Hello there! I figured that it was time, after two years on these forums, to properly engage and set out my past, present, and future plans so that I can hold myself somewhat accountable. Well, accountable for the future; I can’t do anything about how terrible I’ve been in the past, alas. If you take the time to read this self-serving diatribe, then thank you sincerely and I’m sorry.
I consider my journey with languages to be disjointed and fragmented and for this I fully blame the British school system. I learnt French in school, in the same way that you learn any language in school, with a complete lack of focus. This is fine, as it turns out, because by the time I hit secondary school, they were teaching me Spanish instead. None of that stuck either, as you may expect. By the time I was doing my A-Levels, I had met my first real girlfriend and she introduced me to British Sign-Language. I did evening classes, got my BSL Lvl 1 certification, but by then she’s moved off to university to do Deaf Studies and after a year we broke up and I never really used the BSL and so promptly forgot everything but the alphabet and how to say sorry and thanks. I worked in retail management some years later, so that was actually more useful than you’d think.
I left languages alone for a while, had some hit and miss experiences with Rosetta Stone, etc. and didn’t really do any self-motivated studying until about five years ago, in my late-twenties, when I came across Duolingo for the first time. I started out trying to learn French and found the service pretty good for that; there was a website and an app and I didn’t have to think for even a moment about planning anything. After I while I thought “why am I learning French?” and reasoned that I much preferred Italian food and so switched. I got most of the way through the Italian tree and then we got invited to our friends wedding in Sweden and so I started learning Swedish. I really enjoyed it and actually go to the point of completing the Duolingo tree, but I never reached any kind of conversational fluency and short of being able to read product names in IKEA (the ones that aren’t the names of Danish towns, anyway) I completely stopped practising and so failed to retain more than 50% of what I learned.
I reached Japanese mainly through becoming interested in playing visual-novel games, always having enjoyed story-telling elements in some of my favourite games. Games like Mass Effect were always more about the characters relationships and firm favourites like Life is Strange or The Longest Journey, that rip your heart to shreds, were always something I loved. I found, naturally, that most of these games are in Japanese with poor English translation for the most part and so I decided at that point to give learning it a try. There was also the fact that my mother is Buddhist and so I’d grown up hearing her chanting in Japanese every morning and night for my entire childhood, which meant that I had little fragments of Japanese floating around my head like those ‘learn a language while you sleep tapes’ just without any context.
I’d never touched a language outside of the Germanic families before, so the challenge was exciting. My first port of call was Duolingo, but as many people have found, it’s just not great for Asian languages in general. So I quickly turned to google and /r/LearnJapanese and some highly ranked posts about learning Japanese. One of these posts recommended services ReadTheKanji for kata learning and so I did that for a while, but then stumbled across recommendations for WaniKani and finally began this wonderful journey in worship of the Crabigator.
Just because it has been wonderful does not mean that it has been smooth and my heat map can reveal just how stop and start I’ve been…
I got up to Level 7 and then stopped. I can’t remember why I stopped and it seems extremely silly in hindsight, but there we have it. Past Jerry, you have a lot to answer for! Eight months later, I returned to WaniKani and, upon realising that I’d broken SRS completely, I reset back to level 1 and started all over again. I had a good three months of learning, got myself up to level 10, but then started neglecting the reviews, which then piled up and up. At that point I felt a bit like when I was in school and forgot to do my homework and was scared to go to class; it just became a guilt to see that total rising and while I took some efforts late last year and early this to rectify the situation, I fell off the wagon again. Not completely, as you can see, I did do some reviews every now and then to make myself feel less guilty about paying for a service I wasn’t using. It wasn’t enough to keep up however.
Then in late March we were struck by a global pandemic and I realised that I’d be working from home for a while. Now, I work in computing at a research university, so what I’ve found after two months of lockdown is that I don’t actually have all that much working to do from home and that I’m just in front of the computer or tidying up after my three-year-old most of the day. It was a perfect time, I thought, to knuckle down and clear through those reviews and give myself a fighting chance at progressing.
At this point I’m probably still going to be working home until January since the university where I work is likely to have limited on site personnel and I have a child at home and therefore have got time a plenty. So over the past ten days, I’ve managed to clear over nine-hundred reviews and so am currently at the stage of working through all the shock-waves of recurring reviews, about two-hundred today for example. One the swells of that wave subside, it’ll all seem a bit less hectic.
I had about three-hundred lessons pending and I worked through sixty of those before realising I was being incredibly stupid and doing some filtering to clear out specifically the Level 10 kanji. I’m going to be a bit more cautious with how I clear through the remaining vocab lessons so I don’t give myself premature burn out with the number of reviews.
I’ve also, perhaps foolishly, decided that not keeping my Swedish knowledge practised is a massive waste of the months of Duolingo time I spent on it the first time round, so I’ve committed myself to trying to get to the point where that tree is 100% gold again. Doing two languages at once is perhaps somewhat misguided, but since one is North-Germanic and the other is Asian, there isn’t really much there that can cause language muddles and it’s probably fairly safe. I’m primarily focusing on Japanese though, so if I let anything slip, it will be my daily Duolingo. I decided after about two months that doing Swedish alongside Japanese was just too much language at once. So yes, it was foolish.
The Future (or My Study Plan)
So my plans for the near future are as follows and I’ll try and comment below to keep my progress updated and accountable. If for no other reason my own fear of failure being a motivator; if I’ve said I’ll do something, it’s easier to be motivated to do it. One of the reasons a monthly fee is sometimes better than a lifetime sub; it feels like you’re paying, so you’d better keep up, hehe.
- Reviews at Zero -I’ll try and end each day with my review count at zero, no matter how many I have to get through at the moment. I know if they pile up too high again, I’ll feel that same failure to resolve guilt and so I’m determined to work at this.
Clear Those Lessonns -
I’m going to try to do at least a dozen a day so that I can clear all remaining lessons by the end of June.Done ^-^
- Get That Grammar - I’ve got a lifetime LingoDeer sub that I always forget to practice with (see above point about monthly fees as a motivator) and so I’m going to aim to complete one topic a day, and complete at least one 5 Minute Review a day.
- Take Notes - I’ve got a BunPro subscription and I’ve got a dotted journal, Muji pens, and Mildliners. I sure do love stationary. So I’m going to try and get into the habbit of working through BunPro lessons and reviews when I can and making notes about each grammar point. LingoDeer helps to reinforce these through their grammar notes too, but it’s proven that you recall more clearly what you write with your own hand, so I’m going to try to do that as much as possible.
If you’ve read all that then most sincerely thank you!!