Everyone loves a success story. I know I do. When I was learning Japanese hardcore, I looked high and low for stories of other people’s journeys. Anyway, here’s one from a reader who goes by the handle Awkward Map on this site. He’s finished RTK (Remembering the Kanji) and is now three months into sentences. The following are his own words:
To start with, I’d like to express my displeasure with classes. The only thing that I gained from my two years of Japanese at college is that it would take me 10+ years to get good at it if I continued on that path. The professors’ grasp of English was equally saddening, as clearly whatever methods they used to learn it were not very good. “If these people are what I’m going to sound like in Japanese, I’m in trouble,” I thought.
I picked up the pieces from my last attempt at Heisig and began searching around for the methods people used to learn Japanese to a fluent level. On a newsgroup I found a link to Khatzumoto’s website and was stunned at how quickly he was able to learn Japanese. I found out what an SRS is and if that was the only thing I found out I was already doing great, because that meant I was able to pitch 800+ cards that were already done up for Heisig’s system (pain in the butt, right there). My two months with that SRS before going into the sentences phase showed me that an SRS really can work for securing long-term memory.
At that point, I went AJATT. Goodbye friends, non-Japanese websites, all the things I used to love. “Headphones up, drown out the English,” was my motto for those last couple of months at school. I began working through Tae Kim’s Japanese Guide to Japanese Grammar, mining sentences in concert with reading a bit from my Japanese textbooks from school (Genki I, II).
At the same time I picked up Death Note and starting mining sentences from that. Talk about repetition! 犯罪者 this, 死因 that, and some 病死 added for good measure. Amusingly for the first month I did it wrong and translated from Japanese to English. Amusing, I know. Also lead to extreme despair for the next couple of weeks as I fixed the sentences.
Anyways, I kept reading on there about “monodics” and thought “man, I’m only two months into this, can’t do it.” Instead of admit defeat however, I just started using Sanseidou for everything. It was tough, but not impossible to understand things and it did take a while. At the beginning it was perhaps 2-3 sentences per day (with maybe 3-4 hours available) with the monodic, which is hard to rationalize against the many more that I could be learning with a bilingual dictionary (bidic?), but the more I used the monodic the more it rewarded me with vocabulary seen over and over. Now on a good day spending about 8 hours working on sentences I’m able to put in 25-30 sentences using a combination of monodics (Sanseidou, Yahoo!, and Infoseek) to reliably check my understanding using different terminology.
(However, with the addition that the sentences should be the length you mentioned, this may balloon to more per day. I was doing sentences a wee bit bigger than that as an average for a while there…)
I still run into stuff over and over that I’m not able to decipher completely, sadly, but it’s just a matter of time. Using a monodic has given more perspective on how the language works and its incredible compact and condensed nature that kanji allows it to have. So… yeah. Right now I’m at 976 sentences, but I’m pretty confident that this is going to just get faster and faster the more sentences I put into my SRS. Just like how I was only able to put one sentence in per hour before and now it’s 3 or 4, pretty soon it’s going to be even more. The “back” sides of my cards are still friggin’ huge, however, what with the circular nature of definitions.
Right now I’m starting to read about the Japanese video game scene because they were a big reason for my interest in Japan (Pokemon, oh yeah! Dragon Warrior! Woo!). So, I’m picking up a lot of stuff that I already knew from one source or another about video games. Good ol’ Japanese Wikipedia has been my best source.
“Learning a language is not a linear process. The better you get, the easier it gets for you to get better. The more you know, the more you are able to learn. Knowledge, words, structure will get stickier ― but first you have to go through this sucky period, before the curve starts to shoot up.”
is also, like, such a great quote and so true.
Anyways, there’s where I’m at after three months of sentences.
以上。That’s his story. Do you have a story you’d like to share? Email it to me! I can put it up here and it’ll inspire other people, and you’ll save me some writing!