Lesson Plan for the 2nd half of 2016

I’ve revised my lesson plan slightly for the rest of the year. The notable addition is NHKeasy vocab since I’ve started reading one article per weekday. I’ve decided to prioritize learning things that directly help me consume media that I can fit into the gaps in my day. NHKeasy I can read while at work, and jpod101 I can listen while driving. I kept perfect groups and anime on the list with a question mark. If I have time, I will consider adding them. It’s looking like N3 is a distant dream this year. But I haven’t completely written it off.

Exercise Cards* Cumulative Cards* Finish by*
jpod101 dialogs listening - ongoing
NHKeasy vocab ~400 ~400 Aug. 12
NHKeasy articles read 1 each weekday - ongoing
jpod101 beginner s1 vocabulary ~400 ~800 Oct. 8
?perfect groups ~400 ~1200 Dec. 3
?anime vocabulary + watch ~400 ~1600 Jan. 30

* card counts could be WAY off which will obviously effect the schedule.

Clearing my review backlog

I finally got my reviews down to zero last night.  It took 21 days to catch up after missing the better part of 11 days of reviews.  All of the red in the chart below shows how much skipping a few days affected my accuracy.  The first few days of catchup in particular saw my accuracy down in the low 70’s.  The low accuracy combined with a wall of 2k reviews didn’t do much for morale I can tell you that.  Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 2.30.29 PM
The good news is that I’m caught up now.  I have a few more days until the reviews truly settle down to the same general level they were before this madness.  I’m actually hoping they settle down below the original level since I haven’t added any new cards in the last 20 days!  Ideally I will be able to add a few extra cards than normal to catch back up a little.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to match the pace I set for myself at the beginning of the year, but I’ll get close.

I’ve also started reading one NHKeasy article each weekday with much help from the new yomichan chrome extension.  Once I start adding cards again, I will probably add some of the more frequent NHKeasy vocab sourced from this site which has aggregated a frequency list of words culled from from a few years of NHKeasy articles.

2016 Lesson Plan – Progress Report

I was going pretty well on my lesson plan until around mid-April and things started getting progressively off track.

First, I realized that my estimate for jpod101 beginner vocabulary was about half of the amount I needed.  I initially budgeted 400, but the real number is likely closer to 800 once I weed out all of the words I already know.  The complete list was around 1600 as I recall, but I seem to already know half of the words.  It’s a little bit discouraging to learn that I still don’t know half of the beginner vocabulary list.

Then I started noticing that my rtk workload wasn’t going down over time despite getting decent and increasing accuracy above 80%.  I noticed my pile of mature kanji wasn’t increasing and my mature accuracy was in the low 70s, so I’m guessing I was failing enough mature cards to offset the effect of increasing intervals on younger cards.  I’ve recently decided to change my settings on my rtk deck to get my mature accuracy much higher, but that it going to slow my progress as I’m not willing to increase my study time to compensate.

The worst thing to happen to my progress however was that I got extremely busy at work and wasn’t able to finish many reviews for a little over a week.  I ended up with about 2k reviews to work though and more reviews becoming due each day.  I’ll get through them in a few weeks and I might even spam correct answers on my most mature deck.  However, catching up with the younger cards will end up putting me behind my already behind schedule by about a month.

I’ve also decided to tweek the lesson plan a bit. I’m still planning on finishing the jpod101 vocabulary so that I have something comprehensible to listen to in the car.  That will effectively add time that I am able to do japanese things that I didn’t have before.  After that, I will probably insert some reading and reading related vocabulary study.  I’m not really sure what I’ll be reading, but maybe it will be nhk easy or some easy manga.  If I can find some short things that I can read during downtime at work, I can add a little more study time that I didn’t have before.  That also fits into my desire to focus on consuming as much actual Japanese media as possible.

All this means that it is all the more unlikely that I will be studying for the N3 this year.  I will probably take a few practice tests towards the test time and decide if I should take N3 or maybe N4 if N3 looks unlikely.

Updated Lesson plan for 2016

I’ve been getting more serious about making intelligent decisions on how I spend my study time.  To that end I’ve decided to start writing down my tentative lesson plan as a way of formalizing my plans which will hopefully lead to better decisions.

I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of proceeding further with core.  Instead, I am going to be focusing on learning only the words used in a particular work and then reading, watching, or listening to the work until I it is well understood.  I’ve decided to start with japanesepod101 dialogs because transcripts in english and japanese exist, vocabulary lists also exist for each season and I can listen in my car.  Ideally longer, well written stories would be better but I don’t feel like taking time to search and cobble together transcripts in 2 languages and create vocabulary lists.  Jpod101 dialogs will do just fine.  Additionally, there are levels all the way up to advanced material, so they are a bit like graded readers with audio.  The listening in my car part is important because it’s time that would be wasted, so it’s extra study time I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Before I do all that, I want to finally finish RTK and then proceed to start learning unknown vocab from jpod101 beginner season 1 and so on.  Mastering each season until proceeding to the next until it becomes too easy and I’ll move up to intermediate level.  Concurrently to this, I want to learn all of the vocabulary in a few songs that I can listen to for listening practice.  I’d also like to pre-learn the vocab used in a movie and then watch the movie until I can follow along easily.  I’ll use subs2srs if I need help with longer sentences.

I’m still not sure, but I might study for the JLPT N3 test in december time and enthusiasm permitting.

Exercise Cards* Cumulative Cards* Finish by*
finish rtk 140 140 feb 9 done! feb 7
add rtk leeches 300 289 440 mar 10 done! mar 28
rtk lookalikes deck 180 184 620 mar 28 done! feb 27
jpod101 beginner s1 vocabulary 400 1020 may 7
jpod101 dialogs - - ongoing
song vocabulary + srs + listen 100 1120 may 17
perfect groups 400 1520 june 26
anime vocabulary + watch 400 1920 aug 5
jlpt n4 ? dec?

* Card counts are approximate which makes finish by dates approximate as well.

My 2016 lesson plan

I should finish RTK by the end of the year. I’ll be traveling to Japan for the holidays, so I’m also planning to learn/refresh some survival japanese – the kinds of things that will really be useful, like reading a menu, and asking for a larger size of pants, etc. In 2016, I’m hoping to spend a lot less time learning, and more time using Japanese. Here is my tentative 2016 lesson plan:

  • Learn a few songs in Japanese that I can listen to over and over and also sing in karaoke.
  • Pick a few easy anime and/or dramas to scan and learn unknown vocab, then subs2srs, then watch.
  • RTK 2 (or at least memorize perfect groups).
  • Un-suspend all anki leeches.
  • Convert all kana vocab cards to kanji and eventually remove all furigana from the front of all cards.
  • Start reading NHK easy.
  • Start listening to native Japanese audio(podcasts, radio, etc) in the car and at work.

Progress Report: [1013d]::[1248hr]::[2329vocab]::[1621kanji]::[2312sentences]

In my last report, I mentioned that I was still planning on taking the jlpt n3 test, but almost immediately changed course.  Instead, I decided to finish RTK and then start native media.  I just felt that not finishing RTK, I would still have too many unknown kanji which would make studying native material and vocabulary too inefficient.

I currently have 350 unseen kanji(there are some suspended leeches).  I’m adding 98/week, so I’m hoping to finish just before the holidays and my Japan trip.  I’d really like to start studying some of my survival Japanese in order to understand as much as possible while I’m there.

I’ve been spending all of my time on getting through RTK, so I haven’t made any attempts to read japanese.  I’m expecting I’ll be able to understand a lot more written Japanese once I finish RTK.

Analytics: Optimal starting ease for core vocab in Anki

I’ve long wondered what the optimum starting ease settings are for learning vocabulary in anki.  Starting ease is the primary setting the affects accuracy, workload, and ultimately how much I can learn in a given time.  There’s supermemo’s theory page, but it’s not specific to japanese vocabulary or even language learning.  I want to know my personal settings for the deck I’m studying so I decided analyze my anki learning data to find out.

The first scatter chart shows the relationship between a card’s ease and my accuracy answering the card.  The blue data points are from when I first started studying core vocabulary and was using a lot of filtered decks.  I’ve since realized that filtered decks aren’t as efficient as simply using anki’s algorithm and sensible settings.  I’m also guessing that there’s a learning effect making it easier to learn japanese vocabulary once I’m a few thousand words into learning.  Either way, it seems that some combination of those factors is allowing me to be more accurate lately(red) as opposed to when I started(blue).



The second chart shows what happens when I simulate my workload for various values along the combined best fit curve.  The blue line(left axis) is simply the combined line from the chart above.  The red line(right axis) is the simulated workload and the yellow line(right axis) is a smoothed version of the red line.  As you can see, on the left side of the chart, if I try for high accuracy, my workload is twice what it could be if I accepted a lower accuracy.  At an ease of around 210, my accuracy should be around 61%, but my workload is about half what it is with ease 130 allowing me to study twice as many cards in the same amount of time.


The problem with the chart above is that the yellow line doesn’t accurately show how much of the vocabulary I actually “know” for any ease/accuracy setting.  In other words, if I am getting 60% accuracy vs 80% accuracy, I “know” 20% less vocabulary, but it’s counted the same in the chart above. So the following chart is the same, only the yellow workload line is adjusted to account for accuracy, so that every point on the line represents the same number of known cards.



Judging by this last chart, my most efficient starting ease for my core vocabulary deck is around 175 which should put my accuracy around 67%. Lately, I’ve had my ease set to rather easy settings because it makes the learning process a lot more fun when I feel like I’m winning. However, I realized that the slope of that yellow line is so steep that a small sacrifice in accuracy should result in a large decrease in workload, allowing me to add more cards. So, I’ve decided to slowly raise my ease settings until I find a good comprise between accuracy, efficiency and enjoyment.

Proper nutrition for brain health

In a 2008 meta study of 160 papers on food’s affect on the brain, researcher Fernando Gómez-Pinilla found some foods that my help with memory and cognition while avoiding depression and Alzheimer’s disease.  Here is a short summary of the paper’s findings.   Below is a list of the foods and behaviors that can affect brain health.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish(Salmon)
  • Folic acid
  • Turmeric
  • Intermittent caloric restriction and meal skipping
  • Exercise
  • A enough sleep