This will be quite long post with no TL;DR, I’m sorry.
I’ve had many attempts in my life to teach myself Japanese and so far I was able to learn hiragana and a bit of katakana. My first 2020 resolution is to know Japanese on N5 level or whatsoever, so I made a long research about how should I approach to the topic.
I’ve never been a particular fan of books as I really want to interact with the things I’m studying. That’s why for every new concept for me, I’m looking up information about it in the Internet, be it historical things or any foreign matter.
My story with Japanese started with Irrashai TV serie from the 90’s. It got old, I mean it. It’s kind of cringy, but funny and relaxing nonentheless. The approach they took here was really inviting, starting from learning hiragana, introducing new concepts like name, age, family members, weather, time, possession of items… It is a really great resource to just start speaking in Japanese. It taught me some basics that came useful to me later.
Let’s mention that I always had a thing for foreign languages. Every person on this planet is born with a gift, be it singing, dancing, drawing, painting, you name it. My talent was languages, I picked up English very early and was able to communicate with it when I was much younger than I am now. That’s why picking up new things from Irasshai was pleasant and it got stuck with me.
But I needed something more. Before I started this journey, I’ve got myself a huge determination to know a new language as Japanese used to be my companion. I’m a fan of old games on NES, SNES and Nintendo 64, there are titles available only in Japanese. There are tons of visual novels that interest me which are purely in Japanese. I fell in love in Yakuza series, sightseeing Kamurocho was phenomenal yet I wished I knew all the shop signs and references there and here. I’m not a huge anime fan, but I really liked Steins;Gate, so it had a certain influence on my desire to teach myself Japanese. Japanese has always been with me, yet cryptic and unknown. It was like the night sky. You can admire it and it’s always there, but it’s still unreachable.
That’s how I found WaniKani. Kanji is a tough topic. It was a new concept for me that you can have a single sign that possess a meaning, even if you can’t read that, you know what it is, what it represents. Magic, I would say. I made a research on kanji and boy, I’m gonna have a hard time right here, remembering all this stuff. The first 3 levels were free, so I thought “why not”.
And it’s damn good! I’ve tried a few phone apps before. You know, stuff like “Learn Kanji in five minutes!” or “Master Kanji! All you need to learn kanji!”. All these screaming-type application full of positivity. But I didn’t like them too much, I’m not sure why. WaniKani let me study in a logical way, using radicals, using kanji and using some words based on that kanji. Mnemonic techniques are really funny and unforgettable. I think, my brain will always associate 6 with cows and 8 with yoghurt. Even if English is not my native language, I sometimes have my own mnemonic techniques with my own language.
I’m having so much fun and yet it works. I can recognize words, I read them and I can type them. As with everything, I’m using some additional research if I’m not sure about something. Let’s say I learned that 入力 is “input”. A dry knowledge, true. But I switched my smartphone to Japanese for some time to have some fun with “What can I read here” and when you tap, there’s a placeholder text that encourages you to enter some text, which has this word and I was like "Heeey, it’s nyuuryoku! It probably means ‘something something input the text’. The additional work and “real life” recognition of something makes it fall in memory much better.
I’m really excited to continue with WaniKani. I have a plan like this:
- Continue teaching kanji/some vocabs with WK.
- Finish the whole Irasshai serie to have basic Japanese speaking ability.
- After the 2. is done, I will probably pick up a Bunpro, I heard a lot of good things about that to solidify my already grammar knowledge and learn more stuff.
- I’ll pick up some simple Japanese visual novels for beginners, I saw a list of VNs good for Japanese students.
- To motivate myself, I will play some older console games in Japanese when I will be able to read majority of stuff I’m encountering.
- Somewhere in between of all of that I will pick up Flo Flo as I heard it is quite a good source of reading comprehension, but I need to look around what’s that.
- Eventually, I will get myself an Anki deck and I’m going to put all the words I encounter in games/vn/internet that I don’t know and study those flashcards as well.
A huge road ahead of me, but I’m really motivated. I went through WK forum and realized that a lot of new people complain that early levels of Wani were too slow. Yet in my opinion, it is a good thing though. I wouldn’t want to learn something new until I’m sure I really mastered the basics, even if they seem simple, I want to polish and perfect them before going forward.
I don’t know where my plan will get me, if it’s good or not, but I really wish someday I will come back with a second thread, having the legendary level 60 saying how happy I am and how much I’ve learnt.
どうも ありがとう みなさん。