Older Learners

Got through half of my 1600 reviews. Knocking them down a hundred or more a day.
Probably hit 2000 burns today or tomorrow. Gonna slowly start adding lessons slowly, because I don’t want the demotivation of an avalanche of reviews making my review count pile up again.


頑張って! :muscle:

And consider joining us in here: WaniKani Study Buddy Race - 2022, All Aboard!

P. S. I’m LOL b’cuz of you PFP :rofl:

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Glad you got a kick out of it. I’m hoping WK will fill in the missing parts. :crazy_face:



Wow! Lots of interesting stuff in this thread!!

At 60+, I’m in the oldest 3% on this site. :wink: Nice to meet y’all!

In the late 80’s (in my 20’s), I studied basic Japanese for 2 years at a US University extension program. Classes were once a week, using Romaji textbooks (Eleanor Harz Jorden’s Beginning Japanese series anyone?). I came to Japanese language study through movies (Kurosawa, Ozu and the golden age of Japanese cinema), literature (mostly Kawabata and Natsume), as well as my interest in art/culture and spiritual aspects of the “Japanese way.”

Work and life took me in other directions in the 90’s, although I did get to Japan (Tokyo, mostly) a few times on business. I realized then that I didn’t want to live and work in Japan, even if I was fascinated with its culture, history, art, and people, in addition to being able to get by with my pidgin Japanese. However, I did want to spend more time there, even if I didn’t see a way to do it then.

Fast forward to 2014… Having recently retired, I stayed in Japan for 3 months and took up Japanese again on a lark (at GenkiJACS in Tokyo), just as a refresher and prep for further visits. I was placed in an intermediate class, where I just got by, well behind all the young kids there - the youngest was in his mid-30’s, whereas I was 55 - an 叔父さん, or worse, an おじいちゃん even! After the “final test,” which I managed to pass. The teachers said that it’d be a shame if I didn’t continue (as the teachers at GenkiJACS are wont to say to every student, I imagine). I did enjoy the experience, even if I was not sure whether to study further or not.

After I got back to the US, I took the JLPT 3 exam in 2015, letting the results decide whether I should continue to study or not. I passed by a mere 3 points. And so, 流れに身を任せ, I did a 3rd year course at a University here in Southern California, but quit after 2 semesters (see further on for reasons why). While studying by myself with a tutor for another year, I got an opportunity to teach practical/applied English at a University of Technology in Japan. Long story short, I accepted, and after spending 2 years to get used to the system and students, and having developed tech/business based Applied English courses, I’ve been teaching there one semester (4 months) each year. Even though it meant returning to a daily work routine, which I was not keen on, it has proved to be an excellent immersive learning experience.

In 2015, I had also started WK and was working at it at a sedate, leisurely pace. It took me close to 6 years to get to level 60, mainly due to 2, long 1000±day breaks associated with the teaching job. OTOH, since most students in my classes don’t speak/understand spoken English, I had to communicate with them in Japanese, which was just the right medicine at the right time! Over the past few years, my conversational ability has steadily improved. Now, I need to work on my reading and listening skills and pick up more grammar and vocabulary. I’d like to get to a point where I can read novels and magazine articles without difficulty and converse with native speakers in a professional environment at about 80% comprehension level.

The main issue that I had with studying at the University is the difference of my interests (broader cultural/historical vs manga/anime/etc), objectives (personal interest vs grade/job/etc), and the years of real life experience that I already had compared to the full time students. In addition, the 2-3 days/week classes with very little opportunity to interact in Japanese was definitely a drawback, even if the students were certainly quite good academically (i.e. at class room learning). The rote kanji learning approach was also a drag, but, I had WK for support. Looking back, I think immersion and full time language school are the way to go for older learners (like me), especially through a specific activity, or pursuit. Fortunately, in my case, it worked out pretty much that way.

Although age was not a deterrent when I started down this path, I realized that I am neither as nimble nor as quick a learner as I was in my 20’s or 30’s. As a kid, I picked up 3+ languages without much “studying” except for basics like alphabets and rudimentary grammar. Now, it is harder to remember as things are not as “sticky” as they used to be. OTOH, it is much more fun to figure out the language and its ties to the culture, through all the knowledge and experiences accumulated over the years in the many places and environments I had lived/worked in.

Oops… looks like I have been long winded. I better stop. :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth:

By the way, a shout out to the 川柳 translation thread, started by @Rrwrex. In addition to being an excellent primer on the language, it provides additional insights into social and cultural peculiarities of Japanese and their way of thinking. The discussions are as valuable as the translation themselves. It is not just for poetry lovers, for sure. (I got to this thread through the 川柳 thread)


This is fascinating and inspiring; I am looking seriously into language schools in Japan for a coming summer vacation, and I have definitely thought about whether living there part-time after retirement is feasible. I hear you on the lack of stickiness. I have been with Wanikani since November and I have just hit level 9; I refuse to go faster than my comfortable pace, and I have made a rule that I don’t do new lessons unless I score 80%+ on my morning reviews, and I fall short more often than I’d like! But the process is fun and I think my brain is the better for it.


I knew there was a reason we got on so well!

It takes a few years to knock off the rough edges, and like seeks like.

Henceforth: LavVieQ-先輩!


If you’d like to study in Japan for a few months, do check out Yamasa Institute - I am trying to get there in October for 3 months, provided the Japanese government will let me in to the country.

As for Kanji study, while SRS is essential, encountering the Kanji one learns in life is equally, or, even more, important. A slow and steady approach is better - no need to “run fast,” as if to get a prize. I think getting to immersion is a much better goal, which can be easily achieved with knowledge of half the kanji in WK. At least that’s been my experience, but YMMV…


Indeed, our 日本 and 日本語 experiences seem similar.

Haha! Thanks, but at this stage in life, I don’t think there is a 先輩 or a 後輩 - only fellow travelers on a pleasant journey. :wink:


Recently I was getting really worried about the condition of my memory, it feels like vocabulary just really doesn’t stick at all, but there are things that influence memory which have nothing to do with age in reality.
Not sure if this is a turn to the positive, but in my case I found out it is dissociative amnesia :sweat_smile:
If I could cure that I would be so old then, that there won’t be much effect anymore on my memorizing capabilities though.


Does restarting Japanese at almost 40 count?

If so, I’ve had an interest in Japanese as a language since I was about 7 or 8 years old, couldn’t find any relevant material at the time (and didn’t know how to study a language properly) so kind of put it off until my early 20’s when I became interested more in anime and manga and started learning hiragana and katakana but couldn’t find anything suitable for kanji. I then dipped in and out of learning the occasional word or phrase here and there until I managed to find proper material for learning kanji about a year and a half ago. At that point I became more interested in the culture itself and the differences between English culture and Japanese culture.

Most challenging thing I found was finding relevant materials I could self study from and also finding out what type of studying suits me best for learning languages. For me that was reading in context and through immersion in the language. Tried using resources like Genki, Marugoto and Tae Kim but couldn’t grasp the way to use the grammar or didn’t fully understand the explanation for it. Started using Minna no Nihongo instead and found it works much better for me grasping the grammar.

Bilingual books have been great as well for helping me internalise the grammar (they were cheaper and more readily available for me than the graded readers) and I found when I started listening to Japanese only podcasts or such, I understood a lot more than if I was listening to one that switched back and forth between English and Japanese.

I’ve always felt that I wouldn’t properly be able to learn a language because of my struggles learning German in high school (I remember one phrase which was an insult, and a few choice words) but now that I’ve started seriously learning Japanese with relevant materials and have found that I can learn at my own pace and learn what I would like to focus on, it’s actually quite enjoyable.

I know younger people who are learning languages and they do tend to learn differently, either because it’s through school or with a tutor, or because they’ve found a different way that they learn best, but I think the main thing is to learn the way that works for you and to have the right mindset in order to succeed. As long as you have the determination to learn it, you will continue (or come back after a hiatus) even if others quit, no matter how quickly or slowly you actually learn.


It does count! I lived in Japan for a couple of years when I was in my twenties, but I didn’t learn or study well and stopped studying altogether when I left; took it up again a couple of years ago, when I was fifty. It is definitely a different experience, especially because, as we’ve mentioned above, the access to resources is almost unlimited now compared to when I was younger. Glad you’ve found a way that works for you! I am on summer vacation until mid-August and am following a program of bits and pieces of different kinds of input (Duolingo, Wanikani, Bunpro, slowly reading simple manga, reviewing vocabulary on Anki, watching Japanese media, listening to Japanese pop music, and taking a class once a week). This combination is what works well for me right now, as I need reinforcement through several different methods if I’m going to really learn something. That might be one of the great advantages of studying when you’re older; you’ve had time to learn about your own brain and how it works!


Ooof, that is very tough! Our brains do strange things to take care of us. I can say that I have periods when I’m dealing with some sort of emotional disturbance and it definitely has an effect on my memory. In fact, I can sometimes guess what kind of day I will have brain-wise based on how I do on my WaniKani reviews in the morning, and if I don’t get 80%+ on the reviews I don’t bother with new lessons because I know something is not going well with my brain.


Interesting, I had the same experience with Wanikani. It is the reason why I found out about the amnesia because at some point I started to do meditation to improve the reviews. After the first time in a Zen temple everything came just floating up, that really was a surprise.
Because of it I am now a bit more convinced that there are no problems with memory, only with recalling. It is a good strategy to stop reviews on a bad day.

That might be a bad topic here, but I read somewhere, that even patients with dementia are recalling everything again shortly before they die. But this is something I cannot confirm, it’s just good to know there might be something like this effect in the case of being stuck in a review with a lot of red answers :sweat_smile:

Just now, I recalled the meaning ‘street stall’ after a long time and burned it even if I have never heard that expression before Wanikani nor can I imagine what it looks like or is :rofl: There is still some hope…


I checked this out and saw they have intensive online courses for 3 hours daily! Unfortunately, they only go up to roughly JLPT 3. Do you know of any online/intensive japanese courses like this? Does anyone have experience with online intensive Japanese courses? I am wondering if it won’t be as productive as I would like.

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How do I find this thread only now? I am turning 46 this month and when I started self-studying Japanese some 7 or 8 years ago, I lived in the German countryside and was… underwhelmed by my surroundings, so I wanted to try something new. One thing led to another and I found a job and moved to Yokohama three years ago. Please don’t ask me HOW, but I moved in earlier this year with my Japanese boyfriend who somehow entered my life during the pandemic and who can only speak Japanese (helps a lot with my language skills… ;-)) and who offered to take N1 next year if I go for N2 (probably the most romantic thing anybody has ever said to me! ;-)). Btw, as I’m writing this, I’m sitting at a Tully’s, taking a short break from studying. :slight_smile: So, yes, I’d say it’s possible to learn a new language if you’re older… it just takes a bit longer beside a full time job and a lot of patience!


Hi there! I took online intensive Japanese courses with Coto Academy in Tokyo and Yokohama. You might like them. Or you might not. I’m not convinced by the Japanese language teaching system… it makes way more sense to learn a language from somebody who has mastered to study one themselves! And that is, strangely, not a requirement here in Japan. But at least Coto go higher than N3 level.


Now I want to know how. :eyes:


Lol, okay, answer: he brought his things and stayed! :wink: