It has been 10 years since I started Jalup, and I thought I would take this moment to look back at its history, explain some stuff you may have always been wondering, share some cool facts you probably didn’t know, reflect a bit, and to answer questions that I’ve been asked and have never really answered in public. This isn’t meant to be a full “History of Jalup” but just some fun highlights.
Thanks to all of you who helped contribute along the way and allow the site to reach its 10th birthday!
Why did you start Jalup?
In May of 2010, my brother expressed interest in learning Spanish, and asked for advice based on how I learned Japanese. I created an 8 page Word document summing up my methods and resources. He never ended up starting Spanish. I had a Word document which I didn’t want to go to waste. And at the same time, I suddenly felt the desire to share online how I learned Japanese. So I took parts of that document and started writing up the early posts.
Jalup’s first post
You might think that this is the first post, on January 5th, 2011, since it comes up earliest in a Jalup search.
The first post was technically on October 1st, 2010. This was the original blog I ran on Blogger (which is still up) for a series of short posts.
What Jalup used to look like
Following the original Blogger version above, Jalup’s look and functionality has evolved many times over the years. Most of the images I use below I’ve taken from Wayback Machine, so some parts may look a little weird.
Leave it in the comments section what is the oldest version you remember.
Stats on Posts, Comments & Users
• 1059 Posts (893 by me, 166 by other guest authors)
• 18,473 comments (3,669 by me, 14804 by you the readers)
• Top 10 Most Popular posts (based on comment count
1. Jalup Beginner (247)
2. Using Anki to Master Japanese – Japanese-English Alliance (244)
3. Jalup Intermediate (241)
4. Using Anki to Master Japanese – Kanji King (202)
5. Jalup Expert (160)
6. The Difficulty Level Guide Of Everything Japanese (132)
7. How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese? (127)
8. Kanji Kingdom (127)
9. Jalup Group Challenge 1: The Summer Of RTK (Final Update)
10. Test your Japanese might (121)
Jalup Products & Services that no longer exist
Jalup’s first product was released on May 26, 2012: The JALUP 1000: J-J Anki Power Within Your Grasp. This was 1,000 cards from my own personal Anki deck. This eventually became merged together with my full deck, The One Deck.
You are probably familiar with all of the things that I currently sell in the item store. But how many of you remember all of the not-so-successful ones below?
• Legends of Japanese: a short story series that taught you Japanese through a fictional fantasy story where the main character is forced to learn Japanese.
• Jalup Legends: subscription service that offered a variety of Jalup-themed content, including manga analysis, slang, understanding comedy, news, anime comprehension practice, a mini forum, and a continuation of Jalup Advanced (before Expert ever existed)
• Nayugen: “Share Something Japanese”, a SNS designed to share information on Japanese native materials for Japanese learners
• Anime Hunters: learning Japanese through a group of Jalup users trying to transcribe an anime together
• Jalup Alliance: the original group of Japanese writers on this site.
• Jalup the forum: a fully fleshed out forum for Jalup users
• Jalup Weekly Potion: weekly Jalup newsletter
• Jalup Line Group: a place to talk. Eventually replaced by the Discord group
• Memorable Manga Moments: teaching you Japanese through intense manga scenes
• Jalup Personal Advisor: 1 on 1 hour session with me helping you create a Japanese study plan
• Chinese Japanese Ladder: an Anki deck that teaches you Chinese through Japanese
• Adam & Yuki Show: Podcast in Japanese between me and Yuki about Japanese stuff.
• J-Talk: 1 hour Japanese “free-talk” session with Yuki
• Final Fluency: go on “group Japanese quests” together
• Jalup Next: the original web app for the jalup decks. Replaced by the iOS and Android “Jalup” app
Jalup Deck Series
The Jalup deck series (from Beginner to Champion, with Kana Conqueror and Kanji Kingdom thrown in there) is what I’m most proud of on this site.
People had been using the 5-part Anki mastery post I wrote on the site for a long time. I kept getting requests to help people create the J-E deck mentioned in this post series. Understanding how it’s done vs. actually building it up from scratch were two different things.
Around the same time as these requests built up, a user who had recently turned the entire Genki textbook series into an Anki J-E deck based off of these posts wanted to submit it on Jalup for free distribution. I really wanted to post it for download on Jalup, but as you can probably guess, there would be a big copyright issue. I tried contacting The Japan Times, which owned Genki, to let them know of this deck I wanted to give out for free on my site. I explained how it would be great publicity and encourage people to buy the textbook to use along side with the deck. However, they never returned my emails. So I had to turn it down. If they had responded positively, the story would have ended right there.
While I passed on the Genki deck, the J-E deck requests continued to pour in. This left me frustrated, wanting to do something. I decided I was going to create a test beginner deck of J-E cards, using the methods I laid out. So enters Jalup Beginner…?
Instead I created a beginner Anki deck based on video games. I took images from different video game scenes, and taught introductory textbook stuff through this.
* Screenshots of the actual deck:
I was really excited about it. I spent weeks creating it. Yuki even recorded audio for it. But she didn’t get it. I thought that was because she wasn’t a Japanese learner, and wasn’t familiar with Jalup, Anki or J-E cards. But I privately had a few Japanese learners from Jalup test it out and they also didn’t like it at all. Strange dialogue in the cards (in my failed attempt to be entertaining/funny) created unnatural conversations, with an awkward order, jumping all over the place.
I scrapped the weeks of work, and decided to do things simpler, without the video game theme. I restarted from scratch, and after several more weeks I got up to 250 cards. Out of frustration knowing whether anyone would actually use this, I stopped there. I’d release this, and if no one liked it, I was ready to wash my hands of the project.
People liked it. Enough to inspire me to continue in 250 card stages up to 1,000.
Then came the requests to continue into J-J territory. I didn’t think at the time that it was possible to create J-J cards for someone else. But with the same trial and error attempt, I just dove right in. And so that continued for many many more stages.
The full development of Jalup Beginner to Champion took about 4-5 years, with many breaks in between. From Jalup Expert on, since the user base was much lower at this high level, I held pre-orders for every 250 cards. I didn’t think there were enough people that wanted to use it, but pre-orders always passed the required count. 4 from Expert, 4 from hero, 4 from master, and 4 from champion.
This eventually turned into a web app Jalup Next, and then the current “Jalup” apps you are familiar with now.
It’s been a long journey.
Interesting facts you probably didn’t know
• All Jalup cards are voiced by my wife Yuki, who is still embarrassed that so many people study to her voice.
• The original 1,000 Jalup Beginner cards were very low quality audio, and were replaced at the end of 2016.
• The video game that inspired Jalup’s theme was Asheron’s call, a game I used to love in the early 2000s.
• I didn’t show my face for the first few years of Jalup, and went by the name Adshap.
• I started Jalup when I was 27 years old, in the middle of my final year of law school.
• On average It used to take me between 4-6 hours to write a post. More recently it takes between 1-3 hours.
• 5% of posts I end up deleting before even publishing them because I don’t like the way they turn out. I also occasionally delete older posts I really don’t like.
• Jalup cards have been reviewed hundreds of millions of times. This might sound like a lot, but that is due to just one consistent learner easily having 50k+ reviews.
• The name “Jalup” was not intentional. I wanted to abbreviate the site to JLU, but jlu.com wasn’t available. I took the next closest thing.
• To my knowledge, the youngest Jalup user was 5 years old at the time, and oldest Jalup user in their early 70s.
• The fastest anyone has finished a deck of 1,000 cards is 6 days, and the slowest is 2 years.
• The most restarts (quitting Jalup, and then restarting it) I’ve heard of is 6.
Answers to common questions I’ve been asked over the years
Q: Why isn’t Jalup more popular?
A: I’m sure there are plenty of reasons, but I believe it is because it doesn’t target the broad base of casual Japanese learners.
Q: Can you help me find Mr./Ms. X who lives in Japan?
A: I’ve gotten this question way too often over the years. No, I can’t. I haven’t lived in Japan since 2008 Even if I did, it’s an entire country full of people I don’t know…
Q: How long d you plan on running Jalup for?
A: Long enough :)
Q: Would you ever sell the entire Jalup company?
A: Yes. If there was intention or capability to continue running/expand things into the future, I’d be happy to pass on the torch.
Q: Why did you flip your opinion on X?
A: Because I’m human. My views on things change over time as I grow as a person. I’ve gotten the most anger from my change of view on 3 topics: 1) “Native Level” 2) Whether pre-made decks are good or bad 3) The need to be ultra hardcore in learning
Q: Why did you sell out?
A: I’ve never gotten this question directly, but when I first starting selling decks on Jalup, it angered some users. While I love helping out people for free whenever I can, there just wasn’t the motivation to spend several thousand hours building something for someone else for free.
Q: Why is Jalup so expensive?
A: This question is a sensitive one and is hard to satisfactorily answer to anyone asking it. I don’t like answering it because it makes me feel like I need to defend myself. But my main thought is “expensive compared to what?” Comparing Jalup to a typical language learning app that costs $9.99/month isn’t really the right analysis. The Jalup app is the equivalent of dozens of textbooks and courses combined into one that don’t exist anywhere else.
Q: Why isn’t Jalup subscription based?
A: Many reasons. But a few of the major ones: 1. Subscriptions reward the wrong type of behavior (long-term serious learners end up paying the most), 2. Subscription services entirely offline do not work well 3. The way the decks were created one at a time over the years doesn’t lend to “you suddenly have access to all the content for $9.99.”
Q: How good is your Japanese?
A: Good enough :)
Have any “Jalup experience” to share?
This site was built around its community, so if you have any interesting experience through Jalup’s 10 years you’d like to share, please leave it the comments!
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.