Five Months Into Learning Japanese

Earlier this year, after having gone on a vacation (in February), I found that my habit of listening to podcasts and reading books had been broken. During my commute, I didn’t feel like listening to podcasts or reading books anymore. Most of the time, I spent on just listening to music. However, after a few months, I felt like I could put in something more productive. That’s why on a fine day in April, I decided to learn Japanese.

That time, I was listening to Bocchi the Rock!‘s Kessoku Band album on repeat. There were a few instances where I felt like I needed to know the meaning of the lyrics, so I searched it up and it turned out that some of the songs have really good meaning. That’s why an idea popped up: what if I learned Japanese so that I could understand those lyrics when I listen to them.

I decided to download Duolingo. I used it in the past to study a language (Dutch), but after a few weeks, I stopped since I got stuck. Since the structure has dramatically changed (which caused some uproar), I decided to give it another try.

The initial experience was quite good, to be honest. I felt like it gives you the impression that you are able to figure out the grammar if you practice hard enough.

However, after a few weeks, as the sentences got more and more complex, it became harder and harder to guess the grammar from the sentences. Furthermore, since I’m using the free tier, I only had a limited amount of “hearts” (the number of times you can make a mistake), and it could get frustrating when I got stuck as I ran out of those “hearts”.

I decided to look up some resources and someone pointed me to “Grammar Guide” by Tae Kim. I decided to give it a go and I felt that it was pretty good in introducing a lot of Japanese grammar. I studied it once or twice every week, progressing through a section or two, and now I’ve reached the “Special Expressions” chapter.

Well, halfway through that guide, someone pointed out to me that the guide sometimes contains inaccuracies and may not be very good for beginners as the explanation can be really short and lacking in exercises. However, I felt like pairing it with sentence practices from Duolingo. I felt like I was able to get by quite well.

That person also suggested me this YouTube channel called “Organic Japanese with Cure Dolly“. At first, I was quite skeptical since I felt okay with Tae Kim’s so far. However, after watching some of them, they explained the concepts really well. What took me several hours reading Tae Kim’s sections could be explained in one or two 10-minute videos. So now I’m watching this channel once a week, mainly to refresh my memory from a different kind of explanation of the concepts in Japanese.

Other than grammar, I felt like those vocabularies presented by Duolingo didn’t really stick in my brain. That’s why I supplemented myself with Anki (flashcard program) + AnkiDroid (the Android app). The workflow I have is that when I was presented with new vocabularies, I will note them down at Takoboto (Japanese dictionary app) which has the capability of sending them to AnkiDroid, which has the capability of syncing with Anki. Then I will do those flashcards every day or two to refresh my vocabularies.

So, yeah, five months in, it has become quite a significant part of my day to learn Japanese. Compared to several months ago, the progress feels real. When listening to some Japanese songs that I used to listen to a long time ago, now I am able to make out the meaning of more and more words, and it makes me really happy. I have also made a plan to travel to Japan sometime next year so I hope that this skill will be good enough to get by during the trip.

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