How I am learning Japanese

Japanese anime has been an obsession of mine for my entire adult life. From cute, funny, sad and sexy, each series I watch draws me into the unique and sometimes wacky Japanese entertainment culture. Don’t get me wrong, I know most is just fantasy and the “real Japan” isn’t like it is in anime, however I’m intrigued by the language none the less. My goal is to be able to understand 95% of spoken Japanese so I can enjoy anime even more. Yes, I’m weired like that. I am going to be using JLPT standardized tests to gauge my progress. This process will definately take me several years. To that end, here is my progress so far, and the tools I’ve used to learn.

June 2017 | Katakana Learned

Method: Learn Japanese To Survive! Katakana War
Method: TextFugu Katakana Chart

Katakana isn’t what most people recommend to learn first. Usually, Hiragana comes first. That didn’t stop me, because to me Katakana had the most appeal. With Katakana, I could write Japanese characters using my first language, English. Words commonly used in Japan like ゲーム (game), コーヒ (coffee), and クリース (Chris) were simple to read and write. The learning curve here was low enough to make learning Katakana seem obtainable.

June – October 2017 | Basic Sentences Learned

Method: Duolingo
Method: Memrise

I had my eyes on Duolingo for a long time. Years ago I had done a few weeks worth of lessons in Spanish, all while wishing Duolingo had a Japanese course. At the time, I was too cheap to buy Rosetta Stone’s Japanese course, but I really wanted to learn a new language. Duolingo’s Spanish was my poor man’s substitute. I dropped Spanish quickly, as my passion was always Japanese. Flash forward to 2017, and my wish was granted– Duolingo introduced a free Japanese course! I studied using Duolingo every day on the “serious” setting, finishing the course in a few months.

After completing the Duolingo Japanese course, I no longer felt challenged completing refresher lessons. I worked through Memrise’s Japanese 2 course for a time, but there were somet things about their user experience that were off-putting and I dropped that routine.

September 2017 | Hiragana Learned

Method: Learn Japanese To Survive! Hiragana Battle
Method: TextFugu Hiragana Chart

I’ll be honest, Hiragana Battle was frustrating. I posted a full review on Steam in which I do not recommend the game as a quality learning tool. There were several reasons for the poor review. Hiragana Battle, from the same development team as Katakana War, was an earlier game, not as well made as Katanaka War. I didn’t enjoy and can’t recommend the learning opportunity that was Hiragana Battle, but it was the tool I used to learn a majority of Hiragana nonetheless.

December 2017 – Present | Radicals, Kanji, Vocabulary

Method: WaniKani

This webapp is just the challenge I was looking for when I abandoned Memrise. It’s straight to the point, down and dirty, nitty and gritty. WaniKani delivers short, concise lessons one at a time, for each Radical, Kanji, or Vocabulary in Japanese language. Every lession is paired with three practice sentences of incremental difficulty, hilarious mnemonics, and comical lore involving crabigators and some reacurring eccentric charachter Koichi. Wanikani has by far been my favorite learning tool, not just for the learning, but the whole package. Wanikani is just a website, but displays well on both phone and laptop, with hotkeys for quick navigation and playing back helpful voice pronounciations. I use the review feature daily, which is essentially the smartest flashcards app I have ever seen. It automatically helps me practice what I’m struggling on, and skips what I’ve already mastered. Don’t get me wrong, the format is not easy to learn, but it’s completely digestible given time and a little patience. The service is free up till level 3, but the usefulness I get from it is great enough to happily pay the subscription fee.

Future Plans

December 2018 I will be taking JLPT N5, which signifies the first level of Japanese language proficiency. (The numbers go in reverse order– N1 is the highest level.) With the test as a reference of how much I have learned, I hope to pass at least one level a year for the next five years. Wish me luck!

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