September 25, 2017

My Path to Learning Japanese

It has been about a year and a half since I started studying Japanese, at home, by myself, using tools available on the interwebs. Here’s why and how.

I’ve been fascinated by Japan since a pretty early age. It began with Naruto being a popular anime in my circles. But even before that I was an avid Sailor Moon fan (no shame — still know the theme, and ending, songs by heart). Although I think I was too young at the time to make the connection to Japan. Overall there’s a lot of media to blame for my fascination.

But more than that I’ve become fascinated by the culture. The great attention to detail in craftsmanship. The thought of living a simple life dedicated to perfecting one skill. Stuff like that.

My hope is to go there one day, to live like the Japanese for a few months. I want to practice karate in “a real dojo”, eat a lot of ramen and see all the sights. But first and foremost I just want to get a taste of life in Japan. So the goal with this self-studying is to become proficient enough to get by in casual conversations and to make my way around the country without accidentally eating bugs.

Here are the resources I’m currently utilizing in my nihongo-quest.

  • Memrise is what got me started. I’ve used the iOS app to learn a great deal of vocabulary and grammar. But most importantly this is the tool that thought me Hiragana and Katakana in the matter of days. It has also though me a great number of Kanji. I’m still using the app. But am no longer a premium subscriber.
  • Tofugu is a fantastic blog that writes about learning Japanese and Japanese culture. They also have a podcast which is great also.
  • WaniKani is a fantastic tool developed by the great people at Tofugu. I just started using this, so have yet to reach the level where I need to pay to progress. But I’m pretty sure I will. WaniKani uses a great spaced-repetition system to hammer in Kanji into my head.

The progress is pretty slow since I only dedicate a ~15 minutes a day to learning. But it is steady. As with most lengthy projects in life, it’s more important to keep taking small steps than being discouraged by going to fast and failing.