I actually reached 60 on Friday, but I wanted to see this. I am now well and truly done.
I’m only an occasional poster on the forums, so a little bit of background:
I’m of Japanese descent, born and raised in Hawaii. I started learning Japanese in middle school at around age 12. For some weird inexplicable reason it was one of the subjects that I excelled in, and I kept going in it for the next six years. I tested out of the foreign language requirement at my college, and even took a few 300-level classes, but eventually settled into my chosen major (math).
Since then I have had opportunities to keep my Japanese skills somewhat current over the decades - for a long time I used to go to a local church that had a Japanese-language division serving expatriate Japanese and more elderly JAs. I had the opportunity to interact with them and at least keep my speaking skills from deteriorating completely (although I still can’t say that I’m fluent).
What really held back my progress in Japanese over the years was the fact that, when I read stuff, every other word looked like an amorphous blob because I didn’t know the kanji meaning and readings. That in turn really held back my vocabulary acquisition, and just picking up kanji by exposure wasn’t really cutting it. I had also tried Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji but got bogged down halfway through - largely because while it drilled the meanings, the readings came in a separate volume.
So when I found Wanikani, I was definitely intrigued by the promise - 2000 kanji and 6000 vocab words in a little over a year. And trying out the first levels, even though the first few were definitely review for me, I liked the timing of the SRS and the structure of the reviews. So I figured, heck, I’m not doing anything else during the pandemic, I’ll do this to keep my mind occupied.
The returns on that $300 investment (yes, I went for lifetime) have been priceless. I found new words even from those first few lessons, and as the weeks and months went by, not only did news articles and encyclopedia articles that looked incomprehensible become clearer and clearer, but my listening comprehension also improved with more vocabulary under my belt.
And here I am, 13 and a half months later, with 2,000+ kanji gurued and about half of the items burned.
What’s next? Well, I’ll probably continue to bone up on my reading skills. I’ve made a habit to read at least the first few paragraphs of a Japanese Wikipedia article a day and I intend to continue, supplemented with reading Japanese news. I’ve also been listening to the Asahi News Network’s YouTube livestream, and trying to expand my exposure to spoken-word material (alas, the Japanese-language TV station in Honolulu, KIKU, switched its format to a shopping network a few months back, so no more Japanese programs on TV).
I’m also actively researching my family history and have reached the point when I need to send away to municipal offices in my ancestors’ home prefectures of Hiroshima and Okinawa. I’ve had some email exchanges in Japanese with those offices that have gone well, and I hope to use my greatly improved writing skills to maybe reach out to relatives. I eventually want to go back to Japan to travel (I made three trips when I was a teenager), and am looking forward to a trip back to my ancestors’ homeland.
Besides, with Japanese retailer Don Quijote here on Oahu with a well-stocked store with food from Japan, I don’t think I’ll even lack for reading material in any case.
Thanks to the great folks at Tofugu for a great SRS product in Wanikani; my Japanese skills have grown by leaps and bounds as a result, and hopefully I can pass on a love of Japanese culture and language to my future kids.