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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.