Evernote, as you’ve probably figured out by now (from the other articles) is an excellent way to gather and store information. One really great thing you can do with Evernote is start a language log. Now, this would be boring and useless on its own, but you’ll have to hear me out. You’re going to learn how to make a language log that will actively help you to remember more of the Japanese that you’re learning (and get better at it too). It’s not just some dumb diary that you write to every day. We’re going to make some progress.
Your Language Log
For me, I just created a new notebook under my “Study” notebook in Evernote to store all of these in. That way, I can just click on the “Language Log” Notebook anytime I want and see all of my posts at a glance. I can also look back and see what I’ve done too, if I ever want to be impressed by my (I’m talking about you here) amazing Japanese language progress.
Also, just to be clear, this language log is more about thinking about the things you learned that day. It’s not for you to write Japanese journal entries in (Lang-8 is good for that, and you can and definitely should take all corrections from there and put them into Evernote).
Really, it’s all about memory, though. We’ll be using the language log concept to force you to recall information that you learned recently. Also, we’ll be taking that information and reorganizing it in your brain so that it sticks better. If you keep a language log in the way I’m about to describe, I guarantee that you’ll remember twice, maybe three times as much as you usually do. It doesn’t take very long either.
Remembering What You Did Today
At the end of the day, preferably right before you go to sleep or get ready for bed (the act of sleeping will also help organize the information you go over in your log), fire up Evernote and start a new note for that day’s language log.
Then, make a quick list of the things you learned. For example, maybe they are…
- Te-Form Verbs (Grammar)
- Kanji: 大, 肉, 日, 妹, 茶
- Words: 食べます, 猫, 茶, 子犬, おとうと, なっとう
Now, here’s the trick. You aren’t allowed to look at anything while you’re trying to recall what you learned. Also, you need to be specific as possible. See how I listed out specific words and kanji that I theoretically learned that day?
You won’t be able to remember everything, but that’s okay. You have to really force yourself to try, though. The act of struggling to remember is also the act of creating stronger memories. They absolutely go hand in hand, which is why you want to put yourself in situations where you have to struggle to remember something.
After you’ve remembered absolutely everything you can remember, it’s time to dive in a little deeper.
Expanding The List
Now go into more detail. Try to remember everything that you’ve learned about each individual thing. You can do it in note form, too. For example:
Te-Form: This is a grammar point for verbs. To create te-form, just use ta-form’s pattern and change ta → te. Te form when used alone is used to tell people what to do. You can also add other grammar to it, like ください or みる to have it mean different things.
大: Means big. On’yomi is だい or たい. Kun’yomi is おお like in おおきい. Radical is the big radical, same as the kanji.
肉: Means meat. On’yomi for 肉 is… I can’t remember. Kun’yomi is にく, though. Radicals are two “person” radicals inside a “head.”
子犬: Uses the kun’yomi readings. Has child and dog put together to make a child dog. That’s a puppy.
And so on and so forth. See how deep into detail I’m going? I am putting down everything I remember, and even mentioning when I don’t remember something. Once again, you really want to try to force yourself to remember, though. Make that brain churn, if you don’t tell it to try it won’t try, so you gotta work it until it’s tired. After you’ve written about everything you learned that day, it’s time to try and use these things in context.
All these things are useless on their own. They should be in context! They should be in sentences! Another thing you can do to help solidify their use (and not just what they are or what they mean) is make sentences with these items. For example:
肉を食べて！ Eat (your) meat!
猫を食べて下さい。 Please eat the cat.
子犬が大好き。 I like puppies a lot.
この子犬は大きいです。 This puppy is big.
You just need to take the list of things you remembered learning, and apply them somehow. It doesn’t matter if they’re related. It doesn’t matter if you use more than one of the words in a sentences… you just have to use them. Give them some context. Also, try to remember things you’ve learned in the past and apply those to the things you’ve just learned today. When it comes to memory, it’s all about recalling. The more you recall and add to the mix, the more you’ll be able to use and remember when it matters most.
Be Sure To Look Back
There’s two parts to looking back. One is simply that you should occasionally go through your notes to see the progress you’ve made. It’s often hard to see how much better you’ve become without some written proof like this. It’s inspiring to see progress like this, and I’m sure you’ll make lots of progress if you do all this right.
The other part to looking back, though, is looking back the next day. Compare your language log notes with your study materials. What did you forget to add to your language log? If you forgot something, obviously it didn’t stick well enough, so take a note in your mind to try and remember it when you do your next language log, later tonight!
Do this every day and you’ll remember a lot more of what you studied throughout the day. It’s a great recap and a great way to tell your brain “hey, you should remember this, mmk?”