Always Sticking with Japanese no Matter What
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.
I’m the creator and writer for Japanese Talk Online (or JTalk Online). I work as a Bilingual Administrator for a Japanese company and do business and video game translation on the side.
Thanks for the article! It really shows just sticking with it is the most important part.
I’m finishing up my BA soon, and have been considering an MA in a field like translation. Have you found it beneficial while pursuing your Japanese related jobs?
Funnily enough no. Well the MA I took wasn’t very good in terms of actually helping towards finding work. (I wrote about that here: http://j-entranslations.com/ma-in-translation-doesnt-teach-you/)
It might be better to not start right away in translation but get a job in another field or in Japan and then go back to translation. (I wrote about why here: http://jtalkonline.com/how-to-become-a-japanese-translator/)
Or if you do really want to start your MA, or do another program in translation then I suggest looking at ATA Approved schools for high quality programs: https://www.atanet.org/certification/eligibility_approved.php (I’m currently at Bellevue College doing their translation and interpreting certificate program. Because, as I said, my MA sucked.)
This really encouraged me. I’m studying very slowly but I’m getting better and better. Hearing how you started slowly then accomplished so much, especially with dyslexia, gave me hope! Thanks!
Thanks Candy! I’m glad this has helped inspired you! That really means a lot to me.
What an awesome journey, thanks for sharing, and best of luck in your studies going forward. I really am happy you shared this because I am confident that quite a few people quit learning a 2nd language when they realize how long it will take, or their pace makes it hard for them to see the “finish line”. It’s good to have a reminder that taking a slower road is just as badass and impressive as those taking “faster” routes.
Also thanks for linking to your website, I really like the format! Definitely will keep coming back to it :)
Thanks Victoria! Many people want to know everything within a few years (and I’ve certainly thought so in the past). But that’s often now how things actually go. But you can’t let reality beat you down. Learning a language certainly is a steady but rewarding process.
That actually makes me feel a lot better that you said it was ‘badass’ ^^;; There are times when I’m frustrated at myself. “Why didn’t I do ___? I should know this by now. I should have worked harder. I’m sh**.” etc. Ahhh those little voices inside us… So yeah, it helps a lot to hear you say that.
Thank you for the post. I just bookmarked JTalk Online I for sure will be driving deep into this website.
Thank you Jordan! I hope you like it ^-^
Thanks for the inspiring post, came across it on the random page link from blog, and this bit resonated with me
I have just completed JALUP Intermediate, and having a break before tackling advanced. I remember playing FFXIII when it came out on XBOX360, English only. Today for 10.99 I can play it entirely in Japanese (without subtitles obviously Adam ; )
It’s given me such a boost of how far I’ve come that I can understand even 10% of the cutscenes.
I started learning Japanese so I can understand/enjoy anime and games in native language, so playing them after each milestone (e.g. in JALUP) is a great reward and really helps me see how far I’ve come!