Japanese Fluency

Hey people! I started learning Japanese and I already know about 100+ kanji, and I have a decent plan for getting more fluent when I accumulate more vocabulary and kanji.
I was just curious for people who are also learning or fluent-near fluent how they go/went about immersion and if they used anything besides WK. I plan to start immersion and grammar once I get a few hundred more kanji but I just wanna see what other people are doing.

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This reminds me of this thread :laughing: Thinking about how much I’ve changed in these 2.5 months since I’ve started WK almost makes me feel old lol

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I would suggest that (1) you don’t need to wait to start doing something alongside WK and (2) you absolutely need to be doing something alongside WK. WK teaches kanji and a bit of vocab, and you’ll need something for grammar and for the common vocab that WK doesn’t teach you because it’s prioritising reinforcing kanji readings instead. Personally I liked the textbook approach and then dipping into native materials once I had a basic grasp of the language; there are other ways to do it too.

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Reading/watching shows/playing games + putting recurring new words into Anki to not forget their pronunciation, spelling and meaning.

One absolutely needs to. WaniKani is mostly for kanji.

The TLDR path is learning grammar until N4-N3 + 2+k basic vocabulary and then learning Japanese from context, but in a way that’s comprehensive and allows you to leverage what you already know.

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This Jalup article always comes to mind when someone asks about reaching fluency in Japanse. The ever expanding forest of Japanese. What is fluency? When are you fluent enough? The answer will probably change as you keep studying.

What works? The answer to that question will probably also change as you keep learning. But some combo of listening, speaking, reading and writing will never be wrong. More input-oriented in the beginning (reading and listening) and more output as you learn more.

Who is fluent? If you look at those who learn your native language, when do you consider them fluent? When will you consider yourself fluent? Welcome to the ever expanding forest. Enjoy the ride!

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i was thinking about getting Remembering the Kanji actually. what are your thoughts on it? do you think i should dive into it immediately, or wait until im more comfortable with the language?

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Remembering the kanji isn’t really a textbook. That would essentially be an “”“alternative”“” to wanikani, if you want to call it that. I wouldn’t personally recommend it, the way it’s usually used means you won’t be able to actually use the language until way way later, which is a huge motivation killer for most.

You don’t really need a few hundred kanji memorised to start learning grammar or consuming content. Just fyi, with wanikani, if you go at full speed (which usually won’t happen), you would be learning roughly 140-150 kanji a month, so even if that few hundred is only 300 more, that would still be about 2 months of effort given you are maximising your wk speed, during which all you do is memorise random shapes out of context. I would recommend already starting now-ish, as pm215 also said. Only thing I’d wait for is for the general pace of wk to set in, so you know how much time you have to work with.

Immersion will be a must, exactly what type will be determined by what you enjoy the most (books, manga, anime, games, tv shows, dramas, translating poems, reading twitter, really whatever), but you will certainly need some other external source to get at the very least your basic grammar knowledge in place. I don’t think there are a ton of people on the forums, who’d be comfortable with calling themselves fluent, but here most of us tend to start with reading manga. You can try joining one of the book clubs (specifically the absolute beginner book club), once you are comfortable with the most basic grammar points. We tend to say that an N5 level of knowledge (basically getting through genki 1) is about the level that makes joining comfortable enough.

Personally I went with first consuming the base N5 grammar lessons from as many sources as possible (Genki, Cure Dolly, Tae Kim’s Guide, and various other youtube channels) before jumping into reading a ton. The rest just came as I read more and more.

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I agree with @Gorbit99 that it’s more of an alternative to WK than a supplement. Personally I didn’t pick up RTK until I was at something around the N3 level for grammar and vocab (which is where I found the traditional “just practice writing the characters and that’s enough to remember them” approach was hitting its limitations for me). Anyway, my thoughts:

  • RTK as a book places a lot of emphasis on you coming up with personal mnemonics for each character. It starts out by giving you suggestions for the first 500 or so characters, and then deliberately fades that out so that for most of the book it just lists the components of the kanji for you to build into a story or image. This is because the author thinks that personal mnemonics are much more memorable than ones somebody else has come up with.
  • As a book there is of course no SRS component. You can get that part with an Anki deck, or from https://kanji.koohii.com/ – the latter also has user contributed mnemonics so you can pick and choose from other peoples’ ideas if you prefer.
  • RTK as described in the book is strictly a “keyword to kanji” system, which is to say that it is teaching you to write the characters from memory. How useful a skill that is depends on your circumstances. (Some people do character to keyword recall instead, but it’s not what the author had in mind.)
  • RTK does not teach any vocabulary or readings (at least not in volume 1; volume 2 does deal with readings but it’s generally not considered very good I think).
  • RTK’s ordering makes many fewer concessions to “common characters early” than WK: it orders almost entirely by complexity order, teaching all the kanji that use a particular radical together when it teaches that radical. So you get rare characters early and common ones very late.
  • RTK’s keywords for kanji and kanji components are not the same ones WK uses, so if you try to use both together you’re going to get very confused. Pick one or the other.
  • RTK’s one undeniable advantage is it doesn’t come with a monthly or yearly price tag :slight_smile:

I found personally that although I got through it and was able to recall and write all the characters given the keywords, it didn’t tie in to my other knowledge of Japanese very well, so it didn’t solve the problem I had hoped it would (which was “be able to remember how to write words”). If all you care about is reading I think RTK is overkill (but then I also think WK is in some ways overkill…). I did later try a variant where I created an Anki deck using Japanese words as the keywords, but only got about halfway through - partly I wasn’t sure this was working either, and partly I no longer had a need to write Japanese on pen and paper, so my motivation went away.

As described by the author, RTK is a “big pile of work up front” system – speedrun through 2000 characters, and only then start getting to grips with the actual language. I think this is a terrible idea for multiple reasons, so you have to start getting into how you might want to modify or adapt the ideas to be more useful, which is a lot of work and not easy to do as a beginner.

My overall experience with the language is that at the beginner stages kanji are not really a problem that requires a massive memorisation system, especially if you are largely reading and not writing. (N4 wants about 250 kanji, for example.) And textbooks and other resources don’t assume you did a lot of kanji study up front. So what I did and what I tend to recommend is just going for a textbook / classes / whatever and learning words. At some point you’ll find the limits of this approach and then you’re in a much better position to assess what the kanji mnemonic learning systems do for you and which one might work best for your requirements.

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i did RTK 1 and i think it’s butts but you can skim read it and learn about radical breakdowns and whatever and that’s about all you need from that imho. You’re better off learning kanji in context as they appear in lower-level learning material.

I can see it could be useful if you don’t have a background in kanji writing (in my case hanzi), but the fact that it is deliberately disconnected from a lot of other components of learning I find now very offputting and I wish I hadn’t spent a lot of my time on it.

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thank you all for your help :heart: all of your answers were really helpful and descriptive and i think i have a better grasp of how im going to continue learning. i hope you all have an amazing day

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