Made it to level 10! Almost a sixth of the way there!
Even though it took me 16 days to level up, which is a little longer than usual, I didn’t actually slow my pace at all (I actually did more lessons total, haha). I did all of my kanji in batches of 3 lessons on top of 10 vocab lessons a day. By the time I leveled up, I had more of a head start on the vocabulary than I typically have, so it should save me a little time, going forward.
I got tired of my terrible handwriting when I tried to write hiragana and katakana, so I spent some time properly practicing writing the characters. This is a very nice youtube channel if you are interested in beautiful writing. I don’t have an actual notepad for practicing, so I’ve just been printing off practice sheets and using those. I feel like putting in a bit of time on this early on will help me form good habits instead of having to correct my bad ones after they’ve already become established.
Honestly, I regret not learning how to properly write hiragana and katakana when I initially learned them. I skipped that step because I was in a hurry to get to the point where I could read both syllabaries, but I think skipping it only made things harder for me later on. I think it’s good to have somewhat of a balance in your learning. Even if you can technically skip steps to reach a higher level of understanding sooner, your knowledge will only be skin deep. Learning how to write kana and kanji not only makes it possible for you to take handwritten notes (as well as teaching you stroke order, which can be helpful for reading handwritten Japanese and looking up unfamiliar kanji), but it also gives you kinesthetic learning practice, which is really helpful for actually cementing knowledge in your memory.
I’ve read Tofugu’s article on quantity over quality, and though I do think it makes some good points overall, I think it’s important to have a balance between the two. Quantity will get you more proficient at the language faster, but quality is how you get the things you’re learning to stick. WaniKani and Anki flashcards are only effective if you apply the knowledge. Seeing the words in context is how you’ll remember things after you’ve burned them. And anything you can do to draw more connections to the things you’re learning will help. Viewing kanji in a bunch of different fonts, learning to write them, paying attention to their semantic-phonetic composition, seeing them in actual words in actual sentences in media that you enjoy, etc. Those all form different routes to the information in your brain. Besides, it’s really frustrating to learn a bunch of words and have to rely on a computer to communicate in that language in writing!
The full quantity over quality approach would be going full speed in WaniKani and devoting all of the time I’m spending on handwriting and KaniWani and such to instead powering through more WK flashcards a day, or reading through MNN without any studying beforehand and just looking up every word or grammar bit that I don’t know. And I’m sure that some people have done that and have gotten to a point where they can start reading native materials as soon as possible! But I’d rather complete WaniKani and MNN at a slower pace and be in a better position to actually remember most of the knowledge I’m learning instead of completing it faster and having to spend more time in the future looking up things that I have forgotten.
Maybe in two years, I’ll have realized that this approach was foolish or a waste of time. But I think I’m happier with a mixture of different kinds of learning instead of going all in on just one thing. It keeps my study schedule varied, which makes things a little more interesting, and I’m already making all kinds of connections with the language that I’d be missing out on if I wasn’t exploring so many aspects of it all at once.
Fun encounters with Japanese outside of WaniKani:
I saw Sanshiro Takagi’s Big Boss shirt, and realized that I could actually read all the kanji! 大社長 indeed!
I looked up how to write 新 again for my MNN vocab notes, then realized that I actually already learned it with the word 新聞 (newspaper) in the previous lesson! Practicing it again was enough for me to recognize it later that night it in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s name: 新日本プロレスリング. I’ve heard the name said aloud so many times, I shouldn’t have any trouble remembering that reading for that kanji!
I learned 和 this level, and was glad that I did a bit of a deep dive into Japanese papermaking kanji a few weeks ago, because I’m able to remember its reading thanks to 和紙!
I heard NJPW wrestler Kazuchika Okada say “みんな元気？” in a recent NJPW show! He was addressing the crowd at the beginning of the show to talk about his recovery from covid-19 and announce his challenge for the IWGP世界ヘビー級 belt. We didn’t have subtitles for the promo until the day after, so I was proud of myself for being able to understand that full sentence, even though it’s a short one!
本当に is another very common word in wrestling. As soon as I learned it, it immediately stuck for me because I’ve heard it in so many promos! I also finally memorized the meaning of 正直 after seeing it in the (Japanese) subtitles for a wrestler’s promo in English.
I also see お前 in subtitled wrestling promos all the time now, after learning it. It’s fun seeing how very rude English gets translated into Japanese haha!
I actually saw かき氷 in the wild! It showed up in one of NJPW wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi’s virtual date ads on twitter. In the video, Tana prepares かき氷, and fans have the option to choose either “美味しかった♪” or “まだ寒かった…” in the poll asking how it was.
I heard 次々 in DDT, NOAH, and TJPW’s combined supershow, CyberFight Festival! The show featured a delayed entry battle royale, where the wrestlers entered the match one by one at set intervals. The announcer used 次々 while explaining the rules to this match.
Taichi once again made a joke with 金玉 in his backstage comments in a NJPW show a few days ago. He’s actually recycling the same joke he made last year, where he referred to the tag team Golden Ace as “Golden Balls,” but this might be the first time 金玉 actually made it into the English subtitles:
The translator chose to put the word in romaji instead of translating it, ahaha
I watched NJPW Dominion while the show was airing live, and I did a quick WK review session during the main event because I wanted to hit that review interval, and to my delight, 世界 showed up in my reviews during the match for the IWGP世界ヘビー級王座 belt!
Is it cheating if a word comes up for review when it’s literally onscreen in the other window you have open?
みんなの日本語 Lesson 3 – Lesson 4
I continue to be very grateful that I’m pairing MNN with WK, because my kanji knowledge is proving very useful for not only knowing some of the vocab already, but also making it much easier to pick up new vocabulary, assuming I take the time to break it down. Lesson 3 had 階段 (staircase), ー階 (-th floor), and 何階 (what floor), and even though I haven’t learned 階 yet through WK, once I realized that all three words had it in common, I only had to learn the reading once to learn how to read it in all of them, and the meanings of the vocab were all very intuitive if you know the meaning of the kanji.
自動販売機 (vending machine) was a tricky one for me at first—five kanji! And I only knew two of them! But, looking at them individually, it makes sense: self, move, sell, sell, machine. I knew 自 and 売 already, and could remember 販 because of its semantic-phonetic composition. Which leaves only 動 and 機 for me to remember. Much easier than trying to memorize just a string of context-less sounds!
地下 was one of the lesson 3 vocab words (with its meaning listed as “basement”), and seeing it in this chapter turned out to be just the push I needed in order to learn how to differentiate its meaning from 地中 in my memory! Hooray for learning vocabulary with context!
I struggled a bit with the vocabulary for numbers. Thanks to WK, I know the basics, but I don’t have a lot of practice reading numbers that aren’t the ones WK teaches me, so my listening comprehension of numbers is very poor, and I have to think a lot when trying to read them out loud. One of the audio comprehension exercises in MNN tripped me up, so I looked up the numbers chart in the appendix of the translation text and tried to memorize the irregular numbers. I was wondering if there were resources out there that would help me practice, but then it turned out that the 文型練習帳 workbook had me covered! There were several exercises specifically for practicing numbers, and I did surprisingly well on them!
I ended up adding flashcards to my Anki deck for numbers that rendaku that I hadn’t encountered on WK (600, 800, 3000, 8000). I’m hoping that seeing them occasionally will help me remember them!
After lesson 3, I completed review A, which covered material from the first three lessons. So far, my understanding of everything is still pretty good, though I do make occasional mistakes. But I have yet to miss a question and not understand why the correct answer was what it was.
Lesson 4 taught me the days of the week, and it blew my mind when I realized that they have the exact same correspondences that we do! I probably wouldn’t have realized this if WaniKani hadn’t taught me the planets before it teaches the days of the week, haha!
日曜日 and 月曜日 are Sunday and Monday for us, and their names come from sun and moon for both! 火曜日 (Tuesday) comes from 火星 (Mars). Our Tuesday also comes from Mars, but it was named after Tyr the Norse god, because things got, uh, a little jumbled when the Romans tried to bring their culture to the Germanic peoples, so most of our names are Norse-based instead (if you have a little knowledge of Norse and Roman mythology, you’ll understand why those Norse gods got matched up to those Roman gods). In a similar sense, 水曜日 (Wednesday) comes from 水星 (Mercury) in Japanese, and Wednesday comes from Woden (aka Odin) for us. 木曜日 (Thursday) comes from 木星 (Jupiter) in Japanese, and Thursday comes from Thor for us. 金曜日 (Friday) comes from 金星 (Venus) in Japanese, and Friday comes from Frigg for us. And Saturday is the same for both of us! It’s 土曜日, which comes from 土星 in Japanese, and also comes from Saturn for us!
As a side note: after learning the planets in Japanese, the elemental associations in Sailor Moon now make complete sense to me, haha!
I only just finished going through all the lesson 4 vocab, and have yet to actually read the lesson or do any of the exercises, but I’m very excited to start learning some more verbs.
I got tired of the default Anki look and ended up doing a bit of HTML/CSS styling on my cards. I reined myself in from getting too wild with backgrounds or any clutter that could interfere with my memory, but I think even this simple look is a vast improvement.
This is what my cards look like currently
I also updated the MNN kanji by WK level spreadsheet. The lesson 4 kanji are on there now! It’s possible to sort the chart by WK level or MNN lesson number, whichever is most useful to you.
Changes in my daily routine:
I changed my Kaniwani settings so that it only shows vocabulary that has reached guru in WK. I was starting to get too many reviews there, so I thought I’d scale down a little so that the numbers would be more manageable. I’ve also been checking KW a little more frequently throughout the day to try and match my WK pace, which generally has three review sessions a day. I’m feeling much better about this new pace!
I’ve also slowed down with watching the Japanese Ammo with Misa absolute beginners playlist. At this point, the videos are far ahead of where I am in my textbook, so I thought it might be more beneficial for me to wait.
Reading in Spanish:
I finished reading Ferno, El Dragón de Fuego! I do see the benefit of reading books from one series (instead of reading a bunch of unconnected books from extremely different genres like I’ve been doing, haha!), because presumably a lot of words that you encounter will come up again and again, which makes it easier to learn them. With the books I’ve been reading in Spanish, I usually feel like I’ve just started getting the hang of reading it at the very end of the book, right before I move on to another book that reads completely differently!
I didn’t especially enjoy the plot of the Busca Fieras series, but I didn’t hate it, either. It was just a generic children’s fantasy series that I am no longer the target demographic for. If I had more than just the first book, I think I would have had a hard time motivating myself to work through the rest of them. I am glad that I finally read it, after holding onto it for so many years, but I think in the future, I’m going to stick to content that is made for adults, unless it’s unusually spectacular children’s literature.
I read La Mano del Destino next, and wow, right from the beginning, I was hooked, haha! The concept is amazing! My comprehension of the text is decent, and I did not want to stop reading to look things up! I really see the benefit of the comics medium for language learners. Even though I’m pretty confident in my understanding, I think I’m going to try reading the English side of the comic and compare it to the Spanish side, just to see if there were any nuances I missed.
If you’re a wrestling fan who enjoys comics, this is a fun one to pick up if you get the chance. The combined volume of all six issues should be out in print soon.
It occurred to me that if I want more reading practice, I could buy a digital subscription to Box y Lucha, a lucha libre magazine. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up with it, but I decided to try out for one month and see how it goes.
I discovered BookWalker, which is an ebook store that frequently has a bunch of free titles available for download. I downloaded the first two volumes of ヨコハマ買い出し紀行 at @rodan’s recommendation, so I officially own my first few Japanese books that aren’t textbooks! The series looks to be intermediate, so it’s a little past my ability currently, but I’m hoping I might be able to read it after finishing Minna no Nihongo. I might try to keep an eye out for more free books that seem relevant to my interests. At the very least, I’m going to try to remember to check for free GL and BL series, since most of the fiction that I read these days is LGBTQ. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll find some works that are also on koohi.cafe!
If anyone has any book recommendations, by the way, I’d love to hear them! I won’t read or watch works that are heavily centered around heterosexual romances anymore, but I’m always down for LGBTQ-centric stories, or stories that don’t feature any romance. I’m especially interested in finding books in Japanese that are good for beginners or low intermediate readers, and which are easily accessible and/or inexpensive.
I also discovered the Nihongo con Teppei podcast, which seems like a good resource for practicing listening comprehension for beginners. I haven’t tried it yet, but I don’t think my vocabulary and grammar are far enough along to get much out of it at this point.
I read a couple articles on the Tofugu site that were helpful. The first was this one on だ and です. I’m going to try to listen for this in Japanese wrestling commentary, which, from what I’ve been able to tell so far, tends to use です, but which probably uses だ on occasion like the sports announcer example in the article. I’m also going to try to look for both in the tweets I see from wrestlers on my twitter timeline.
The other article I read was this one on 中 and 内. Really helpful for starting to understand the difference between them, and conceptualizing why certain vocabulary words use one and not the other.
Leech Training — This script gives you extra practice on items that you’re struggling to learn. I don’t have a lot of leeches right now because I’m still fairly low level, but I thought I might as well get an early start on trying to deal with them so that I avoid accumulating hundreds of them by the time I reach level 60.
Lesson Hover Details — This script shows you how many of your lessons are radicals, kanji, or vocab when you hover over the lessons icon on the dashboard. I downloaded this one because I’ve been spreading out the kanji lessons over time instead of doing a huge batch at once, and this helps me keep track of things.
Out of curiosity, I started recording the amount of time I’m putting into MNN each day. After I finish lesson 4, I’ll add it all up and see how long I’m spending haha! I suspect that the vast majority of the time gets sunk into vocab study, which I’ve been going a little above and beyond for. The good news is that as I learn more kanji, this part gets easier and easier (and the work I’ve done already makes it easier to learn the kanji in WK).
Onward to level 11!