Heya peoples! So, I have a year off (to travel/work) and I want to really make solid progress towards my language during this time. I want to dedicate a few hours a day towards being better at speaking and understanding japanese, with WK etc still adding to reading!
I was wondering if anyone who has kinda reached a conversational level of japanese can give me some advice on how to best use my time. No matter what I will study, but i would like to be not wasting precious time!
Ideally when i go to visit my brother in Japan after next year, I would like to be able to get around myself etc, but I am also realistically not gonna be amazing haha
I also tried, and failed myself, but that was long ago. That time I went for vocabularies by categories (in a pocketbook). Some basic vocabularies that are not so categorical will be needed as well.
Looking back, a way is probably, focusing on listening for specific situations / topics, e.g. on Comprehensible Japanese; learning a vocabulary list by categories; and trying to emulate and adapt the situations.
I think listening a lot matters a lot, rather than simply trying to speak. Reading may help as well, but also try to be varied for various situations.
Kanji and signs are probably indeed a different route. If you find a way to memorize well, level 30 of WaniKani should be do-able in a year. I guess I was relatively successful in learning to read signs in Japan.
for the normal conversation, what helped me more than anything else was to watch simple tv dorama (with english sub) and memorize some of the lines in jap. They are very common indeed.
Once in Japan, if you live in the countryside it should be easy to talk with neighbors, cafes etc. In Tokyo is harder but there are tandem cafe and other possibility to chat with natives.
It’s a completely different ability than to read and write, at least until you reach a level of technical conversation (like with the builders or car mechanics) that actually requires kakikotoba.
I can really recommend the Miku Real Japanese Shadowing Audio course, which helps you to improve understanding and speaking by teaching real Japanese through grammar and vocab. It’s a really nuanced program that helps you to understand the subtleties and master things like verb conjugation. If you’re already familiar with the beginner content, you can skip to intermediate and pay less. I can also recommend Japanese Ammo with Misa on YouTube, they are really similar. If you’d like to watch that kind of content In Japanese, I recommend Sambonjuku for Japanese in general and Onomappu for Onomatopoeia and cultural stuff. You said you want to improve your Japanese as much as possible so I would also recommend getting into pitch accent study. The best resource for this is Dogen, you can subscribe to his patreon for a month (10$), save all of his videos in a playlist and unsubscribe. For listening I can recommend the Miku Real Japanese podcast, Yuyuの日本語Podcast, and if you like anime either the Spy family podcast or the Jujutsukaisen one called じゅじゅとーく, which are both exclusively on Spotify. Finally, JapaneseDict is a really useful Online dictionary that I use every day.
I can tell you what I did to become pretty fluent, meaning I can talk to people and discuss different topics but I often miss vocabulary and have to describe things in general terms. Nevertheless, I can communicate decently well, especially on topics that interest me.
I guess unfortunate news for you is that it took me about 4-5 years to reach this level. And I was studying and/or practicing almost daily.
Anyway, what I did:
WK - 3 times day, finished in 1.5 years roughly. Really useful for general language proficiency up to lvl ~45. Later levels don’t help much and I forgot most day of these kanji already.
Study grammar regularly. Finishing N3 and N2 grammar is where you need to be to feel comfortable. I like Shin Kanzen Master book series for grammar.
I did online lessons with italki tutors about twice a week. First year I was using English, but then only Japanese. Having a tutor is one of the most important factors in my success.
I listened to a ton of content in Japanese. Starting from anime with english subs (but actively focusing on listening) then adding youtube videos (many of them have japanese text to highlight key points), live steamers (vtubers) etc. Now I don’t watch that much anime any more but when I do I do that without subs and rewatch scenes I don’t quite understand.
Also, regarding my progress I was getting better and better at understanding Japanese in the first 3 years but I was terrible at expressing myself. I tried writing essays to improve self expression but I think the most impactful was getting even better at listening comprehension, and focusing on live streams in particular. Why? Because the streamers have to be spontaneous and react to the comments. I learned how to build quick sentences and be more natural.
Anyway, start from studying grammar, kanji, and vocabulary. WK is really good but feel free to jump off after lvl 45 or so. Get grammar books and do them on a schedule, e.g. 3 times a week. And do some form of listening practice every day. If you can afford it, do online lessons with Japanese tutors every week. On italki you can even find pretty cheap lessons with community teachers that are really good.
I think I did arrive 20 lessons on average but it was not consistent. I was prioritising speed, so sometimes I did much more lessons so that I could unlock new kanji faster. My average level up was in 9 days.
However I was spending a ton of time on wk. At least 1.5 hours, sometimes 2 hours daily. I just wanted to get done with the kanji, because it limits reading so much.
But there are many wk optimisation guides on the forum, I encourage it to check them out.
I think you may find your results better than his, provided you study roughly the same number of hours (~800) and dedicate more time specific to current goal of using Japanese in Japan next year.
These are taken off the Month 12 progress video:
3005 words studied
1124 kanji characters
859 hours total (average 2h 21m per day)
595 study (69.3%)
176.5 flashcard creation (20.6%)
46 conversation (italki + real life) (5%)
41.5 the rest (5%): reading, watching TV/movies, reading grammar books without making flashcards, Duolingo (surprise!), setting up Anki, listening to podcasts, practicing pronunciation
Two things of the bat, he spent less than 10% of his time (5% conversation + X% practicing pronunciation) doing something that involves producing Japanese sounds and 20% (176 hours) wasted on flashcard creation. Just by spending those extra 176 hours on practicing output instead would likely give you better results.
65% Listening and Speaking related (pitch accent, pronunciation practice, intonation, shadowing, pronunciation lessons, listening to Youtube videos, etc)
You want to be overweight on listening and speaking because that’s what you’re aiming to do in a year. Pronunciation and being aware of pitch accent is also important as it’s not that useful knowing thousands of words if you can’t hear them easily or produce them in a way that is easy for Japanese people to understand if the goal is to communicate in live interactions. There would be a lot less “I spoke in Japanese and they replied in English” if more learners paid more attention to pronunciation.
I’m going to second the recommendation of Miku Real Japanese as I think it suits your use case extremely well. There is a Free sample course with a few audios that you can try. I think this even just using this resource alone will give you the results you desire.
Regardless of where or how you start you’re gonna be bad. But you won’t be bad forever. If it’s too hard to make those first steps, get an iTalki tutor or someone with the strict purpose of practicing Japanese conversation (so they can correct you and be sympathetic to your errors). I use people at work for practice but they all understand I’m studying and I’m not 日本語普通 yet.
For me (after 3 years of dedicated Japanese study and nothing else) I am BARELY able to talk to another Japanese adult. And that is only if we are both focusing on using comprehendable Japanese.
Listening practise requires 150% of my mental power still, so its easy to get exhausted.
IMO quality hours are quality hours. Do whatever helps you engage with the language without overwhelming yourself. For me, that means wanikani/bunpro/anki etc. with like a nature documentary on another screen.
The most important thing IMO is that study time shouldnt be painful.
Super excited to hear about your langauge learning journey! I took the last year and a half off to study Japanese in Japan and I don’t regret it one bit. Focusing on learning Japanese has been super fun and rewarding - I feel like I’ve been able to learn so much about the culture just from the language alone.
I wrote a blog post about some of the language learning resources I’ve found helpful outside of Wanikani which include: Italki, JapanesePod101, reading simple graded readers, listening to Japanese radio…etc. Hopefully you can find something that works for you and helps on your journey!
this! I’ve studied Japanese for 3 years at uni, now on an exchange year in Japan. I feel like my 4th year here with daily conversations and having to listen to Japanese every day helps tremendously. I can generally understand everything going on around me and reading is getting better every day, but I still struggle with expressing myself proficiently. (this has nothing to do with this thread, sorry, but I kind of feel reassured now that my current level of proficiency is where I am supposed to be based on others experiences haha)