Howdy, first post here. I’ve always had a desire to know Japanese, but aside from briefly trying kana flashcard apps several years ago, I never even got started. After my first (and so far only) visit to Japan in 2018, I started to think more seriously about learning the language. My primary interest, honestly, is to play video games in Japanese (mostly older ones, but newer ones too), with secondary benefits possibly being able to get more out of any future trips to Japan and being able to edit Japanese interviews more easily (I’m a videographer and that was the purpose of my trip… aside from recklessly buying every Super Famicom cartridge that struck my fancy).
This past spring, I was planning to take summer classes for Japanese at a local university, but the cost was significantly higher than I was expecting, so I backed out, not sure how to proceed. Well, some friends and I (one of which knows Japanese) recently decided to play Dragon Quest X (still only available in Japanese), and after sampling the game and feeling completely captivated by that good old fashioned Dragon Quest flavor, I immediately felt a desire to comprehend it on a deeper level than simply knowing that the attack I want is the fifth one down on the third menu selection.
So exactly two weeks ago I downloaded hiragana and katakana flashcard apps, read about some other resources, and started going at it. I learned some really basic vocabulary, but not in a way that would be rigorously enforced. I was having fun (which surprised me), but I realized I wasn’t going to get very far without learning Kanji and expanding my study resources. So one week later (and one week ago today), I started Wanikani… and started having even more fun! Because I’m not exactly the most disciplined person but was a good student, I always thought I would need that structured classroom experience to keep me motivated and on task. But now that I’ve started Wanikani, I have no idea how I even would’ve begun to learn anything in a classroom environment. There’s not enough time in a class to reinforce much of anything, and there would be no structure to my study outside the classroom. The Wanikani system just makes it so easy to come back and be lazily fed this knowledge. I’ve been thinking of it like a conveyor belt… maybe I’m on a faster conveyor than some people, and on a slower one than others, but as long as I stay on it, it seems like I should be able to come off the other side knowing pretty much the same stuff as everyone else who was along for the ride.
So yeah, this is fun. I’m surprised. But obviously, while Wanikani is teaching me a lot of vocab and helping with my ability to recognize Kanji, I still know next to nothing about how to piece the language together. A wall of Japanese text is still extremely intimidating (especially with no spaces between words!) and despite feeling pretty good about hiragana overall (still need to reinforce katakana a bit better), it’s still extremely difficult to chew through any text at all (let alone vertical text, which makes it hard to identify small characters… or stylized fonts… the worst!!). My brain just isn’t processing the syllables very quickly just yet, even though individual radicals, kanji, and vocabulary are coming to me relatively quickly on Wanikani.
I have very limited (and rusty) language-learning experience (I’m a native English speaker). As far as foreign language goes, I’ve only ever taken German classes (which I was decent at, but didn’t have to be great at to make an A). I consider myself a pretty decent writer in English, but that’s mostly rooted in intuition at this point, having forgotten a lot of the nitty-gritty of “why.” I don’t remember that much from English class about “participles,” “conjugation,” and junk like that. So it’s a bit intimidating when I see Japanese resources talking about this stuff, assuming I’ve got a firm grasp of what “passive voice” means and whatnot.
With Wanikani just being so good at feeding (and reinforcing) information in comfortable bite-sized chunks whenever I’m feeling ready for a brief distraction, I wish there was something similar for the rest of the language. Am I overlooking something like that? I’ve found books and written websites recommended here and there, but I wish there were a “system” for it. The irony is that I was so afraid of kanji at first, thinking I would first be able to understand games/writing that mostly use hiragana and katakana… now I feel like kanji is going to be the easiest thing to learn and all of the れ, ね, ます (and associated context) is what’s really gonna slow me down!
The other tricky thing is that while I don’t necessarily have a need to be fluent, and don’t presently have plans to pursue JLPT exams (unless I decide they’d be a good motivator to reach certain milestones), I’m sort of getting this feeling that I need to be sure I’m not neglecting to practice all aspects of the language. For instance, while speaking and listening isn’t as important to me as reading, I don’t want to reinforce bad habits early on or let my Wanikani lessons fade away, eventually just lazily understanding that 火 means “fire” while forgetting how to say it correctly. I guess my concern here is that while I don’t have the greatest need to strive for a high level of fluency, I’m worried that drawing the line somewhere and saying “that’s good enough” doesn’t really make sense. Even handwriting, which I frankly have no interest in, would probably help me understand those tricky stylized fonts a bit better. At some point I’m sure I’m going to hit a wall (probably a few walls), but am I throwing away too much of my time and effort if at some point I say “yeah, I don’t need to do any better than this”? That’s why, even though on the face of it, I don’t need to speak good Japanese or have the best listening comprehension, I feel like I probably actually do need to make an effort in those areas.
I did look into iTalki after I was hit by the sticker shock of university classes, and I do think I should engage in some sort of native-speaker dialogue, but I suspect at this point (moving comfortably through Wanikani level 2), that would mostly be a waste. I also saw mention on these forums about HelloTalk, which is I think lets you talk to people for free? But that somehow feels awkward to me, ha. I’m not exactly outgoing.
In addition to the “what,” I guess the other question I want to pose is “when”? I’m definitely planning to pay for Wanikani after I’ve cleared level 3 (thinking about just going straight for the lifetime subscription). But at this point, studying grammar right now seems a bit useless when I don’t know enough vocab to do anything with it (I really can’t parse much of anything from the sentence examples used in the vocab lessons).
At any rate, I’m enjoying myself and am feeling good about eventually being able to learn enough for it to be useful. I keep reminding myself that hey, I don’t understand everything I read in English either! I don’t know how to say some words. I misunderstand people all the time. If communication in my native language of three decades isn’t always easy, then it’s OK to feel confused by Japanese too.