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.

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!

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

Writing Journal


This week has, by comparison, been pretty lacklustre for writing things. It’s hard to go from ‘I won NaNoWriMo’ last week to anything – it just doesn’t match up. But what can you do?

I sat down the other day and replotted my book in an attempt to plug a handful of areas that I don’t think are developed enough. I’ve slotted in a few extra chapters in strategic places and started plotting things I need to add when I run through it again.

I’ve only got a handful of chapters left to write before the story itself is complete, which is tremendously exciting. I’m setting myself an arbitrary deadline since NaNo seemed to be so helpful.

My goal is to complete my first draft by the end of the year! After that, I’ll let my buddies read it and then cry when they hate it.

Study J(OU)nal


Not much to report on the studying front this week.

I’m still more-or-less on top of my work, and it’s still really interesting. Big news is that I sent off a couple of query emails about officially switching to a BSc Natural Sciences (Biology) degree, and it turns out it shouldn’t be a problem to switch if I want to. That’s obviously completely awesome.

Second big thing is that voting has opened for the PLEXUS elections – I’ve cast my votes already, so this time next week I’ll know if I’ve managed to blag myself a spot on the committee so I can start worrying! It’s all very exciting and scary.

Writing Journal


This week has been totally mad for writing, I’ve been crazy busy, chipping away at the total every day and I’m now so close to beating my first ever NaNoWriMo – it’s all very exciting.

My writing itself has taken a bit of an unexpected turn. My two main characters are now turning in to explorations of my own mind, in terms of mental health, sexuality and relationships. It’s interesting, but at the same time massively freaky to confront some stuff that is really massive for me. Even if the writing itself turns out as junk, it will have been worth doing just to explore my own mind.

As I said I am dangerously close to beating Nano. If you keep in all the planning for final chapters then I’ve already beaten it, but if you remove them I am sitting at exactly 48,000 (which was intentional I’m afraid). So I should beat the challenge by the end of the week, preferably by tomorrow if I’m lucky.

Anyway, here’s my updated stats.


Study J(OU)rnal


It’s been a weird week for studying, this time around. I’ve been a bit all over the place mentally, so my studying has suffered a little.

First off, I got my first assignment back with a whopping 90% as my result. I am incredibly pleased with this result, and it’s given me a bit of a confidence boost. The comments my tutor made were very helpful and mostly boiled down to making sure I read the task carefully and made my points more concise. I think I can manage that.

Secondly, I’m actually behind on my studying for the first time since starting the course. I’ve done most of this weeks work, but after a rough couple of days, I never got around to finishing it so I will be trying to get that done once I’ve posted this.

Finally, the hustings period for applicants to the PLEXUS committee will be ending soon, and I think my chances of gaining a position are pretty good. If I’m honest, I feel a little out of my depth but I am hoping that is just my normal anxiety messing with me. Either way, it should be interesting to see what happens.

Now back to studying with me!

Writing Journal


I’m a little late in writing this, but oh well, I’m sure you can forgive me.

This week has been crazy productive for my writing. I am, mercifully, still way ahead of my required word count, and chapters keep getting added as I go – hopefully the rest will all be fairly short to balance things out.

My writing content seems to be taking a very unexpected approach. Chapter 6 took a really deep emotional turn for me, as I found myself writing a romance and exploring a lot of themes to do with mental health and physical intimacy. The chapter I wrote today, was frankly harrowing, and I’m going to need to get someone to check it through to make sure it’s not grossly inappropriate. Big issues keep coming up, and it’s a little scary.

Anyway, here are my stats for the week.