So it seems to be a tradition here that when you get to Level 60 you have to write a post. Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time and you’d think I would have thought about what I wanted to write sometime before actually getting the notification “You’ve reached Level 60”.
I’ve taken a long time getting here and to be fair, it isn’t my first time trying to master Kanji. So it has taken me about 4 and a half years on Wanikani. But, I took a long break of a year and a half in the middle of my Wanikani journey. It was really hard getting back into the rhythm after that break. I was motivated as I knew I’d be going back to Japan for a month-long trip — so I dropped down a few levels instead of resetting completely. I also suffered through a few weeks of 400+ review days. But for a while, probably the last year, I’ve just chugged along doing my reviews in the morning and evening with roughly 200 kanjis a day to review. Breaking them up into small chunks I found to be useful. And don’t skip a day, if you need a break, don’t forget to use your vacation setting.
As for learning Japanese, my story is even longer. I first started studying Japanese in College over 20 years ago. I majored in Linguistics and ended up going to graduate school specializing in Sanskrit and Tamil studies. I ended up dropping Japanese for many years. About ten years ago, my interest in Japanese came back and I starting studying it again with private tutors both in-person and on-line. You’d think speaking several languages, would help, but Japanese is odd and very hard. And Kanji has, is and probably always be one of its major difficulties. I first attacked Kanji the traditional method of copy and hope it sticks…I didn’t last too long that way. I then pushed through Heisig’s method “Remembering the Kanji” and finished all the Joyo Kanji. I had a decent recognition of the kanji, but I didn’t know the readings. And in the end, it is all about vocabulary and usage. I did find Heisig useful for showing me how to use my imagination to memorize Kanji. I went to Japan for a six-month stay including intensive classes so my spoken Japanese improved. But I got tired of studying and was disappointed in my progress, so I plateaued and then ending up losing interest in continuing.
A few years later, I discovered Wanikani and decided ok, I want to keep pushing through. I’d love to be able to read Japanese like I can read Spanish or French (ie read a novel without a dictionary). It’s a high standard I know, but I want to get there. I’ve found Wanikani very good at helping me remember both the meanings and the various yomikata and some of the vocabulary. Now, it is all practice. I’m finally reading a real book with my online Japanese teacher. I’m over 150 pages in, and every day I try to read one chapter on my own to prepare my kanji. Actually it really isn’t a kanji problem, and rarely a grammar problem — I’m surprised about all the onomatopoeia and wasei-eigo (Japanese made up or twisted English words)…
I sat the JLPT 2 last year and failed by only a few points. Kanji definitely isn’t the main problem. And grammar as hard and weird as it is, wasn’t too hard. Fast reading comprehension and listening are my problems. So I will work on those this year. I have no pressure on passing the JLPT, I’d just like to have some external recognition of my level.
I live in Paris, so I don’t really have much of a need for Japanese, other than my personal interest. Most of the Japanese I use and come in contact is because I study Tea Ceremony — which also means I’m pretty good at understanding convoluted keigo expressions. But this also means, that my Japanese and my vocabulary is very specialized. I’m not a fan of anime or pop culture…and prefer reading news, politics, history or classical literature – all stuff that is extremely complicated in Japanese…
I hope this inspires others to continue their kanji and Japanese studies. Also, I think more than speed, just find topics you enjoy in Japanese….it’s a very long road ahead. 頑張ってね。