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]
- 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!
- 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).
- 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!
- 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).
- I should be able to hit level 35 by January 1, 2022, even with taking the 3 months off.
- 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!
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!