Japanese Goals December 2017 – Results

I’m very proud of myself this month because I completed all the goals! In some areas I even did more than I had planned to.

  • Take the JLPT N5
  • JLPT N4 vocabulary [Memrise, 130 cards]
  • JLPT N4 kanji [Memrise, 150 cards]
  • Genki II vocabulary [Memrise, x cards]
  • Genki II [18-19]
  • Listening practice
  • Reading practice [JLPT Test app N5]
  • Reading practice [Children books]
  • 150 Kanji [Heisig + Kanji Study App]

Taking the JLPT N5 was a big milestone in my Japanese language learning. I didn’t take a break after it but immediately continued with my studies, which consisted of still reviewing N5 stuff, continuing learning N4 vocabulary and kanji and general studies/practice.

I completed the N4 vocabulary on Memrise and started learning N4 kanji in context on Memrise. Here I did more than the 150 cards (a bit over 200 cards). I also continued with the Genki II vocabulary.

Speaking of Genki II, I could actually sit down a bit and go through the two lessons. I felt like I’m forgetting a lot though so I started making an overview of the grammar points in Genki II and will come back to review them once I look at them in my N4 specific grammar studies.

The listening part was the worst part for me in the JLPT so I immediately started to listen more. During mid-December I got a bit busy though and couldn’t listen as much.

Reading is a very important ability and shouldn’t be underestimated when taking the JLPT. I had a lot of time in the N5 for reading but I heard in the higher levels it’s much harder. So I want to start getting reading practice as early as possible. I took the reading tests from the JLPT Test app and did about half of them. Unfortunately there are no furigana so it’s hard to read texts that have advanced kanji. I used the app mostly while commuting and couldn’t really look up kanji. The other thing I used for reading are children books. I got through one small story. There weren’t many kanji that I didn’t know (it was mostly hiragana) but the grammar was really hard. To practice reading speed it was okay though.

Last but not least I finally finished my kanji goal for a month. It was a bit easier this time because the goal number wasn’t very high and also because I had more time. I guess I will continue with roughly this number per month.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Language Learning Year 2017

The year 2017 is almost over and I decided to write a summary of what I did during this year for my language studies. It’s also the first year that I came back to language learning after a long break of doing almost nothing and started studying regularly, actually more regularly than ever before!

January

After I was in Japan in December 2016 for 2 weeks, I came back fully motivated to pick up the language again. But my problem was that I just didn’t know where to start reviewing what I had learned before. At this point I didn’t know about most learning apps/websites and had zero plan. So even though I wanted to study Japanese again, I didn’t do anything for it.

In October 2016 I started going to an Arabic course and it went pretty well until I went abroad for 7 weeks. After I was back in January I had missed a lot of the course. But the main problem was that I had realized even more now that Modern Standard Arabic (which was taught in the course) wasn’t helpful for me. I want to learn Arabic so I can talk to people in a specific region and their dialect is different from MSA. So I decided to drop the course (the first language course I ever dropped, I felt horrible after doing it). I tried to learn the basics of the dialect I wanted to be able to speak myself, but it didn’t go well. It was very frustrating and I gave up. I still want to learn Arabic one day, but I will definitely need a better approach for this.

February – May

I heard from someone using Duolingo for their studies and found out that they would release a Japanese course soon! I decided I could try Duolingo to refresh my Spanish skills until then and started using the app regularly. I finished the Spanish tree pretty quickly and was very happy that I still knew so much (I stopped learning Spanish in 2010).

There was still time until the Japanese course would be released so I started with French on Duolingo. I had a few years of French in school and it was horrible. I didn’t have the best teachers and didn’t have any motivation to learn the language. I decided to give it another try now that I have some more motivation to learn it. I only covered some of the basic skills though before the Japanese course came out at the beginning of June. Then I stopped because I wanted to focus on Japanese.

In April I reactivated my old twitter account (which I had never really used in all the years) and started following people who also like learning languages and accounts focussing on language learning. I was never a twitter fan in the past, but now I really like it! You get a lot of great information there and the people I’ve met so far are really nice.

June – July

I completed the Duolingo Japanese tree in about 4 weeks. Everything that they had in their beta tree were things that I had already learned before and I have to say, as a review tool it was amazing for me. No going over grammar or learning vocab, I just went through all the lessons and everything I had learned before came back to me naturally. It was absolutely amazing and motivated me a lot.

At the end of July I had the chance to go to a JLPT N5 preparation course. At this point I still wasn’t sure if I should take the test or not, but I thought I could go there and take all the information I can get. It was a great course. We didn’t really review grammar or other stuff (just a bit of grammar), it was mostly the teacher explaining us how the JLPT works and giving us tips for the test and studying Japanese in general. It helped me a lot. We also got a lot of material (old tests) that we could use to prepare for the test. It was also the time I started using Memrise regularly because the teacher recommended it.

August – September

After the JLPT prep course I was even more motivated and something was really clear to me: I really wanted to learn the Japanese language this time and not stop like I did before. I did a lot of research about apps, study techniques, resources etc. to find what would help me best. I had a lot of time during these two months too, so I could really do a lot.

At the beginning of September I finally decided that I would take the JLPT. The only reason why I hesitated was the high fee. This wasn’t the best time for me to spend so much money on a test so I was a bit tempted to just skip it. But in the end all my pro arguments won and I registered for the December test. My level at this time was between N5 and N4 but I registered for the N5. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to prepare for the N4 until December and I’d rather have a good test result that would motivate me than failing the test.

October – November

I started a new job and had basically zero time. I could study/review some cards with Memrise when commuting to and from work, but that was basically it. The job was so demanding that even when I had some time I was just too tired to learn. These two months were really bad for my language learning projects.

December

On December 3rd I took the JLPT N5. After I was done I really had mixed feelings about it. I didn’t let this encourage me though. Finally the job became less stressful so I could start learning a bit more again.

I never really stopped with French on Duolingo, but I kept it at 1-2 lessons per day (mostly reviews). Now that I had more time again I also started doing a bit more here. I’m a bit unsure what to do with my French learning now. Just using Duolingo alone isn’t helpful. But I want to focus more on Japanese so I can’t really use other French resources. I don’t want to drop it or put it on on-hold because I don’t want to forget what I learned. So I might continue like before with just doing a little bit every day for now.

Some months ago I also tried the first few lessons for Dutch on Duolingo. I was really curious how easy it would be for me (since Dutch and German are very similar). I stopped quickly because I didn’t want to add another language at this point. In December Duolingo released the new version of the Dutch tree to all users and I tried it again. It’s kind of fun because there are really many similarities and I can understand a lot without even learning anything. But I have problems with how to write things and for this I would start to put more effort into my learning. I also only did again some basic lessons. I haven’t fully decided yet but I think I will put it again on on-hold for now because it doesn’t make much sense to add another language when I don’t have time for it. It’s a bit sad because I know two Dutch people who I could talk to, but I just don’t have time for it now. And Japanese is more important to me.

Summary

Overall this was a very interesting language learning year for me! I finally found my motivation again and so many great resources and apps that language learning is even more fun now than it was when I started it many years ago.

For the new year I think my main goal is to focus on Japanese. While I would LOVE to study more languages, I don’t think it’s a very good idea (not enough time for everything). Japanese is the most important language to me so this will be my top priority for a while.

 

Japanese Goals Jul-Dec 2017

The year is coming to an end and with this the first phase of my medium-term goals for Japanese that I set from July to December 2017. The purpose of this was to not only have short-term goals for a month, but to look a bit more into the future to (hopefully) structure my learning better.

It was the first time to set medium-term goals for Japanese so obviously I didn’t have any experience in how to structure my learning. I achieved some of the goals and others I didn’t. But it was still a good to have these medium-term goals in mind because it did help me beyond just working for the monthly goals.

These were my goals:

  • Repeat N5 vocab
  • Repeat N5 kanji
  • Do the JLPT N5 in December
  • Start repeating/learning N4 vocab
  • Learn ~2000 kanji (meanings)
  • Finish Genki II book
  • Repeat lessons in Duolingo
  • Listen to podcasts at least 3-4 times per week
  • Listen to Japanese Disney songs + translate them
  • Send regular emails to Japanese friends

I quickly reviewed all the N5 vocab and N5 kanji at the beginning of this phase and it wasn’t a problem at all. I also went to the JLPT N5 in December. This was actually a very important goal to me. There are pros and cons of taking the JLPT and everyone should decide for themselves if they find it useful, but personally I find it very useful for myself. Sure, you can just learn all the content of the JLPT without ever taking the test. But actually taking the test gives me more mini goals which I find very helpful.

My goal of starting to review/learn N4 vocabulary was more than successful, actually I finished going through all the vocab and now I’m just reviewing words when they come up again in Memrise. I also started learning N4 kanji (in context), which was something I hadn’t planned when I made the list.

Learning 2000 kanji with Heisig in 5-6 months was a terrible project which I failed horribly. There are some articles online from people claiming it’s possible to learn 2000 kanji in just 3 months. I really wonder if these people actually did try and finish(!) this or if they’re just working with assumptions. In theory it sounds nice to learn about 23 new kanji every day. 23 is not a big number, right?! I also started with about 20 new kanji every day even though I aimed at 11 on average. At the beginning it’s nice and easy but after a while it’s just getting harder and harder. There are more kanji to review, many kanji are hard and a lot of the stories just don’t make much sense. Maybe it is possible if you’re mostly focussed on kanji and have a lot of time, but I also had other things to do. In the end I did 900 kanji in 5 months. Which is far away from my original goal but still not bad. I’m positively surprised how many kanji I can recognize when looking at texts and even though I don’t know how to read most of them, I still understand a lot from just knowing the meaning. Now that I started learning the N4 kanji in context (so not just the isolated readings but words with kanji) I have to say it’s much, much easier for me to learn these words/readings of kanji for which I already know the meaning. So for me Heisig’s method definitely works and improves my general learning and understanding of kanji.

Finishing the Genki II book was a nice goal which might have worked better if I had a) more time and b) could work better with books. I just can’t do books in the evening when I’m tired from work (and most of my weekends were filled with work too). I got through about half of what I wanted to do, so there’s still a lot left which I will do in the next phase.

I set these goals a bit after I finished the English->Japanese tree on Duolingo and for a while I still did reviews to get more sentences I hadn’t seen before or new sentences they added later. After a while I stopped doing it though because I felt like I a) had to progress beyond what’s offered on Duolingo and b) do excercises specifically for the N5.

The podcast goal is a bit tricky, also because of the time constraints. Some weeks I did listening practice quite regularly, in other weeks I just didn’t have much time. But at least in December I spent many hours on my weekends listening to Japanese podcasts and other beginner stuff, as well as old N5 tests. It could have been more, but I think I did what I could.

I never had the time to actually sit down and translate a Disney song. I did listen to quite a few of them though, so I guess it counts at least half?

The email goal was also not reached… I sent 2 emails in September or October but after that I got busy and just couldn’t reply anymore.

Overall I think I did well with these goals. I didn’t achieve all of them, but on the other hand I did more in some other areas, like learning more N4 vocab. I also started with reading practice (old tests, children books), something I didn’t have on this medium-goal list because I only realized later how important it is to start practising reading as early as possible.

 

Japanese Goals December 2017

I set my goals for December a few days ago already but haven’t had the time to write more about it. So here’s my late goal post for December:

  • Take the JLPT N5
  • JLPT N4 vocabulary [Memrise, 130 cards]
  • JLPT N4 kanji [Memrise, 150 cards]
  • Genki II vocabulary [Memrise, x cards]
  • Genki II [18-19]
  • Listening practice
  • Reading practice [JLPT Test app N5]
  • Reading practice [Children books]
  • 150 Kanji [Heisig + Kanji Study App]

Well, that’s a lot of items again. But a lot of them are a lot smaller than in the previous months. Plus I plan to take vacation over Christmas, so more time to study.

The JLPT test was on December 3rd, so this goal is already done actually. I also wrote something about my impressions of the test.

This month I want to finish the N4 vocabulary (130 cards left). I want to start learning N4 kanji in context words. I will take it slow with 150 cards. As always I want to continue learning Genki II vocabulary as much as I can.

I will try to pick up Genki II again and start working towards finishing it this time. I need to review a lot of grammar constructs and learn new ones for the N4 level and I think Genki II is a good start.

Listening practice is something I need to do a lot because that’s definitely my weakest point. I put some easy stories on my phone and will listen to it when going to work, in addition to listening to podcasts and videos.

For reading practice I will do the reading tests in the JLPT app as well as reading some children books. My reading speed is not bad for my level (I had a lot of time left in the JLPT) but for the higher levels I need to be able to read faster.

150 new kanji is maybe a bit too much but I really need to have some progress… if I do these 150 kanji I will have learned 900 by the end of the year. That’s a lot less than originally planned (I wanted to have learned all 2000 by the end of January, so in 6 months) but it just wasn’t possible to do more. Too much work and I want to do other things as well, not just focussing on kanji.

 

Japanese Goals November 2017 – Results

A little late but I was busy with the JLPT… here’s what I wanted to do and actually did in November:

  • JLPT N5 old tests
  • Listening practice
  • JLPT N4 vocabulary [Memrise, 350 cards]
  • Genki II vocabulary [Memrise, x cards]
  • 90 Kanji [Heisig + Kanji Study App]

I focussed a lot on old JLPT material. I went through the grammar and particle tests in the app “JAPANESE 1” until I mostly got repetitions. Then I went through all the N5 grammar tests in the app “JLPT Test”. I also wanted to do some more of the old tests I have on paper, but I didn’t have enough time for it. Still, I did quite a lot here.

Another very big focus was listening practice, especially in the last 2-3 weeks. I listened to a lot of old tests that I found online or in the JLPT Test app, as well as the listening tests that I got from our teacher. Besides this I listened to Japanese podcasts with beginner dialogues for several hours, sometimes also to Japanese videos. I felt that a mix of JLPT tests and other material worked best to improve my overall skill here.

I couldn’t finish the N4 vocabulary cards on Memrise. I did only about 220 this month. Usually I can do more during my way to work but this month I was mostly doing JPLT tests then.

I did progress a bit with the Genki II vocab cards but honestly I have no idea how many I did. But I made sure I would at least review the vocab every day.

Of course I didn’t reach this month’s kanji goal again… but I learned about 50 kanji, so it’s not completely bad. I reviewed the N5 kanji a lot though, including writing.