How I'm learning Japanese
I speak Japanese a lot better than I speak French, which I studied for 6 years in school. I am now an intermediate learner who sometimes makes beginner mistakes and is striving to fix those in order to become fluent and employable. Let's jump right in, shall we?
My language goals
Speaking: I want to work on my speed and business Japanese
Listening: To watch a movie, anime, drama or TV show and understand the majority of it
Reading: To be able to read and comprehend long chunks of advanced text, like a newspaper article or a novel. I've started learning Mandarin Chinese again to improve my character recognition
Writing: To be able to write kanji without second-guessing myself, writing it wrong or forgetting how to write it completely
Testing: To pass the JLPT N2 exam, and have a job where I work using Japanese on a daily basis
Dictionary & Notepad
In all my 5 years of studying Japanese, I'm very grateful to have come across takoboto... Of course, it's an offline dictionary with audio and example sentences (just the way I like it), but unlike my last dictionary, I can input a kanji character and it will not only show words starting with that character but also in the middle or at the end of a kanji compound too! This is incredibly useful.
Take 「今年」for example. I know the meaning ('this year'), recognise the characters (今 = now, current. 年 = year) and know their readings separately as 「いま、こん」and 「とし、ねん」...but this compound is not read as 「いまとし」、「いまねん」、「こんねん」or 「こんとし」. In this case I can input both characters separately and find out that it is read「ことし」! I know this sounds basic but considering that the dictionary I used for 3+ years didn't have that feature, I am incredibly grateful.
I make note of all the words I learn in an app called FNote. I prefer digital notepads for vocabulary over tangible notebooks because I have my phone in my hand for most of the day. I can edit and colour freely in FNote and also utilize the cute symbols on my Japanese keyboard •●○｡
Kanji Study is an absolutely amazing app that I do not use enough! I would say that it should be an essential tool in your Japanese language-learning journey. The update is indispensable and worth every penny. I can organise the kanji I want to study, do flashcards, practice writing, see animated stroke-order diagrams, hear audio, recognise common kanji, read example sentences, and practice reading kanji that commonly appear in Japanese names. When I lived in Japan, I had a daily goal of 30 minutes of Kanji Study on my commute to work.
I have accumulated a shit-tonne of textbooks in 5 years but my favourites have been the 完全マスター series. They are predominantly in Japanese and perfectly structured for self-study. I mainly utilise the N2 読解 textbook because reading and kanji leave a black hole in my soul… I feel incredibly intimidated by long texts and feel discouraged when I come across a kanji that I don't know, should know, or have forgotten. To combat this, I set a 2-minute timer and read the shortest texts to practice speed-reading and quick comprehension for the Japanese Proficiency Test.
I also use the N3 語彙 textbook from the 日本語総まとめ series because it's not impressive to know how to say things like withdrawl symptoms (離脱病状) and extractor fan (換気扇) when you don't know everyday vocabulary like dustpan (ちりとり), PIN number (暗証番号) and chopping board (まな板).
I used to be obsessed with manga and anime. Not so much these days but 'Death Note' will forever have a place in my heart. I have the DVD boxset but I recently bought the boxset at a Bookoff in Japan, and read it whenever I get a chance. I already know the storyline and so I'm reading for enjoyment, childhood nostalgia and vocabulary.
My favourite Japanese YouTube channel is プリッとチャンネル. They play games and do competitions and challenges, so their content is very stimulating and interesting for me. Plus, they always give instructions so I have to play close attention, and focus my listening skills in order to understand the rules and consequences.
I also tune into はじめしゃちょー or the 畑 vlog channel to see what interesting and/ or dumb shit they're doing that day. I'm suddenly interested in the idea of having a pet so I've been keeping up with Hikakin's adorable cat videos.
Apps and Websites
Having learned from books for 4 out 5 years, I have trouble sounding natural. I use HiNative and will try and ask a question every few days. Many phrases just don't translate directly into Japanese or some are expressed in different ways. Sometimes I get the particle wrong or have no idea how certain words are different. This app has really helped me with sounding...well, native!
Being out of Japan and out of the same time zone means that I'm not speaking Japanese everyday or keeping up with my friends in real time. Thankfully, if they stay up late I can squeeze in a quick LINE call ♡ Most of the time I will talk, sing or complain about the weather in Japanese.
So, that's a walk-through of my Japanese-learning materials and study techniques. I admit, being out of university and out of Japan has made me lazy in terms of studying. However, if I intend to one day have an employable level of Japanese, I'd better get cracking! Leave your tips and resources below!
All images are my own and are subject to copyright.