Gather round, AJATTeers, gather round. Every so often, when one is in a state of connectedness to this vast “Inter-Net”, one comes upon people with striking good looks and WONDERFUL taste in websites. One such person, a man with “victory” etched into his very name, sent me an email this very day. Now, I share it with you. Tonight, Victor Brunell shares his AJATT success story with the world! [Some sections highlighted for emphasis].
I just wanted to write and say thanks for offering easy access to such an effective method for Japanese language acquisition, not to mention all the great motivation.
I know. That Khatzumoto guy is just awesome.
I began using your method last July. It is now September 1st, a little over one year since I began, and I can now read all the jyoyo kanji, plus a few extras (around 2,050 in total). A year ago, I had trouble comprehending almost anything with kanji in it, and I am now able to read newspaper articles, books on subjects ranging from relativity to Japanese history and volume upon volume of manga (Naruto fan).
I coupled your ideas with a program called Kanji Odyssey. The program basically lists all the jyoyo kanji, along with all the given readings for a given kanji, as well as the most commonly used vocabulary found in Japanese printed forms (e.g. books, newspapers, magazines) for each kanji. On top of this, example sentences are also given. Needless to say, it was a lot of work to input all of this into Mnemosyne (my SRS of choice), and there were times when I questioned whether or not I could truly retain such a large volume of information, but the outcome was well worth the effort. I also took it upon myself to dispense with conventional textbooks, as you suggest, and instead seek out lists of grammar points, especially those necessary for the JLPT. I then used such lists to scour the internet and online Japanese grammar dictionaries for sentences containing each grammar form, inputting them into a seperate file for study. Again, the power of combining the living form of the Japanese language with an SRS, especially for this kind of targeted study, surprised me. My grammar acquisition proved to be quite rapid. It’s so strange; your mind simply begins to adapt itself to a certain way of thinking after seeing grammar repeatedly used in context, regardless of whether or not you have a concrete explanation in your primary language. Actually, when inputting the grammar points, I only listed explanations of the points in Japanese, which really seemed to help me get a better grasp of each form, even if it did take some time for my mind to adjust.
Of course, I also began to exclusively listen to Japanese music (eerie how quickly it can grow on you) and watch movies in Japanese. Watching movies in Japanese is such a great way to take a break from your studying, without actually ever leaving it behind. It also has the added benefit of making crappy acting almost unnoticeable. At the beginning, I couldn’t understand much of what was being said, but, after sticking to a strategy of always having some movies on hand for my downtime, meaning around two hours of Japanese listening practice a day, besides what I was getting at work, I can now watch a movie in Japanese without much of a problem, only occasionally turning on Japanese subtitles to check what I heard.
Oh, and Heisig’s “Remembering the Kanji” proved to be an incredibly effective way to learn how to write the kanji. Thanks for the recommendation. It’s fun being able to take a quick glance at a compound like 薔薇 and be able to reproduce it with ease.
Perhaps I should have prefaced this with the fact that I’ve lived in Japan for three years now, and during the first two years my Japanese was deplorable. I could understand hiragana and katakana, but, before hitting on this method, the language seemed a bit too overwhelming, and learning it to fluency somewhat of a foolish enterprise, unless I was willing to spend a good five or six years earnestly studying it. I could conduct only the most basic of conversations with my co-workers, whereas now I can have heated debates about anything from politics to science to whaling (touchy subject). Anyway, in short, my Japanese sucked and now it doesn’t, thanks to your method.
I think I now understand why you offer so much motivation on your website. While it is true that the method can be a lot of fun, the learning curve for Japanese, due in large part to kanji, seems a bit higher than most Western languages, and it can be frustrating, even if you feel you are making progress. Sometimes you just want to pick up a book and read the damn thing, but you only know the readings for, say, 837 kanji, making it almost impossible, or at least very tedious, to even look up certain words. It can really demoralize you at times, but, if you can keep your goal in mind and not lose hope, you’ll take more notice of your progress, rather than what you have yet to achieve, and I think that might be key; the encouragement and positive attitude you foster is indispensable.
Again, thanks for putting in the time and effort to make all this information available. I wouldn’t have learned Japanese without it.
Victor Brunell[P.S.] I just wanted to send along a quick update. I received my results for the July 2009 JLPT 2級 today and have passed with a score of 77% (309/400).
文字 – 語彙 ９１／１００
読解 – 文法 １４４／２００
Thank you, Victor, for good looks and awesomeness.
And now it’s your turn. When are you going to start living (and sharing) your success story, oh fellow AJATTeer? It’s got to start someplace; it’s got to start sometime; what better place than here? What better time than 今?