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Six Months of Japanese

まだ文盲 :')

Last time I jotted down my thoughts on my Japanese learning, I was fairly optimistic about my progress. But there is just so much content and information to take in and seeing how little I am scratching the surface of understanding, I’ve been disheartened many times since then. But still, the weeb dream is still very much alive. I’m happy to say that those doubts were merely minor road bumps and I’m still chugging along.

The Plan (Revisited)

Before I had split my studying in three separate trajectories: Kanji, Vocabulary, and Immersion.

Since last time, I have finished the Kanji deck that I had been working on. That deck contained ~1000 of the most-used Jōyō Kanji (常用漢字) 1 and honestly I’m not sure if it was all that useful to me so far. I definitely learned a lot more Kanji than I already knew, but since I have an intuitive sense for parsing Kanji I’ve found that picking up new Kanji from my vocabulary study has been just fine.

So I guess the advice for people who kind of know Chinese (not actual Chinese speakers, you guys can already skip this Kanji step easily) is to maybe not place too much emphasis on front-loading Kanji learning. For me personally it hasn’t proved all that useful.

Anyways, I got Kanji out of the way and am still continuing on with studying Vocabulary and Immersion. However I’m now augmenting some of the vocabulary study, which comes in the form of sentence cards, with grammar as well.

Vocabulary

Last time, I had been doing the majority of my vocabulary study with an Anki deck that contains the JLPT N5 vocabulary in the form of sentence cards. I am almost done with that deck (<80 cards left).

To add to that, I’ve also started sentence mining. If you’re unsure what that means, it’s basically the process of collecting sentences from the immersion content that you are using. For me that would be collecting sentences from anime that I am currently watching as a part of my immersion process. The sentences that are collected should follow the same “i+1” as the sentences I get from the JLPT N5 deck: each new sentence should only contain 1 new word or grammar concept (compared to what I already know).

Here is also where I am augmenting my vocabulary study with additional grammar. Sometimes when I come across some kind of grammar pattern that I don’t really get (have ZERO intuitive feel for) I go and try to reference it in Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide. This process has been adding a bit more structure to my understanding of Japanese grammar, rather than just leaving everything up to intuition.

So far I’ve collected about 200 sentences from my immersion content. I study these sentences at a slower pace compared to the N5 deck since those sentences are curated to be much easier for learners, whereas the collected sentence are meant for native speakers.

Immersion

Because I am now sentence mining and also I want to re-watch the shows I am using for immersion content, I’ve restructured the way I do immersion a bit.

First of all, I’ve now switched primarily to Japanese Netflix 2 for the majority of my content because I am able to reliably get Japanese subtitles for the shows, unlike Crunchyroll which won’t support Japanese subtitles (which makes sense as that is not their market).

So the current process is this: watch a show once with Japanese subtitles (and grab the audio), watch it again but this time mine sentences from it, and then watch it one last time with just the audio and see how much I can parse. With the audio that I grab, I can play that audio on loop throughout the day in my little iPod Shuffle and pop my earbuds in whenever I’m not really doing anything. In these COVID working conditions, that usually just means whenever I’m not in a video conference meeting.

I also realized that since a lot of shows that are only on Crunchyroll, I will also watch some of those shows just without subtitles and see how much I can parse (and also grab the audio).

Stagnation

As of now, at best I can understand about 30-40% of the stuff I am hearing in a show (with really simple Slice of Life shows), and at worst I can pretty much understand nothing because I can only catch small little pockets of understanding. It has been pretty disheartening especially due to the ups and downs.

Another thing that has helped in this regard is Anki. While my conception of my understanding of Japanese is hard to grasp when just looking at how well I can understand anime, seeing the constant progress in the Anki stats page is a much more concrete way to track progress. I understand that those Anki numbers are at best a proxy for my actual understanding, it has been infinitely helpful in keeping up my mood and positive mindset in this limbo.

Additionally I now catch myself constantly randomly conjugating (or rather, agglutinating 3) verbs when I have some blank headspace or “playing back” sentences that are stuck in my head at the moment.

And also new grammar patterns that I meet feel less daunting as I can feel myself being able to infer the meaning much better than before.

Anyways I am excited to see where I am at the next time I check in. I am still optimistic :0

Footnotes

  1. “Regular-use Chinese characters” as defined by the Japanese Ministry of Education. Wiki 

  2. Using a VPN to change regions to Japan and watching their localized content 

  3. Agglutination is a method of forming complex words but appending morphemes to base words rather than modifying the base words 

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.
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