This has absolutely nothing to do with photography, but maybe some of you will still find it interesting. Recently I started learning Japanese, and since I prefer to learn stuff on my own, and find a way that works for me, I’m approaching it my way :). I also like to go a little faster than normal course based learning, so learning on my own is what I do.

Learning japanese

But first, why I started to learn Japanese. To say the truth, there is no real need for me to learn it. But it’s something I wanted for quite a long time. I always been fascinated with Japanese culture and how alien a lot of the things are compared to Europe. I’m also a huge fan of anime, and I just hate subtitles :). So when I thought about starting to learn a new language (to my native Slovak, I also know English and German and of course understand Czech ) I was first thinking about Spanish and French, but than thought that it’s again something similar to what I already know. And since Japanese is so different, it was the way I went. Btw. so it is not so easy, I’m learning Japanese from English, not from my native Slovak. The reason is, that it’s much simpler to find resources in English, than it is in Slovak.

Of course I also plan to visit Japan, hopefully as soon as next year, so this can come in handy :)

I will organize this page based on months I spend learning Japanese. I will write down my experiences with it, what I used, what I found out and how it worked out :) Also I’m not including links to the apps I will mention, as they are different for different countries. Just search the relevant app store based on the name.

1st month

I started with doing a lot of searching. Trying to find out what to learn first and how difficult it will be. I already knew that Japanese has two alphabets (Hiragana and Katakana) and also Kanji symbols. I just had no idea that each Kanji has multiple readings. This was a little bit of a shock, as if you take into account the number of Kanji to learn, this makes this quite more difficult. But this didn’t scare me away, as I am quite stubborn, so I continued.

So the first goal was to learn Hiragana and Katakana. One just can’t continue without that. Just taking the list of letters and learning them didn’t work for me, so I looked for some different approach. What I found, and what worked, was the Dr. Moku app. It’s a very simple approach, where they assign a picture to every letter, something that is easier to remember. With this, I was able to master a hiragana or katakana quiz after only two days.

Learn japaneseDr. Moku for Android
Learn japanese Writing japanese for Windows phone

But here I also found one interesting thing. Quizzes that give you options are worthless. Most answers can be answered just by an elimination process, and even after many repetition, I could not remember the characters. Better said, I could read them quite ok, but when I needed to recall a character, I could not. So I started doing the repetition by writing the whole alphabet on a paper, and searched for a different app to do the quizzing.

What I found was and app called Writing Japanese for the Windows phone (could not find something similar on Android). The great thing about this app is, that you answer by writing the respective character directly on the screen. It also shows you the stroke order. This really helped med. I try to return to it at least once a week, to get a quick overview of all the characters. It’s easy to remember Hiragana once you use it, but since Katakana is not used so much, it’s quickly forgotten.

So with the alphabets sorted out, I was looking where to continue. I knew I need to start with vocabulary and grammar. I also wanted to start with Kanji right away, as that will probably take the most time. Some time ago, I installed the trial version of an app called Human Japanese. It could be looked at more as a interactive book. I really like the style things are explained and that compared to a book, you also get recordings of all the words and sentences right there. So of course I bought the full version after I got through the chapters in the trial :)

Human japanese Human Japanese for Android
Human japanese Human Japanese for Android

For the Kanji, after a lot of searching I decided to go with the Remembering the Kanji book by James Heisig. It looks to be great for remembering the Kanji, just not the readings (later I found out that the 2nd book is all about the reading :)). But I decided to go with a split approach first. Get the basic grammar, some vocabulary and some kanji first, and then once I know the words, going after how they are written. Will see if this works for me.

2nd month

First month I repeated mostly just by writing on the paper, what I remembered from kanji, and just by going through the chapters of Human Japanese, and covering parts of the page, so I  don’t see the translation. This quickly became just cumbersome, so I started looking for a different way to repeat things I learned.

I decided to go with Anki. Anki is a spaced repetition system. You can card decks for it, and all repetition get more spaces out the better you get (so first time you answer correctly, you get the same question in one day, than 4 day, a week, a month and so on, if you answer wrongly, it goes back to the start)

I found a deck corresponding to Human Japanese and also to Remembering the kanji, so repeating was possible and very easy (they can be downloaded directly through the app). I got myself the AnkiDroid app for my tablet and loaded the decks in there. At first I tried to go with the approach to let the Anki add 10 new entries into both decks, and so have each day more and more to repeat. But since I learned the new entries from books, not from Anki (as that is also theoretically possible), this didn’t work for me at all. Anki tended to add words that I haven’t learned yet, and in even worse case, sentences with unfamiliar grammar.

Learn japaneseAnkiDroid Quiz card
Learn japanese AnkiDroid Deck status
Learn japanese AnkiDroid Statistics

So what I found worked for me was, to disable this adding of new entries, and do that manually. For the kanji deck, each time I got through another part of the book, I added the corresponding number of kanji into the repeating deck (increase new cards option). As each chapter includes quite a lot of new kanji, I usually went with 10-20 new every day. Mostly depended on how complicated they were.

For repeating words and sentences form Human Japanese, I chosen a little different approach. In AnkiDroid one can choose to repeat only a certain part of the deck based on tags. So what I did was, each time I finished a new chapter in the book, and repeated the new words from it few times, I created a custom study deck just from the entries that are from that chapter. I also changed the settings of that deck, so the replies reschedule the cards in it. This effectively adds the new cards. One more thing that I had to disable, was the bury related cards feature, as with that, only parts of the chapter cards are quizzed, so not everything is added.

3rd month

So my status in the middle of the third months, is around 700 kanji and 3/4ths of the Human Japanese behind me. Funny thing, that it’s easier for me to remember new kanji, than is to remember new words. Probably my visual memory is better :).

Writing kanjiThis month I decided to finally buy a better paper for writing the the kanji, when I switched from a clean one, to one with squares. As every kanji should be the same size, this really helps a lot to achieve more consistency. Right now I go through about 200 kanji every day, even when according to Anki this is not needed. I do a lot of repeating for the forgotten symbols and sometimes review ahead 1 or 2 days. This is because, as I said, I want to go faster through them all, so more repeating is needed. Also my handwriting has always been horrible, and probably always will be, so it’s quite strange that I now write every day more, than I used to write during a whole year :)

One think that I noticed, since I learn from English not from Slovak, that if I try to learn a symbol for an English word I don’t completely understand, I can’t never remember it. But if I first find the definition for that English word, and then learn the kanji, I can remember it very quickly.

For the Human Japanese repetition, I quickly got to 100-200 quiz questions every day, which is quite manageable. AnkiDroid shows nice statistics for how much you studied and forecast for next days, so one always knows where one is.

Another thing, that is already very satisfying is, that when I watch anime, or anything else in Japanese, I already catch many words. Not all yet, as it’s a little more monotone and fast languages, but slowly more and more. It really gives a boost in motivation to continue :)

4th month

To be continued… (I will be updating this as the time goes :) )