Ragdoll Learns Japanese!

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This week my mind has been absolutely blown. I’m 2 weeks in, and I think I’m more or less back to where I was when I stopped studying the last bunch of times – which means that a considerable amount more knowledge than I ever realised was still packed away in my head. Which is obviously awesome.

I said I was gonna quick-review some resources during these posts, and I’m going to. This week, the review spot goes to 2 resources for reasons that will become obvious in a moment.

First up is the globally known DuoLingo.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about DuoLingo already. It’s a website that teaches a number of languages by making you learn words, then sentences over and over until you know them by heart.

DL is  – or at least *used* to be – squarely in the “because we say so” style of teaching. What this means is that you would learn a sentence, probably with some new piece of grammar, and you’d say “Cool! Thanks Duo – now why does it work like this?” and DL would always respond “Because we say so”.

Seriously, there was almost no explanation apart from in the user discussion areas about any of the content provided. You just learned it by rote and hope to god there were no nasty exceptions waiting to mess you up (which of course there were!)

I’m thrilled to see this is changing somewhat. Not a great deal, but each section does at least have an extremely brief explanation as to what is going on. It’s not much, it certainly doesn’t answer many questions, but it’s better than it used to be. Plus the user discussion sections are flooded with questions and answers from other users.

What is it good for? 

Memory. I’m just over half way down the tree so far – which I hasten to remind you is waaaaaaay further than most people will get in 2 weeks, I just have lots and lots of prior study to back me up. I’m definitely remembering the material well. It’s sinking in, and when I’m not lazy or clumsy I get lots of answers right. It certainly feels like I know a whole bunch! Way more than I felt like I knew the last bunch of times I’ve tried to learn.

Reading. I’ve actually been quite impressed with the way DL handles the written language. It introduces hiragana immediately, bringing in easy-to-read vocab and sentences and building up until you can read it. Then it introduces katakana, and continues with the vocab. Finally, it starts introducing kanji VERY slowly. Some of them it introduces directly, others just appear at random and I have found myself on several occasions staring at a multiple choice list of words to build a sentence and thinking “I wonder if that’s the right kanji to use here”. I don’t know how useful that is to absolute beginners, but to me, that was a really nice way to do things.

Anything bad about it?

I’m not sure how much I can remember independently. If you asked me right now to come out with some of the sentences Duo quizzes me about I’m not completely sure I could get them all right, even if I could on the app. I don’t know why this is.

Gamification. Seriously, some people find this helpful, but to me this nearly destroyed my mental health. Every user gets stuck on a leaderboard, the top 15 or so getting promoted to the next level. I was #1 in the bronze league and got put in silver, where I shot up to #1 again. Then a few hours later, I get a notification. “You have lost your #1 spot”. I wasn’t having that. It’s only a few dozen XP difference after all. So I did some more. Me and this other user went back-and-forth like this for 3 days before I realised that firstly it wasn’t helping me learn and second it was upsetting me…really messing with my peace of mind. Studying wasn’t fun anymore, it was a competition, and that SUCKED. So stopped, and finished in the #2 spot. I’m not in the gold bracket, and I’m going to study however much I want to, and try and ignore it. It’s not worth the hassle.

How do you rate it?

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It’s a great app, definitely useful and definitely helps me feel like I’m understanding – I’m just not sure that I do. No, scrap that, I KNOW I don’t understand it fully, but as far as DL goes, that’s the point. It wants you to USE the language, rather than trying to dissect it.

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I was going to review TextFugu today instead of DuoLingo, but I can’t and I’ll tell you why. Back in the day, TextFugu was new and fun and offered a different approach to learning Japanese. Simple explanations, humour, and most importantly, it linked to FREE RESOURCES to help you study. The main one being ANKI, a piece of flashcard software. It was pretty cool.

So why am I not reviewing Textfugu? For 2 reasons:

  1. It’s not been updated in *literally* years
  2. ANKI *has* been updated constantly

What this means is that every single ANKI list in Textfugu is now COMPLETELY INCOMPATIBLE with the current build in ANKI. That means every piece of vocab, every example sentence, every SINGLY kanji list provided by Textfugu cannot be used anymore. So you can’t actually study it without remaking the whole list. It SUCKS.

So now I have to use something else to teach me the nuts and bolts! Woo…

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So there. Another week gone, and my brain is feeling stronk!

 

Reading Challenge #2 Complete!

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OK, so maaaan did I ever low-ball my goal for challenge #2. 35 books? Total?! When I set this goal, 35 books looked impossible, but apparently, I’m just reading like crazy right now (thank you *very* much audiobooks!)

You can check out the first part of the challenge here: Reading Challenge #1 Complete!

So what did I read to bring my total to 35?

25. Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers – Grant Naylor
26. Jakob Kayne #1: La Isabela – Sylvain Runberg
27. Star Wars: Master and Apprentice – Claudia Gray
28. Making Money – Terry Pratchett
29. Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday – Laura Ellen Anderson
30. Star Wars: Dooku: Jedi Lost – Cavan Scott
31. Star Wars: Darth Plagueis – James Luceno
32. Just One Damned Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor
33. The Inimitable Jeeves – P.G. Wodehouse
34. Red Dwarf : Better Than Life – Grant Naylor
35. Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown – Joe Schreiber

Best book of the lot I reckon was probably Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray. A brilliant book in its own right, but the audiobook production was superb. I mean, Johnathon Davis is a wonderful narrator, and he even does the voices!

My current reads are:

Alien Covenant: Origins – Alan Dean Foster
Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett
Pyramids – Terry Pratchett

Next challenge:

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If you’re keeping score, that’s another 15 books I need to read by the end of the year, which quite frankly seems pretty much laughable now. But saying that, I am moving out for the first time in the next few months so who knows how much reading I’ll get done after that.

 

Ragdoll Learns Japanese

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Woah. So it’s been one hell of a 6-day week. I no longer have any money because I am a chump, but a potentially learned chump.

After considerable (read, sporadic, random and shallow) research into the best materials to use I have at last settled on the pieces I plan to use.

First in the batting order is Textfugu.

Textfugu is an online textbook that claims to be like no other, and if I’m honest it really is quite unique. It uses humour to break up the study and works under a ‘Japanese learning re-imagined’ ethos. It’s pretty sweet. Oh, and the first section is free apparently, so check it out.

Next up is WaniKani.

WaniKani, from the makers of Textfugu, is Kanji learning re-imagined. It’s easy to use, even if the method seems a little alien and at times tricky. But heck, it works.

Then we have Skritter.

I’ve already stated that this is my best guess for learning to write in Japanese or Chinese – at least if you learn like me. Repeated writing *works* for me, I learn really well that way, with the added bonus that I also know how to write Japanese, not just read it.

Bringing up the rear we have Duolingo.

Duolingo is almost certainly the most well-known piece of software on this list. Pretty much everyone will have seen memes floating around about the sinister owl and the extreme measures it takes to get you to study.

Finally, we have LingoDeer and its sister app, LingoDeer+.

This is a new app which I’ve heard called ‘Duolingo done right’. I’ve only been using it a couple of days, so I can’t say if that epithet is justified, but I *can* say that the app itself is pretty swanky.

I’ll probably get around to doing full reviews of some of these apps when I’ve got used to using them all again.

Honourable Mentions:

Anki – Simple but powerful and customizable flashcard software

Usagi-Chan’s Genki Resources – Learning games

Real Kana – kana practice games

 

It’s been a crazy week though. I seem to remember shed loads from the last time I studied, which is both promising and a massive relief. Makes life so much easier, and will almost make hitting the wall that much harder…oh well, I just have to smash through it.

New Thing: Ragdoll Learns Japanese (Again)

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I can’t believe it but here I am again. I’m learning Japanese. I’ve tried several times in the past, and several other languages too and never really got anywhere, but I’ve got a good feeling about this time around. This year is going well, so why shouldn’t this be the year I finally get to grips with the language?!

I’m gonna keep a bit of a log of my studies, as much for my own interest as anybody else’s. Helps to keep me focussed and see how far I’ve come.

I started again yesterday – I’ve signed back up to several of the websites I used to use, WaniKani, Skritter* and Duolingo mainly.

*This is a referral link – sign up to Skritter (the best app I know for learning to write Japanese and Chinese) and we BOTH get 2 weeks free!!

I’m thrilled to see I can still read hiragana and katakana, and write most of it. I also have a bunch of vocab in the back of my head that keeps filtering to the surface, which is obviously fantastically awesome!

I’m going to be working through TextFugu, an online textbook I used to try and use, and probably some others – every time I go into languages I read EVERYTHING so I’ll probably wind up reviewing resources too.

So yeah, super excited.

Kwik Review: Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday (Laura Ellen Anderson)

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Goodreads Link | Author Website

The wonderful fourth installment of my favourite kids series.

TL;DR – A wonderful new adventure featuring wonderful characters and even more wonderful illustrations!5Button

RAGDOLL RATING: 5/5 BUTTONS

What I thought…

Amelia Fang and the Half-Moon Holiday is the fourth instalment of the wonderful Amelia Fang series. I have totally loved the three previous books and this on did not disappoint on any level.

Amelia and the Gang have joined the Rainbow Rangers and are off on their first big expedition – but after Tangine (because who else would cause all the problems) throws a bit of a wobbly and storms off in search of a restaurant Amelia and her friends find themselves shrunk to a tiny size, and that’s just the first of their problems…

The story is hugely entertaining, as expected. It’s funny and cute and gross, and all the other good stuff I’ve come to expect from this series. But my favourite thing – the thing I can never stop praising enough is the artwork that adorns every page. It’s wonderful. Laura Ellen Anderson is a superb, and wonderful artist and even if you (somehow) didn’t like the story, this book is worth owning just for the pictures.

Definitely worth buying this book. I’m SO excited for book 5 in October!!

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Reading Challenge #1 Complete!

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Despite a majorly slow start to the year, I have managed to complete my first reading challenge of the year! 24 books in total!!

I couldn’t have done this without the revelation that audiobooks and absolutely the bee’s knees, the cat’s pyjamas and the dog’s whatsits! I listen to them all the time now, and it’s been brilliant. I’m particularly loving the Star Wars audiobooks as the production value is awesome, what with sound effects, background music and some mostly spot-on impersonations of well-loved characters.

So without further ado, here is the full list of books I’ve read for this challenge:

1. Descendant of the Crane – Joan He
2. The Light Fantastic – Terry Pratchett
3. The Wee Free Men – Terry Pratchett
4. Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett
5. Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett
6. A Hat Full of Sky – Terry Pratchett
7. Mort – Terry Pratchett
8 Going Postal – Terry Pratchett
9. Kids Write Jokes – Various
10. Business Cat: Hostile Takeovers – Tom Fonder
11. Rolled & Told Vol. 1 – E. L. Thomas
12. Thud! – Terry Pratchett
13. Sourcery – Terry Pratchett
14. The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons – Various
15. Tamamo the Fox Maiden and Other Asian Stories – Various
16. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
17. Wintersmith – Terry Pratchett
18. Little Witches: Magic in Concord – Leigh Dragoon
19. Darkwood – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch
20. Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett
21. Emiline: Knight in Training – Kimberli Johnson
22. The Very First Damn Thing: A Short Story – Jodi Taylor
23. Star Wars: Tarkin – James Luceno
24. Star Wars: Ashoka – E. K. Johnston

You may notice there are a lot of Terry Pratchett books included in this list. I’m trying to finish the series on my kindle, and restart the series on audiobook. What can I say, I adore the Discworld.

My favourite book in this list was probably Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno. You can find a quick review of this book here!

Next up on my reading list:

1. Star Wars: Dooku, Jedi Lost – Cavan Scott
2. Just One Damn Thing After Another – Jodi Taylor
3. Pyramids – Terry Pratchett
4. Making Money – Terry Pratchett

Next target is set at 35 books! Can I get there before my birthday? (17th July) Who knows!

Star Wars: Tarkin (James Luceno)

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Even better than I had hoped!

TL;DR – The story of Grand Moff Tarkin’s rise to power. An awesome tale and a must-read for Star Wars fans.

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RAGDOLL RATING: Exceptional

What I thought…

I’ve never read a Star Wars book before, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d heard people talking about Tarkin on twitter, and since I love the character I thought I’d give it a go. Best. Decision. Ever.

So, Tarkin chronicles the life of one of the most powerful men in the Empire, from his childhood to his rise to the position of Grand Moff, and oh boy is it exciting. James Luceno did a marvellous job of bringing the character to life.

I read the audiobook version of this book, and dang the production quality is superb. Sound effects and occasional music and everything. BEAUTIFUL. But I guess you’d expect that from a Star Wars book – they can afford not to cheap out on that stuff.

Anyway, well worth a read or a listen.

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Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book of the Month(s) (Jan-Apr)

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This just in!!

OK, so I didn’t do a lot of reading for the first four months of the year, so I’m just gonna go and pick my favourite book of the last four months and pretend that everything is normal!

The Ragdoll Reads Book of the Month pick for The First Chunk of 2019 is:

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Going Postal

by Terry Pratchett (2004)

See the full Book of the Month list here: Book of the Month

I never actually reviewed this book and I don’t intend to. Just trust me, it’s hilarious, as indeed all Terry Pratchett’s work is.

Darkwood (Gabby Hutchinson Crouch)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

Completely fabulous, can’t wait for the rest of the series. A strong contender for Book of the Month

TL;DR – A funny, clever and wonderful fairytale re-telling.

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Fans of fairytales, fantasy and female characters who kick butt!

About the Book…

Darkwood is a sort of fairytale retelling and variety pack. The lead character is Gretel, of Hansel and Gretel fame, driven out of her home by villainous Huntsmen who (wrongly) accuse her of being a witch! Gretel finds herself in the Darkwood, and soon winds up as part of a band of witches, featuring such wonderful characters as The White Knight (Snow White), Jack (of the Beanstalk fame) and my personal favourite, Trevor the Talking Spider. What follows is a hilarious adventure to fight back against the forces of evil!

What I thought…

I flat out adore this book. There are 2 things I didn’t like about it, and I’m gonna start the review with them because then I can gush about how good it was uninterrupted.

  1. The word ‘cowl’ is used to describe clothing with sleeves, which confused me.
  2. It’s written in the present tense, which I’m generally not a fan of. HOWEVER, I will come back to this point in a moment.

OK, where to begin. Let’s start with the setting. I’m a big fan of fairytales and folklore, and combining so many stories into one setting was a real treat for me. Each story has been turned on its head and reimagined, and then blended into something better than the sum of its parts. It’s really clever, well executed and extremely good fun.

And it’s funny! Oh man. I mentioned Trevor the talking spider in the intro and I’m gonna talk about him here. Trevor is *exactly* the type of character I love to read about. He’s small and apparently useless, but he dreams big. He wants to be useful. He wants to be a spy! And every time he gets the chance he does something daft. Like disguises. It’s silly, and playful and I love it.

Now I’m going to return to point 2 of my complaints. Present tense. I don’t like it, it annoys me and I’ve never been able to get over it. Until now. I really love how this book was written. I’m turned around on the use of present tense in writing, which is a big thing for me to admit.

Final Thoughts…

I love this book. I can’t wait for the rest of the series. I suppose the biggest compliment I can give to this book is that it made me want to write the book I’ve been planning for so long. It’s encouraged me to get up and give it a shot!

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons (Various)

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I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.


Goodreads Link

Could not finish it.

TL;DR – Not worth the effort to be honest.

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Ragdoll Rating: 0.5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Nobody, unless your sense of humour is wildly different to mine.

About the Book…

OK, so this book is a collection of single-panel comics on book-related subjects, featuring works from multiple cartoonists I’ve never heard of (although that in itself isn’t a criticism).

What I thought…

Not much, to be honest. I got two-thirds of the way through this book, laughed ONCE and gave up. The only thing I took away from this book is that it appears to have a serious problem with self-published authors, who wind up being the punchline of several pieces, and quite frankly I haven’t got the time or energy to put up with that kind of negativity. I’ll save you the lecture about why self-publishing is totally valid and awesome for now.

Final Thoughts…

I have to assume that this book is hilarious to some people, or it wouldn’t have been made – all I know is that I’m definitely not one of them.

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Please Note: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!