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Studying Japanese- An Update!
I’ve been in Japan for just about four months! Since becoming more proficient is one of my big goals during this time abroad, here is a little update on my Japanese learning progress so far. I hope that by sharing this journey, others who have similar desires to learn a language / move abroad will also be inspired to take on the challenge! (Writing this also helps remind me of my goals and keeps me working towards them ?)
A little background…
I first started learning Japanese during my junior year of college. (I wanted to study abroad in Japan and taking the basic classes was a prerequisite for going). I ended up studying for a year in college where we used the Genki beginner books and had class for an hour Monday-Friday.
It was honestly really hard to juggle language studies along with the rest of college classes and life. I wasn’t able to dedicate a sufficient amount of time to adequately learn Japanese, and I had very little practice using the language outside of the classroom.
Needless to say, when I arrived in Japan for my study abroad program, I found conversations with locals way above my level. Additionally, my self-consciousness and dislike for making mistakes kept me from practicing and improving.
Luckily I still had a great experience abroad, though after my travels I stopped taking Japanese. Slowly I started to forget what I had learned…
Which Brings Us Back to the Present!
A year or two ago, I started to have the desire to change up my life and move abroad. Slowly this desire grew into small actions, and before I knew it, I had concrete plans to return to Japan- this time with learning Japanese and immersing myself in the culture as two of my core goals.
With a renewed determination, I spent the time leading up to my departure reviewing my old textbooks and finally committing to learning kanji.
At my current school, Genki JACS, we use the same beginner textbooks I used in college. During the 3 hours and 20 minutes of class each day, we learn and practice new grammer, vocabulary, and kanji (all in Japanese). With this much time dedicated to class, things move pretty quickly (about one chapter a week).
At the start of school I was placed into a class that was midway through the first Genki Textbook. Eleven weeks later we had finished. It was exciting to complete the first book, and after, I felt like I had a solid understanding of the basics. With 145 kanji, and roughly 600 new vocabulary terms under my belt, I could now confidently ask for the toilet and tell someone about my hobbies.
While this is a good start, I know that I am still at the wee beginning of my journey. For example, even though I can understand everything that happens in class, out in the real world, most conversations I attempt with natives go right over my head. Compared to the first time I tried learning Japanese though, I feel much more confident speaking and I’m more open to making mistakes. (yay progress!)
Probably the biggest difference between learning Japanese now compared to in college, is the amount of extra effort I have been able to put into my studies. (It’s amazing what you can do with more time!) For example, on my daily walks to and from class, I listen to JapanesePod 101 (a Japanese learning podcast), and in my free time, I study flash card apps to learn extra kanji (WaniKani) and vocabulary (Anki). To learn more about these resources, check out this guide I put together! How to Learn Japanese (Self Study or Abroad): The Best Tips and Resources to Learn Fast.
What I’m realizing, (and this is nothing new) is that the more I can immerse myself in the language, through any medium, the more I am able to learn, understand, and in turn, enjoy. As a multitasker I’ve taken this realization to heart and have made it my mission to incorporate immersive learning into my new life as much as possible. I have already started to see these extra efforts help me both in and out of the the classroom which encourages me to keep investing time in to them. A virtuous cycle!
So as of May 1st, 2021 I am just over halfway done with the second Genki Textbook. According to practice tests, I’m currently learning JPLT N4 material and have a long way to go towards my goal of reaching N2. (This is the level that most business in Japan will start taking your language skills seriously. Also JPLT stands for Japanese Proficiency Language Test and is the main standardized test for Japanese.) For me, reaching this level is quite a stretch goal, but I’m excited to work towards it each day. Wish me luck!
Do you have any tips or tricks for learning a language? Leave a comment if you do, I would love to hear!
(And for a list of my tips and favorite resources that I’m using to learn Japanese outside of the classroom, check out this page!)