Japanese Progress (July 2020)
July 14, 2020
Seriously learning from September 2019, I know about 1000 kanji and 3000 words. My focus and thus strength is in reading / recognition. I need to work more on grammar to help me work on my listening and speaking skills. Next steps are to use Imabi to learn grammar and read simple books like Todoku stories and easy manga.
This progress report will be longer than most because it’s the first!
I started learning Japanese in December 2013. I learned 2 of the 3 writing systems in the language, Hiragana (ひらがな) and Katakana (カタカナ), some basic vocabulary, and minimal grammar. The last writing system, kanji (漢字), I only knew around 50 of the 2000 you need to be fluent.
Why I learn
I was curious about the language when I heard Japanese was one of the hardest to learn, pushing me to have a go at it. However I don’t think that alone is a good enough reason to keep learning given the amount of work you need to put in. A common reason I see is to watch anime without subtitles, but I only watch 20 minutes a week if at all, and finding subtitles is not a barrier at all to watching.
Growing up in a multi-cultural country like Canada made me want to expand my cultural knowledge. I believe knowing another language means also understanding the culture which expands your way of thinking. A less serious reason, it’s simply fun to learn. Being able to understand someone in your target language is a spark of joy and you get to experience more media that might not be available in your native language. Additionally it’s a productive thing to fill my time when waiting in line or commuting.
My main goal is to be able to consume books and shows in Japanese without any subtitles. I know what I just said, but this is more of checkpoint to reach towards and help measure my progress.
I only seriously studied Japanese continuously starting September 2019. I found this tool called WaniKani to help tackle kanji, the intimidating part of Japanese to most students. I’ve spent 30-60 minutes everyday and I now know about 1017 kanji. The definition of “know” I use in this case refers to being able to recall at least one if its meanings and usually the most common reading. For example, 人 means person, notice how it looks like one? Common readings are nin （にん）, jin（じん）, and hito（ひと）. WaniKani considers that you know a kanji after being able to recall it 4 times within a span of about 4 days. I think it’s a fantastic tool and will make a future blog post on it and a breakdown of the Japanese writing system.
However, kanji is a only one part of the puzzle. When I “know” the kanji, I then learn related vocabulary that uses the kanji I know. For example 一人 can mean alone, 日本人 means Japanese person, 人間 means human being. I’ve learned about 3000 words from the tool.
My current learning path is not perfect, I mostly only use WaniKani which really specializes in my recognition / reading ability. I need to work on my grammar more, a summary of what I’m familiar with:
- Casual vs formal speech
- Conjugation of tenses (past, present, future)
- I-adjectives and na-adjectives
- Te-form (commands, current action, quoting, joining sentences)
- Questions, interrogative words
- Possession (の particle)
- Directions (に, へ particle)
- Describing where actions take place (で particle)
- Conjunctions (from, until, there, to)
- Basic adverbs
- Rough idea about volition (want) and potential (can)
Even with that list, there’s a lot to expand in each point.
My focus on my reading ability leaves me with subpar writing, speaking, and listening abilities. I’ll point out that I don’t want to bother with writing as there will almost never be a scenario where I’d find that useful given the time investment. Speaking is difficult with not many people to practice with. I practice listening by watching Japanese YouTubers I find interesting. Buzzfeed Japan’s versus series is fun, Ryoya Takashima has cool vlogs on a variety of topics like travelling and cameras. I feel that these will get easier to do as I pick up more grammar.
I’ve read great things about Imabi as a grammar reference. My plan is to go through the lessons here every couple of days. To apply what I’ve learned, I’ll read simple books which you can find through Tadoku stories and reading easy manga like Nichijou. Hopefully in my next report, I can explain what I’ve read and grammar points I’ve learned.