I can’t review Skyrim on this blog, since it’s all about Japanese culture and language, but I think I can tie it in to sentence mining. You see, I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time, and now I’m completely hooked on it and ignoring my regular duties. Long story short, as I was playing it, I realized that learning dragon shouts is kind of like sentence mining!
For those not in the know, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is, obviously, the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series. Set 200 years after the events of the fourth game, Oblivion, this game takes places in the northern most kingdom of Tamriel, Skyrim. Each game in the series is a piece of history in the fictional world of Tamriel – a gaming world that easily sports one of the deepest and most creative mythologies and lore I’ve ever come across, game or otherwise – and since the Empire of Cyrodil is crumbling, the Nordic folk of Skyrim are on the verge of a decision: to say with the Empire or to leave it hanging.
There’s something else wrong here; the dragons are back, and they kind of wreak havoc everywhere. Luckily, you’re character is Dohvakin, or Dragon Born, and you have the power to harness the capabilities of the dragon language and absorb their souls. So, can you see where I’m going with this? You find these phrases and words in the dragon language (known as dragon shouts) scattered throughout Skyrim. As you collect them, you gain different abilities.
Isn’t that kind of like sentence mining? Sentence mining is, basically, “mining” books, movies, etc. in search of non-boring sentences. The theory is that if you collect enough, the language then becomes more and more accessible to you, allowing you to understand and express yourself in ways that a textbook could never teach you. I personally have found the sentence mining method incredibly helpful, and I can’t help but think that learning a new construction, new words, and new phrases is like learning a dragon shout. When you learn something new, it gives you a new ability, just like the dragon shouts. You might not be able to sprint, shoot sonic blasts from your mouth, or anything like that, but you’ll be able to understand the language faster and easier than the traditional route.
You see, language is really just a bunch of sentences that we use to convey our feelings, thoughts, intentions, demands, etc. By learning sentences, and understanding how to deconstruct them (you’ll need a book or website for that), the language will come much more naturally to you, and conveying your own thoughts, feelings, etc., will be easier.
1. Start small. Long sentences you cannot string together aren’t going to help you and will just be a frustration to the beginner. Little words and phrases are best. It helps if you keep a reference book, or even a cheap textbook by your side to help.
2. Don’t get boring stuff because you think it’s useful to know, and don’t run around grabbing everything in sight. Trust me, when I first started (I heard about it on AJATT), I grabbed just about everything I could, whether it was interesting, useful, or just plain Japanese. If you do this, you’ll get bored very quickly, and it’ll actually stall your progress rather than help it.
Again, think Skyrim. Granted, Dohvakin’s goal isn’t to learn the entire language, but it’s still good advice. He, or she, learns the most interesting parts of the language, the shouts. If you, the player, had to run around, wading through caves with phrases such as, “I’m wearing socks now,” just to get to, “FUS DOS RAH!” you’d get really bored, really fast. Go for the fun stuff and the rest will fall in line.
By the way, I’m not sure if that’s the correct spelling for that particular shout.
3. Don’t be afraid to delete cards or even whole decks. Eventually, it will just be redundant to keep going back to that card that says, 『今日は楽しい日です。』 So once you’ve got it down, just erase it.
4. Again drawing on Skyrim, don’t worry if you feel that it’s taking a while for you to be able to understand more complex concepts. Those little shouts, or sentences, can be used in a number of situations and are exceedingly useful.
5. Don’t let sentence mining become the center of your studies! Granted, if you really enjoy it, then go for it, since I recommend you learn however works best for you, but most of us embarking on this method or a variation of it eventually get bored doing Anki repititions. Here I take a page from Steve Kauffman of LingQ and say that as long as you spend adequate time reading and listening, you should do fine. Don’t worry about reps constantly, because when learning through input, what you read and listen to will trump how well you’ve memorized and collected sentences. Setence mining is a great help, but you don’t have to live and breathe it.
So, I hope that I’ve cleared up this thing called “sentence mining” for you, and hopefully added a few worthwhile tips. Now maybe you’ll see things in a different light when you play Skyrim!