Ragdoll Learns Japanese!


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?


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.


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…


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


Ragdoll Learns Japanese


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)


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.

Study J(OU)rnal


This week was probably the worst week I’ve had so far for studying. There are several reasons for this.

  1. I somehow got really behind, and didn’t even start work until Monday! (I usually start on Saturday and try to get it mostly done by Sunday evening)
  2. I had to do an experiment, and I hate it SO MUCH3
  3. Christmas is coming, and I hate it.

Fortunately, I managed to pull it around. Wednesday proved to be immensely productive, and I got not only my normal uni work done, but the extension work (learning about mammals) done too!

Now to the experiment. I had to find out the percentage of water in potatoes, by drying them out in a microwave and weighing them. Simple enough, no?

Apparently not. One set of scales adds an extra 40g to any weight over 700g, the other seems to take 10 minutes to decide exactly what number it feels like stopping on. Point is, I spent over an hour doing this stupid experiment and I hated every single minute of it.

Today I managed to get a little extra work done before the holidays, focussing on Maths for Science, which started off easy and then got insanely hard towards the end, and now my head hurts.

Writing Journal


This week was a bit hectic for writing, what with it being so close to Christmas. I was seriously behind on my studying too, so I had to prioritise – hence I didn’t do a lot this week. HOWEVER.

This week I wrote somewhere into the region of 7000 words, which I’m dead pleased with, thanks in no small part to a mammoth writing session in my local library yesterday afternoon. I also managed to complete my week’s writing goal, which was pretty sweet.

Last week’s writing challenge: Write the final chapters.

I totally wrote them. I hate the prologue, and I’m not sure about the content and pacing of the chapters, but that’s a problem for first-draft editing. I also started work on the few chapters I wanted to slot into earlier parts of the story, so it’s all starting to come together.

With that in mind, let’s set a new writing challenge, shall we:

This week’s writing challenge: Complete draft 0.5

In other words, finish off the few remaining chapters to give me a complete story, by the end of the week. Then I can have a week or so off, and then I start the monumental task of editing!! Scary stuff!

Study J(OU)rnal


This week can be summarised quite vividly. If you imagine being punched repeatedly in the face, for a whole week, then getting rewarded with a nice cake on the seventh day, you should have some idea of how my week has gone academically.

The big thing this week is that I have hit my first big issue with the Open University (shock horror). Now, I’m no stranger to being online – I have, in fact, spent most of my life on the internet, so the idea of having my study materials presented online shouldn’t cause me too many problems, right?


As it turns out, you break up my study into webpage size chunks and what you’ve given me is an instruction to switch off my brain. I take NOTHING in. I can pages and pages of websites and not have the faintest idea what I’ve spent the last hour doing! As search, I have had to spend a considerable amount of time working around this, which has been a massive pain in the backside.

I have figured out how to download each week’s worth of work into a PDF file, which I work from (which means I can take notes) and flick back to the webpage for any interactive elements. It’s a pain, and I absolutely hate it. So that’s fun.

I’ve also come across some accessibility issues. The course has started linking to videos on YouTube, which is fair enough, but I have found they don’t bother to provide any guidance as to how to find a transcript of these videos. I found one by accident, and after 20 minutes of searching, discovered the other didn’t have dialogue at all! I think it’s pretty terrible that this isn’t considered in the course materials, and it’s really annoying me.

Now moving away from the fury and on to the good stuff.

I have started doing OpenLearn courses on top of my regular uni work, and this week I began a multi-part course entitled The Life of Mammals. It uses the David Attenborough documentary and book of the same name as the teaching basis, and so I spent most of yesterday learning about marsupials and monotremes. It was AWESOME.

Finally, I have officially requested to change my degree pathway from a BSc Computing and IT, to a BSc Natural Sciences (Earth Sciences specialism). So that’s SUPER exciting.

Writing Journal


This week was not productive – I failed to do any writing until today, which obviously wasn’t ideal. Fortunately, today was extremely productive.

So today, I took myself off to my local library (woo!) and sat with my laptop and wrote for about 5 hours, with periodic breaks to browse Twitter and procrastinate.

I managed to get three full chapters finished, which means I beat last weeks challenge (which was 2 chapters). That means that I have roughly 3 chapters to finish the book, and then a few to slot in during editing. About 6 or 7 in total. So I think I’m on my way to getting a draft done by the end of the year – but it might be draft 0.5 rather than a proper first draft.

This week’s writing challenge: Write the final chapters.

Writing Journal



(This was supposed to be posted a week ago, but apparently it didn’t! OMG!)

The end is in sight! Or, it was until I moved the goalposts.

My NaNo project only has 10 chapters left for me to write, which is somewhere in the region of 15-20k words, which sounds like a heck of a lot if I’m honest. Then I’ll have to go through chapter by chapter, refining and rewriting and hopefully, I’ll have the first draft and I can let people see it. Or not.

Also, I’m going to be setting myself goals in the future. Little manageable writing tasks for me to complete over the course of the week, and I’ll be keeping a record of if I manage to complete them. So in that spirit, here is my first goal:

Goal: Write 2 chapters / 3000ish words

Study J(OU)rnal


This week was designated “Options Week”, the first of 3 over the course of this module. I had to choose what I wanted to study, which was pretty cool.

I decided to study what I thought was advice on how to get the most out of the Open University’s OpenLearn website, but actually, it contained almost nothing I didn’t already know. However, I made the best of it and actually had a really productive week.

OpenLearn hosts a series of mini-lessons on all the subjects the OU teaches. I’ve now been through the website and marked down every biology and environmental science courses that looked interesting (plus a few maths courses) and I will be working through them during the course of my degree. This marks a significant change in my study style as for the first time I am doing more than I am asked rather than the bare minimum.

Study J(OU)rnal


This week was very up and down in terms of student life. It wasn’t bad by any stretch, just a little challenging.

Most of my studying this week involved mathematics – and I’m pleased to say that I managed to get a couple of the questions wrong. Perhaps that’s an odd thing to be pleased about, but I see it as somewhat of a justification for my taking the access module – proof that my skills are as unpolished as I thought they were. So that gives me something to work with.

We also got the results of the PLEXUS committee elections. Unfortunately, I wasn’t selected for a position, but that isn’t the end of the world. Frankly, I’m just astonished I put myself down for a spot in the first place. It’s a victory in and of itself. So I’m not too worried about it, and there is always next time.

Next week is the first “Options Week” of this module – I’ve never had one before so this should be pretty interesting.