses us. When we are ready to learn, He is always ready to provide someone or something to teach.

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