echo.html – Rikai-chan assistant

Several years back, I put together a simple html page that I have found very helpful over the years. All it does is let you type or paste text into a box, and it outputs that same text in a larger font size below the text box.

This serves two purposes. Mainly, it gives you a place to paste text so you can use Rikai-chan on it. Helpful for when you are copying and pasting from a PDF or Word document, or some random app with Japanese text. I also use it a lot when I am writing, because I often forget if some of the words I am writing are correct or not. This can be simpler and more convenient than pulling up gmail or pastebin or something, and you can use it without an internet connection.

The other function is to simply make the text big enough that you can easily read it. Japanese text (kanji particularly) is, in my opinion, quite hard to read in comparison to English text. If you don’t immediately recognize a kanji, you might have to strain to discern the strokes or radicals that it is made up of. Sometimes I wonder if the reason so many Japanese people have bad eyesight is due to having to strain to read kanji?

But anyways, here it is. You can just right-click on the link and save it to your desktop.

How to rename and organize files from JapanesePod101.com

JapanesePod101.com has thousands of audio tracks, pdf documents, and videos that you can easily download all at once through an XML feed. But, the files all have cryptic filenames and the MP3s have inconsistent, missing, or altogether wrong ID3 tags, which make it impossible to know what’s what! If you try sorting things by filename, lessons from a particular season don’t even get grouped together or appear in order! Its a total mess!!

So, I’m going to walk you through the process of getting things cleaned up and organized!

Download the files

My Feed

First of all, you need to download the files from JapanesePod101.com. Premium members can use the “My Feed” option to set up a feed that contains all the files you want. If you don’t currently have an account with JapanesePod101.com, I would recommend reading my review of it, which tells you how to sign up for a free trial of their premium service.

You can then use the feed to download the files to your computer. I suppose most people use iTunes. Juice seems to be another popular podcast downloading tool, but I couldn’t get it to work on my computer. I had success using RSS Owl to download the podcasts.

Renaming the files

Since the format of the filenames does not remain consistent, standard file renaming tools are not much help here. Completely frustrated, I resorted to making my own program to rename the files. I will share it here, but it only runs on Windows, though I will include the source code if you would like to try porting it to another system.

Also please note, that this program was only made for my personal use, so it has NOT been thoroughly tested or debugged. It is entirely possible that you could lose your files, or it could rename/damage something unrelated. That shouldn’t happen though, but just be warned that I take no responsibility! Again, the source code will be there if you want to inspect it.

And before you begin, BACK UP YOUR FILES BEFORE RUNNING THIS PROGRAM ON THEM!!!

JapanesePodRenamer

Download JapanesePodRenamer for Windows – Click Here

This program will basically turns filenames like this: 215_B108_081006_jpod101_dialog.mp3
Into something like this: Beginner Lesson #108 – A Way with Words – Dialog.mp3

Instructions

First, you need to download a copy of the XML file that Japanesepod101.com uses for their RSS feed. This can be obtained from the “My Feed” area of their website. If you can’t figure out how to actually download a copy of the xml file to your pc, try emailing the url to yourself. This will give you a link that you can right-click on and then “save as”. Next, you need to have actually downloaded the files from this RSS feed onto your PC (for example, the actual mp3 or pdf files). The files should all be collected into a single folder.

Then, open up JapanesePodRenamer, and click the “Select Folder” button to select the folder your files are stored in.

Then press the “Select XML” button to select the XML file that you downloaded. When you do this, you should see the list fill up with filenames and titles that were extracted from the XML file. This has no purpose other than verifying that you loaded a valid file.

Finally, after making sure you have first backed up your content, press the “Rename” button, and your files will get renamed.

Sorting

sorted into folders

Once the files have been renamed, it shouldn’t take you long to manually sort them all out into separate folders if you want to. I would highly recommend it, as it will make the process of correcting the ID3 tags a bit easier.

Correcting ID3 Tags

mp3tag

Now for the final step, correcting the ID3 tags, so that the MP3 files will show up with correct titles, album, and so on. While there are numerous programs out there for editing these tags, I found that the best one for me was MP3Tag. It is a Windows program, but apparently can run on OS X and Linux through Wine.

Now, I’m not going to write up a full tutorial to the program itself, as I’ll leave that for you to figure out. The program is pretty straightforward though. But basically, first you want to make sure that the “Album” tag is named for the title of the Season that the lesson comes from. For example, Newbie Season 2 will have some files that have the album listed as “Newbie Lesson S2”, and some just listed as “Newbie Lesson”. If you have correctly sorted all of the seasons lessons into a folder, then this is as simple as selecting all of that folder’s files within MP3Tag, and then batch edit the Album title for them on the left side pane.

You might also see that many of the titles are not consistent, with some having the season title before the lesson title, while some don’t.There are two buttons along the row at the top of the application which can help with this, which say “Tag – Filename” and “Filename – Tag” when you hover over them. These can either rename the files based on information from one of the tags (you would use the title tag of course), or you can rename the title tag based on the filenames, whichever might work better for a given situation. You might need to manually rename some things here or there. You will find that Newbie Season 1 is definitely the worst offender as far as things being inconsistent.

Track numbers can also be out of order. Once you have them all sorted by filename, you can easily fix the track numbers using the button along the top row that says “Autonumbering Wizard” when you hover over it.

Once you are finished, give yourself a pat on the back, and start practicing your Japanese listening!

Natsume

Natsume – Japanese Writing Support System

I want to tell you about an amazing tool that I have been using for a while, that seems to be relatively unknown amongst the majority of Japanese learners. It’s called Natsume, and it basically allows you to search for collocations from amongst a large corpus of native Japanese sentences. For more information on collocations and why they are beneficial for language learners, see this previous post I wrote.

This tool is especially beneficial for when you are trying to write in Japanese (it is called a writing support system, after all). You may often struggle knowing just which nouns go together with which verbs, or which particle makes the most sense to use. With the help of this tool, you can look up the words you are trying to use, and see just how they are typically used by native Japanese people.

Rather than go on all day about exactly what this thing is, I’ll just provide you with a short video that I put together explaining how to use it.

For further information on Natsume, I recommend reading this thesis by Bor Hodošček, as well as this journal article by the same author.

The sentences that Natsume pulls data from are from the Balanced Corpus of Contemporary Written Japanese.

Natsume – Japanese Writing Support System – 日本語作文支援システム

Kikisuuji – An android app for practicing number listening

I just published my first Andoid app. It’s called “Kikisuuji” which is totally a real word that I made up, meaning “number listening”.

So, what’s this all about anyways?

Well, numbers were always really tricky for me in Japanese. Not in the sense of merely understanding them. They are very straightforward and easy to learn. The problem for me is understanding numbers quickly and in real-time. If I hear a number in English, I just instantly know what number it is. I don’t have to sit there and think about it. It’s automatic. But in Japanese, if someone were to say today’s date to me, I might have to sit there mentally processing it for 5-10 seconds to figure out just exactly what numbers were spoken, and by that time I missed the rest of the conversation.

So, I created an app specifically to train my listening comprehension for numbers! Using text to speech technology, it will repeatedly call out random numbers, nonstop. Your task is to just try to understand the spoken numbers without falling behind! There are several settings to help control the speed and the types of numbers that are presented, so you can start off simply and then work your way up to more and more difficult numbers. You can also practice times and dates as well!

I’ve been using it myself for several days now, and I’m definitely seeing an improvement in my recognition speed, though I haven’t improved as fast as I would have hoped. But, slow and steady wins the race! I recommend just using it for a few minutes of Japanese listening practice every single day. If you try to go at it for an hour straight, that will probably only drive you to insanity.

Oh, and did I mention that its totally FREE?! So click over to the Google Play store and check it out!