[Source: Wikimedia Commons]
I have decided on my modern language for 2016! Are you ready…? What? You say it’s in the title? Very well….
I’ve obliquely mentioned in several past blog posts how I’ve dabbled in Japanese (sometimes quite seriously!) over the years. Japanese was one of my first loves. Like so many other middle schoolers circa 2002-2003, I was consumed with my obsession with Japan. From age 12 until maybe 16 or so, I taught myself Japanese (hiragana and katakana [the two syllabaries] and basic words) and learned everything about Japan I could glean from the middle and high school libraries.
While in university, after learning French, I went back to Japanese after finding All Japanese All The Time, a super cool blog about how a guy learned native-level Japanese through immersion, before ever setting foot on Japanese soil. AJATT changed the way I think about a number of things, not only languages, and I’ve clearly adopted a lot of immersion aspects in the way I learned French and everything thereafter. Anyways, I started listening to hours of Japanese every day and managed to get through all 2042 standard kanji (Chinese characters incorporated into Japanese) during the summer of 2010. And then… I flitted to other interests/languages/whatever (sometimes I don’t focus on things, but I’ve found that on a longer timescale, I’m pretty damn productive, so these habits don’t bother me too much).
I was off Japanese until the summer of 2013, when I went to San Diego with my then-boyfriend, now-husband. There’s quite the Japanese population there, and lo and behold, there was a Book Off. Shelves and shelves of Japanese manga and novels! Needless to say, my inner Japanese-loving child was not dead, and I bought armfuls of Japanese books I could kinda sorta read, including Kodocha, a manga series I read in middle school that pretty much shaped my whole life. Go read it, yo. Now.
Fast forward to December 2013, when I asked for a bunch of Japanese learning materials for Christmas. I got Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji, a fantastic textbook that teaches the kanji (I, of course, forgot most of them) through mnemonics. I burned out, however, on my diet of 50+ kanji a day. What can I say? I had already been through them once, and I wasn’t crazy about the idea of wasting more time going through them again.
I dabbled a little bit more throughout the following years, but as you’ve read from this blog, I ended up learning Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, and Dutch in the meantime. Let no one say I have slacked off.
Now, I am vowing to go after Japanese in earnest! Whether or not that pans out, time will tell. It has recently come to my attention that I may have an opportunity to visit Kyoto this August, which will fulfill all of my middle school dreams and then some (short of being a Pokémon trainer or a Digidestined, but dreams die hard, don’t they?). This is NOT set in stone, and it might not work out, but in the meantime, I can’t pass up the excuse to throw myself back into Japanese. I do know quite a bit– I think I’m far from a beginner– and I think I could make major progress in a few months.
As you know, I have other languages to improve and maintain, so how am I adding another? For me, I find that using the language consistently, every single day, results in a lot of progress.
So, no more idle chatter….
Here are four ways I’m planning on incorporating Japanese into my day!
1. Remembering the Kanji: A lot of people choose to forego the writing systems of Japanese or Chinese and get right to the vocabulary and phrases they need for traveling. That’s cool, and that works for them, but I’m interested in a slightly deeper knowledge of the language. Kanji are really fascinating– I should know, I’ve learned them already one and a half times. They’re tied to vocabulary in such a way that illuminates meanings of new words. Not to mention their beauty! I know quite a few kanji and their pronunciations from my previous dabblings, but I want to improve that before I travel. As I said, doing huge amounts of kanji a day can work, but for me, it risks burnout. So, I’m going to go slow and steady and try 15 a day when I can. I plan on putting the character on the front of my Anki cards, with the English mnemonic and keyword on the back (if you want more info on Heisig’s mnemonic method, check out the top result here to read the introduction to the first book). Some learners don’t like that Heisig advocates learning the English meaning of the characters before their Japanese pronunciations, but I like that I can have gaps in my Japanese knowledge and still be able to get the sense of written Japanese. To each their own!
2. Listening! I plan on listening to Japanese 10 to 20 minutes a day, not counting the times when I’ll inevitably listen to Japanese music or something. I’m starting small because I’m busy, but I want to start a sustainable habit. I like finding podcasts on TuneIn Radio, TBS Radio, as well as songs by Morning Musume. I listen to NHK News Radio (you know how I love news radio!). And I have a soft spot for folk songs and children’s songs in any language, so that’ll be essential.
3. Textbooks galore: This is pretty un-AJATT of me (Khatzumoto from AJATT is very against textbooks and their canned, unnatural language). However, I have several high-quality books and I want to make use of them. Right now, I’m going to set aside 10 minutes a day for textbook study, and I’ll increase the time once I’ve gotten into the groove. I’ll be using Japanese the Manga Way, Essential Japanese Vocabulary, 600 Basic Japanese Verbs.
4. Manga, manga, manga: As you can tell from the title of this website, I love reading, and I love using reading to learn languages. This holds even with languages that have non-transparent writing systems. If you can use your eyes and pick out words on a page, you can use native books and comics to learn Japanese! I have complete sets of Kodocha and Marmalade Boy, two manga series that I have nearly memorized. Knowing vaguely what’s going on in each volume (and in each speech bubble!) helps immensely when you’re scrambling to use context to figure out new words. Fun!
And that’s how I’m going to [re-]start my Japanese this January! How do you use your languages every day?