Now, you’re probably wondering why I decided to go back to a language I’m already learning instead of commencing with a new language altogether like I did with my Catalan adventure. Luckily, this was during the italki World Cup Language Challenge. Which really motivated me to stick with learning Catalan until the language adventure was over. I didn’t win but I was still able to reach my goals which was more important.
Increasing My Knowledge of Kanji
One of the most difficult parts of learning Japanese is being able to not only recognise the Kanji (characters borrowed from Chinese. Although there are some that were created for Japanese only too). Since learning Kanji is apart of being literate in Japanese, I might as well learn as much as possible. But how many do I need to learn exactly? Well, if I would like to read a newspaper per se, then I will have to learn roughly 2,000 characters! That’s a lot to learn! However, seeing as I’ve been studying this language for years (I technically started learning Japanese when I was around 13-14 years old but I didn’t start learning Japanese seriously until 2008!) so I’m already familiar with about 600 kanji just from self-study and taking 3 classes at uni.
But What About Hiragana And Katakana?
I learned how to read and write Hiragana and Katakana (the native syllabaries that make up the sounds of the language) when I was 13 years old. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I was able to reinforce it as second nature. I would highly recommend learning these scripts before learning Kanji so you can figure out how Japanese is supposed to sound. It really doesn’t take too long to learn both of these scripts. 48 characters each might seeming daunting but, they can easily be learned over a weekend.
Learning these syllabaries are the stepping stones in deciphering this complex language. You will also be able to read the furigana (small printed hiragana or katakana) printed on top of the kanji. They also prevent using the Latin alphabet (romaji) as crutch that could hinder your progress in Japanese. I know because I fell into this trap years ago. Never again!
During my most recent trip to Japan I was able to pick up quite a bit of reading material during my stay to keep myself entertained and motivated to learn Japanese with. I found some of the them easier to read than others. Here are a few books and manga I will be using to improve my reading in Japanese: One Piece, 日本人の知らない日本語 (Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo/The Japanese (language), the Japanese (people) don’t know)赤ずきん(Little Red Riding Hood: From the movie Amanda Seyfried was in.)、The Nightmare Before Christmas, and 恋空(Sky of Love/Love sky).
I have more to choose from but I think these are challenging enough to keep me occupied while improving my Japanese. While One Piece might be fairly easier to read than Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo, I can gain insight from learning about the Japanese language and the mistakes native speakers make in Japanese. It is a 4 volume manga series so I may I have to buy the other one’s once I’m finished with this one. Nightmare Before Christmas should be in an interesting read in Japanese especially since the pages give off that Halloween-feeling to it. Finally, I did start reading Koizora and saw the movie and parts of the TV series but I figured why not read the original story.
Speaking With A Japanese Tutor on Italki
I will be committing to at least 1 lesson with a Japanese Community Tutor or Professional Teacher per week to keep my speaking ability in check. When I did my first italki Language Challenge, I managed to enhance my speaking skills tremendously. I felt more confident to speak not as slow when I was trying to practise with a fellow learner and a native speaking friend. But I’ll save that story for another time. Apart from kanji and those dreaded particles, speaking Japanese is something that had to happen eventually. I had so much input and nobody to practise with unless I travelled.
I was able to practise my Japanese most of my stay in Japan (2012) and even with someone while I was visiting friends and relatives in Malmö, Sweden. What I like about italki is you don’t need to be in country to practise with a native speaker and how much affordable they are compared to tutors elsewhere.
Which Apps Will I Be Using?
The three main apps I will be using are: Memrise, LingQ, and 手書き漢字ドリル1006 (Tegaki Kanji Drill 1006) for learning Japanese on the go. I’m also using (since I’m more or less a gamer!) the NDS4Droid app where I downloaded Japanese versions of Pokémon games to play on my phone! What better way to immerse yourself than with a game in your target language?
If you have any recommended apps feel free to post them in the comments
Making Use Of YouTube
Because who does love a entertaining/interesting video in your new language. I’ve even found the drama series to Nihonjin no Shiranai Nihongo there as well. There’s a lot of great music videos to find, as well as seeing who’s one of the popular YouTubers in that particular country. Such as this guy!
If you’re learning Japanese like I am, don’t forget to check out the resources I’ve collected for Japanese!
What do you think? Have you done or want to do a language challenge for yourself? I’d love to know how you’re progressing in your new language! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!