My journey with Japanese began in the summer of 2017, when I first used JapanesePod101’s free Youtube series to teach myself hiragana and katakana. But actually, the seeds were probably planted long before that, by a middle school friend whose admiration of the language and culture led her to give me a Japanese nickname which I was known by until high school.

But is that why I chose to learn Japanese?

I hear that many if not most Japanese learners want to learn the language because of the following reasons:

  • They love Japanese manga, anime, dramas, or some other form of Japanese entertainment and want to access it more fully.
  • They have Japanese friends and family and want to understand them/communicate with them better.
  • They want to go to Japan to visit, live, teach, study.

None of those reasons are true for me. In contrast, here are my reasons (the ones I am able to articulate. There are probably many subconscious reasons even I’m not fully aware of):

  • I want to learn something hard, because I like pushing my mind like marathon runners like pushing their bodies to the point of pain.
  • I like the way Japanese looks and sounds in that inexplicable way that some people like, say, black licorice, or fine wine. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve already been learning Chinese for a while, and know much of the kanji.
  • I have a mild love-hate relationship with a family member who holds onto stereotypes bordering on racism (imo) against Japanese culture/people (among other cultures/people), and this is one way of me figuring out who’s really got the correct perspective, here.
  • I desperately need to develop/enrich/expand/change my worldview because the one I’ve grown up with appears to be harming me. And language is closely entwined with culture and worldview, so this is one way to do it.
  • Some aspects of Japanese/Japanese culture scare me, and that intrigues me.

Are these good reasons? Maybe, maybe not. Some of them are a bit pessimistic perhaps. We shall see if they’re good enough to carry me through…

When I first started learning Japanese, in the summer of 2017, I had a lot of enforced time on my hands, and it was one way to get my mind off my personal tragedy. Then I grew distracted, as I often/always do and didn’t return to it until 2019, and didn’t really dive deeply into it until June 2019, and for now I am still going.

(Though I expect I will get distracted again at some point. That’s the reason for this blog, to keep the distractions to a minimum and motivation at a maximum. It’s not good to not-follow-through on projects, after all)

For now, this is what I’ve been doing:

More regular tactics that I’ve used recently

  • Using the iKnow.com commonly used vocab words as my basic vocabulary list
    • Created my own SRS system via the Fibonacci sequence by learning 10 groups of cards over 10 days then reviewing them through the month (did this from June-Aug, but in Sept switched to memorizing 100 words per 3 days, then in October took a break because of the music course and am wrapping up my first 1,000 and focusing on solidifying those)
    • Created a review system using the Leitner method.
    • In October: input word “leeches” (most unfamiliar vocab) into Anki, which I downloaded onto my ipad.
  • After reading Dominic O’Brien’s book on memory, I’ve been using a loci/visual method to memorize vocabulary to see if it helps. Each alphabet in hiragana/katakana gets a person+action/object and I weave stories around them.
  • Practicing pronunciation by downloading Nihongo con Teppei beginner podcasts, grouping them into sets of 4, and shadowing what I hear
  • Keeping up inspiration by occasionally reading blogs such as tofugu.com
  • Watching Japanese shows (with subtitles for now) on viki.com

Strategies to use in the future (some of which I’ve already started but left off for the time being)

  • Using booklive.jp.com to buy bilingual picture books to practice reading and translating-reverse translating
  • Learning songs

Progress as of 10/24/2019:

  • I have gone through and memorized perhaps 70% of 900 new vocab words (iKnow)

Progress as of 11/06/19:

  • Finished iKnow 1K, starting the 2K. Using Dominic O’Brien’s character method. Learning/reviewing 5 cards at a time in between other work.

11/8 update:

  • Decided to go back to Fibonnaci method for this month. There’s too much going on (mostly NaNo and lack of motivation/energy) and too many accumulated half-baked words for me to learn 500-1000 more words this month. Instead, I’ll focus on getting down the first 100 and reviewing the old ones I’ve forgotten via Leitner + Anki systems.
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