My name is Jennifer, or “Niffer” for short, and I’m the creator and writer for Japanese Talk Online (or JTalk Online). Japanese Talk Online is a labor of love, which means it doesn’t pay any of the bills. For that I work as a Bilingual Administrator for a Japanese company and do business and video game translation on the side.
Besides obsessing over studying Japanese or translating it, I love anime, manga, novels, comics, and cartoons. Most of my spare time is spent translating, writing articles, reading manga or comics, or watching some show. I always have 1001 things on my to-do list!
Here’s my story of how I learned Japanese.
How long have you been studying for?
11 years, 1 month (ish).
When did you start?
I began studying Japanese the week before my 17th birthday in 2006. I was in college (high school) in the UK.
Why did you start?
I started because a friend of mine who I admired was studying it in the cafeteria. I asked her to introduce me to her teacher and it went on from there! The two of us would talk in Japanese, help each other and share anime. She was my Japanese dealer you could say.
How did you get started?
When I started I was working through Japanese in 45 Hours (Nihongo 45 Jikan).
I don’t know if anyone still uses it anymore. Needless to say, only studying 1 hour a week with a teacher (and practically nothing else) meant it took me a very, very long time to learn the basics.
I was a lazy student. But I do remember writing vocabulary and hiragana onto pieces of paper and sticking them to my wall. Then I stuck them to my door, book shelf, TV. I labelled anything I could!
What are your milestones?
– 3 months: Went to lessons every week (which was a miracle for me)
– 6 months: Got the hang of hiragana
– 1 year: Started on katakana
– 2 years: Went to Japan for the first time – Japanese vocabulary and conversation boost!
– 3 years: Went to University to study Anthropology (didn’t study much Japanese)
– 4 years: Went to Kansai Gaidai University for my year abroad program – Another boost!
– 5 years: Passed the JLPT N3
– 7 years: Passed the JLPT N2
– 10 years: Completed my MA in translation
What was your darkest moment
I’ve honestly never thought about quitting Japanese. There have been times when I didn’t study much (or at all), but always stuck with it. I always knew I’d come back to it, somehow some way.
The thing I always hated the most was Japanese grammar. I just kept throwing myself at grammar in different ways, but it was mostly teachers who helped me grasp them. Eventual exposure to grammar usage in Japan helped it all stick in the long run.
My darkest moment was when I found out I was dyslexic. I found out during my MA. It made how I had studied Japanese make sense. Why I got sounds mixed up. Why I had a hard time remembering simple things. I wondered if there was any point becoming a translator. But I worked through my internal struggles and decided to push on. I’d gotten that far after all.
What was your most memorable shining moment?
When I went to Japan the first time my Japanese was terrible. I should have been a lot better after 2 years of studying. But I remember the first time I held a conversation in Japanese with a Japanese person.
Oh it was amazing…it was about food and was only about 4 sentences long,
However, it made me feel like I’d really achieved something. That trip changed my life and has been the motivation to drive me to keep pushing myself.
What is something you wish you did or didn’t do on your journey?
I wish I hadn’t been so lazy at the start. I wish I had just studied in my own time. I wish I had moved to Japan after university. I wish I had started reading Japanese books sooner. I wish I hadn’t been so afraid of the language at times!
What are your current method/techniques/resources you are using?
Right now I’m reading a lot and translating a lot. I make a note of unknown words and kanji and mark them to put into Memrise. I want to study everything I’ve come across but it’s a matter of making time. Which I will need to do soon because I plan on taking the JLPT N1 again this December! I need to get my Memrise back up and running!
How has Learning Japanese changed your life?
If I had never studied Japanese I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s thanks to Japanese that I have such amazing friends that I met at my university in Osaka. I wouldn’t have met my husband either! I wouldn’t be translating video games or nerding out about the Japanese language every week.
My life would probably be pretty dull if I didn’t have Japanese to brighten my day.
Final words of advice or encouragement to Japanese learners
Never give up.
There will be times when you won’t be motivated and you stop for a while. But it’s important to find the thing that made you want to study in the first place. Play games, watch anime, go to Japan! Do something fun with the language and you’ll find yourself motivated again.
My motto for the last 11 years I’ve been studying: Don’t put off for tomorrow what you could do today.
Have your own story to tell? Submit it and include: your start, reason for learning, methods, milestones/timing, confusion/discovery, worst/best moments, advice, and how Japanese changed your life.