Asana task list - featured banner

Managing your study time made easy with Asana

The daily grind, get up, go to work, come home, relax, go to bed.  Where does study time fit in? The answer: schedule your study time.

Sounds scary, monotonous and just a bit like you’re still in the office, right?  Well if you picture the end goal of improving your Japanese a little bit every day, time well spent on planning your study time will give you that daily morale boost to push your studies along nicely 🙂

With Asana you can create projects such as Japanese learning levels – think JLPT N5 – N1, punch in grammar points as ‘tasks’, then assign deadlines to those grammar points


You may have heard of or seen, or even use Asana at your workplace since it is designed to be a fully fledged project management tool.  But did you know you can use the basic functionality on their free account price tier? That means you can create projects such as Japanese learning levels – think JLPT N5 – N1, punch in grammar points as ‘tasks’, assign deadlines to those grammar points, and basically chart your learning progress on your very own study calendar. Whoa!

Side note: I am not affiliated with Asana, just a devotee.

Task list view

Asana task list view

Asana task list view

Here I’ve set up a project called ‘Japanese JLPT N4’, and using my textbook materials I’ve added a task for every grammar point at N4 level.  Then I’ve allocated each grammar point task a day, denoting the date on which I intend to begin studying it.

The usefulness of this view is manifold:

  • I can see at a glance how I’m progressing through this level
  • I keep on top of my daily study routine
  • I feel great when I study more grammar than allocated for the day and see that I’m pushing ahead of schedule
  • I can see how far I’ve got to go before I reach the end (and at the leisurely rate of 2 grammar points per day, 5 days per week, we’re talking a maximum of just over 2 months, amazing!)

Task selected view


Asana task selected view

Now here’s where we get our hands really dirty by actually delving into each grammar point task.  As I study a grammar point (on the allocated date of course), I enter details about what the grammar point means, conjugations and how to use it, again gleaning info from textbook materials.  What this means is Asana becomes an all in one study environment!

Think when you’re taking a lunch break at school or at work – you open the Asana app or load up the web app, find yesterday’s grammar points and review what you’ve learnt!

Asana app

Viewing Asana in the mobile app

Beautiful! 😀

Calendar view


Asana calendar view

And now for the pièce de résistance.

What would a project management tool be without a calendar? Provided you’ve set up your tasks and allocated them to a date, the calendar just works, and what a wonderful way to chart your progress.  At a glance I can see that if today is the 7th of the month, I’ve already studied 7 days worth of material, and that just feels great 🙂

The next step would be to set up another project for vocabulary for example, listing a number of words for each day and sticking to your targets.  The key is, anything you need to study should be somewhere in some project that will be broken down into scheduled days 🙂

So what are you waiting for?  If managing your studies sounds boring and difficult, trust me with Asana.  It will make your studies more focussed, you won’t waste time going over material you already know, and most importantly you’ll feel like you’re in control of your learning 🙂

Oh, and did I mention it’s free? FREE!

Sign up here 

Get started with Tabikaeru (Travel Frog) with these screen translations – Part One

Installed Tabikaeru? A bit lost in translation? Never fear, here’s your guide to start getting your little frog travelling 🙂

  • Screenshot_20180211-222558
  • We begin with a button stating スタート, simply meaning ‘start’. Go ahead and click it.
  • Screenshot_20180211-222603 The terms > Screenshot_20180211-222626
  • このゲームをプレイするには利用規約に同意していただく必要があります
  • (このゲームをプレイするにはりようきやくにどういしていただくひつようがあります)
  • “To play this game please agree to the terms of service”, the buttons say: 利用規約 “Terms of service”, 同意する “Agree”, 同意しない “Disagree”
  • Hopefully you agree and can click the left “Agree” button 🙂
  • Screenshot_20180211-222644   Screenshot_20180211-222650
  • And we’re in!
  • かえるがいます名前をつけてあげましょう
  • (かえるがいますなまえをつけてあげましょう)
  • “Let’s name your frog”
  • Screenshot_20180211-222701       Screenshot_20180211-222716
  • 名前をご入力ください(最大5文字)
  • (なまえをごにゅうりょくください (さいだいごもじ))
  • “Please enter your name (maximum 5 characters)”
  • 名前はあとから変更可能です
  • (なまえはあとからへんこうかのうです)
  • “You can change the name later”
  • Go ahead and enter a name for your frog – I’ve used my name, マイケル 😉
  • Screenshot_20180211-222724      Screenshot_20180211-222730
  • おうちのなかに入っていきました なかをのぞいてみましょう
  • “He went inside the house – lets have a look inside”. Click the house icon ‘おうち’
  • Screenshot_20180211-222737
  • 旅に出かけるしたくをしています マイケルの旅のしたくを少しだけ手伝ってあげましょう
  • (たびにでかけるしたくをしています マイケルのたびのしたくをすこしだけてつだってあげましょう)
  • “He wants to go on a trip.  Let’s give him a little help preparing for his trip”
  • Screenshot_20180211-222744
  • 旅のしたくではおべんとう、おまもり、どうぐの3種類を用意することができます
  • (たびのしたくではおべんとう、おまもり、どうぐの3しゅるいおよういすることができます)
  • “You can pack three types of travel items: a lunchbox, charms and tools”
  • 今回は旅に欠かすことのできないおべんとうをしたくえしてあげましょう
  • (こんかいはたびにかかすことのできないおべんとうをしたくしてあげましょう)
  • “Let’s not miss out adding vegetables to the lunchbox since they are essential for travelling!”
  • Screenshot_20180211-222748       Screenshot_20180211-222752
  • 旅のもちものはみつ葉のクローバーを使って、おみせで買うことができますまずはみつ葉のクローバーを収穫しににわさきの畑まで行ってみましょう
  • (たびのもちものはみつはのクローバーをつかって、おみせでかうことができますまずはみつはのクローバーをしゅうかくしににわさきのはたまでいってみましょう)
  • “You can add travelling equipment by collecting clover leaves then trading them in the shop.  First, let’s go and get some clover leaves from the field!”

  • Click the ’garden’ button にわさき
  • Screenshot_20180211-222801
  • Now, we are in the garden we can harvest clover leaves 🙂

That’s the end of part one! Next time we will use our harvested clover leaves to buy things in the shop!


Mount Fuji

How to get your head around ‘must do’ and ‘must not do’

This article is part of the ongoing series “Japanese: the trickier bits”, which delves deeper into some of the more confusing parts of the language. Read the whole series


If you are studying with the JLPT framework, you will come across ‘must do’ and ‘must not do’ at N4 level. If you’re like me you’ll want to spend a while really wrapping your head around this interesting grammar point.

いけません ikemasen is a conjugation of the verb 行く iku ‘to go’, however it’s usually used to mean ‘is not good’. The grammar points for ‘must do’ and ‘must not do’ both use いけません.

Here are the conjugation rules:

must do = Verb + ない(nai) form + てはいけません

Simply conjugate your verb to 〜ない form then finish with てはいけません.

must not do = Verb + て(Te) form + はいけません

Simply conjugate your verb to 〜て form then finish with はいけません.

…confusing these could potentially cause some problems should you mix them up, which is natural unless you really solidify いけません as negative in your mind…

The confusion

Let’s start with ‘must not do’:

写真を撮ってはいけません (しゃしんをとってはいけません)
You must not take photographs

Unpacking this sentence we see that the verb 取る ‘to take’ has been conjugated to て form and then is followed by いけません ‘is not good’, and the topic is 写真 ‘photographs’.

Honestly, this makes perfect sense so long as you understand いけません to mean ‘is not good’:

“Taking photographs is not good”

Now onto ‘must do’:

写真を撮らなくてはいけません (しゃしんをとらなくてはいけません)
You must take photographs

This is almost the same as ‘must not do’ except we negate the verb 取る ‘to take’, then say いけません ‘is not good’. This means what we’re actually saying is:

“Not taking photographs is not good”

Yep. Double negative, meaning taking photographs is a must!

Take away

You should take some time to process these grammar points as they are confusing and could potentially cause some problems should you mix them up, which is natural unless you really solidify いけません as negative in your mind.

皆さん、happy practising 😀

Don’t stop listening

When you’re in the throes of conversation, listening intently to the Japanese dialogue you’ve worked up the courage to get involved with, it’s tempting to try and understand every single word being said, but forcing yourself into this nigh on impossible task is a recipe for disaster.

The mind is a strange thing, so much so that naturally when you hear a word you don’t understand, you will fixate on it, causing you miss to the rest of the dialogue, or miss enough to not be able to catch up.  This coupled with the panic that’s onset because you’ve missed a lot of the dialogue means that you can’t respond in any meaningful way, and you feel a little silly.

Sound familiar?

Remember that when you’re out in the wild conversing with speakers of Japanese, you don’t have the luxury of stopping the sentences to look up words as you do when you’re in your private study environment. It would be so great if we all had remote controls to pause our lives so that we could do this, but alas, that’s just a distant dream (but also something to look forward to in the future :-D).

Instead here’s a couple of techniques, each with their own outcomes, to help you get through this suffer point.

Scribble down unknown words but never lose eye contact

This might sound odd, but with some practice it’s achievable.  Keep your pad and pen prepared for writing, then whenever you hear something you don’t understand, scribble it down as best you can, but don’t look down at the pad, always maintain that conversational eye contact.  That way you keep rough notes, whilst your conversation partner doesn’t get annoyed at your awful conversation etiquette.  When your partner has finished speaking you can just interject that you didn’t understand this, that or the other.

On the other hand, the words you scribbled down may have just been words you’ve forgotten, in which case, being able to read them back may jog your memory and everything might just slot into place.

For example, I always get thrown by staccato sounding sentences, even if they are really basic, such as:

doko kara kimashita ka

In this case I may have written down ‘ra kimashita’ and after reading back, this would make sense that ‘kara  kimashita’ was being said simply because I know the first word was どこ(doko)

Make facial gestures to indicate you don’t understand

Japanese speakers have a lot of etiquette to remember whilst listening to others, largely around utterances like “unnn” and “unn unn” to reassure the speaker that they’re being listened to.

Since we are learners and it’s a given we won’t understand everything, you’d be forgiven for screwing your face up in confusion when you hear something you don’t understand.  Hopefully the speaker will either stop and explain, or repeat slowly.  Either way you’re helping your partner to get to know your strengths and can subconsciously tailor the conversation to help you.

Give these techniques a go, and don’t forget, if you don’t understand a word, don’t dwell on it, just try to pick up the rest of the sentence and your mind will probably be able to do the rest 🙂

Knowing what to listen for in a Japanese sentence, the gistful way

You’ve been there. You’re Japanese speaking friend has just reeled off a question in your direction, everyone looks at you, and all you can think to say is “すみませんさんわかりません”, only problem is you’ve said that about five times in as many minutes 🙁

“Why can’t I understand even though I’ve studied for hours everyday? ”

“Why does it sound so fast and yet so natural? ”

“Why doesn’t my brain hurry up and catch up??”

It’s so natural to kick yourself down when you can’t understand dialogue, but one way to improve listening and conversing is to simply admit that you are only going to understand some of a sentence.

You’ve probably read and understood that Japanese sentences are constructed from a subject, topic and verb in the most basic state.  Sentence fillers like adverbs, adjectives, pronouns etc. get added of course, but the fundamental building blocks are the subject, topic and verb.

Now if we take this fundamental rule, and study enough vocabulary to recognise frequent subjects, topics and verbs, we can focus our minds on trying to listen out for these parts of the sentence.  Once you’ve done this for a sentence you will have the gist of it and most likely be able to construct a coherent response.

Okay so the response might be extremely simple and child-like but at least your Japanese speaking friend has been responded to along the lines of their question.

Here’s an example


The first bit’s fine, I can always hear マイケル, my name 🙂 and in this case, the subject. Then as long as I listen out for 昼食 ‘lunch’ – the topic, and 食べました ‘ate’ – the verb, I have a pretty good chance of guessing what was being asked.  In this case “at what time and where did you eat lunch?”

Have a go at listening to some Japanese news, drama and anime, pausing after each sentence, and try at first to write down what you hear as the subject, topic and verb.  After some practice you’ll find that writing down isn’t necessary and you’ll be able to repeat these words and have a gist for the sentence.

Next time you chat with your Japanese speaking friend, focus on getting the gist of what they’re saying. You’re imagination and life experience should be able to fill in the blanks 😉