Saturday, 19 January 2019



What is it? 
An ordering system for Japanese (and Chinese) kanji characters

Who is this for?

Primarily for non-Japanese people learning Japanese. But I reckon that the the Japanese themselves would benefit

Why do we need it?

Because nothing else does the job well. The various ways of identifying kanji that exist are time-consuming, tedious, imprecise and frustrating. They rely too much on prior, insider knowledge about stroke number, stroke order, radicals, kanji 'words' and pronunciation

What does it achieve?

AlphaKanji allows you to look up, in less than 10 seconds, any kanji character

Is it ready to go?

AlphaKanji is ready to go. However, since every possible kanji hasn't yet been 'entered' you'll need to join a mailing list to be updated

So how does it work?

Each Chinese-style character is assigned an unambiguous 4-digit code based on stroke number, order and direction. This permits you to look it up the way you would use a regular dictionary

What do I need to know to use it?

To be able to roughly count (plus or minus 1 or 2) the number of strokes making up the character, and the direction of the first 3 or so strokes

How much does it cost?

Nothing. It's free. But if you want the list that I've compiled, a small donation might be nice

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

What I hope to get from Languages Arena

People often say about this, that and the other: "There's got to be another way." Concerning languages, I feel that a better way would involve community engagement.

By this, I don't mean engaging with native speakers of the target language (although that wouldn't hurt). Instead, I suggest interacting with a number - Dunbar's number? - of like-minded members of a tribe, cohort or fraternity who share the same goal. They needn't all be learning the same language. In fact, it might be better that they are working on a mix of languages.

But how to form such a group members? Should I advertise (as in Daniel Quinn's Ishmael?) 

It's not as if there's a dearth of people learning languages. A billion or two around the world are trying to pick up English alone.

The problem is that people have no trust in themselves. The education system, and society in general, has sold us the idea that to learn a language is difficult, and that it requires a teacher, the study of grammar, that expertise is built through learning rules, doing exercises and memorizing lists of words. 

And so people go looking on line for tips and tricks. They end up with . . . well . . . well-meaning tricksters. 

Something like that. I'm just playing with words here ;-)

I want to get away from such a (an?) hierarchical arrangement.  I don't want any commercial transfer of funds. I don't want to be told what to do. I refuse to obey a set of how-to-do-it-my-way strictures. I just want a level playing field in which to play, kick a ball around, shoot the breeze and share the experience. I'm a girl guy who just wants to have fun!

That, in short, is what I hope to get out of Languages Arena.

Friday, 28 December 2018

What I get from A J Hoge

A.J. Hoge has a huge online presence. However, I can only take the man in small doses (sorry), though that might not be so if I was actually learning English. Then, I might then find him and his material much more useful.

Nevertheless, I am appreciative for a couple of things: His nail-hit-on-the-head description of  English class in Japan, and the notion of coaching (as opposed to teaching). The latter is a relatively recent concept, as you can see on the graph below (from Google ngram).

Sunday, 30 September 2018

5-minute introduction to Stephen Krashen

I can't think of a better way to spend five minutes on professional development (as an ESOL teacher) than by spending it in the company of Stephen Krashen.

The only problem is that of hyper-choice; there's just so much online by, and about, the man that it is difficult to decide where to begin.

And so - let me decide for you . . .

1. Get a feel for the man from the first one and a half minutes of this 3-part talk:

2. Then, skip ahead to the 5:03 mark (thereby saving over three-and-a-half minutes!) and listen for four more minutes (until 9:10).

Of course, you are free to listen to the entire talk later in your own time!

Friday, 21 September 2018

What I get from Globish

I first came across the word 'Globish' (and hence the concept) in a Japanese bookshop while searching the shelves for any useful books on language learning.

Basically, it is the term for English as it is spoken around the world between non-native speakers.

It uses a smaller number of words, shorter sentences and simpler grammar.

Its purpose is to communicate messages quickly, easily, and 'relaxedly'. It doesn't fuss so much with being 'correct'. And that is what I both take from it and respect.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Introducing David Snopek, and what I got from him

I first got to know about David Snopek through his blog. I'm not sure whether it is still active, as its last post is dated March 2014. No matter - I'll just recount how and where I heard of him, and what that he had to say, or write, I found useful.

I was in Japan, I believe. And although I wasn't interested in learning Polish at the time (I'm more interested now) his free ebook of general principles intrigued me.

David was the first person I'd come across to use real material to pick up a language. Specifically, he used Harry Potter. David went into some detail explaining how to work though Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - or maybe the sorcerer's stone -  word for word, sentence by sentence, page by page.

I loved that idea. And I discovered that I could pick up Japanese copies of the series for peanuts.