Hi, I’m Jintor. You may have seen me in the Absolute Beginner and Beginner book clubs. I’ve reached something of a slump in my current studies, so I thought a study log would be a nice way to
procrastinate type things up and see if something shakes out, as well as just generally seeing where I’ve come from and where I intend to go next – and just maybe how to get there.
- Week 11 - 2023 - Nov 24
or, a history of learning by banging one's head against a wall
Feel free to skip or just come back to it 'cos I sort of want to ramble here.
I’ve been learning Japanese on and off for more than two decades now, I think, having taken modules in primary and high school and in uni, but it never really sticking. That last one did end up with me on the JET program, so I spent two years in rural Japan in a ninja town with basically no Japanese for the entirety of that first year. That proved intolerable, but by the end of my second year I did manage to qualify for N3 just before I returned home.
And then life happened.
Fast-forward to now and at the beginning of 2023, I realised despite literal years of SRS I wasn’t actually putting any of it into practice in a systematic sort of way (I just checked and my Anki deck account has stats from nearly 10 years ago, wtf). My head exploded. Inspired by new years’ resolutions, I suddenly felt the urge to try and read something, anything. I found Natively and its forums and took off running with Tadoku readers and some simpler (relatively) manga.
Which brings us to now.
Where I'm at (Sep 2023)
I have an N3 qualification which I attained… uh… about 7 years ago at this point and was always very ギリギリ anyway. But I have actually reached the level where I can read a decent amount of manga at around the lower N3 level, given sufficient time. I would say I can get through a volume of natively 15-19 manga in 30min to one and a half hours, 20-23 in two-two and a half, and 24-26 in probably three and a half plus hours.
I can also read most NHK Easy articles at this stage, though I probably need to get back to reading it regularly and drilling a few of the more common vocabulary (I checked back in recently and realised there was a decent chunk of common news vocab I had forgotten or was missing, since you don’t see it day-to-day in manga etc).
In terms of slump… it’s not so much that I’m not getting anything out of study, so much as I just feel overwhelmed at the enormity of how much more there is to go. I know there really isn’t any solution other than to chip away at it, but it’s sort of rough right now.
My basic setup is I do roughly 30 minutes of Anki immediately after I wake up, or otherwise in the morning (on a commute, etc). Decks and cards are my own creations largely mined from whatever I’m using as study material, as well as some legacy stuff. I have a slightly complicated system I’ve come to over time that I might detail in a future post, but the core of it is that I think of Anki time mostly as just ‘keeping words in my head’ as opposed to a way of really baking a word into my long-term memory. I try and add stuff to it at a rate that I only spend around 30 minutes a day on it, which means my progress is sort of slow.
I also try and do at least 15 minutes of reading a day, though these days it’s often more, usually 30min to an hour+ (especially if I do multiple sessions over the course of a day). One of the “read every day” threads either here or on Natively recommended I use a big ol physical stopwatch and for whatever reason tying reading to an actual artifact has really helped me keep it up – well, that and Natively as a logging site. I’ve been keeping this up (with rare exceptions) for 9 months now, since the start of 2023.
In terms of ‘actively studying’ (ie looking up new words, grammar structures etc) I find I do most of that when adding new cards to my Anki decks.
I also very occasionally listen to a podcast, Let’s Talk in Japanese, and a few other pods aimed at learners, though I haven’t listened for a while.
- I have a goal of being able to read a full book of text this year (so not just picture books, and not counting graded readers). I originally had a goal in Jan of this year of reading 魔女の宅急便 1 , but it proved too exhausting for me at that time. I have tried a few children’s books but so far I have been defeated each time. I think I need to try some short story collections, or maybe something nonfiction (but still probably aimed at children).
- I really want to be able to easily read manga at around the N3/Natively 24-27 range. At the moment I can get through an Natively25 given enough time, but spending 3-5 hours on manga is quite tiring even when spread over a few days, and doesn’t quite give the dopamine rush of reading something in a few sessions and getting 85-90% of it (like I can with Natively15-19 range manga).
- I would like at some point to start watching TV/anime without subs. I’ve tried this before but it’s hard for me to carve out the time for whatever reason – or perhaps more accurately, to be okay with not understanding every line.
- Vague urge to do N2 next year but not sure if I’m built for that or if life will allow it.
Various projects not related to language learning I have on the boil.
Stuff I'm not focusing on
- Production (writing especially). I do get a little writing practice in from time to time – usually writing notes for myself in Anki (adding context for cards), asking or answering questions on Hinative or just writing the occasional Tweet, but I’m not as interested in that right at this moment. Re speaking, I don’t really have anyone I feel confident enough to speak to around, besides my wife (who is N2 and generally better than me at JPN)
- Not super interested in doing textbook study, unless it’s to look up points I encounter elsewhere, mainly because I find it boring. (This is one of the reason I am more of a vibes-based translator and get bogged down whenever book club discussion turns really technical)
- I am not currently interested in a language tutor, though that may change in future.
Stuff I'm thinking about doing
- I love Japanese music (JPop/JRock mainly) and I’m wondering if it’s a good use of my time to be trying to sort of focus a bit more on reading lyrics while singing or something.
- This isn’t really language related, but I feel like I really should be listening to more J-albums, ever since discovering I absolutely love EVE, Bump of Chicken, Yoasobi, Frederic, Man With A Mission etc…
- Maybe audiobooks are a way into novels? If anyone has any advice here, I’d love to hear it.
- One question I have is with my current Anki study method. Basically I go through a manga (or whatever) and hoover up literally every word and grammar construction I don’t know and jam it into an SRS. I’m okay with my reviews attritioning/leeching out words that don’t stick in my head, but I’m wondering if it’s just more efficient to only stick to adding words I know I’ve seen before multiple times and didn’t get… that way I could probably make SRS decks faster, for a larger variety of media, which would bring the creation time closer to when I read it (for instance, with book clubs). What do ya’ll think?
Other useful links
For latest completed and actively reading books, see most recent post.
Manga I've read
Last updated: Nov 5 2023 | Natively level at time of adding first vol
|ティアムーン帝国物語||30?||1/6||Will continue (one day)|
|ぼっち・ざ・ろっく!||28||1/5||Will continue (one day)|
|トナリはなにを食う人ぞ ほろよい||27||1/11||Will continue|
|気になってる人が男じゃなかった||23||1/1||Waiting for new volume|
|NEW GAME!||23||1/13||Will continue|
|ルリドラゴン||20||1/1||Waiting for next volume|
|ふらいんぐうぃっち||19||12/12||Waiting for next volume|
|今日から始める幼なじみ||17||8/8||Waiting for new volume|
|からかい上手の 元 高木さん||16||5/18||Will continue|
|女子かう生||12||1/9||Will continue (when it’s cheap)|