Longtime Japanese Learner and Multilingual Mama begins WK for 1st time (Study Log)

Some background:

I started learning Japanese in college in fall of 2011. I have actively studied and been in pursuit of Japanese fluency for 5 of these years now. I completely dropped off the Japanese study map after 2 years of college study, but that did include a semester abroad in Osaka.

I’m now a mom of 2 and pregnant with our third (due summer 2021). I decided when I was pregnant with my first kid that I wanted to raise them multilingually, which had always been a pipedream of mine (actually, I figured I’d marry somebody with a different language background, but the one I fell in love with is just a plain old native English speaker like me). We are raising our kids with French and Japanese in an English-speaking community in the US. I rotate languages with the kids on a weekly basis, speaking exclusively French with them one week, then exclusively Japanese the next week. I’m only 3.5 years in, but so far this has actually WORKED!

Now, keep in mind that I hadn’t studied Japanese in 4 years, really hadn’t touched it, and that I had only 2 official years of study under my belt before that (I had failed the JLPT N3 and that basically spelled doom for my study motivation). The first year with my first kid was a huge learning curve for me (and that’s an understatement)! I had to talk to them all the time or they wouldn’t learn to speak, right? So I just fudged my way through and learned how to say what I needed to say in pretty broken Japanese. I have taken Italki lessons for the past 3 years on a regular basis and my Japanese speaking, grammar, and listening skills have gone way up! I studied for and passed the JLPT N3 test in December 2019!

With plenty of practice over the past years, I can read picture books (always in hiragana or with furigana) with ease, engaging cadence, and spark, like a great kids’ librarian! I can tell my kids "いや。それおもちゃじゃないよ!テーブルに置いておいて!” and my fluency is really good for the things I need to do in a day. My mom vocab continues to improve all the time. There is still a learning curve as every day, my kids get better at speaking. My eldest is in full on 何での期 where they’re asking ALL the big questions about life… ALL THE TIME… and I’m supposed to know why the sky is blue and why the dog threw up and why people have different skin tones… in JAPANESE! But so far… so good!

But kanji has always been a weakpoint. It was definitely the thing I focused most on when studying for the JLPT this past time. I used Anki and enjoyed the SRS but I found it cumbersome to always be coming up with my own order and my own intervals, etc. I had heard of WK but I thought I really couldn’t afford it at the time without pushing out Italki lessons and those have been really important to me.

But… I want my kids to be functionally multilingual… I want them to be literate. I want them to read AND write… and I know that is not going to just HAPPEN on its own in an English-speaking environment. So here I am… now that my eldest is 3.5… I figure I have another 3 years or so until I will start to really teach them (and have others teach) reading and writing. But I have to know what I’m doing. And I have to be their role model. I have time… but it is time to get serious.

So here is me… getting serious about learning kanji. Starting WK for the first time. Level 1.

My goals in timeline: [updated February 2021]

  1. Race to level 18/20. Looking through the kanji levels, there are plenty I don’t know or don’t remember well in these first 18-20 levels, but I do think I have good working knowledge of about 600 kanji sprinkled throughout WK. I’m hoping to do this phase 1 sprint within 20 weeks… starting now. [Goal date: April 24, 2021]. Hopefully that seems reasonable!
  2. Then, settle into a routine for tapering my leveling from then on up (starting with 8-9 days per level, moving up progressively to 14-day leveling, stopping within 1-2 weeks of my duedate).
  3. When I give birth (hopefully during the middle of summer, but ya never know), complete reviews only for 3 months to preserve my sanity adjusting to life with THREE kids, one of whom will not sleep, and healing my body!
  4. When 3 months have elapsed, come back and focus on that same 10-day to 2-week timeline continuing leveling onward and upward, while studying for a solid few weeks for the JLPT N2 December 2021. Hopefully I’ll be somewhere around level 32 by that time. That would give me 80-85% of the cumulative kanji for the N2 (according to wkstats).
  5. I should be able to hit level 35 by January 1, 2022, even with taking the 3 months off.
  6. 2022 I’ll aim to finish WK well before the December JLPT date. Depending how my 2021 scores look (regardless of whether I actually PASS) I’ll choose what to do with regards to a second attempt at N2 or a first attempt at N1, but I hope to be near N1 level by that time! Certainly my kanji would be the strongest it has ever been by then. By that time I should have 3 kids aged 5, 2.5, and 1 so it’ll be a commendable goal to get to N1 level despite the other demands on my time, but I’m going to work for it! When I studied abroad in fall of 2012, I told myself I wanted to pass N1 within 10 years. I figured I’d have several attempts in there and it may not be practical at all to think I might be able to pass it on the first try, but it is still in my mind that if I can take an pass it in 2022, I’ll be making that goal from long ago.

Those are my JLPT and WK goals, but the real WHY here is so that I can:

  • Teach my three kiddos to read and write Japanese!
  • Continue to read aloud to them as they move up from the exclusive picture book phase!
More on readaloud goals

I have already read them their first “novel” (My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, titled エルマーの冒険 in Japanese), but that is entirely in hiragana. My current GOAL books I’m hoping to read aloud early 2022 are 魔女の宅急便 (Kiki’s Delivery Service, the first book), and 川の光 (River’s Light). The first book in the Kiki’s Delivery Service series IS my current silent reading level (川の光 is a fair bit harder… I need to use a dictionary with every sentence). I can read it to myself and I understand most of it… but there is no furigana and I am NOT sounding out the yomikata in my mind. I skip over the kanji I’m not sure how to say, though it is at a level of vocabulary that nearly all the kanji are ones I recognize and know the meaning of… just not HOW to say them in context with accuracy. And OBVIOUSLY, I don’t want to be reading aloud with my kids and be teaching them the wrong yomikata… words that don’t even exist… and pretending like that’s what it’s supposed to be!
:woman_facepalming:t2:
So I need to KNOW these yomikata BY HEART… so I can read them aloud in real time with confidence.

  • Have my kanji down for when we plan to live a schoolyear in Japan 2028-2029. That’s a ways off obviously (when the youngest one I’m currently baking is age-eligible for first grade in Japan), but I’d love to have rock solid Japanese skills by then so I can really integrate our family life as seamlessly as possible and have fun!

I’d love to hear any words of encouragement or advice about WK and also hear any shout-outs for accountability later if I haven’t checked in recently (planning to do so weekly-ish, since I’m looking to level up weekly-ish for the next few months).

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! Here I go!

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Amazing!!! Welcome to Wanikani!!

My husband and I are wanting to raise our child to speak Japanese and English. I’m thinking that I will only talk to my child in English and my husband will talk to them in Japanese. I’m so amazed with families that raise their children to be multilingual.

The first levels might be pretty easy for you on wanikani since you are an advanced learner but hang in there.

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Awesome! I definitely think it is doable, but will always be hard to raise kids to actually speak (instead of passive bilingualism) and also to be literate in two languages with very different writing systems. Good luck, though! It is so fun and amazing when your kids start to actually speak and you realize how much they already know in more than one language!

Yes, I know the first level drags for everyone, but I’m like… “seriously??” Still… the radical names and kanji “meanings” are annoyingly specific. I’ve already started adding synonyms everywhere like crazy so that all my prior knowledge doesn’t actually keep tripping me up because I know things “wrong” (aka what happened to me today when I tried to type “craft” instead of “construction” for 工…)
:unamused:

But I’m really motivated to stick it out. It won’t be too long until I start learning SOME new content, in trickles.

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I’m really interested in your journey! I find the topic of raising multilingual children very interesting, to say the least. (At least you’re not a first-time mom so you can figure out some studying strategy). All the best!

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That’s fascinating!
I sort of had the same plan, marry someone fluent in a different language, but I ended up breaking up with the only guys who fit that bill (oh, and one broke up with me), so I’m married to a plain American English speaker. Oops! :slight_smile:
From reading your intro though, I’m convinced that if anyone can pull this off, you can! You’re obviously intelligent, and you’ve thought all this out, and put in the work. (Just ignore that whole slacking off bit. Everyone’s allowed that now and then!)
I’m left with a question for you though. Do the kids ever get to hear you speak in English? I ask because obviously you are highly fluent in English, probably better in that than in any other language, and there may be some benefit to them hearing English spoken at your advanced level rather than just playground level English. I’m just curious about that.
I’m very impressed with all you’re accomplishing! I tried to interest my one and only kid in Spanish when she was little, but she didn’t take to it. Then she had a horrible Spanish teacher in her early elementary grades, who dumbed down the language so much as to completely bore the entire class. I thought my kid was turned off languages forever, but then she needed to take one in high school and got a decent teacher, and started enjoying being able to pick up on bits of Spanish dialogue and lyrics, etc. So there is some hope for her!
(She still doesn’t want to hear me when I’m all excited b/c I remembered or learned something new in Japanese, though!)

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Hey, this really is hugely impressive!

I raised my kids bilingually for a while (until my younger son got very ill, and we had to focus on just English), and to see how kids develop the logic of language is utterly fascinating. For a while my older son thought that women speak German and men speak English, it was hilarious. And then came a period where he exploited the bilingual household to his benefit, which was so funny.

I am not a native English speaker, and I remember how much my English improved (I thought I was already quite fluent at the time) when I read picture books to my kids day in day out. I’d love to try that with Japanese, you got me thinking.

Similar to @MissSandy my kids now just roll their eyes when I excitedly tell them about Japanese learning and how marvelous it all is.

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Wow, such cool goals to have! Welcome to this weird little corner of the internet!

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Best of luck, I’ve thought a lot about raising kids multilingually (I’ve studied French 5 years and Spanish 2, Japanese about as much as Spanish). Although I’ve heard that the more languages you expose a child to, the “worse” or I guess more difficult they’ll be with each. So as opposed to being a great English speaker, they’re okay at Spanish and English. Just something I’ve heard.

But I think the privilege of having a native or near native level of speaking in more than one language from childhood would have to outweigh it. Who knows. I’m in college right now, an American born and raised, but I can see myself settling down long term in a country that doesn’t speak English, in which case I would absolutely teach my child English and use it around the home. Not only would that probably be easier for me, but also internationally, travel, and career wise, being a fluent English speaker is an enormous advantage someone can have. And I wouldn’t want them to go through the pain of learning it at an older age. English is a garbage language, and I am eternally grateful that I’m a native speaker.

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Quite fascinating! Rooting for you!!!

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Wow, this is really impressive.

I’m half Japanese (never really fully bilingual, though!). I found that my younger brother’s Japanese skills were even worse than mine, I think because we ended up talking to each other in English as children and so he got less exposure to Japanese than me. Just something to keep in mind with your second and third children :slight_smile:

I’m not sure where you live, but do you have some sort of Japanese Saturday school in your area? (Where Japanese kids go learn Japanese on Saturday mornings). That could be quite useful.

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Maybe this is my inner moody German talking, but I think as long your Japanese is not near-native children won’t profit from it, maybe even on the contrary. I also feel they might miss exposure to their actual native language.

But what do I know, I don’t have children, I don’t want any, but this is how I feel about it.

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Yeah, I thought the same thing. They could end up latching onto certain mistakes or a non-native accent and make those mistakes for the rest of their lives. But we don’t know her Japanese level, it could be perfectly fine for this. And it’ll probably help a ton to expose them to Japanese media from an early age, which should have perfect grammar and accents.

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Absolutely. I thought I’d start serious study much earlier after my first was born but the adjustment is real…

They hear me speak to my partner in English (his Japanese is really weak, though he understands most of what I say… but he doesn’t speak French at all). He speaks to the kids in English during my French weeks, too, and for the majority of the time during my Japanese weeks but makes an effort to speak Japanese during certain times of day. He also does all the readalouds in English!

Do it! Depending where you are in the US (or elsewhere), used Japanese picture books can be found at really reasonable prices, and it seriously does so much for us adults to read picture books! The language is usually surprisingly rich in a good picture book…

Oh yes, this is already something I’m mindful of every day. I tell my eldest to speak to the little one in Japanese (or French, depending on the week) and for the most part he so far listens to the request, but our number 2 has sooooo much more English exposure than our number 1 did at the same age already… and that is despite the pandemic isolation!!

We do have a Japanese Saturday School in our area, as well as a dual-language Japanese immersion public school and full-immersion preschool… we are looking into all our options for sure.

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Welcome to WaniKani!!

As someone that grew up in a multilingual household, I bet your kids will love the fact that they will know multiple languages when they grow up :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Me and my sister always have fun speaking in a foreign language when making jokes or to mutter secrets… And there’s a 90% chance the people around us can’t understand! It’s like a superpower :joy:

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So I was not really intending to go into this much in detail but here are just some points along the ‘non-native speakers should not raise a child in another language’ argument. TL/DR: The gist is that I didn’t just stumble into this decision…

  1. My in-laws immigrated to the US from Hong Kong and Macau respectively. I think they made the wrong choice in choosing to raise their two children exclusively in English, including speaking to one another in English. My husband and his sister have had no access to learning Cantonese, despite wishing desperately they had learned it as children. I am 100% for families raising their children with THEIR native languages in the context of a different community language. Language is a powerful heritage and when it is lost… there is something so hard/sad/wrong/irreversible about the culture that dies/does not get transmitted through the generations. My MIL says “Well you could learn it now if you really wanted to…” Everyone on this site has some experience with/buy-in to that statement… THINK for a minute how much time, how much effort, how much money, and how many resources go into you learning Japanese! And think about the returns on that investment… Imagine if your parents had had the ability and privilege to be able to give you some fraction of that with only the labor it took to already raise you in their household… what an advantage over learning at an older age!!!

  2. Those same parents (my in-laws) I just criticized for NOT passing on their native language… well, they did an AMAZING job at raising children in their non-native English. My partner’s English is not as “perfect” as mine… he isn’t quite as competent a communicator but I think that is more about the way his brain works and the other types of intelligences he has. I’m a language person… I love the nuances of words and expressions… that is not his jam. But he still speaks excellent English despite his home learning environment growing up with two non-native speakers as his primary non-school input. He and his sister both wound up going to excellent universities and did really well. The US has forever been filled with families like his. Granted… they were being raised in an English-speaking environment… but I think that if you believe that there are automatically faults that get ingrained and passed down when a parent doesn’t speak whatever language PERFECTLY (I can indeed point to certain idiosyncrasies and language patterns in my partner’s speech that I believe came from my in-laws’ imperfect grasp of English)… you need only look at the other people in a child’s life that greatly bolster their speech. I mention doing Italki lessons… my kids are always around for that… hearing native speakers (including speaking directly TO them for a portion of that time) several times a week. Like I mentioned, we plan to do a school year in Japan when all my kids are in elementary school… and if you really think that my kids will have problems with their Japanese before then… you’d better believe that peer pressure and influence will help homogenize their accents, pitch, and language patterns greatly for whatever amount of time they are in Japan. We listen to audiobooks (obviously read by native speakers) and music and podcasts all the time… an immersive, word-rich environment at home. We have chosen not to do screentime YET (will start in 2.5 years when the youngest is 2), but when we do we have decided that the first few years of shows and movies will be in Japanese or French only (native content). Those are the EXACT ways that community language gets transmitted (from English community to English speaking children… from Japanese community to Japanese speaking children, etc.). The only difference is that we are imperfect speakers.

  3. We are imperfect speakers, yes, but we are excellent LEARNERS. I really do my absolute best to correct my own mistakes. As soon as I learn that something I said frequently in the past is wrong… I learn how to say it better and implement the changes. My level is not passive or stagnant and I’ve learned an insane amount in the few short years since my eldest was born. My plan is to CONTINUE learning Japanese and French for the next 20+ years… so my sentences 10 years from now will be more sophisticated when speaking to my 13 year old son than they are now speaking to my 3 year old… but if I tried to START teaching them only when my own level passes some ideological muster… I’d probably never start, and even if I did, my kids would not learn alongside me and they’d be monolingual like I was. I don’t want that for them. I’d much rather show them what it is to be human (imperfect, forever struggling but just trying to do your best) than to show them what it is to be perfect without the context of ALLthese mistakes I’ve made along the way…

  4. Through a talk by the Institute on Excellence in Writing, called “Nurturing Competent Communicators,” speaker Andrew Pudewa convinced me that the largest positive influences on language development are being read to (aloud) and memorizing poetry. This is because this type of language learning prioritizes “highly correct and sophisticated language patterns.” Age-segregated learning environments/schools (where kids speak based on the least common denominator as opposed to mixed-age groups where they are usually attempting to impress older or younger children with what they know), alongside television and other passive media (think about even most adult TV and it easy to see that the language used is not particularly varied) become the biggest drains on those language patterns. Reading to oneself is not even a great indicator because as I mentioned with my own reading of kanji-rich texts… we just skip stuff we don’t know. Kids do the same so those bits of sophisticated syntax get lost through the sieve. Reading aloud means reading completely and accurately the language as it was written… meaning those patterns are going directly into the brains of your children… to be brought out later in their own language production (speaking and writing). This is specifically why I have placed an incredibly high emphasis on reading aloud… both in my parenting up to this point and also in my language goals I stated in my OP. I can give them the gift of much more “highly correct and sophisticated language patterns” through reading them picture books and エルマーの冒険 than I possibly could by trying to parse together my own non-native Japanese sentences. And they remember these patterns. I already see grammatical structures in my son’s Japanese speech that he imitates from books we have read together that I would not have had the linguistic capacity to instill in him on my own… now this point goes much less toward the accent/pitch/pronunciation issue, that will always be a fault of readalouds, but THAT is where community influence/peers and media exposure really shine!

  5. There is a lot of talk on the internet about whether or not (the consensus being usually NOT) people should ever raise their children in a non-native language. If you look at the research though… 1. There is very little of it. 2. The people who cite that it shouldn’t be done are generally talking about the issues of a. Assimilation or b. Lower socio-economic status. It is hard to think that an uneducated, wage-worker immigrant to whatever country in ANY situation would do a better job raising their child in the community language that is not their native language than they would by transmitting their native language and letting the community (schools and social environment) take care of transmitting the community language. In fact… bilingualism in the above case is almost always the very best gift a parent of little education and status can give to their child. If I lived in another country and were raising my children in a non-English community, of course I would be the one transmitting English, to give that gift of my native language. But we are talking about a completely different situation. Pretty much the ONLY way I can up my children’s chances of real, functional multilingualism in their adulthood is to do this work myself. The more educated you are and the more privilege you have, the easier it is to buffer those effects of the lessening of the quality of vocabulary or the size of the available lexicon the child has… or even the accent/pitch/pronunciation issues. Of course I have those issues… abound. But is it REALLY better to say, “Welp I guess since I don’t live in a non-English speaking country… my kids have zero chance of becoming multilingual because I’m too afraid to pass on the knowledge I have” and just resign??? It seems so defeatist. So lose-lose. And it says that schoolish learning models for language are the best way to learn… we KNOW that’s not true. They are sponges. I’d much rather have them sponge my imperfection and have that be their leg up to the fluency. I didn’t have that same opportunity. We all want better for our children than what we ourselves had. I stand by the idea that I am doing right by my kids in trying to give them this gift. I KNOW it is a gift.

Anyhoo… anyone is welcome to disagree with me, but the point of my post is starting my study log (and stating my original goals) so I’ll stick mostly to that topic. Sorry if me asking for “advice” was not clear that I was mostly talking about WK-specific advice… I’ll go edit the OP.

@izzyfizz96, @M4tthi4s91, thanks for your thoughts even though I went after them hard. Hopefully these arguments illuminate where I’m coming from even if you’d choose differently.

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Awesome! …Yeah, I have yet to ever hear anyone raised multilingually wish they hadn’t been (except perhaps wishing they hadn’t had to spend so much time in Saturday school or something). But I hear ALL the time, “I wish I’d learned [insert language here] when I was a kid.”

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I don’t have any advice about wanikani (I’m definitely a beginner lol) but I think it’s super cool that you’re raising your kids to be multilingual! I was raised bilingual, with my parents only speaking their language to me at home, and I learned English from going to preschool. I speak the language I learned at home fluently now. Something that I think really helped me be able to speak fluently is that my parents would insist I answer them in our language rather than English. It annoyed me so much when I was a kid, but it worked, and now I can speak instead of just being able to listen.

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@ganbareniichan

I actually felt bad for my posting, but those were still my first thoughts when I read your opening posting.
Your replies made things a lot clearer. I wish you all the best on your journey :slight_smile:

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When we lived in Switzerland we knew a number of families where the parents spoke different native languages to each other and they communicated in English. The children grew up speaking English (as well as German/Swiss German). Those children definitely had much better English than the children who only used it at school. So even if the parents don’t speak a language perfectly I think it does make a big difference.

I was keen on raising our daughter multilingual but couldn’t persuade my wife. Her first language was Hindi but when she grew up in the U.K. she mainly spoke in English to her parents and has a complex about how bad her Hindi is. Despite being a German teacher she also wouldn’t speak German (on the basis that she wasn’t a native speaker). I was out at work all day and working long hours so would have been difficult to do myself. My wife struggled with motherhood (living in Switzerland away from our families didn’t help) so didn’t want to push it. I think it was a shame though. Our daughter eventually picked up German and Swiss German but she struggled a lot at school. My wife thought it was fine because she moved to the U.K. at 3 with no English but she probably doesn’t recall well the problems she faced and of course in the U.K. you have to know English as non Indians certainly didn’t speak Hindi whereas in Switzerland the Swiss love practicing their English.

I am awed by the OP’s enthusiasm and dedication to raising her children with three languages. Even if their English suffers a bit that seems a worthwhile trade off to me (I also think any deficit in English can be made up later).

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What a awsome mother you are! Your daily life would be great for like a youtube series or something lol.
Im from brazil, speak native portuguese, and im hoping to have children, maybe in the next 3-5 years, and by then i hopefully will be able to speak to them in Japanese, at least in a intermediate level…Your story gives me hope! Ill be sure to follow your achievements in this forum!

If you are a beginner in WK you should check this posts:

And maybe you would like to enter a low level leadeaboard group like the one im in:

Either way, hope you continue to post in here, will be fun to see how your children grow. I discovered that the forum is a great way to keep you motivated, of course you have a greater motivation, but in here you can share you doubts, express yourself, clarify doubts, laugh, cry, ask for help and you will see that people in here are mostly very kind and helpful.

Must be a mess sometimes huh? 3 languages is a lot! But my hope is to speak to my future children in japanese/english, while the mother speaks in portuguese/english + we can afford a bilingual school (portuguese/english).

Good Luck! Don’t give up! The first levels are the most slow and boring ones!

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