Game-heavy, long-winded first post incoming!
Hi all - I am a recent convert to WK. My backstory is a pretty familiar run-on sentence - over 20 years ago I studied a little bit of Japanese in college, managed to get into JET after graduation, stayed in Japan teaching for about a year, only learned about 400 or so Kanji (poorly) by repetition but spent lots of time chatting in Japanese at bars (priorities), came back home and scored a few jobs that utilized the conversational/casual Japanese I learned, traveled to Japan several times for work over a 2 year period, got a job in the gaming industry with a non JPN company, never used my Japanese at all for over a decade, then woke up one day and realized I had forgotten everything and wanted my skills back (and then some).
I am still very much a beginner, but I have a good idea what I am in for from past experience and community postings (pain mostly, lots of pain).
So on to the gaming stuff - I am posting this as a kind of yardstick for myself and anyone else that may be in a similar situation and curious about how far along WK can get you as a refresher/tool for reading comprehension. I am lucky enough to have a few useful tools at my disposal from when I attempted (and failed) a re-immersion about 8 years ago - mainly a JPN 3DS. For this post, I am comparing my comprehension of Dragon Quest games on that system.
8 YEARS AGO:
8 years ago, I played through the entirety of a game called Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry’s Wonderland (ドラゴンクエストモンスターズ テリーのワンダーランド3D). At the time, I was attempting to learn with Anki decks and RTK. I found RTK to be a slog, even when combined with Anki, and I had a very difficult time coming up with my own mnemonics. I was frustrated with Heisig’s recognition-but-not-reading method of study (I get it works for many, it just didn’t get me hooked). I wasn’t seeing enough of the pay-off early on to keep my learning dopamine rush.
So despite getting all the way through テリーのワンダーランド3D, I rarely felt as if I had a grasp of what was being said in dialogue. Occasionally I would recall an older kanji I had memorized, but found myself glossing over almost all kanji entirely (replacing any kanji I couldn’t read with “naninani” in my head). RTK would occasionally help me place the rough idea of what particular Kanji were about, but with no onyomi or kunyomi to guess at, it didn’t stick. There was no “aha!” joy of spotting what I had recently learned and repeatedly applying it in real life. I felt I had gained nothing after many hours of gameplay except how to do things by trial and error and general kanji avoidance.
To prevent myself from getting bored afterward, I tried other games and demos of games I had played in English previously. That was a mistake. Most games I tried were more complicated and the reading level required only served to convince me I was not getting closer to my Japanese learning goals. So I stopped playing JPN games and went back to English. And soon after that, I stopped trying to learn Japanese altogether.
So in the end, despite several months of multiple hour study almost daily, I couldn’t pull together an original thought in Japanese to save my life. Any attempts to read light novels or old manga were met with similar frustration. So I just assumed I was too old and gave up. If I couldn’t re-learn early elementary school Japanese after so much effort, I wasn’t feeling good about my odds of doing anything useful with Japanese again.
I am only at WK level 3. The beginning of the beginning. But the difference with a system like WK is already evident. Despite only committing a few weeks of effort, I am reading FAR more effectively than with over two months of near constant Anki/RTK/Youtube immersion.
As a test, I recently purchased Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 3: Professional (ドラゴンクエストモンスターズ ジョーカー3 プロフェッショナル) and already I am understanding way more of what is happening in the opening chapter than what I ever did in テリーのワンダーランド3D. There are obviously still kanji I need to look up if I want to understand absolutely everything being said, but for the most part, I can get through without losing track of what is going on. I even double checked my translation against a Youtube player that was translating as he played through just to be sure. I was shocked at how much I got right.
Other things are coming more easily as well - I am feeling pretty confident that in a few months (year?) I will be able to make some decent headway with my copy of キッチン. I have also been lucky enough to find a really good online language partner in Japan in my age range that has been really helpful for speech practice.
So in short, I am very happy so far with my WK experience and look forward to more interactions with the community here. My early successes have encouraged me to expand my toolset and not feel weighed down by my past failures. Thank you all for reading!
Tl;dr: WK is awesome. If you were someone who previously studied Japanese and forgot everything after DECADES, it will help bring things back quickly and give you some great early gains on your basic reading comprehension of video games like Dragon Quest.
Side note - My advice for early learners or people re-acquiring what they lost - do NOT try to play a Persona 4 or a Musou-style game, even if you have played and beaten it in English. It is just too much too soon. Stick with the Fantasy Lifes and Dragon Quests for a while and save the heavier stuff for later. Hopefully this doesn’t counter any other advice on these forums people far smarter than me have brought up.