Tomorrow marks one year on my Japanese learning journey and officially my one year anniversary with WK. Currently on an exchange in Japan, and have tonight off so I thought I would share my progress, thoughts and tips. Sorry for the wall of text!
Absolutely no japanese language skill this time last year apart from konichiwa and arigatou. I decided to learn Japanese because I was in Japan this time last year, and I wanted to learn. No reading, writing or speaking skill.
Learned katakana/Hiragana using “kana mind” on iphone in 3 days while I was in Japan. I didnt learn it perfectly, just enough to recognise most of them and relied on repeated exposure to consolidate it. Katakana is still a little difficult for me today, as I dont see it as often as the others - it just takes me longer to read it.
Found this app and signed up immediately. It suited my needs - Im a full time 2nd year medical student, so efficiency was my number one priority. In one year, I am level 36, know a bit of 1100 Kanji. My method of using wanikani is probably considered cheating for many of you, but let me explain:
The only 3rd party app I use is the ignore button. Its worked wonders for me but I understand why most people consider it cheating. My reasoning is that as a medical student, I need to learn a lot of new information very quickly. I’ve come to accept that I forget most of it pretty quickly, and instead rely on seeing the information in context in the hospital to consolidate it, after which its quite rare that I completely forget it. Juggling time to study japanese and medicine concurrently is pretty tough, so I took shortcuts.
- I always marked radicals as correct. I see the radical every time i see it in the Kanji so the repetition takes care of itself and I always end up remembering it every time anyway.
- I used WK every single day. On days where I was wrecked at the hospital I was too tired to concentrate properly so I marked ones that I got wrong only once as correct. More than once incorrect and I wouldnt click the ignore button.
- I pretty much didnt care about vocabulary items
- (most important) - I read, a lot. This was my main method of consolidation of everything I learned. Even for items marked as ‘burned’ by WaniKani I didnt fully ‘remember’ until I read it in a sentence from a book, after which i can read it perfectly pretty much every time unless its in a new word. Seeing Kanji in context, instead of standalone, is king. WK’s algorithm is good, but like anki, its not the be all and end all. I use anki concurrently with WK for sentence mining books and articles so I just didnt have time to spend hours on WK and relied on other methods for consolidation. I can memorise the side effects of a drug all I want, but I know ill never fully understand it until I see a patient suffer that side effect in front of me and the same principle works for Kanji (at least, for me).
Im well aware that this isnt for everyone, but it suited my way of learning and im not any worse off for having done so I think.
I use AJATTs method of sentence mining, and it works for me. Alongside WK, it really consolidates any Kanji that you learn, and its better for vocabulary than WK’s vocabulary system. I mine books, articles, anime etc, throw them in Anki with the help of a few add-ons, and also study these every day. Currently at 1500 sentences, for those who are familiar with the method. Not for everyone, but worth a shot if you havent tried.
Finished Genki 1 and 2 properly. Then stopped studying grammar. I now learn my grammar by mining sentences from textbooks and other sources, but I dont actively study it.
HelloTalk is amazing (not sponsored). I made a few amazing friends on there and because of that, many of them have kindly let me stay in there home during my 7 week stay in Japan. I skype with them many times a week, and its nice to have friends who can teach you natural japanase and correct you. For guys, its a bit difficult to talk to women because there are a lot of creeps lurking on there. But if youre like me and find it kinda difficult to connect with guys, just be patient when talking to females. Many of them get a lot of flirtatious messages, so just be kind and keep it interesting and they may eventually get comfortable, then they make amazing language partners. My biggest problem was a conversation dying out after “so why are you learning English?”.
I also used Italki and paid for about 10 lessons before coming to Japan. Not good for long term, but really good for practice.
Where i’m at now:
Writing - can write hiragana very well. Cant write katakana at all. Cant write Kanji at all unless im copying.
Speaking - Can hold a conversation, but not about complicated topics. I can express my thoughts most of the time, but not in long fluent sentences. My pronunciation (apparently) is excellent, but i attribute that to the countless hours talking to Japanese friends who always correct you, as well as a shit tonne of listening.
Reading - Of the Kanji that I know, I can read quite comfortably. The kanji that i dont see so often I sometimes forget the pronunciation, but always remember the meaning. I can read Manga and watch anime with subtitles and understand a good chunk of it. For some reason light novels are on a different level, so they are quite a bit harder even with the Kanji that I know.
Listening - I listen to Japanese all the time - when im driving, at home studying (japanese or Medicine) etc. Its on in the background and I rarely concentrate on it, but its always playing. That, in combination with active listening practice and conversing with my friends, I can understand a LOT more than I can speak. Faster speech I can grab onto the gist of the speech, but arent yet able to fully understand it. At my current exchange hospital I understand next to nothing because I dont know any medical words in Japanese yet.
I think ill stop here. Sorry for the long text! This is just my experience, but I hope you found it at least a little interesting. If you have specific questions please feel free to ask
One year on WK with a full time study load - WK level 36, Reading is pretty good, Speaking is okay, writing is horrific. All in all, it has been a great year - I passed my medical exams, and now have lots of Japanese friends who are amazing and that I will be visiting very soon!