[I have two translation exams coming up in the next few days so I had to put my originally planned post on hold while I whipped this up super quick. Sorry about this, but hope people find it useful anyway!]
It’s amazing how well a lot of the J-Talk Online Memrise courses are doing. I’m thrilled to see so many people using it to learn Japanese. Since I started creating courses in March 2014 (over a year ago!) I’ve made 20 courses with the most popular courses being the Anime Japanese for Beginners, Beginners Japanese Grammar 1, Japanese Counters and Learning Hiragana using Vocabulary. But there are still a LOT of courses I want to make which I hope will help learners.
This post covers:
- How I made some of the courses
- Why I chose to teach them in certain ways
- Mishaps I’ve run into
- Some cool tips that might be useful if you choose to make your own
- Sneak peaks of future courses
My First Course – lessons learnt
First of all, the memrise courses started when I realised there wasn’t an easy way for people to learn hiragana and katakana without drilling, and as a lot of my posts are mostly written using these, I wanted to help people learn them. I got the idea of slowly learning the different kana using vocabulary from Japanese for Busy People Kana Edition, which teaches you using vocabulary and a CD (great book, buy it if you want to practice writing Kana as well).
I got some people from my own anime society who had never learnt Japanese before to try it and let me know what they think…. didn’t get much feedback from them, but strangers on the site started using the course and gave me suggestions on improvement, like romaji pronunciations, and getting people to practice recognising the kanas by typing the English pronunciation. I was able to upload some sound files for some of the kana for pronunciation, but sadly not all of them.
A Few More Courses – working out how best to learn
So I created some more courses I thought would be interesting and useful, basing them on some older blog posts, like the Anime Japanese and the Japanese Counters. One was Breaking into Japanese Literature which has the vocabulary from the book of the same name. Wow I kept fucking that up bad. First, it’s no where near done and it’s over 1400 words in. Secondly I was unsure how to teach the course.
When creating a course you have a number of fields which can be filed in and, a choice of 2 of those fields for the flashcards. Such as an English prompt with a kana answer. Breaking in Japanese Literature was a more advanced course and I kept changing between testing on kana and testing on kanji. The problem is, this wipes peoples progress. I debated over it for a long time but realised it made more sense to settle on what would become my standard way of building the courses. Kana with English prompt, followed by the same with Kanji with English prompt. There is a reason for this…
English to Kana; Kanji to Kana – learning meanings, learning readings
So there is a method to my madness. I’d begun using the 2000 JLPT N1 Vocabulary course by this point and was really getting into it (through my personal Memrise account, not the J-Talk one). But I was finding a number of problems with it. I don’t know if it was my learning style but I had a hard time memorising the meaning for the word, and the reading, and recognising the kanji at the same time.
This was when I figured that when you’re reading Japanese you don’t have an English promt to help you. You need to be able to read the kanji, and understand it through the meaning and its reading. (I know some people don’t bother with the reading and just learn meanings, but I don’t see much point in that).
So first the courses are set-up so you learning the meaning of the word with the English. Then the level is copied but gives you a kanji prompt where you must type in the kana reading. Yes this makes the course twice as long, but it allows the user to build up their learning, getting them to the point where they don’t need the English prompt to be able to understand the kanji’s meaning and reading.
At least that’s my theory. I use some of the courses I make myself and for my learning style it is very useful and I find I retain information better. I can also see where I know the word because of the kanji and where I know it from the meaning, so I know which one I need to work on more.
There are some other tricks that I use to help improve people’s recognition of the meanings and readings…
Tricks For Making Courses – easy learning, easy creating
There is one feature in Memrise that a lot of people don’t seem to realise exists… when you’re editing a course you can make text bigger, italic, and always show during a test (even if that item isn’t being tested).
First you do this by clicking the little blue pencil next to the column you want to edit (see image on the left)
Then this window pops up, and allows you all kinds of options for how the text will look during a test, as well as (this is a new feature), how the course tests (i.e typing only, tapping only, a mixture etc).
However, when you change something in a column (i.e Show Bigger), it makes it that way for the column for all the levels of the course. What you can do is make each column different,
i.e Kana will not always show, BUT kanji will.
The Always Show button is amazing because it allows the computer and mobile users to view the reading for kanji, or the kanji for a word, after they’ve typed in the answer, even if they’re not being tested for it. This re-enforces readings and kanji as a person is learning.
Another thing I’ve started recently is creating courses in Excel and then uploading them to Memrise. This is so much easier to create courses because you can move vocabulary around, check the English spelling, and get a lot written in a shorter span of time.
To do this you need to create the columns that are in your course (as you can see on the right mine are normally Kana, English, Common Japanese, Kanji). Then it’s as simple as filling these in.
I often use Common Japanese as alternative kanji or extra vocabulary.
Then you just copy the segment once it’s done (not the column titles), go to memrise, and when creating a New Level click on “Advance” and the “Bulk add words”.
This opens a window, and when you paste and add the words from excel (provided you copied all the columns correctly), will fill in all the words and fields for your course.
New Courses I’m Working On
This is a bit of a sneak preview for courses I’m working on:
First of all, I am always editing the N1 Kanji and Vocabulary courses. As I work through them I notice myself ways to better word an English prompt, or I’ve misspelled the kana, so I always have these on my dash. Advanced Japanese Reading is one I need to update too, which is why it’s there.
Next I’m working on the Newspaper Japanese course (which next week’s blog post will be about). And I’ve had the Beginners Keigo and Beginners Particles in the works for a long time too. I’ll get to work on these after the JLPT in July (sorry guys, but you should have these courses by the end of the summer at least!)
As I always say, if there’s a topic you’d like to see a Memrise course for but there isn’t one, please feel free to ask me! I’m always open to suggestions and ideas, and although it might not be right away, I’ll try and get it up online as soon as possible.