I just put some finishing touches on the Ultimate JLPT N5 Anki Deck v1.1. I’ll try to get out a full post with all the details soon, but basically I combined a lot of cards that had similar meanings. I’m still keeping some words with several different meanings as different cards though. So, for example, 本(hon) has three cards, one for the noun of the kanji – book, one for the prefix of the kanji – head, main, and one for the counter of the kanji used for long cylindrical objects.
The principle behind this is that the less you have to remember the better, so I reduced the number of cards and hopefully made it so they are easier to remember. If there are any problems with the cards though let me know. Or if you have any suggestions on how to make them easier to work with also let me know. I’d like to hear about it.
Starting Out with Japanese
Whenever you start learning any language it is easy to stay motivated at first. You can see your progress very easily. It seems like every day, you can look back and remember some new phrase or group of phrases that you learned and can be proud of.
I remembered when I first starting learning Japanese I could at the end of the day tell you what kana or kanji I learned, what kind of situation I practiced, or some new phrase that I could use. I was excited to try to use my Japanese (very poorly) with native speakers. I could barely make 2 or 3 sentences, but still wanted to go out and use it just because I had it.
At the Intermediate Level
Now, I can probably comfortably say that I’m at an intermediate level of Japanese. This is where studying becomes more difficult. It’s incredibly easy to get de-motivated at this level for a variety of reasons.
First, you are no longer starting out, so the small things that you learn every day don’t seem like much in comparison to the large body of knowledge you already have of the language. So, you can’t see a whole lot of progress.
Second, you still aren’t fluent. I can watch most movies and TV shows and understand major plot points (except maybe period pieces with classical Japanese), but I can only really understand the main idea of a news story, usually none of the details. I can read books meant for elementary school kids, but not the newspaper.
I recently bought a copy of Civilization 5 in Japanese, thinking that it was just a game and wouldn’t have all that difficult of kanji in it. I was completely wrong, I’m not even sure if some of the kanji in the game is N1 kanji. It’s still a good challenge though.
I personally study for about 2 or more hours a day along with exposure to Japanese at work and chatting with family and friends. Still, even with all this studying, it is hard to see solid proof of my progress.
Take a Leap
However, I’ve begun to realize I’m a lot more capable then I think I am. It’s easy to fall into a rut of just thinking you are a certain level with the language when really you are much higher (or in some cases much lower).
The important thing is to believe in yourself and make it happen. Nobody ever learns anything if they don’t challenge themselves. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and make mistakes.
There have been plenty of times I’ve made foolish mistakes with my Japanese and people laugh at me or look at me strange. I think it is moments like that where you learn the most. The JLPT is definitely something that can test you and bring you out of your comfort zone, but there are other ways to do that to.
Journey out of your Comfort Zone
If you haven’t already started, I highly recommend using native materials of some kind in your studying. Even if it is just for a small portion of studying, it will really help you see how the language is actually used. The sooner the better with this.
Web resources are especially useful because you can use rikai-chan (or rikai-kun for Chrome) to help you read the Japanese before you’ve learned it. So, there is no excuse really to start studying right away.
You can also strike up a conversation even if you don’t have to. I’ve lived in Japan for awhile and it seems like from the start I always avoided store staff. I was too afraid to ask them questions for some reason, but now I’ve taken on a completely different approach. I try to talk to them as much as possible, even if I know exactly where the tofu is, I always try to ask anyway.
If you aren’t in Japan, you can find a Skype partner to chat with. It might seem a little odd at first to chat with people you hardly know on the Internet, but my experience has always been that people that want to learn a language are generally very charismatic and friendly. They want to communicate, so it can be a lot of fun to meet people through Skype.
Whatever you do, don’t be shy and don’t say to yourself “I’m not that level yet.” because who knows, maybe you are.
Take a Leap of Faith
Push yourself out of your comfort zone and make it happen. I’d love to hear about it in the comments, too!
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