Older Learners

Haha, fancy meeting another one here :slight_smile:

Actually, papermaking is something that might interest me at one point, but I am nice and cozy where I’m at right now :smiley:

But, I do Japanese bookbinding techniques, including “rechousou” and “yokohon”. I done some work for those big watch makers you hear about in a special yokohon style for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


From what I gather, they had both moveable type but also made a stereotype of the whole page (or a woodcut, as I seen some of those). It’s wonderful in any way, simply because the level of competency one had to have must’ve been staggering. And humbling for anyone today.


If I remember correctly, printers in China actually had moveable type before Gutenberg “invented” it, haha! With most paper-related things, the western world is pretty far behind East Asia. But yeah, I can’t even imagine trying to print in Japanese. It’s hard enough with the much more limited English alphabet!

I completely understand this. I actually dragged my feet over learning papermaking myself, despite the fact that the papermaker at the school I was at was the guy who essentially brought Japanese papermaking knowledge to America in the late 20th century, so the school had a pretty heavy papermaking focus. I took my first papermaking class in my last year, and naturally I fell in love with it, haha! What I love about Japanese papermaking specifically (compared to the European style) is that it can be done without needing heavy machinery. I’ve made European style paper, too, and I needed a Hollander beater as well as a hydraulic press to do it. Whereas with Japanese paper, I can process the fiber entirely by hand and press the post of finished sheets with just a garbage can filled with water. This appeals to me a lot as someone who no longer has access to a papermaking studio and has to figure out how to do this on my own.

This is so cool!!

The coolest book I've made is actually a model of a German book. It's a model of a late 15th century/early 16th century girdle book which, according to tradition, belonged to Margarethe von Münsterberg.

For the folks who haven’t seen one before, girdle books were worn, as their name suggests, from the girdle (belt)! The book would be upside down, and the wearer could simply flip it up from the belt to read it. They were a really popular style of book in the medieval era. I did the metalworking for mine (with substantial help). I also dyed the thread with indigo, and the edges of the pages (which aren’t visible in this picture, haha) with marigold.

This is probably enough derailing of this thread, though :sweat_smile:. I’m in my late 20’s, so I’m not (currently) an older learner, but I hope to be like you all some day!


Just a quick reply to this and then I’ll shut up as well :smiley:

From what I understand and have seen - I did once make paper at the paper mill of Gmund, Germany - you can set the fibre into a vat, mix it, then, with a sieve, lift out single pages and turn them over onto a sheet of felt (made up like a book, so you can have them dry in just one place). It’s how we did then and this is how it has been done originally, is what they told me.

Well done on the girdle book, congratulations. In my profession I have had the pleasure of working on most everything, from 11th century prayer books from Italy, 1555 Froschauer Bible from Zurich, 1900s Japanese photo albums, WWII French anti-nazi-propaganda up to last year’s protocols of a community nearby.

*bookbinding infomercial OFF (I promise :smiley: )

Yeah, and come back to this thread when you’re old :joy:


One last thing (maybe someone should start a bookbinding thread… :sweat_smile:):

Well, the first big issue is getting the fiber in a state where it’s ready to be paper pulp. Before the Hollander beater was invented, the main method was using stampers, which were large machinery powered by a mill, which would repeatedly stamp old linen rags until they had broken down and were ready to be used as pulp. The second big issue was pressing the paper afterward (after the sheets have been lifted out of the vat and couched onto felts). You’d need some sort of press that could put a lot of pressure on them, and typically it took multiple people to operate. So a typical three man papermaking team would all stop what they were doing and press the post of sheets and felts together.

This was for paper that was made primarily out of old linen, which is what European paper was made out of for a long time. Japanese paper is traditionally made out of different fibers (the big three are kozo, gampi, and mitsumata), which are bast fibers (inner bark), and which are processed differently than cotton/linen/etc. You don’t need stampers or a Hollander beater for these (and actually you can’t really use one for kozo, haha, due to the length of the fiber), because you can beat them by hand with a wooden mallet.

The actual sheetforming process is also very different for Japanese paper, and the very cool thing about it is that it can be done without needing felts or any sort of interleaving at all! The wet sheets can be couched sheet-on-sheet (this was specifically the thing that drew my professor to Japanese papermaking and made him want to learn how to do it, because it blew his mind). But because of that, they need to be pressed very slowly, with a lot less pressure than the European-style linen/cotton sheets, or they’ll be impossible to separate afterward. So one of the easiest methods is to slowly fill up a garbage can with a hose set to a gradual drip, so the weight steadily increases. Conveniently, this is a method of pressing them that is very low budget and DIY, haha!


let’s not, it’ll bore everyone to tears :smiley:

Thanks on the clarifications, this sounds like a lot of fun - and work - but judging from what one sees in all those wonderful papers coming from Japan - always well worth the effort. I personally prefer to go as low-tech as possible when doing my work. This way there’s less noise in the world :slight_smile:


Not quite 40s yet, but I have a similar story to you and others. I studied in university for a little bit, but then didn’t study for a long time and forgot a lot. In my mid-30’s I started studying seriously again. One of my motivations was someone a little older than me started studying and I thought if she was studying then I should too. Definitely happy to hear about all of the different ages of people studying.


I started learning Japanese in my late 30s, turned 40 last year. I don’t feel old but definitely feel like an older learner compared to a lot of japanese learners! I have an hour long commute for my job so had a fairly good routine going pre-covid of doing lessons and reviews on the 7am train, reviews at lunchtime, and then more reviews on my way home but it became really difficult to stick to that once I was working from home (I’m now commuting again a few days a week). I work in a university and for the last few years have taken time out from lessons from September-December as the first semester is always completely manic.

This was also my experience with German. I had 5 years of lessons aged 11-15 and when I finally went to Berlin in my 20s, realised although I knew how to ask for a stamp, my German wasn’t sufficient to ask for a stamp for a postcard to England. I started German classes soon after and eventually reached C1 level. This made me realise I could actually learn languages and actually really enjoyed it. I’d always wanetd to visit Japan and we finally went for the first time in 2015 and afterwards I thought it would be nice to learn a little bit of japanese to just get by and also really just to see if I could? Having done a year of it there didn’t seem any point giving up there :joy:


I am 50 and in my second year of studying Japanese. So far, I have been impressed with how my old brain has been able to remember vocabulary and grammar. I don’t sense that I would have done much better in my twenties.

Maybe where age is impacting my success is in production. I simply cannot, for the life of me, construct japanese sentences in a real time conversation. Even for simple concepts where the vocab and grammar easy for me.


Hey, we’re the same age, I will also turn 52 next month :tada:

I wrote a little bit about me in the other thread: https://community.wanikani.com/t/x/44351/124


43 YO here…

Started studying japanese back when I was ending my career, then came several years immersed in job and other activities.

Never lost the love for japanese-everything (food, movies, manga, music, customs and language).

Now is the moment in life when I (finally) got some time to spare and feeling somewhat frustrated I found WK :smiley:

Older??? Hmmm. I don’t really know :t_rex::sauropod: But what I know for a fact is that language learning is a great brain exercise :grin:

There’s a poll about “age demographics” in here:

For 2022, people over forty sums about 12% of WK users between those who participated.


Younger person who has been doing this Japanese thing for 7 years or so, I would recommend you look into the Human Japanese app and eventually Human Japanese Intermediate app. These are for iOS, Android, and Windows. WaniKani is the best for learning the Kanji characters, but Human Japanese is geared toward the grammar. It will teach particles, tenses, sentence structure, verb/adjective conjugations, object counting, and reading numbers into the billions, etc. It really gets into the nuts and bolts of how everything works together. They are as cheap as a book, like $10-15 each. Every sentence has recordings, any time you get stumped on a sentence, you click the ingredients icon and it will chop the sentence into chunks for clarification. Author makes it very simple. They also have a service called Satori Reader… it is like this but for reading short stories, articles, etc.


I am 48. I feel a bit slow sometimes, but I see it is a hobby and I am not in a hurry. In my primary education I was exposed to several languages: Danish, English, German and French. English has stuck because of entertainment and work, but I still have a feel for the latter two languages. Japanese is very different. I find it very challenging but also stimulating to learn the language.
I also like the idea of using my brain for something which is not work related and doesn’t have a direct purpose. My two sons have moved out and my daughter mostly lives her own life, so I have more time on my hands now.

I became interested in Japan and Japanese in 2018 at the age of 45 after playing the computer game Yakuza 0. I found the setting of the game while obviously larger than life both very foreign and very intriguing. Part of the setting was the Japanese audio which sounded totally alien and cool at the same time. I then read an article about the Japanese written language and got the impression that it had almost been designed to be needlessly complicated.

Having dabbled enjoyably with French on DuoLingo I decided to “study” Japanese on that platform. I learned kana and a few words and became hungry for more. I think that it is a golden age to learn languages (and a lot of other subjects) because of the merits of modern technology.
I find that the most difficult part is listening. I think that is age related.

Currently I spent time on WaniKani and BunPro and have begun to read some graded readers stuff. I also take a 2 hour Japanese class once a week, but I am really just interested in being able to read for time being.


Please derail! I am loving this conversation. I have friends that do bookbinding and paper making and I’ve always found it fascinating.


Oh, I find this too! But I think this is pretty normal; in language acquisition theory they talk about the “silent period” that happens even in infant native speakers, where you have to absorb a lot of language before you can produce it. But I do wonder if age makes that silent period a bit longer.


I turned 52 yesterday! Happy birthday to all of us.


A belated happy birthday then! :birthday: :clinking_glasses:


Someone recommended Human Japanese on another thread and it looks very useful; I will definitely look into it when I have time to add more resources to my routine.

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Hey, Happy Birthday! :tada: :birthday: :sparkles:


The other day I was talking to my husband about the difference between studying Japanese now and when I was in my twenties. Back then, the internet was barely a thing, and there were certainly no fancy language-learning resources. Studying required expensive paper textbooks, finding a teacher, working alone etc. The accessibility of incredibly sophisticated learning tools like WaniKani and its surrounding community is the reason I can do this now.