How to Power Level Your Japanese Ability

The methods on JALUP are designed to level you faster than any other methods out there. But for some people, they want something more. They don’t just want to level, they want to power level. They want to have an advanced level right now. They can’t wait years. They have a deadline. They need it right now.

How to Power Level Your Japanese Ability 1

For the most part, people react to this with highly cynical “Impossible. You can’t get that good in Japanese that quickly.” This is true . . . mostly. However, there are ways to power level yourself to a very high level in a short period of time. But just because there is a way, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it. Learning Japanese at a normal rate is already difficult enough. Take that and double or triple your speed of learning. What do you think will happen?

I’ve never power leveled myself for an extended period of time, but have done it for short bursts. However, I know and have worked with people who have, and quite successfully. So I thought it would be useful to create a quick guide on this to those out there who are considering this tricky path.

Let me preface this post by saying that for most people I don’t recommend this. Your chances of burnout and quitting Japanese are too high. There is usually no reason for rushing, as the normal method already brings results quite fast.  But if you are going to pursue this, you must be prepared for the all the trials that await.

Concrete Urgent Goal

Throw out your “I want to watch anime without subtitles,” or “I love Japanese culture and Japan,” or “l like Japanese music.” These goals are perfectly fine for ordinary studying, but not enough to push you through power leveling. You need urgent and specific goals that are life changing.  The two (and maybe only) main examples I can think of:

– You need great Japanese for a specific job or job interview coming up. For example, you are entering your 4th year of university, graduating in May, and you have a job lined up. When your future job is on the line, you are willing to do everything you can to work for it.

– You will be living in Japan (for example as an English Teacher) with a precise  start date on D/M/Y. To the dedicated learner, this creates a strong goal to get your Japanese up to an advanced level before you go, because your experience will be a whole different game if you go into Japan knowing the language.

– Any others you guys can come up with?

There can’t be any vagueness here. For example, take the two above and turn them into “I want to absolutely have a job using Japanese by February (even though you don’t have an interview or job lined up)”, or “I will definitely live in Japan by 2013,” even though you have no firm plan of getting there.

RTK Speed

Since RTK has always been the key to the fastest acquisition of kanji, picking up the pace on this is an absolute must. While normally you can go at a somewhat casual pace of 10-30 new kanji a day. You don’t have time for this. While not common, there are people out there who have done 100+ new kanji a day, allowing them finishing within a month.

What this results in are massive amounts of reviews due every day. Deal with it. While you will be forgetting new kanji constantly due to all the new kanji, keep reviewing them, failing them, reviewing, and failing, and eventually they will stick. Even once you finish RTK, your failure rate will be significantly high. Ignore this and just keep reviewing. Have faith in Anki. It will cover for your speedy ascent and eventually level out.

J-E and J-J Pacing

Similar to blasting through RTK, you need to at least plow through your J-E 1000 sentences. Before your immersion environment really starts to get kicking, you need the basics of Japanese (vocabulary and grammar) set up. Make it a priority to finish the J-E 1000 as soon as possible. Remember, this isn’t where you really start getting into Japanese, but it is just solidifying your base. Try to also finish this in less than a month.

Once you get to J-J, you can slightly slow down. You need to, because regardless of the power leveling, you still have to be ready to face the massive challenge of going from J-E to J-J. If you try to power level at this transition, I can see a super high failure rate, since the failure rate of doing it at a normal pace is already rough. Start off slow. Get your first 1000 J-J cards out slightly slower than your blast pace. As soon as you get used to it and into the groove of J-J branching, resume throttle speed.

Immersion

This is the most important force you must control and the determining factor of whether you will succeed or not. You have to take every single free minute of the day (yes every minute) besides sleeping time, and be listening to Japanese media. No gaps in passive listening. None. If you are with other people, one headphone in one ear. No excuses. You must rack up the hours here.

Living Conditions

How to Power Level Your Japanese Ability 2

Ideally, you would want to live alone. Minimizing of at-home distractions is essential, and there are no bigger distractions than other people. If this isn’t an option (which it usually isn’t), then you have to find a way to make sure your Japanese schedule is uninterrupted.

Having a boyfriend/girlfriend/married will also make the situation that much more complex and you probably need to discuss it with them how you plan to go about things.

Stress Relief

Since everything you will be doing during this period will be in Japanese, you will need to figure out ways to relax in Japanese. This is where your love of all things Japanese will be of great assistance. You need to find easy Japanese media material that you can relax to and keeps you motivated. Anime, manga, and movies are probably a good source of this. Keep out anything that would possibly frustrate you.

Sleep

You must sleep properly. Never shave off sleep time for study time. Probably around 7-8 hours is enough. This is the time where all your studying for the day becomes solidified into your memories. I also recommend naps where possible during the day for like 20-30 minutes to refresh you and provide mini bursts of memory reinforcement.

Exercise and eating right

Exercise has the same positive effects on memory as sleeping. In addition, it increases your endurance to be able to study longer. Eating healthier has similar effects, and certain foods boost brain power.

Willpower

As humans, we have a limited supply of daily willpower. When you use it up for the day, you tend to procrastinate. You need to pour all this daily willpower into studying Japanese. This means that you can’t afford to use that willpower on other things (otherwise you will run out before the day finishes). So don’t try to accomplish anything else major, and don’t start significantly trying to do better things. Put other big new things on hold if possible.

Job/School

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to be solely studying Japanese, and only studying Japanese, with no job or school involved. It is actually the contrary. Having a job/school will keep you sane while you are power leveling. And since you can passively study while doing either, you will be fine and not be hindered as much as you think.

– College: most majors and schedules give you plenty of free time. You may lose a slight bit of your social life though (unless you find Japanese friends who will speak Japanese or other friends learning Japanese).

– Job: If you are currently working, you need to be able to passively listen to Japanese throughout the work day on your headphones.  That boring job doing data entry may be exactly what you need!

Focused Targets

You may require a specific Japanese ability rather than just a general ability of “fluent Japanese.” For example, fluency in speaking, or fluency in reading.

Fluency in speaking is harder to get without adding reading, as reading adds to your speaking ability, expands your vocabulary, and allows you to say what you want to say.

Fluency in reading without speaking ability is a lot easier, and is actually the progress you usually make at first with the JALUP method. Speaking is the last skill to stick to you anyway, so this is actually isn’t so bad. This doesn’t mean you don’t need listening, as listening is what dominates your passive environment and listening will connect with reading. But if reading is your sole goal, you may have a better chance of success at power leveling.

What’s the fastest I can reach an advanced level?

This is what you really want to know. From the few people I have seen who have met the power leveling challenge, I believe you can make an extreme amount of progress in one year. You won’t be fluent, but you could get to levels 40~50.

Should you do it?

I think power leveling is great in short-term intervals, but doing it long term presents serious dangers. Burnout, frustration, anxiety, stress, and desire to give up are all emotions that are waiting to frequently tackle you at your weakest moments. The success rate is low. I would put it somewhere around 10~20%. This doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It just means most people can’t.

But if this is the path you decide to take, I do wish you luck. If you are a former power leveler, a failed power leveler, or are currently power leveling, please leave your story in the comments as people definitely would like to know what the experience is like, and whether they should attempt it.



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

How to Power Level Your Japanese Ability — 50 Comments

  1. Something that has always confused me is this whole blasting through anki cards. By going at a rate of 100 instead of 25, for example, are you really learning that much faster? Your reviews will be compounding on each other every day regardless. I feel as though, in the end, you’re in the same situation, if not worse. Instead of having new cards, you’ll just be reviewing a ton more than you would be if you completed it at a slower pace. Or am I missing something?

    Then again, I guess if you have the time and anti-burnout ability/drive/etc. It won’t matter.

    • You’d be surprised. While yes, your card failure rate is much higher for a short while, it really does level out quickly, and you are already on the next phases. Reviewing Anki cards is easier than learning new ones, so the thought of still having to learn N new cards can be very daunting. So you are speeding though the learning new cards phase to the reviewing cards phase. The reviews will be harsher when you finish, but all you have left to do with RTK is review.

      Also, let’s say you slowly go through 1000 RTK cards with a temporary retention rate of 90% as opposed to speedily going through 2000 RTK cards with a temporary retention rate of 65%. When you are entering the J-E phase you will have the following:

      90% x 1000 = 900 kanji knowledge
      65% x 2000 = 1300 kanji knowledge

      And even if the numbers are slightly different, if you go at a slower pace, you are left with time that you can’t use. You can go through J-E cards, but once you are finished with that, it would be a real pain and not beneficial to hit up J-J cards before you finish RTK.

      Remember, this is power leveling. Burnout is high. But there are people who can do it.

      • hehe, I’ve been “power leveling” for almost 2 years straight… took ~3 month break total. :P Currently, I’m at a point in which I can learn 400~600 words a day, in no more than 3hrs. I’ve been burnt out before but not with Japanese (with mathematics). I know what it feels like so… I stop learning when I’m in the “dim flickering like area” before the “total blackout”. Gradually pushing my limits until, the “total blackout” is no more.

        2013 will be my 3rd year of self-study and my short-term goal was and still is…
        ー> To encounter everything (and remember most) in Tagaini Jisho within 3 years, (learning) from ground zero. http://www.tagaini.net/about

        I’ve never used RTK before, but in my opinion… it seems like a waste of time. Since learning radicals are an after thought, I think they should stay that way. The benefits are scarce and they’re main use is with a dictionary. (ー.ー;)When one knows how to learn kanji, they’ll realize that RTK slows down their overall progress. ~though, to each his own method

        P.S.
        I mix several languages, regularly… to improve comprehension, application, and etc. :P

  2. Personally I really haven’t had great experiences with doing the whole immersion iPod thing because it always makes me feel very overstimulated. Also, if I do it for awhile it has a clear positive effect on my listening comprehension, but then if I stop it just kind of dies off which makes me feel like it has more of a temporary effect. Has anyone else had the same experiences with it?

    Also, I have a hard time believing that it always has worthwhile effects compared to active listening. If I was going to be power leveling I feel like it would have a net positive effect on my results if I allowed myself some time to take a break from the Japanese input to avoid burnout. For example, maybe decide to watch four hours a day of television as actively as possible and then allow myself to fully relax at the end of the day and hang out with friends or watch a movie in English. Am I the only one that has come to this conclusion? Do you really think I’m missing out that much by not using full immersion?

    The times that I have finally progressed the most have generally been the ones where I have a specific target for the day and after I have accomplished that goal I let myself chill out and do other things to recuperate. Even when I went through a period of extreme study mode and was doing 100 J-J cards a day for a few months, I felt like it was extremely beneficial for me to take much needed breaks from Japanese after accomplishing my goals for the day. I’m really curious about this because sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m just not willing to push myself as far or something.

    • Hey, Jeff.
      I see where you’re coming from. I have been finding ‘breaks’ to be beneficial as well. They allow time for things to seep in and let your brain do some crunching of its own, much like what an SRS is all about.
      However, where I find to be the drawback is, when you give yourself that kind of break, it’s easier to rationalize that ANOTHER little break isn’t going to hurt. And then another. Eventually this can lead to a build up and you lose focus, not putting enough time into your overall goal.
      But, if you can control yourself, keep your breaks limited, then it seems to be okay.
      It is a dangerous road to cross, so be wary.

      • Agreed. In normal leveling breaks are necessary. But as you said, minimal and controlled. Most people have trouble with this, which is why as you mentioned to tread carefully.

      • I can definitely see what you’re saying and I have similar fears about it. Nobody wants to risk stopping a project like this after putting so much time in. But, particularly after one has made some solid progress, is there that big of a problem with taking another break? Is there always really that big of a chance of stopping for good? I think that after putting in a lot of time, the desire to continue progressing is a lot stronger than the chance of stopping and letting the time spent go to waste. I’m starting to feel like I often guilt myself into doing more in Japanese when it’s not always completely necessary. Do you have similar feelings or do you really feel like you are regressing and/or taking a big risk when you take a break?

    • It does take time to get used to the constant immersion. But I’m telling you from experience, eventually you will love it. You will actually feel lonely when you aren’t constantly surrounded by Japanese. You aren’t immersing yourself with lessons and drills. You are immersing yourself with your favorite TV shows, movies, music, and anime. While at first you have slight frustration because you aren’t understanding it, as time goes, and you slowly start picking up more and more, your immersion becomes that much more special to you.

      And another natural progression is this relaxation time that people need will eventually be done in Japanese. The more you fall in love with Japanese culture and media, you will enjoy relaxing to it that much more. You won’t need to take a break from your studies because your break is your studies. You will eventually come home from a long day at work and actually want to relax by watching the newest episode of your favorite J-dramas or variety shows (and this sensation will come way before you are fluent).

      It’s all about giving it time. It is a complete 180 degree change in lifestyle. I’ve found that those who benefit the most and succeed at it are those that realize this.

      But again, it’s all really how bad you want it and how quick you want it. If you are in no rush to be fluent in Japanese, there is nothing wrong with that at all, and there is no need to rush. Enjoy Japanese at a pace that is comfortable and enjoyable to you.

      • I agree with everything you said completely. I’m actually fairly far along at this point (started this whole project about 4 years ago and I’m currently at 9500 cards) so I can understand most of the things I read and watch, but definitely not everything. I watch and read Japanese throughout every day, and I miss it when I don’t come into contact with it for a day. I take breaks to watch Japanese TV shows and movies because I love them and enjoy watching them.

        But what about after you have watched that new Japanese TV show or movie and you still have 3 hours before you go to bed? Do you stick to a philosophy like AJATT and never let yourself interact with media that isn’t in Japanese?

        For me I love Japanese media so I’m not going to stop reading/watching it everyday, but it can still be pretty exhausting not understanding everything. I guess this might be remedied through a different mindset, but after studying for this long I’m starting to feel like it might not be worth forcing myself to only do things in Japanese if there are things I want to do in English as well (as in, the benefits of having this more laid back attitude might actually have a net positive effect on my Japanese progress because I’m always more excited when I do watch Japanese TV shows or movies).

        A big part of this is because I’m starting to feel pretty strongly that up until an advanced level when you can understand most of the things you are reading and watching, your time and energy is much better spent learning new vocabulary because that is almost entirely the reason you can’t understand the TV show or movie that you would love to watch. Do you agree with this?

        I guess I’m mostly starting to get confused about why it seems like the online community of Japanese learners is so set on the idea that once you decide to study Japanese, doing things in English becomes a sin. And that painfully slogging through barely comprehensible books in Japanese is without question a better use of your time than learning some new words each day and maybe reading an easy manga before going about your life in English. Obviously once you have learned a hell of a lot of words and the world of Japanese is truly open to you, it makes sense to be watching/reading more but I’d be surprised if this didn’t happen naturally for anyone willing to put in the time to learn.

        In other words, I don’t necessarily believe that during the long (long, long) path from beginner to advanced, someone who is learning 10 new words and reading some manga/watching an easy TV show with Japanese subs each day is really going to be progressing much slower than someone who is learning 10 new words each day and has changed his or her environment completely into Japanese. Because when it comes down to it, the media isn’t going to start coming into focus until the learner understands the words, regardless of how much he immerses. Does this make sense?

        I guess I should probably preface this all by saying I wasted a significant amount of time and energy (years) when I first started learning Japanese after finding AJATT because I focused almost entirely on immersion and very little on vocabulary and I’m still an incredibly bitter old man about it.

        (Sorry I keep writing so much! I would seriously just love to hear other peoples’ opinions on this because I think about it all the time. Also, thanks so much for the long and detailed response.)

        • You’re a lot further along than I am, and have been at this for quite a bit longer as well (I’m approaching the 1 year point), but I have to say that I’ve learned a good bit of vocabulary from doing just that, listening to music, watching dramas, playing games, watching Japanese people talk among themselves, or to me on occasion — not that I can really talk back all that well ^^ — without having the aim of learning vocabulary. It is more of an “Oh! So that is how it is said in that situation.” and since it struck such a strong response, I tend to remember it fairly well. And if I do end up forgetting it, I know exactly where I can go back to find it in most cases. Sure, I had to understand a good bit before I could learn meanings of words without looking them up (or even seeing them in some cases), but am still far from where I want to be. Also, while it didn’t happen as often, I did still learn words near the very beginning of my journey through watching drama without a good handle on vocabulary.
          I would go as far as to say that a large portion of my vocabulary / phrases has come from my immersion environment, and isn’t something that I actively studied — not that I’m trying to put SRS down; it is works wonderfully in conjunction with an immersion environment, I think. Not only that, but it is responsible for the other large portion of my vocabulary. =p

          • Thanks for the response どうして. I’m envious of your positive approach towards everything. For me personally I still have a lot of trouble with the idea of fully taking the dive into immersion, but I can see how if I focused more on the things I did learn from immersion than how darn (I used stronger words at the time) frustrating it was, I probably would have gotten/would get much more out of it.

  3. I want to use anki on a daily basis, but it’s easier to do things on the go while my day is in progress. I don’t have anything like an ipod, so I can’t use an app? Any suggestions, as I want to continue speed leveling (not neccesarily as fast as power leveling, byt faster than my normal pace) my Japanese during the school year. Perhaps I will just bring my laptop. If only there were a vocal anki I could use in the car…

    A lot to think about.

    Another motivation… going to Japan for a short while is a real life test of skills. Last time I went I felt depressed, yet invigorated to study because of me poor speaking ability. This time, being in Japan, I feel so happy. My effort paid off, as it’s an extreme improvement. Anyone who is going once, then again a year later or less has that time period to really power level.

      • Is there a way to connect my online deck with my computer deck? I created an account awhile ago, but couldn’t find a way to do so.

        I guess I will do some experimenting with the site and try to integrate anki more into my life.

        • Yes there is!
          Open Anki on your computer, and click settings, then preferences, then on the network tab. Enter your account information in there and set your sync settings as you like.
          Open the decks you’d like to be synced and in the File menu hit sync on each of them, and they will be uploaded to your ankiweb account.
          If you have it so it automatically syncs each time you open/close a deck (or anki itself) then it will keep everything up to date for you. Just don’t do reviews on ankiweb and on your computer at the same time. =p

  4. “Having a boyfriend/girlfriend/married will also make the situation that much more complex and you probably need to discuss it with them how you plan to go about things.”

    My major distraction in keeping a high immersion environment is my husband, even though he’s Japanese. He’s interested in so many American TV shows, which really tempts me to watch the same shows. We couldn’t make it through the summer without watching programs in English. If he were to watch something in English, and I had my headphones on listening to something in Japanese, we were distanced and it felt lonely. So I gave up on that. We settled on watching something in Japanese while we ate, while he could watch programs in English other times such as before we ate when he just got home. We ended up watching a lot of great Japanese series that way, such as Lain, a DVD that had been sitting around forever I never got to. If I were alone, I would’ve definitely been able to stay away from the programs in English. But being married definitely complicate things.

    This summer, we also had an “all Japanese” weekend where we only talked in Japanese, watched things in Japanese, went to church that’s held in Japanese, shopped at the Asian grocery store and so on. Doing 100% immersion events in short bursts works better than stretching it out over a long period, because it doesn’t put stress on the relationship.

    “You must sleep properly. Never shave off sleep time for study time. Probably around 7-8 hours is enough.”

    My biggest challenge… I think that’s the thing I need to work on next to improve my study environment.

    “I think power leveling is great in short-term intervals, but doing it long term presents serious dangers.”

    In my experience, when giving myself a big challenge like power leveling, I need a good two to three weeks to recover, then another week to plan my upcoming semester. Big events, such as school starting again or the summer coming, are great times to start a new challenge because everything is changing, which allows me to change my schedule. To prevent taking a break turning into never going back to power leveling again from occurring, perhaps seeing things as “semesters” or “seasonal” will help.

  5. I tried power-leveling several times since starting with Japanese, but unfortunately none of them worked out too well (until recently and that was only a few months). Generally I just got burnt out and took a few days to relax, but a couple times it led to taking longer breaks from Japanese altogether (several months).

    Looking back my biggest lessons learned were:

    1. The immersion stuff is extremely important to help get you accustomed to the language and come into contact with all of the things you’re learning. But absolutely do not neglect the SRS. Pick a number of new cards that fits well with your goal and stick to it everyday.

    2. The world will not end if you do not switch to monolingual. But absolutely try to make the switch! Failing at making the change to monolingual was just one of the things that led to me getting extremely burnt out and quitting for several months. Keep in mind when going into it that you can still absolutely positively progress without it. It is just another tool that can really help you look at the language in a different way. If you get into and it is far too frustrating and making you hate Japanese then it might be worth trying it a little later. Continue trying it at various times so you have an idea of what it feels like, but keep in mind that very accomplished language learners like Steve Kaufmann don’t use monolingual at all.

    3. If you are at the earlier stages of things, consider sticking with specific media to bring it to comprehension. For example, use the podcasts and scripts at Japanese Listening Advanced and dive into them. Work on understanding as much as you can from the transcript and listen to it over and over while reading along. It can be extremely motivating to have specific podcasts, movies, etc. to go back to when you are frustrated that you have full comprehension of.

    My most successful run in with power-leveling was earlier this year when I finally got into the groove with monolingual cards and for 2 months pretty much did nothing but make cards and watch Lost dubbed in Japanese. Discovering the branching process on this site mixed with my completely open schedule turned me into a machine for a few months. (I was fed up with not understanding everything, damn it!) I’ve made somewhere around 8000 cards using the branching method this year and it has worked amazingly well (thanks Adshap!).

    • And I forgot to mention that for me, interestingly enough it was the decision that I didn’t need to go monolingual that let me relax enough and make monolingual work the next time I was curious and tried it. Basically, just try not to put too much pressure on yourself when you give it a shot because being too intense about it will make it difficult to relax and not obsess over not fully understanding every word.

      • I agree with this. I’ve gone monolingual now, but it actually pushes me more towards extensive learning rather than using the dictionary as much as I used to. This is because my electronic dictionary’s definition are more complicated and have more kanji than the J-J online dictionaries I use, which are easier to understand. I just found it to be a waste of time and chose to learn through context. Eventually, I will understand the J-J dictionaries, but by that time, how much will I really need them? However, I do really like using J-J with anki and found it to be a big improvement in my learning, as I learned how to phrase the definitions along with the vocab.

  6. I really hate my high school for the fact that there is too much English for me. No MP3s or headphones allowed during class or anything, it just sucks. There are only 4 minutes between classes so by the time you get your music and stuff, you’re only gonna be able to listen to about 3 minutes of Japanese, then 50 more English minutes. School steals over 8 hours from Japanese daily, yeesh. I still read my light novels and news during class most of the time, but there’s always a crave for more Japanese. It doesn’t help that there are seriously ZERO japanese people at my school. Not a single one. I checked the yearbooks. Mostly Koreans and Vietnamese.

    Man, it sure sucks only being 15, But I guess it’s a good thing to start early.

    • I really understand how you feel. I had to go through the same experience. There were no Japanese students in my school either, nor anyone who was learning Japanese. It wasn’t until I got a car that really freed me, so that I could find a community outside of my school.

      What stinks even more is that high school forces you to take classes in a language you care nothing for. Four years of French was a total waste of time. Keep monopolizing the time you have between your classes. People often doodle during class. You can use the opportunity to do your “doodling” in Japanese. Try bringing charts to work on during class, such as kanji you are working on. If they are hand written, most likely the teacher won’t notice. That’s how I learned fingerspelling in Japanese sign language during a really boring class on Asian religion in college (I expected so much more from the class, it was a bummer). I took it out during our 7 minute meditation time at the beginning of the class. Make use of that lunch time too, for what little you get of it.

      • Oh, and one more thing. Make sure your teachers know your interest in Japan. Often times, they will be excited to see a student willing to learn (a change for once). I ended up doing a lot of my projects in my American history class on Japan’s events related to America, at my own request to stray from the curriculum. A lot of teachers agree that the curriculum is too European centric and will allow bending room for the projects they give you. You could probably incorporate Japanese articles into your research, so that your homework time isn’t taken over by English.

      • It makes me sad that you found French to be a waste of time as I’m a native French speaker. Our language is good too. :(

        • I don’t think Rachel meant that studying French is a waste of time, but having no language options in school, and be forced to study a language she wasn’t interested in was a waste of time.

        • I found it to be a waste of time, because I was studying Japanese, and would have rather have my time spent on that language. I wish they had an independent study option back then.

          Also, I didn’t really learn much French through the traditional classroom teaching style. I can read some, but can hardly speak any. I didn’t feel prepared to by my teachers. What was a huge waste about it is that they hardly introduced us to any of the actual culture of France associated with the language. I begged my last French teacher to actually incorporate some real French material into the class, but he said he knows how to do things and that the class was to prepare us for college, not France. In my oral exam, he gave me a low score because my French accent wasn’t any good, yet he never taught us how to have one nor showed us any material from France that displayed one.

          If I actually came out of the class with knowledge about and appreciation for the French culture, it wouldn’t have been a waste. Japanese people actually love French culture so some of it has seeped into its own culture, and cooking has a lot of French culture, so even if I never went to France, it would’ve been useful. Even though I’m good at studying languages independently, the traditional classroom method failed me and called me a bad student. That’s what upsets me the most. Not only could I not choose the language I wanted to learn, the classes weren’t any good, making it even more of a waste of time.

          • I will say that my 2nd teacher was much better than my 1st and 3rd. She really tried when it came to showing her love of France to us. She used to tell us stories of her adventures in France while speaking French, and when I approached her about improving my French (this was before I was studying Japanese), she encouraged me to get some tapes at home and start doing some self studying. She also used more of the methods I learned from my Teaching English as a Foreign Language class.

            I tried to keep learning French after school, but was totally discouraged by my teacher. When I approached him about moving onto the final French class, he said that he thinks that I’ve done enough and that I have enough qualifications for college. Even so, I tried practicing with my friend who was interested in French, making a blog in French, practicing with people online and so on.

            I also want to learn Chinese, and have enough to manage conversations. I know more Chinese than French because I combined the immersion method with taking traditional classes. But for now I’ve decided to stick with Japanese and put all my focus and passion into that language.

    • Ha! Ironically, I’ve been thinking recently how I squandered the opportunity to learn all of this at 15, when I didn’t have the responsibility for paying bills and raising kids. ;-)

      I have a gf who’s extremely tolerant of my drive to learn Japanese. Contrary to the advice at the top of this article, I find having family, friends and other “distractions” a great way to keep myself sane while I spend anywhere from 3 to 7 hours a day absorbed in 日本語.

    • I’m also struggling with immersion during school haha. I generally learn everything at home from textbooks before the class because a lot of my teachers are just straight up incompetent, or at least incredibly boring. It means I do well in tests but it also means that I spend seven hours a day doing nothing except being painfully aware that I could be doing Japanese (sadly, no headphones, books etc. are allowed in class here, either). I’m debating entering the JLPT just to see if a potential qualification would mean they’d let me study in school. Oh well :’)

      EDIT: There is one good thing about being 16 – the holidays! I got a ridiculous amount done even just in the half-term break and I can’t wait for longer holidays to come around, summer especially. 7 weeks of pure, unadulterated Japanese.

  7. I think that for some things power-leveling works for me (especially kanji and vocab through flashcards), but some things drive me insane. Back home in Canada I was keen enough to listen to Japanese for a few hours a day, but now that I live in Japan and work in a school where only two teachers speak English, I’m so sick of hearing incomprehensible Japanese all day that once I get home I can’t wait to watch hours and hours of English TV. And yet I still enjoy drilling kanji. I guess it just frustrates me way too much to not understand what I’m hearing.

      • You’re probably right. I just need to get over my initial hesitation and find something that really compels me to want to watch it. Just need to find the right TV show, I guess!

    • I understand that temptation (-_-). It gets tiring listening to Japanese all day, especially when it all just seems like a blur. Do you ever get that moment when you’re with a bunch of Japanese people, and you just zone out for the whole conversation? It feels kind of lonely. But I think that’s what the stress relievers Adshap talked about are for. They are things that you don’t necessarily need to put a lot of effort and studying into to enjoy, such as a manga or drama you’re following that’s at your level and that you really enjoy. I find video games are very useful for stress relievers for that purpose. You don’t need to necessarily understand everything to enjoy them, and you end up learning a lot of Japanese accidentally as phrases get repeated and you happen to catch on.

      Also, in Japan there are channels with movies in English that have subtitles. Sometimes I just miss the American culture, and as one who can’t stand Japanese dubs (or any dubs) of something live action, I find subtitles in Japanese to be the next best thing. You get to compare what you hear to the subtitles. At least you’re not completely immersed into English.

      • I know exactly what you mean about zoning out of conversations and feeling kind of lonely. That’s the only part of living here that can actually get me down sometimes. Hence, needing to study more!

        I like your idea of watching English films with Japanese subtitles. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s what I often do with my ESS club! I didn’t think about it before, but when I watch a movie with them, I often do look down at the Japanese subtitles and have some fun comparing the translation to the actual dialogue. Doesn’t exactly help my Japanese listening, but it could be good reading practice.

  8. P.S. I also now regret that I didn’t try very hard in French during school. Soon it could be very useful to me (thinking of studying in Montreal when I max out my contract at this school), but if I want to learn it now I’m back at square one!

  9. I recently just power levelled through RTK in about 2 months. I went one week studying every day for 12 hours straight. The result…I have been experiencing migraines and head aches, and a messed up sleeping pattern. And although my reading ability has gone through the roof, I really wish I took my time with it, as now I get headaches just looking at kanji…which is awkward because I live in Japan. My advice, chill out and don’t forsake sleep for power levelling.

  10. Hey, I’ve been playing around with Japanese for the past year and a half. Did some very basic grammar and vocab (only a few hours worth), listened to maybe 20 Pimsleur lessons, did a few hours of that stupid Rosetta Stone program until I wised up – newbies, please stay away from that, it’s terrible. Even did some RtK, before I gave up on it, about a year ago, but mostly just watching media and a little bit of active studying of stuff I struggled through translating with jisho.org (nothing much, just some songs that have also been on my mp3 player for at least a year).

    This is where I get to the point: Then, two months ago I started RtK with Anki. Started out slowly, but about 6-700 Kanji in I realized that I can pick up the pace. So I did, took me a month to do the last 1400, finished on the last day of 2012. I did start adding extra clues towards the end (no primitives, just clarifications of the meaning of the keyword, or tiny clues about the story on the really confusing ones) . I highly recommend doing that from the beginning (only for the hard ones, the easy ones aren’t worth the extra typing).

    Right now, I’m powering through Tae Kim’s Clozed deleted example sentences, and Core2000 J-E sentences. I’m going at about the pace you are describing in the article, and doing fine. Should be at 1000 sentences by the end of the month. While not necessarily Core6k (maybe I can find J-J sentence packs), I plan to keep going with other people’s sentences for quite a while (because the challenge of Japanese isn’t the language, it’s the writing, and for that pre-made material just seems more effective – there’s no way I can find sentences that help me progress evenly, on my own). I’ll do this until I am able to read so called “simple text” without trouble. Then I’ll stop adding sentences altogether.

    But I shan’t be reading much “simple text”. At that point, the fun starts. I’m gonna dive right into novels (same as I did learning English), and use a dictionary + add vocab to Anki, until I’m ready to start talking to people (both in writing, online, and in person). This method worked for me once (in fact, a lot simpler version of this, since there was very little learning I had to do, with English, before I just picked up Alice in Wonderland and went through it with a dictionary in hand), and not only did it work but I enjoyed it very much, so I’m sticking to it.

    The only reason why I’ve been reading this forum instead today is because I didn’t get much sleep last night, so I’m taking a break (I did my reviews, of course, and I added a few sentences, but it’s a pain when you can’t focus). It’s nice to see that others have ideas similar to mine (though maybe we got them from the same place: I came up with the basic approach of reading and writing your way to fluency by myself, when learning English, but since then refined and confirmed it when I read Lomb Kato’s “How I Learn Languages”.)

    • Hey Jake. It kind of amazes me that you are in almost exactly the same place I am in. Not only are you working on pretty much the same thing I am, but we seem to be going at the exact same pace for everything(but you are about 2 weeks ahead of me). I really hope you come back and check this, because I would love to get in contact with you and maybe we could motivate each other, etc.

      • http://forum.koohii.com/ has a lot of active threads where people at each level motivate each other, and discuss specific materials. Check it out (for instance, at our stage, there’s a sticky thread with NukeMarine’s Suggested Guide for Beginners).

  11. I made it though RTK 1 in just a little over 3 weeks. To this day, my RTK run is one of the most masochistic things I have ever done. I do not recommend doing RTK at such a rate unless you’re in a really desperate situation like was. The only reason why I did such a horrible thing was because I had procrastinated on my second language requirement for my major. I needed to learn two school years of Japanese in 4 months so could I graduate from university on time.

    DO NOT follow my example! It almost ruined my desire to learn Japanese (or at least 標準語) forever. Unless you’re absolutely in love and obsessed with Japanese like no other, learning the kanji so quickly will cause you to become exhausted with Japanese. You may even start to hate Japanese. Even if you managed to learn them in 10 days or something it would scarcely matter because you would probably tap out and quit because the mental exertion and concentration that would be required to do so would be so great. So, it may actually be more time efficient to pace yourself properly because speeding through RTK will cause most people to put their Broca’s area on vacation… Or on permanent leave.

    Even if you power level through everything else, give the kanji at least 3 months of attention (2 and a half if you’re ridiculously smart). The Kanji are one of the most important aspects of the Japanese language and they deserve to be to treated as such. I don’t want to put limits on what anyone is capable of, but I think most people can’t do RTK with much quality if they spend less than 2 months on it. Take your time and enjoy the ride and the quality of your learning and your mental long-term viability will improve greatly.

    • Thanks Donal for sharing your story and attempt at power leveling. It is very helpful to show some of the experiences people have so they know what they may be getting themselves into if they aren’t careful!

  12. I´ve been failing every card… Am I doing it right?
    1. I look at the keyword
    2. I try to write the kanji with my finger or by mind
    3. If I get it right I press ¨1¨(again), if I got it right I press ¨3¨(easy, good)
    4. The failed cards when I see it again regardless if I got it right or wrong I press ¨3¨

    Now my problem is that I don´t really take the time to try and learn it, I just skim through it. I would just see keyword, try to recall it, see answer, rinse and repeat.

    Should I do it slower? Am I doing it alright? I´m failing everything and not really feeling any improvement…

    • The first time around (when you see the card for the first time and learn it) is the slowest. After that your speed picks up.

      Are you using the stories as well?

      In the beginning you’ll have a much higher failure rate, but time will solve this issue.

      • I´m not using any stories… I´m just skimming through it… I see the keyword, click answer and move on.

        From your post, I´m doing it incorrectly. So, I should take my time to learn it?

        • Yes, it’s worth the time to make sure you learn each kanji, one by one, before you enter “review” mode, where you can go through cards a lot quicker.

  13. I guess I’m power levelling at the moment at 30-35 cards a day and maximum immersion (all my free time).

    If it wasn’t for work (in hospitality atm) I would be 100% immersion…

    I started off slow with rtk and j-e because I was pacing myself at the speed that Adam could release he’s deck, now that I’m using the one deck and Jalup expert together I’m able to go at a pace I never thought imagine able. I want to get to 50 words a day, but I’m already reviewing 400 j-j cards a day, and this takes 3-4 hours without procrastination.
    That’s just anki study time, and on work days it’s a heavy burden that I’ve had to sacrifice sleep for. However, the gains have been ridiculous as of late, I fee completely different each month from the last. I’ll kee this up for another 3 months and then taper down to 10 a day, which will leave me at 10000 words and roughly 300-500 hours of speaking time by the time of my next Japanese holiday on the 8th of December. I will be fluent, no matter what. Minimum result is 9000 cards. Even if I add 5 a day 3 months from now I’ll hit that goal, so I won’t be worried once I pass this difficult benchmark. The best part is that every day o study, my study gets easier than the last. I get more efficient, have more understanding and more motivated. I just hope I don’t burn out soon. Every time I think I’ve burnt out I have a two hour nap and realise I was just sleep deprived.

    I do wonder if there’s anything that could break my current level of motivation. Only time will tell.

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