Pygospa's Study Log

Introduction

みなさん、こんにちは!
私はピゴスパです。ドイツしゅっ人です。学生です。プログラマーしごとうします。ドイツ語と英語を話します。少しスペイン語とフランス語を分かります。日本語を学びます。

Okey, enough flexing with my rather bad 日本語 skills… to be honest, that’s about it. Not much, for the time I already invested - I especially miss vocabulary, but also advanced Grammar, which is why I decided to start a study log, to focus my language work and be more accountable to a greater audience; but also to connect to fellow students. For my initial post I want to introduce myself (see above) and explain where I’m coming from and what I want to achieve here. Let’s get right to it:

Japanese? Why?!

That’s the question I face regularly when people learn that I pursue the language. Good question. To be honest, I am not the typical Japanese language learner. I never got into anime, I don’t read manga, I’ve never been to Japan, no one would ever dream of calling me “weeaboo”. I however got a bit into contact with parts of Japanese culture and philosophy: I have a 四きゅう in 柔術 (but had to stop when moving to a different town), and did some 居合道 (stopped for the same reason). I also find Japanese feudal history interesting, and I enjoy おすし and ラーメン, and am interested in Japanese Cinema (I am a huge movie buff and love international films in general).

The main reason however was that after highschool and after spending half a year in Spain (2007) I actually never picked up any language anymore; I am fluent in German and English and that’s it. This bugged me and I feel like becoming a “professional idiot” - so I decided to challenge myself with learning a new language. I wanted this language to be “exotic” - not yet another one of the Romance languages that all share basic grammar and loads of words and the Latin alphabet.

So I compiled a list of potentially interesting but also highly challenging languages...
  • Arabic (lingua franca of the Arab world, I like Arab history and cultural history, I love the writing system)
  • Chinese (with 1.2 billion speakers the most spoken language in the world)
  • Korean (one of the most “useless” languages with “only” 80 million speakers [similar to Germany], but I love the Hangul script and they have produced soooo many good movies in the past)
  • Russian (largest Slavic language)

But from all these Japanese turned out to be the most interesting to me from an interest in the country and it’s people, the cinematic world, and maybe also professionally as I have a degree with focus on AI and robotics. Plus, using Kanji it gives me a small footing into Chinese and is said to be rather similar to Korean - so if I ever get fluent with my Japanese, I might be picking up those Languages with more ease? Who knows? :wink:

The Journey so far…

I set my mind on learning Japanese in 2016, started looking for resources and all told me to learn Hiragana and Katakana first, so I printed out trace sheets and learned my Kana in round about 2 months time using pure drilling. Hiragana was easier, but when Katakana came into the mix, it confused me mighty, and even today I feel uneasy with Katakana and need to look a few up. After learning the Kana I was a bit lost with all the different material on the internet but no structural way of learning, so I decided to visit a class; 6 months from 2017-2018, and it was a bad decision - the course was overcrowded, every second class you had one chance of saying a single sentence, so no practice in class. And everyone was super into Anime and Manga so I had a hard time connecting with the other students. Also, the teacher used the book J Bridge which we had to study with at home, and it’s weirdly structured and asks you to learn a weird amount of partly rather special vocabulary. There is no Kanji learning intended, yet the book uses them intensely and Furigana are really small.

Rather frustrated I didn’t learn much and had a longer break after the course. I think it was in 2019 that I discovered the audio course of Michel Thomas (I was listening to a podcast by Tim Ferriss and he broke down how he’d approach a new language, which is a more condensed way of what Michel Thomas does). While the other courses are rather old and a bit dated, the Japanese course is a modern one and really good - you get to talk in no time, you learn all the basic Grammar and learn words and sentence constructs that allow you to easily talk; simple things like まいにち本をよみます、きょうはかのじょとえいがをみます。You get basic vocabulary, and basic sentence structure, you are shown how you can adapt this sentence to everything you might need. Lots of vocab that you already know (ビール、コーヒー、サンドイッチ), so you get talking and thinking in Japanese in no time. And this was something I really needed. I learned much more with that 2x 8h audio courses than in the course.

Motivated by this experience I started reading different resources online again, and I also started rethinking the “don’t bother with Kanji” rule. I found a really interesting documentation on how to learn Japanese most efficient [really, check it out, it’ll be worth your while!], and - contrary to most resources I followed before (including the class I visited) - they suggested to learn Kanji as soon as possible (btw., Tofugu does so, too), for a couple of reasons: You’ll never stop learning Kanji and learning them takes a long time - the sooner you start the easier it is later; also you build vocabulary with them; and you get to experience native Japanese (without furigana) texts faster. They also suggested WaniKani, and so in spring of 2020 I started with WaniKani; I couldn’t wait, so I learned everything as soon as it was available, and after some days I was asked to do multiple hundred reviews and found myself in review hell, didn’t recall much and… well. Bad start. I reseted it in 2021 and tried again, and this time I was really good and enjoyed it a lot. But having a lot of problems in the Corona years I only managed to get to level 2 and then disconntinued. During that time I also managed to get hold of a second hand げんき1 + workbook and mainly used it for further vocabulary work with Anki- using a method that does not translate the vocab but rather using personal images. I thought it was a good idea to get them in first, before working with the rest of the text, but since then I read some interesting “better approaches” (i.e. listen to the dialogue first and try to understand as much as possible, then listen to it with the Japanese text, and try to make sense of new words, then read the translation and read the dialogue aloud; this should engage you more with the text and allows you to better learn vocabulary - plus you can afterwards decide which of the vocab you really need to know to learn; and learn them in the example sentence not as a single word from the word list).

This year I restarted my WaniKani Journey and I am much faster than anticipated - for most Kanji I just needed a reminder and they climbed the SRS ladder in no time: A great testament for the method.

Means of Traveling

After all that I've done, here's what I plan to do:
  1. Find more fellow learners: This will hopefully make me more focused and helps me stay motivated with Japanese; they say you are the average of the five people you interact with the most - one of my friends, family, etc. is into language learning, so I need to find them somewhere else; hopefully it’s you who kept on reading all of this? :smiley:
  2. Find a learning routine: My biggest enemy is “falling off the wagon”. Therefore I want to have a routine that I keep to. Currently it is WaniKani - it’s really fun to do, and I do my reviews and lessons in the morning before starting to work, and in the evening I try to catch up with further reviews. In the long run I will want to add more to these routines (once they become habits I cannot live without anymore :smiley: ).
  3. WaniKani: I want to continue using WaniKani and will buy a lifelong access at the next winter sale. WaniKani has helped me a lot - I learned vocabulary and recognize Kanji which allows me to deduce context - this even works with Chinese texts, and whenever this happens, I feel a sense of accomplishment and am motivated to go on.
  4. Genki: As described above, I think I found a good way to work with this textbook: Start with listening comprehension and reading comprehension, while being fully aware that there is new things you don’t know - but activating your brain to try making sense of things will help recognizing things in the long run. Put the interesting vocab in Anki, using images and sentences instead of translations of single words. Then work through all the Grammar, one point at a time. Once done, do the exercises in the textbook the day after. When all the Grammar is done, you’d probably know the vocab as well, so you could work through the reading material at the back. And a week later cycle back to the exercises in the Workbook - taking advantage of the SRS method this way.
  5. Writing: For me, writing is an essential part of language learning, so I want to work on my hand writing. Writing stuff down helps me to even further decompose Kanji into radicals, helps me to better recognize them later, but it’s also simply fun to write these beautiful characters. Currently I am not using any method, but I’ll want to do something here - probably Anki with stroke orders of Kanji I know in WaniKani?
  6. Reading comprehension: I joined the 📚📚 Read every day challenge - Summer 2022 🏖 ☀ - #691 by pygospa to make it a daily habit to read something. And I started with the Graded Readers Lvl 0 (find it here Graded Readers and Parallel Texts "Book Club"), reading it the same way I described above for Genki. In the longrun I would love to be able to join the Absolute Beginners Book Club // Now reading: Hunter × Hunter, but they suggest to have a level of JLPT N5/Genk 1 finished. Until then I’ll keep on reading Graded Readers, to make reading in Japanese a habit, gain speed in reading, and trying to make sense of stuff.
  7. Listening comprehension: There is a club for it, which is great, they also collect material, so once I feel comfortable joining them, I’ll do that. For now I feel that I should stick to just a few new habits, and in the beginning for me as an self-teaching student I find reading that much more valuable; but I’ll join them eventually… 🔉 🎙 Listen Every Day Challenge (Summer Edition) 🏖
  8. Movies: I own approximately 40 Japanese movies on blu-ray (from modern horror movies [Pulse, One Missed Call, Ring, Audition, Battle Royale] and gangster movies [Outrage trilogy, Hana-bi, Violent Cop] to family dramas [I wish, Like Father Like Son, After the Storm], to classics [Tokyo Story, Human Condition, Onibaba], etc. I seen most of them, but I’ll want to rewatch them more often to get some authentic Japanese dialogues and train my listening comprehension even further. Problaby part of the Extensive listening challenge 👂 (2022)
  9. J-Bridge: I’ll give it a second chance, as an additional source for exercises that help on repetition, and with a head start I got after working through げんき1 and knowing more and more Kanji with WaniKani

… end of Journey?

This is a difficult one - self management/improvement experts will tell you that you’ll need to write down your goals as SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). For Japanese, my main reason for learning this language is to (a) have my brain be challenged in something totally different than I do every day, and (b) become fluent in another foreign language besides English. How do you measure this? Is JLPT any indicator for fluency? How can you time-bind it? Is fluency even achievable?

You see, these goals are bad goals, I’d need something like "by the end of year, I want to pass the JLPT N5. Problem with this: I am doing this entirely for leisure (relevance?), and when something else comes inbetween, everything else will take priority. Never will Japanese. So I don’t want to time-bind any goals (even though it might be a good idea) - at least not for now. Same is true for measurability. If I don’t have a time-bound goal, it doesn’t matter if I managed to move X items to Enlightened in WaniKani, each week, or if I met a certain page number on a book, etc. So the only thing left is specificity. Let’s try that:

List of goals
  • I want to reach level 60 on WaniKani. Why? I want to learn those 2,136, or at least most of them, to become as fluent in reading as possible. WaniKani gives me 1,963 of those, and I love using it, so this is a no-brainer.
  • I want to be able to watch my Japanese movies without subtitles
  • I want to be able to keep up with the advanced book club
  • I want to probably be able to reach JLPT N1. Why? I don’t need it for anything, and arguably it is a bad test for testing proficency. But it’ll give my learning efforts a direction, it’ll make progress measurable and visible and give myself anohter sense of acomplishment. Maybe this is just true for the first couple of Levels (N5, N4, N3)? That’s why the probably - I’ll reevaluate it later - but for now, JLPT N5 is the next big step, and it’ll force me to work through Genk 1 and finish WaniKani up to Level 16 (I guess?).
  • I want to be able to converse with a Japanese person.

Will you follow me on my journey? I’ll irregularly post things here, that I’ve done, that I’ve achieved, or maybe even interesting new things that I’ve learned. And I hope to motivate you, if you follow along, and maybe we can also start discussing things? Feel free to leave me a comment here any time.

See you in the next one!

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I feel that longer time-bound goals have higher failure rates, and what comes next is investment – so, it is important to try hard, and in various ways.

Shorter term ones, like weekly, are easier to set and accomplish. (And perhaps already set if you attend a class.) So adapt accordingly.

At least that is how I feel about goal-setting.

Still, my beliefs did shift towards step-wise milestones (like textbooks or language proficiency levels) more recently. But stepwise also means either, adapt well, or try a lot.

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I think setting shorter term goals is an excellent idea!

Personally, I’ve had a lot of success with establishing a very regular WK schedule (I do the same number of lessons every day and level up every 12-14 days). It’s nice to have the WK levels as benchmarks of progress, and it also makes for a really convenient short-term deadline for other stuff I’m working on. I use each WK level as a deadline to get another lesson done in my textbook, for example. As a result, it keeps me constantly moving forward and feeling satisfied that I’m progressing.

Study logs are also great for this! I update mine whenever I level up and basically report on all of the things I got done during the level, and usually try to set some goals for the next couple weeks. Usually my goals are specific projects I want to work on that are doable at my current level and involve things that are interesting or exciting to me about Japanese right now: (creating a special Anki deck, studying a specific thing, finishing a chapter of manga or a wrestling show translation, sometimes even starting a new discussion on the forum, etc.).

The other things that have worked well for me are joining book clubs here on the forum, and joining the read every day challenge, and the listen every day challenge. The book clubs (there is an absolute beginners one!) and the challenge threads both give me deadlines with tangible tasks to do every day, which is helpful for keeping me on track. “Become fluent in Japanese” is a very hard goal, but “finish reading this volume of manga” is a very doable one.

Then after you’ve gotten a small foothold, you can do what I did and accidentally take on the responsibility of a huge, perpetually ongoing translation project when you are still a beginner :crazy_face:. I’m not sure I’d actually recommend this to most people :sweat_smile:, but it sure is one way to get yourself constant practice and motivation to keep engaging with Japanese…

But definitely find the things that you love that are in the language, and let yourself celebrate all of the small victories along the way (study logs are also great for this!). It’s a very long journey, but if the journey itself is fun, you won’t want to stop :blush:.

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First week since I started my learning log, so time for an update. First of all, thank you for @polv and @fallynleaf for your feedback and input. This is highly appreciated. For me the main goal is also to set up some kind of habit that keeps me doing what I do. For WaniKani that already works pretty well. I’ll check WaniKani the first thing after starting my PC in the morning. Until last week I did a new Lesson every day (10 Items) and all my reviews. Then, whenever I think about it I check WK for any reviews, but at least in the evenings, before I switch off my PC, I’ll check one last time and do my reviews.

If I manage to stay with this routine there is no need for me to formulate any fancy goals. However, this’ll get a bit more complicated, as I have set my mind to wait till December to get a live-long subscription. I only have 22 more lessons, which I am now spreading out :sweat_smile: As long as I have reviews, I’ll wait with new stuff, and only start them, once I’ve run out of things for a day. Let’s see how this will go on.

I already have reached two mile-stones:

  1. I have my first items in enlightened - which too me never happened before, so it’s a milestone for me :smiley: (I know, I know, there’s Burned, which is much cooler - but I’ll get there, I promise! For now, let me have this :sweat_smile: ).

Reviews be piling up!

  1. Today I reached my 30 days streak. This is especially cool, as I was on a short vacation the lasta days; thanks to smart phones and mobile internet these days that is no excuse for not doing your Kanji :wink: And if you believe those self-improvement gurus, 30 days streak means that a habit has been formed, so this is also quite nice.

:partying_face: :clinking_glasses: :star2: :tada: :mirror_ball:

Plus I’ve started reading in one of the book clubs. No not the absolute beginners one - I did take a look and I’d love to participate, but they recommend JLPT N5/Genki 1 knowledge, which I just don’t have yet, but also some of the Natively Levels of the books are quite high, which I find a bit scary to be honest (JLPT N5 should be 0-12, JLPT N4 13-19; the current book is on Natively level 22, and the next one near 30, which would already be considered N3 level :sweat_smile: - but I guess you’d have to have something challenging). But year, the ABBC is one of my goals, so I’ll work hard to get through Genk 1 - let’s see how long this will take me, but as soon as I feel a bit more confident, I’ll maybe pick up the easiest of the books they already read (probably 10 Minute Stories), and if I’m comfortable enough with that, I’ll join for a live reading.

Until then, however, I am reading the free Level 0 Graded Readers PDF that I’ve found here. I’ve already read through pages 1-171, so the chapters:

  • 青い
  • 赤さん
  • よむ???
  • たいへん!!
  • 白い?黒い
  • かまきり
  • たまご
  • 肉じゃが
  • どうぞ どうも
  • あつた!
  • あれは何?
  • すみません

Writing them all out it seems like quite a lot, wow. I had some great time with these, it’s fascinating and higly rewarding figuring out both: The meaning of things you don’t know, but even more so recognizing words, Kanji and Grammar you already know.

At next to no language knowledge this is pretty cool, however there are some chapters that need a re-read with a dictionary (as mentioned, using just having a 6.25" smart phone screen on the train is not the best way to be needing the PDF (wich isn’t OTRed) as well as a dictionary :wink:

For the last week I always read one chapter before bed time, plus a lot more when I was on the train. I hope to make this my next habit - at least a chapter every night. If you are interested in a more detailed progress report and thoughts on different chapters, you can follow my progress on my “home post” in the reading club:

For the coming week I’ll focus on the formation on the reading habit, and I’ll also try to incorporate some Genki time as well, probably in the morning right before/after WaniKani. I’ll still need to figure out a pace and method for working through that book, but I’ll develop it while working through it, I guess :slight_smile: So much for my week! How was yours?

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