Older Learners

I’d love to know how many people here are older learners - people who started studying Japanese seriously in their 40s or later. I did some Japanese study in my twenties, but I lost it all and started again from scratch at 50. I’d love to hear older people’s stories about their particular challenges and advantages. Why did you take up a language at a later age? What keeps you motivated? Did you ever think you were just too old? If you study with younger people, do you see any differences in the way you learn? And so forth.

60 Likes

There’s this thread:

https://community.wanikani.com/t/what-age-did-you-start-learning-japanese/44351

Lot of us 中年 folks on there. :wink:

My first post there was at level 25 when I was 42. I’m 44 now. Time sure flies. lol

It was actually easier for me to carve out the 3 sessions per day I needed since I’ve got the leeway of a senior position at work and I can schedule my own breaks. Weekends were the hardest since I had the full brunt of family life going.

29 Likes

Ah yes, I did see that one - it does feel like there’s a big diversity in ages!

I see what you mean about independence making it easier to carve out time. I don’t have kids, so that helps, and as a teacher I often have moments between classes when I can catch up on reviews.

9 Likes

I have been wondering about the ages of people studying with WK. I assumed it would be people who were not able to study at college/university. I have been looking at courses for many years but they were all to far to travel or unaffordable. Then when time pressure was less and lockdown came I was spurred into realizing my ambition of learning Japanese.
In answer to your questions:
This is the first time I have had time.
Motivated by wanting to go to Japan before I am 70.
Never thought I was too old for anything. I am looking forward to going back to my tap dancing class.
Younger people seem to pick things up quicker but we have a lifetime experience to reflect on.
It would be interesting to see WK’s demographic on ages.

16 Likes

When asked how old I am I usually reply ‘ancient’. But really I’m in my sixties, so I guess, yes, ancient.
I found Wanikani a few years ago after beginning Japanese through a community collage where we are beginning to slog through Genki 2. Lessons and reviews have become part of my daily routine. Wake up. Coffee. Reviews. Then the rest of the day. I still work 3-4 days as an art teacher and have my own art practice so my time is still limited somewhat, but I no longer have children at home which frees up a lot of time (and space).

Although I have always had an interest in Japanese culture I’d never considered learning the language. In retrospect I now wonder why that was. Probably just too busy.
I’d never seriously studied a language before, so when I began I could literally feel my brain rebelling and pushing back against this new information overload. We’ve (my brain and I) have now made peace and are working well together.

Motivation. Hmmm?

  • To open a window to another world and way of thinking.
  • To be able to understand Japanese media content.
  • To explore the learning process and challenge my myself in the process.
    And maybe a vague fantasy about some sort of art collaboration with Japanese artists.

Some thoughts about learning at a later age; although you do not absorb information as readily as when you were younger, you do have a lifetime of experiences which can be used to facilitate learning.
Hopefully through practice organisational ability has improved.
And, strangely, there is much less urgency making the learning process in itself enjoyable.

This post was longer than anticipated but the takeaway is that learning is possible at any age and enjoyment in the learning process is essential.

36 Likes

Yes, I’ve been wondering about the demographics. Your comment about how you assumed it would be people who couldn’t study at university is something that never occurred to me. I was also inspired by the lockdown; it seemed like a good time to take on unfinished projects!

2 Likes

Your comment about never seriously studying a language before is interesting. I learned French in my early adulthood, and they do say that once you learn a second language, your brain becomes a bit more flexible. That said, I lived in Japan for two years in my twenties and my brain did NOT want to absorb Japanese at all. It seems to be much more receptive now for some reason, although who knows what will happen when I go back to the country someday and attempt to use it for real!

4 Likes

I studied French at school. It was horrible. I can remember almost nothing from it.

4 Likes

Hey hey there. Just started very recently (level 3 as I type this) at the ripe old age of 52 :grin: Never thought I was too old to get started, no, probably because I still feel like I’m 20 inside (some would say even younger - and dumber haha). No pressure either - apart from my own - as I study by myself.

As for the why, I’ve always been a bit curious about Eastern/Asian languages, and Japanese seemed less difficult than Chinese while being culturally rich, both from an historical perspective and a modern one. Perhaps I’ll visit Japan someday?

I am also a sucker for learning new things, being forever intellectually curious.

And finally, I believe the learning process is a great way to exercise your memory. A sort of daily workout for your brains! And for us older folks it becomes essential :sweat_smile:

Glad to see I’m not alone !

Tom

19 Likes

I did French at school and hated it. When I was in my 20’s and first thought about learning Japanese my husband said to learn another language first. The Linguaphone box for German with unopened tapes is in the loft.
You have to have a very strong motivation to learn a language because it impacts on your thinking. We think linguistically add another language and your thinking will inevitably change.
If you have not got the word for it you can not think it.

4 Likes

I am also very into learning new things to keep the brain going. Japanese certainly flexes those mental muscles.

3 Likes

Sad that you hated French (it’s my native language!) :cry: :smile: but I totally understand your point of view. Learning comes a lot easier when it’s fueled by curiosity/desire, not when it’s forced upon you, as is often the case in a school setting, unfortunately.

I picked up a bit of Italian because I love Rome and Italian life, for example (and also because it’s arguably easier to learn for people who speak French). I considered giving another go at German again after struggling with it in school, because my girlfriend is German, but in the end we settled on English, it’s just simpler for the both of us :joy: As you said, the motivation just wasn’t there.

6 Likes

:slight_smile: I live in Montreal now. I’ve always loved French, but it is tough.

3 Likes

The “no pressure” thing is big for me - I don’t have any lofty goals, and see it all as a bit of a game! Like playing Wordle every morning except much richer, and this might actually have some use in my life at some point…

7 Likes

@jaxxeh I have never studied Italian, but I did study Spanish for a while, and I felt like my knowledge of French really helped! (With everything but the pronunciation…)
@Hanabee I wonder why your husband suggested that? For sure I think prior language study is helpful, but Japanese could just as easily be your gateway to other languages and not the other way around…

4 Likes

Wow, now I really feel old! I’m 62 and started Wanikani and Japanese study on Christmas Day 2021. So I’m 2 months and 7 days in and I’ll start level 11 tomorrow. I’m most of the way through Genki 1 and I’m taking 2 Italki lessons a week. Now the big thing is I’m retired and that’s a world of difference in terms of time available…just sayin’. Ask away if you have any specific questions. Oh I’m half Japanese and am learning so I can finally talk to my 200+ relatives in Japan. So speaking is of prime importance.

21 Likes

@hakulus That is very impressive. I started Wanikani 14 months ago and I’m just finishing level 14…I just thought I was slow due to age (58). Anyway I’m not in any rush and enjoy the learning process but at this rate I could be a while…although I’m also trying to learn interesting vocabulary/expressions in the context sentences which in many instances is very useful colloquial Japanese. Please list any learning tips to help with retention and speed of progress.

9 Likes

Hi everyone, I’m somewhat in the same boat as OP, as in that I had learned Japanese when I was between 18-21 (1986-1990ish) - and had become competent enough to order food and stuff but beyond that, I never “graduated”. My main impetus had always been to move to Japan because of Kendo and the love for the culture and some of my friends I had made through Kendo. Sadly, life got in the way, and while I tried to keep up, I gradually lost almost everything I knew of the language, and an accident paid stop to Kendo, too.

Around 2017 I came across the iPhone app “Drops”, which was a fun way to rekindle those dormant (=petrified) Japanese seeds, and when Christmas 2019 came around, I came across WK. I was 49 then, turning 50 the following April.

I am independent (bookbinder and letterpress printer) and thanks to the pandemic I had some spare time, spending about 3 hours a day on WK and later, Bunpro. Sometime into WK, I picked up reading and haven’t stopped since. My daily routine is finishing up reviews for WK (not to burn them all - I have reached level 60 last December, I believe - but to get them to “enlightened”), do some Bunpro but mostly, I just read manga and books I have bought in the last couple of years. My main goal now, as opposed to the one in my youth, is to be competent at reading any text I want to. Then I want to get better at audio understanding. Speaking comes last, although I do wish I wouldn’t sound like the town idiot when speaking :smiley:

I speak German, French, English, got some skills in other languages but nowhere near competency - and hopefully I can one day say I at least get by in Japanese. :slight_smile:

As to the question of demographics: I believe there was someone mentioning that it has everyone between 13 and 72, hovering as mean around 25ish though.

To all of us here: have fun studying, it’s a great language :slight_smile:

19 Likes

Wow, I didn’t expect to meet another bookbinder here! I’m still fairly inexperienced myself (I had three years of schooling, but lost access to a studio after I graduated, so I haven’t bound anything more complicated than a pamphlet in nearly three years). I’ve actually done letterpress, too, though I only took one class. I went a little overboard when I discovered book arts, haha, and took at least one class of just about everything :sweat_smile:.

Looking at what you’ve shared on your personal website, wow, your work is gorgeous! Have you done any papermaking? If you have any interest in it, Japanese papermaking is amazing, and it’s another incentive to learn the language, at least for me! There are a lot of Japanese bookbinding traditions, too.

7 Likes

:heart_eyes:
Sometimes I am wondering how it was possible to print in Japanese in the old days…

4 Likes