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Is It Supposed To Be This Much Fun?: A Beginner’s Success Story

Koffegirl, a new AJATTeer, shares her success story in this email:

So I am in the beginning of my journey towards learning Japanese…and I’m getting so much pure enjoyment out of it that I almost feel guilty.

I am at the kanji learning stage and I’m finding it fun and relaxing. Am I crazy? I thought kanji was supposed to be filled with misery but it is…relaxing to me. While I learn the stories I have fun picturing them in my head; in the background, I normally have Japanese music or anime playing. I downloaded some Japanese music to my iPhone and listen to it when cleaning, driving or studying for school (I am a grad student and work two jobs).

I bought a Japanese game for my PSP — Hagane no Renkinjutsushi/Fullmetal Alchemist: Yakusoku no Hi e (鋼の錬金術師 FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST 約束の日へ). I want to buy some Japanese kids storybooks as well, but for now I just read the game manual when I’m taking a bath. I can’t read in Japanese yet, but it is fun to recognize kanji that I have learned…and kanji don’t look quite so scary anymore.

Every other weekend, I work two 12-hour night shifts as an RN on a critical care floor. I don’t get much downtime, and I can’t listen to headphones because I need to hear ventilator/tele alarms, but I still listen to Japanese music on my way home and when I go to sleep. My concentration isn’t the best on those weekends, so instead of learning new kanji, I make sure I watch anime and relax before work. Occasionally, if I do happen to get some downtime at work, I try to review old (already-learned) kanji.

Besides those 12-hour weekends, I also work as a graduate assistant 20 hours a week. At that job, I listen to Japanese music while working; if I have downtime I visit Japanese websites and review my kanji.

Other than when I’m working at the hospital, I try to learn 25 or more new kanji a day — sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how I feel. My kanji time is time I take out for myself, so maybe that’s why I enjoy it. It’s also fun because learning Japanese gives me an excuse to play games and watch cartoons.

I still have a long way to go, but this is so much more fun than when I learned Spanish in high school (which I don’t remember at all by the way)! I never thought learning a language could be so much fun…it almost makes me feel like I’m not doing something right…Oh, well…I will keep learning and having fun. Thanks so much for this site and your inspiration. When I finish learning the kanji I’ll email you to let you know how I am doing 🙂 .


So much fun that you feel guilty. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

  13 comments for “Is It Supposed To Be This Much Fun?: A Beginner’s Success Story

  1. Drack
    December 22, 2010 at 00:16

    I know, right?

    When you’re studying right, it doesn’t even feel like studying. When you’re REALLY studying right, it just feels like watching anime, listening to podcasts, playing videogames, reading manga, or whatever you’re doing, and it just HAPPENS to be in Japanese. In other words, you don’t feel any pressure or (ultimately) even the fact that it’s in a foreign language, you just enjoy it.

    This is IMO such a great way to study because you do not run out of motivation. Make you escape activities happen in Japanese, and when you escape from work or other stress, you’re effectively studying, but you *really are* blowing off steam and relaxing in the meantime. Win-win to the max. There is no urge to stop… You WANT to continue!

  2. Jeff
    December 22, 2010 at 01:49

    Ahw, I remember having that guilty feeling when I was doing kanji. But then I started sentences… and it became even more fun!

  3. Raphael
    December 23, 2010 at 04:16

    I’m also in the sentence phase and for me the only boring part is using the SRS…
    Unfortunately we have to do it if we want to remember what we learn…

  4. Ken
    December 24, 2010 at 06:33

    I don’t recall the whole kanji phase feeling like “fun”, exactly, though I just discovered you can get Final Fantasy (I and II, so far) in Japanese for the iPhone, and I am feeling a bit guilty about playing this right now…

  5. Shirobon
    December 24, 2010 at 09:24

    I’m almost complete with RTK1, I only have 80 Kanji left to go, and I’ve been doing 20 a day recently, so only 4 more days until I finish the book. 😀

    I’m starting sentences soon (obviously), I’ve read all of the 10k sentences posts in the blogs, but i’m still a little lost 🙁

    I understand what khatz talks about, using real japanese sentences found from wherever. Though he said his first 500-1000 were J-E sentences. Where am I supposed to find the meanings of the sentences I mine? I’ve been mining random sentences from japanese games, manga, and songs for the past month, so I already would have plenty, ready to go.

    I would just like to know where am I supposed get readings for the Kanji, the meaning of the sentences and where to find out what each thing is in the sentence.

    thanks 🙂

    • December 24, 2010 at 12:17

      Khatz used a J-E dictionary with example sentences and their meanings. Invest in a dictionary?

    • Jeff
      December 24, 2010 at 19:41

      I remember Khatz mentioning somewhere that he used a Japanese particle handbook in the beginning (link is in the sidebar). There are also plenty of J-E online dictionaries out there, such as I did the same thing (both the particle dictionary and online J-E dictionaries) when I was just starting out, and it worked really well for me.

      • Shirobon
        December 26, 2010 at 03:48

        With the particle book, should I skip all the explanations and just copy the sentences?

        • December 27, 2010 at 02:30

          Copy the sentences you want to. Use the explanations if you need them. Often when you’ve gone through the repetitions enough of a card, you can start deleting some stuff you don’t need. The particles book, by the way, is excellent.

  6. Daniel
    December 27, 2010 at 19:42

    I suggest just churning out around 1000+ pre-mined sentence reps, you should be able to download pre-mined stuff on Anki. It’ll be more grudging to do them but just do a couple every time you have to wait for somえthing and they will add up to alot. After that you should have a good enough understanding of Japanese to find your favorite sentences. In the beggining you could use Denshi Jisho/Rikaichan for immediate lookup for most words, although there are some things you can’t find. Also by getting used to reading Japanese everything will all start to make sense. I never read one definition for any particle I just got used to how they were used and now I don’t need an explanation.

    • Es2Kay
      March 13, 2011 at 10:31

      “I never read one definition for any particle I just got used to how they were used and now I don’t need an explanation.”
      I’ve learned english like that. But I was afraid that with nihongo it won’t work.
      tnx for nice post!

  7. foozlesprite
    January 2, 2011 at 13:37

    I started the kanji study not too long ago as well, using both Heisig and kanjidamage. Since they teach by radical rather than frequency I know some fairly obscure kanji already. I was flipping through my old copy of Kanji and Kana looking for something the other day and saw an kanji numbered in the thousands that I recognized. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside! I’ve also started recognizing and figuring out kanji from anime. It’s very inspiring, so I can definitely relate 🙂

  8. Mr. N/A
    January 14, 2011 at 15:46

    Is the most inspiring story I’ve ever heard. I’m not as determined as her… yet.
    I gotta work a lot easier.

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