Japanese has Made my Life

My name is Brandon Killby, and I am currently living and working in Japan. I work as an assistant language teacher of English, but I am also enrolled in a Japanese teachers learning program. I have lived in Japan for 4 years and have studied Japanese for eleven years.

3 More Stories Of Japanese Masters In The Making 1

Your reason for learning

I study Japanese so that I can teach it, and for myself. I love learning languages and I love speaking in another language. I enjoy that bond, that connection it gives you with a whole new world. It’s really amazing. Especially with Japanese, because you are not only learning a language but their culture is so minutely intertwined within their language, that you learn that as well.

How you got started

I started studying Japanese in high school. My grandfather was part of a secret division in WWII in the pacific theatre. He raised me, and would not talk much about the war, but what he wouldn’t say was that one side was right or wrong, or that we were right for what we did. He said though that the reason we have war is because we don’t understand the other country in question. From that point on I asked myself how do you get to know another country.

In kindergarten my teacher’s daughter was studying Japanese in high school and she came in and gave us a cultural day. It was great. We sat on zabuton, drank tea, made origami and used chopsticks. At that point it hit me, I was learning about Japan, so you learn about a country through culture.

When I got older I realized that language was a big part of culture and that’s when I decided to start learning Japanese in high school. I wanted to learn Japanese, understand the culture, the people the country. Then, share that knowledge with other people so we can understand more and have less war.

Brief notes on your method

In high school I used Ima 1&2 and Hai Ima. Another book we used ofr reading practice was: 日本との出会い. Also in high school I used a bunch of personal study materials for the Japan Bowl of America. It’s a national Japanese language and culture competition for high school students. Also in high school I looked over N4 and N3 vocabulary sheets that I would print out.

I was also big into Kanji Box on Facebook. I used to be #35 or so in the world. I used that pretty much every day. It really helped with site reading the kanji. In college, I did everything. My main textbooks were げんき 1&2、中級から上級への日本語、中級日本語 by Japan times and とびら my final year. During study abroad at Kansai University of International Languages in Osaka, we used materials that the teachers made. As for sites, I use Memrise now, almost religiously.

Content milestones and timing

As for milestones in learning, I went through most if not all beginner grammar and concepts in high school, except for Keigo which I picked up in college. For my intermediate studies I used my two books mentioned above 中級の日本語 & 中級から上級への日本語for self-study. I reached advanced level Japanese in 2011 when I studied abroad at Kansai Gaidai. I passed N2 in 2010. I passed N1 in 2014. I reached J2 on the Business Japanese Test in 2014. I am currently studying for Kanken5.

Stuff that confused you but you figured out

I can’t really think of anything that confused me at the moment. Something that I find really difficult, and still to this day are transitive and intransitive pairs. (あける あく).

Worst moments in the journey

I have hit rock bottom. I have even hit below rock bottom and started to dig deeper, but I have NEVER given up on my Japanese studies. To me, Japanese isn’t just something that I study now, it’s something that I live and I want to be better at it every day. I work really hard to be better so that I can be a better teacher and give my future students the best answer to my knowledge that I can give. I would say that I got kind of despaired when I failed the N1 for the 3rd time. That was pretty heart wrenching, but I got back on that horse and kept going. (with a tutor)…

Best moments

My best moment in Japanese studying was when I realized that I have done all this for a purpose, that I have worked so hard and struggled so much. Lost so much, but gained so much more. That I can take my passion, my love and share it with people so that they might share the same passion and love that I have is what motivates me. Also when I passed N1 that was pretty rad too.


My advice is if one way isn’t working it’s not the only way, and if you can’t do it all or you can’t seem to progress then at least be content with what you can do and where you currently are.

The difference Japanese has made to your life

Japanese has made my life. I would not have the job I have, the family I have, the friends I have, the life I live, or my wonderful loving partner that I have found if I didn’t study Japanese. That is a fact. I have dedicated almost half my life to Japanese, the culture, the country and its people. My future plans are to continue as well.

I don’t plan on ever stopping. I love what I do, I love to study Japanese, but more than that I love to teach it. I owe this language a lot. It helped me get through so pretty rough times in life. My life would probably never have been this wonderful without Japanese, and the people who have been there to support my studies and my efforts. So the difference Japanese has made in my life is that it has changed it completely, and I couldn’t be happier.

Note: you can find me on Memrise: killbybm08

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Japanese has Made my Life — 3 Comments

  1. Questions for Brandon: What resources proved helpful in passing the N1? Also, could you compare Memrise and Anki? Or: What do you like so much about Memrise (if that comparison is hard to make)?

    • I can help with that!
      I’ve been using memrise for only a month, so I might not know eveyrthing, but I found it a lot better than Anki, provided you are マイペース kinda guy. It’s really fun and great for someone trying to learn ~5-10 cards/day, but fails miserably if you want to power level.

      Why would I recommend memrise over Anki:
      1. The interface is fun.
      2. The huge variety of decks and courses. Learning becomes like a game
      3. The learning method. It tests a vocabulary word in every way imaginable. Clozed, production, recognition, and every time you get it right, you get point (and flowers?)
      5. The community. You can make friends on memrise, and see what they are upto. It really takes away that “solo learning” aspect that is associated with Japanese.

      Why I wouldn’t recommend memrise:
      1. If you want to learn Japanese as fast as possible. It personally didn’t work for me as I found it pathetically slow. But then again, I have seen a lot of people quitting RTK again and again, and finally hitting it off with memrise.
      2. If you want to use JalUp method. It’s fast. It’s crisp. It’s simple.
      Should I use memrise?
      The best way to know is: If you can’t handle Anki, don’t waste your time with it. Use memrise.

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