I’m back to complete your 一月 challenge, or 二月 in my case. It got longwinded. Sorry about that. The experience of learning this language has been very passionate and emotional for me. It’s essentially the first time in my life that I’ve ever wanted to achieve a goal of any significance. Anyway:
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This is the most important thing anyone has told me about Japanese. Kanji and the hype around them create the facade of this insurmountable barrier to the language. I was already dealing with so many barriers and so much doubt. I’ve never learned a second language to fluency, and I’ve never tried to teach myself a language before. I was overwhelmed and just wanted to know which resources to trust, what approach to use. And I can’t even use native reading materials for so long because I’ll be hit with a wall of illegible scribble characters until I put in thousands of hours of study just to read basic material (so I thought). The first month hit me with a series of reality bombs as I came to understand the extent of what this undertaking demands, and I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have given up without those words from you.
But it’s actually soooo much better than just that. I knew that WaniKani orders Kanji based on visual complexity, and assumed that somewhat implies a continuous rise in difficulty as well; like it’s some progressively harder gauntlet which culminates in the final boss of the last 10 levels. But actually it seems like “kanji difficulty” essentially reaches its peak by level 10. I’m still writing my answers by hand for every recognition review and it’s really paid off. 88% of Kanji by level 30 is great, but what’s soooooo much more important is that at this point I’m level 9 and I seem to recognize ~100% of strokes.
I decided to learn Japanese now, rather than any language that doesn’t use Chinese characters, eventually because of 潤羽るしあ. When I started, her name may as well have been written in Klingon for all I knew. Yet today I looked again at 潤 and realized that in addition to recognizing every component in it, I also knew, not guessed but intuitively knew the stroke order just by looking at it. That’s a level 51 item and it’s no more difficult to learn than a level 9 item. I also encountered 魘 which has so many strokes it’s barely legible at this font size. Hang on… hnnngggg
This has 24 strokes, which to my understanding is close to the limit for Kanji. I looked at this and also knew the correct stroke order before looking it up to double check. I also recognize and have already written every stroke here dozens or hundreds of times when writing other Kanji, and actually learned 3 of it’s Kanji components from WK at level 2
So to my point, I thought I would need a year minimum to even get close to beginning to actually read this language, and that trying to skip ahead and learn new words which use Kanji “beyond my level” would just be an insurmountable, inefficient, pointless use of time. In fact at the very beginning I actually thought I would need to finish the 60 level quest before it would be worth even trying to read anything… or you know, learn and practice any grammar. But on the contrary, I feel like in less than 2 months, I’ve already progressed to a point where the difficulty of the memorization aspect for all new Kanji is exactly the same as, nay even less than the difficulty afforded by 口 on day 1. And I’m free to toss anything I want into my vocabulary SRS tools, and direct my learning wherever it naturally takes me, just as I could in any language which uses a purely phonetic writing system.
So basically I since you asked for feedback. TLDR
1. Langauge learning has a high dropout rate as it is, and notoriously Japanese even moreso. The difficulty of Kanji is way overhyped which exacerbates this.
2. I bought into that hype, got intimidated and felt hopeless to the point of wanting to give up (several times over several different things but always with this looming predominantly overhead.)
3. I learned that this was just a fantasy, a BIG OL’ LIE, and Kanji cease to be a major barrier in less than 2 months. In fact I’ve come to love them. They’re my my best friends besides るしあ and they’ve begun to make learning this language easier rather than harder albeit slightly more time consuming but only slightly somehow. So basically…
The Actual Feedback: I think you should mention this . By level 10 you’ll be ready for all the visual complexity the script has to offer, and don’t need to tiptoe around Kanji to facilitate learning. Kanji aren’t going to put a years long roadblock between a beginner and the start of their actual learning, and they’re not some insane 5D chess game preventing anyone who can’t already speak Japanese from learning to read it. I feel like it’s within the scope of your guide because this misconception seriously warped my understanding of the role WaniKani would play in my Japanese learning process. I wouldn’t want anyone to potentially give up based on a falsehood.
TIL my browser’s spellcheck recognizes Klingon but not facade.