Japanese Goals September 2017 – Results

This month was crazy! I had pretty high goals…

  • Genki II [Lesson 16-18] ()
  • Genki II vocabulary [Lesson 17-18, Memrise]
  • Duolingo reviews [20 lessons – 5717xp+] ()
  • 350 Kanji [Heisig + Kanji Study App]
  • JLPT N5 vocabulary [Memrise, ~850 cards]
  • JLPT N5 vocabulary [Cram stage 3]
  • JLPT N5 old tests
  • Japanesepod101: Lower Intermediate S1 [11-40] ()
  • MyKikitori [Lessons 1-12]
  • Translate 1 Disney song
  • Write at least 2 emails to Japanese friends

Well, I finished about half of these things completely. And I’m sure I could have finished more but sometimes unexpected things happen in life and then we can’t do everything as planned. I got a pretty bad cold this month and couldn’t do anything for several days. And I got more to do at work much sooner than expected, which also left me with less time to learn. So considering these things, I still think I did pretty well this month.

I’m stuck somewhere in Genki II Lesson 18, so I almost completed this part actually. As before it was a bit hard for me working on it, I still need to find a better way to work with the book. I finished learning all the vocab with Memrise though.

I did maybe half of the planned reviews on Duolingo. At this point I just feel like Duolingo can’t help me much anymore and so I don’t want to spend too much time on it.

I learned 350 new kanji with the Heisig method, but I have to say, this part was very hard. Learning the first 300 kanji went really well so I thought 350 wouldn’t be a problem this month. Oh boy, I was so wrong. The more kanji you learn, the harder it gets. Some of these kanji were also really hard (the chapter I hated most was the one with the linen/coat stuff…). Learning so many kanji in a short amount of time really gets tiresome and on some days I had to force myself. I’ve seen a few blog posts on the internet where people claimed it’s possible to learn 2000 kanji in 3 months, but to be honest, I think these people have never tried this themselves. In theory it sounds nice, but doing it is a completely different story.

I finished the JLPT N5 Vocabulary & Kanji course on Memrise and I’m pretty proud of this because it was about 850 cards I had to do this month. Yes, I knew almost all these words already, so it was mostly repetition. But still, it was not just looking at each word once, I had to go through the entire process of “planting seeds and growing flowers”, so processing each card several times. There were also a few words that I didn’t really remember anymore and having to explicitly go through all the counter words also helped a lot. I also wanted to do a bit more with Cram, but I only did a few cards with it.

I didn’t look at any old JLPT N5 tests. This is pretty bad because I registered for the N5 test in December and there are still a few things which I was unsure about last time I did some tests. But I either didn’t have enough time or I just didn’t feel like looking at them.

I stopped at Lesson 30 of the JapanesePod, on purpose. I feel like I need to re-evaluate how to use this resource. I decided to go with Intermediate because I felt like I already knew everything they cover in the Beginner section. Even in the Intermediate section I already know a lot of the stuff. But the problem with Intermediate is that I can barely understand what they’re saying. So while the grammar focus covers things I already know, the dialogs themselves have a lot of stuff that I don’t know or don’t know very well. I felt like I didn’t really get out a lot of each lesson and I have to think about how to make better use of it.

I could complete MyKikitori, which is a great site for beginner listening practice! I like that they have quizzes so you can check if you understood everything. I wish I knew more sites like that, they’re really helpful for me.

I didn’t translate any Disney song, but I at least listend to some Japanese Disney songs again. I guess I will save this for another time.

I completed the email goal though and sent 2 emails to my Japanese friends. I also wrote quite a bit and it wasn’t too hard, so I feel like I’m making some progress here. (Well, I don’t know how much of it was wrong… )

Overall I’m very happy with my progress this month even though I didn’t finish everything. But I did learn a lot and that’s all that counts.

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Language Goals September 2017 – Results

This month I focussed mostly on Japanese. I will post about the results of my Japanese studies soon.

As for my other two languages which I’m learning at the moment (Spanish and French), I completed these goals:

Spanish

  • Duolingo reviews
  • Learn 150 new words [Lingvist -> 1500]
  • Watch Extr@ [Ep. 5-7]

I did quite a few review lessons on Duolingo (I didn’t count them though). I also achieved the goal of learning 150 new words with Lingvist and have now a bit more than 1500 words there. I watched Episode 5-6 of Extr@. I could have watched more but sometimes it’s a bit hard to make time for 25 minutes of watching, especially when I still need to do a bit more Japanese.

French

  • Duolingo [2+ lessons per day, reviews and/or new lessons] 
  • Duolingo vocabulary [Memrise, decks 10-25]

I did at least 2-3 lessons per day, mostly reviews though so I could catch up with the vocabulary on Memrise. On weekends I got the XP challenges and did a lot more. I managed to finish the Memrise goal too and completed all decks up to deck 25. This was actually a bit hard because I underestimated the number of words in these decks. Overall I learned about 600 words!! And quite a few of them were actually unknown to me, so it was not just reviewing words that I have already heard of before. I also started reading about grammar because I felt like I didn’t understand a lot of the things I were doing in Duolingo. Reading some structured grammar explanation helped me understand things much better.

 

Is it possible to go from JLPT N5 to N1 in 4 years?

My current level of Japanese is a bit above N5. Now that I finally found my motivation again, I want to learn seriously and regularly to reach a good level of fluency quickly. As a measurement I was thinking of taking all JLPT levels. Since the JLPT takes place only once a year in my country (in December), I don’t really have many options. Since I don’t have enough time to learn all the N4 stuff until the next test, I decided to take the N5 test this year. And then I was thinking: Is it possible for me to go from the N5 level to the N1 level in another 4 years?

To answer this question I first had to do some research to see what is required for each level and how long it roughly takes. Different sources state different numbers, so all the numbers in the next table are just approximate values. The number of kanji and vocabulary are taken from thanos.co.uk. Since the hours of study time on that site seemed too low for me, I decided to use the ones that were published on studytoday.com (for full-time language students in Japan with no prior kanji knowledge).

Level Kanji Vocabulary Study Time (hrs)
N5 ~100 ~800 325-600
N4 ~300 ~1500 575-1000
N3 ~650 ~3750 950-1700
N2 ~1000 ~6000 1600-2800
N1 ~2000 ~10000 3000-4800

The numbers for kanji and vocabulary of each level include all the kanji and vocabulary from the previous level(s). For the study time it’s not stated on the website but I’m assuming it has to include previous study times as well because otherwise even full-time students in Japan would need to study 3-4 years from N2 to N1.

To make the actual amount of new things clearer, I made a new table which shows what is actually new, compared to the previous level:

Level Kanji Vocabulary Study Time (hrs)
N5 ~100 ~800 325-600
N4 ~200 ~700 250-400
N3 ~350 ~2250 375-700
N2 ~350 ~2250 650-1100
N1 ~1000 ~4000 1400-2000

This looks already less scary. What can be seen here is that from N5 to N4 there is actually less vocabulary to learn and it also seems to take less time than going from zero to N5, maybe because it’s assumed that people with the basics and some routine can learn more effectively. It can also be nicely seen here how the previous N2 test was split into the new N3+N2 test, at least kanji and vocabulary wise. The study time is much higher though, probably because all the stuff is more difficult. And the jump from N2 to N1 is still huge in all categories compared to the previous jumps.

To go from N5 to N1 I will have to study:

  • Approx. 1900 kanji
  • Approx. 9200 words
  • Grammar, listening, reading, …

The estimated time to do all of this would range between 2675 and 4200 hours. Now let’s see if this is possible in 4 years. Since I would start doing this in October, I can add another 2 months, making it a total of 50 months to be ready for the N1. This would mean:

  • Kanji: 38 (monthly) | 1.2 (daily) | 456 (yearly)
  • Vocabulary: 184 (monthly) | 6.1 (daily) | 2208 (yearly)
  • Study Time: 53.5 – 84 (monthly) |  1.8 – 2.8 (daily) | 642 – 1008 (yearly)

The numbers for kanji and vocabulary per day seem quite doable. But a study time of 1.8 – 2.8 hours every day? If I had a lot of time I think it would be possible. But I don’t have a lot of time and I highly doubt I will have more time in the future, probably rather less. It might also feel like too much pressure and might lead to a language learning burnout.

So let’s see how it looks like from N5 to N2:

  • Approx. 900 kanji
  • Approx. 5200 words
  • Grammar, listening, reading, …

The estimated time for this would be between 1275 and 2200 hours. Spread over 3 years and 2 months (=38 months) looks like this then:

  • Kanji: 23 (monthly) | 0.8 (daily) | 284 (yearly)
  • Vocabulary: 136 (monthly) | 4.6 (daily) | 1642 (yearly)
  • Study Time: 33.6 – 57.9 (monthly) |  1.1 – 1.9 (daily) | 402.6 – 694.7 (yearly)

A study time of 1.1 – 1.9 hours per day seems much more possible for people like me who are quite busy and can’t dedicate a lot of time to their language studies. The amount of kanji and vocabulary each day is also lower but of course it should not be underestimated because there is so much more to learn than just kanji and vocabulary.

Overall I think going from N5 to N1 in 4 years is possible if someone has enough time and dedication to study regularly. Since I don’t think I will always have enough time, I will first aim for the N2 in 3 years. Then I will see if I can already take the N1 in the following year or if I will add an additional year to practice more.

My current level in Japanese (2017)

I started studying Japanese in 2008. My university offered several language courses and since I had been interested in Japanese for a while, I decided to use this opportunity. I went to about 6 courses and an additional course about casual language during a period of about 3 years. Unfortunately after this there were not enough people interested in a more advanced course.

The last certificate that I got certified that I was B1 level (CEFR). I think that was somewhat correct as we had learned a lot of grammar (roughly the things in Genki I & II, though we used different books, so there are some things in Genki that I didn’t learn and some things I learned which are not in Genki) and I felt quite confident writing simple stuff. Understanding/talking was a different thing though because there was not much focus on this during class. Going by JLPT level I would say it was between N5 and N4.

After my courses stopped I still met with Japanese friends more or less regularly and I learned some new stuff with them. But then I had less and less time and we met only rarely. And then they moved to other countries. So there were a few years where I did almost nothing for Japanese and about 2 years where I did not a single thing for Japanese.

Then last year came and things started to change. Why? I had the sudden chance to go to Japan. I had been wanting to go to Japan for a long, long time but I always thought it would be too expensive. So this was like a dream coming true. The trip was on a rather short notice so I didn’t have time to refresh my Japanese skills before it. The only times I tried to say something in Japanese where when I asked for breakfast in the hotel and when I asked people where I am when I got lost. But when they replied I already had to give up. This was pretty frustrating but otherwise this trip was amazing because it reminded me of why I love Japan and the Japanese language so much. And when I came back it was clear to me: I want to continue learning Japanese!

I actually didn’t start learning Japanese right after I came back though. I just didn’t know where to start and I felt like repeating everything was just overwhelming. What actually did help me go back on track a bit later was Duolingo when they released their Japanese course. I had used Duolingo before for refreshing my Spanish and it worked well for me. As soon as the Japanese course was available for Android I started working on it and finished it pretty quickly. And I made some very interesting observations while doing this:

  • I could still read hiragana well even though I hadn’t practiced it for years. I had absolutely no problems reading the sentences and my reading speed was not slow, it was about the same as when I stopped learning.
  • I had still some problems with katakana back then and obviously these problems were still there, but after just some practice I got much better with katakana.
  • I still remembered all the kanji that appeared in the Duolingo course and could read them correctly.
  • I still remembered almost all the words (in Duolingo and the N5 vocabulary in general) and the ones I didn’t remember immediately I could remember after a very short time.
  • I had no big problems doing the lessons. All the stuff that I had learned before came back to me naturally.

I had expected to have more problems, especially with reading. But it only needed me to go over things and they were back without having to put a lot of effort into it. Now I don’t know if this is a normal thing or if it depends on the person. It might also depend on the level someone had before. I already had a very good grasp of the basics before so I guess it was easier for me to recall them and I didn’t have to actually learn them again.

After completing the Duolingo course I started looking at old JLPT N5 tests and the Genki books to see what still needs a bit refreshing and what is there that I hadn’t learned before. I’m currently also reviewing all the N5 vocabulary again to make sure I won’t forget it easily. I don’t want to underestimate things just because I remembered them easily, I still think practice is necessary to not forget and to become more confident.

At the moment I would say that I’m quite confident about the N5 stuff (vocabulary, kanji, grammar, reading; but listening needs more practice). After this month I will start refreshing/learning more N4 stuff. There are probably things that I have forgotten so my level is not as high as some years ago (I would say a bit above N5 now) but overall I’m very pleased with how much I still know and can do after so many years of not doing anything for Japanese.

Language Goals September 2017

My main focus is Japanese, but I still want to do some stuff for other languages as well. Here are my language learning goals for September:

Japanese

I listed everything in my Japanese Goals September 2017 post.

Spanish

  • Duolingo reviews
  • Learn 150 new words [Lingvist -> 1500]
  • Watch Extr@ [Ep. 5-7]

I want to review some of the Duolingo lessons, especially the later ones, so I don’t forget about stuff or start confusing it while I also learn French. I won’t set a specific goal for this though. I also want to learn some more words with the Lingvist app (up to a total of 1500 words learned with that app). Besides this I want to do some listening practice while watching some episodes of the Extr@ series.

French

  • Duolingo [2+ lessons per day, reviews and/or new lessons]
  • Duolingo vocabulary [Memrise, decks 10-25]

I’m still at the beginning of French, so my focus here will be doing new Duolingo lessons and reviewing older lessons. Besides this I will learn the vocabulary of this course using Memrise. Unfortunately I started doing this quite late so I still have to catch up a lot.