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Red Light Green Light: Studying in Japan

2009 October 26

A year after my project in Kanazawa, most of the hits on my blog still come from Google searches for 色の名前. Obviously somebody out there is interested in color names across languages, and I am as 色好き (color-obsessed) as ever. でわ、「色の名前」を探す人に質問:またブログにアップしない色の名前情報がありますけど、 興味がありますか? または、日本語と英語の色を比べること続くかどうかちょっと考えています。 そのテーマについてブログを書いたら読みたい人いますか? And again for the English speakers searching 色の名前: I still have information I haven’t uploaded to the blog. Should I post it? Also, is there interest in continuing comparison of colors in Japanese and English? If I blog about it, are there people who want to read it?

In America, we use a lot of colors when studying. Highlighters help us focus on the most important parts of our notes when reading through before the big test. In Japan, though, many classes require rote memorization. As if it weren’t enough having to learn thousands of ideograms with 2 (or 3 or 4 or 5) readings a piece, English has some confusing linguistic features that Japanese lacks – like articles and a bewildering variety of prepositions – and many irregular verb conjugations and grammar points that just have to be drilled into a non-native student. Highlighters just aren’t strenuous enough to help Japanese students stuff their heads with all this information. Instead, many students use a “check set”, which allows them to blank out certain key words while studying and quiz themselves more intensely.

I’m trying to learn a lot of kanji, so I bought myself some flashcards and check set materials at the closest hyaku-en (dollar) store and photographed a demonstration for you all.
One set of flashcards I’m making is to teach myself radicals, different shapes that appear regularly in multiple ideograms that contribute to the meaning or the reading of the kanji. This is shinnyou, a vaguely road-shaped bit that appears at the edge of many characters. To the right of the flashcard are my red and green highlighters.

The stuff I bought is actually more like red and green translucent correction tape; some sets use highlighters, and some use red and green pens. Using highlighters or this tape stuff allows you to go over things already written in black, so if I wanted to use this on my workbook instead of a homemade flashcard, it wouldn’t be a problem.

I chose to highlight the name of the radical in one color and its meaning in the other, so I can quiz myself on each separately.

Quiz time!
Using the red check sheet, I can see the red-highlighted material but not the green. Do you remember the name of this radical?

Using the green check sheet, I can see the green-highlighted material but not the red. What does this radical mean?

Considering the colors used in this system are confused in the most common form of color blindness, protanopia, I used a little utility called Color Oracle to examine my photographs. The check sheets are hard to tell apart, but in principle they still work. My tape highlighters seem to be of different enough brightnesses that a protanopic person would see a difference (in the tape, at least).

If you’re in the US and want to try out this study system for your own memorization purposes, you can probably make a homemade set with a bit of effort, but J-List offers a couple check sets and some check set flashcards for fairly cheap. (By the way, those tiny ring-bound flash cards are the norm in Japan – there’s no such thing, as far as I can tell, as index cards! It’s a little frustrating for those of us who squirrel away years worth of 3″x5″s…)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. CapnCosmo permalink
    2009 October 26 10:51 pm

    I love the books with the half the stuff already printed in red that come with a check sheet! It saves so much time.

    • 2009 October 27 7:19 am

      Sounds cool! Although I don’t know if it would work for me; I’m the kind of person that has to do some writing to learn something.

      • CapnCosmo permalink
        2009 October 28 8:22 pm

        Well, I like it for practice tests, because that means I can take the practice test over and over without having to erase or write it someplace else or something. And, I don’t even need to write down the answers at all, because I can check it right away! It’s really good for studying when you don’t have a lot of time/in a place that is not conducive to writing.

  2. Grandma Mollie Cohen permalink
    2009 October 29 1:23 am

    Dear Mara – Your Mother is visiting me and has just shown me all you many pictures and your horse riding and I’m so pleased to see how well you are doing and how good you look. I can’t quite under stand every thing that she is telling me but it sounds grand (she is telling me that every body will read my message to you so I will be careful ). I’m so pleased that you seem to be having a a good time. Your knowledge about things is already way beyond mine. Keep it up and teach me when you come home. Love Grandma Molllie.

  3. Sparks permalink
    2009 December 9 3:43 am

    THIS IS SOOO COOL.. I’d never use it.. but I love the concept!

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