My name is Manan, and I am a recently turned 18 year old guy who is interested in Japanese. Here’s how far I’ve come.
Your reason for learning
In my country (India), Japanese kids anime has a HUGE influence (on kids, not adults). Back in 2005, the kid’s network Hungama TV found a new way to fill time-slots. Specifically, importing some old crappy anime from Japan for a few bucks. They mostly imported garbage anime shows, which would later fade into obscurity, but one anime changed it all. Name? Doraemon.
It was an instant hit, paving way for future classics like Shinchan, Kochikame, Osomatsu-kun, Chibi Maruko-Chan and many more. I grew up watching Japanese shows, but since they were dubbed, I didn’t bother to learn Japanese. In fact, I didn’t even know they were Japanese until way later. Then I discovered Visual Novels like 999, G-sen , Steins;Gate and SharinNoKuni which blew me away, and had such an huge effect on me that I wanted to “read every visual novel in existence”.
After I learned that only 3% of visual novels get translated, I started realizing the ridiculousness of the situation. I am not able to read something only because it’s written in a language I can’t understand? Obviously, like a sane person I am, I decided that “I am going to learn…no MASTER Japanese.” I felt a sudden urge to experience Japanese in its full glory, to dive deep into the culture, and had a burning motivation to achieve language ability.
How you got started
There was just one problem – Almost all the links were dead, so I had to look for alternatives on the internet. After searching “Learn Hiragana Mnemonics,” Google directed me to Tofugu, where I learned all the Kana in 4 hours. I was excited that I was now able to read Japanese.
Following the guide, I started reading some lessons on Tae Kim and RTK. I took a total of 4 months. I did some lessons on Japanesepod101 too, which helped my listening a lot. After these three, I was lost.
I started the text hooker, and the easiest Visual Novel – Hanahira. The experience was overwhelming as everything went over my head. There was a HUGE gap that had to be filled. I furiously started looking for new methods (Tae Kim Deck? Dictionary of Japanese Grammar Decks?), trying many, and then dropping them. During this, I stumbled upon a funny looking site, which tried to use a JRPG analogy to teach Japanese, and was asking for money from me.
My biggest mistake was ignoring the site and going back to what I was doing for the next few months, which was basically the equivalent of “nothing at all.” I read a few books (grammar) here and there and gained a vocabulary set of maybe 300 words (from Core). A total of 7.5 months had passed and I had only reached N4 level in grammar and N5 in Vocabulary. After hours of Googling, I stumbled on to Jalup again. I followed part 2 of “Master Japanese using Anki” guide, liked it, and wanted to move on to J-J.
Brief notes on your method
I want to take you through my Jalup journey.
I knew N4 Grammar and ~300 words, so I completed the Beginner deck in 3 hours, skimming the cards, and keeping the ones that gave me trouble. I started the Intermediate deck at ~40 cards per day. After Intermediate, I watched my first media in Japanese, the movie “Stand With Me: Doraemon.” It used tons of words from the Intermediate deck, which was a huge confidence booster. After Advanced, I started watching Doraemon and Shinchan, and other anime. It wasn’t until Expert that I finally started immersing in “real” media.
Reaching the end of Expert Stage 4, I got a bit tense. Do I need to make my own cards? How? I felt the same lack of direction that I felt after completing RTK. Fortunately, Adam released stages 5 and 6, which gave me some time to prepare myself for the new challenge ahead without hindering my pace.
After completing Expert stage 5, I finally tried making my own cards. I just picked up a game (Professor Layton) and started adding everything I didn’t know. It was the same experience as using the Intermediate deck – the first 150 cards are always hell! However, after a few days, I had 100s of words in “i+1.2” order. Growing impatient, I increased the number of cards to ~50 as I just wanted to get the remainder of Expert 6 out of the way to focus on my own cards.
I continued the ~50 pace for 2000 or so cards until I got burned out. I reduced the number of new cards cards to ~30 for a few weeks, and then ~25. At present, I am not adding many new cards (10-20 per day) as I want lower my review load (I get ~250 reviews daily) and it’s starting to get to me. Don’t confuse this with inactivity, as I am having the time of my life! I am able to understand almost everything that I want to watch, and the dreaded “will I understand this?” sensation is getting fainter by the day.
Content milestones and timing
● Day 1: Learned Kana!
● Week 1 : Started Tae Kim and RTK.
● Month 4 : Conquered N4 Grammar, Basic Vocab and 2200 Kanji! Tried Japanese graded readers (failed miserably at even the lowest level story 「女の子」) and Visual Novel (Hanahira).
● Month 7 : Started the Jalup Method.
● Month 11: Finished Jalup Expert 1-6. Was able to read the highest level of graded readers with ease! During these months, I was able to immerse in a lot of kid’s media (anime, games, and Visual Novels) , and overall was satisfied my performance. Also, I started making my own cards.
● Month 14/Present : Completed ~8000+ cards in total (counting the “skipped” Beginner’s cards). Have played many Visual Novels. I’d like to mention Hanahira that was the turning point in my Japanese ability. Adding every word form that visual novels gave me a HUGE boost. I’ve deleted my Kanji deck because I feel it has served it’s purpose. I might do RTK again with Japanese keywords if I feel the need to. I am level 55 now. I do not have to branch anymore, and I understand more when I re-watch stuff from a few months ago. Ironically, this made me realize that I understand less now!
Surprisingly, one of my worst moments is not directly related to Japanese. After started learning Japanese and following the “cutting out English Media” advice (which is no doubt aimed at people with English as their L1), I felt my English ability getting weaker. This made me question if I can even maintain, let alone master, 3 languages. Am I just continuing Japanese because I am a victim of sunken costs?
There are many moment here and there, but one that stood out to me the most was the moment when I realized that subtitles are inaccurate ;)
Stuff that confused you but you figured out
What should I do to become fluent?
I think all 3 things must be fullfilled:
1. 10,000 words that you know, need not be in Anki.
2. Minimum 1.5 hour of active Japanese study (including immersion) per day, excluding Anki and Passive.
3. At least 2 years.
What to do next?
Read the Jalup walkthrough.
Q: Am I using my time efficiently?
A: Nope. You’ll never be perfect. So stop worrying so much, and enjoy.
Q: Will I ever reach fluency?
A: Not if you keep doubting yourself. Just keep moving forward.
Q: How do I make new cards?
A: Read the Jalup guides and Branch Annihilator and just get into it.
Q: Do I need to add everything?
A: No. However, it helps if you ever plan to return to the media.
Q: Can I handle 3 languages?
A: Yes. You might even be able to make space for a fourth one!
I have divided this section according to the Walkthrough. The advice here is based on my personal experience and my interactions with other Japanese learners. Adjust according to your own learning style. I am assuming you have bought the complete Jalup set.
● Gauge your motivation and plan ahead. There are numerous factors that will try to hinder your studies, and can only be avoided if you plan ahead.
● Learn Kana using pictorial mnemonics (Dr. Moku / Tofugu).
● RTK is not the only method for learning Kanji, just the most well-known. If you are having problems with RTK, you should probably drop it. In fact, doing RTK after you have reached an intermediate is also a viable option.
● You must have knowledge of primitives.
● Do RTK recognition only. Example: Front: 口 and Back: Mouth/くち. You look at a Kanji, dissect primitives with your eyes, maybe remember a story and think of a keyword. Add in a bit of “Cloze” if you feel like it. Use Kanji Chain for learning production.
2. Beginner Deck
● The best thing about the beginner deck is that it trains you to “solve the puzzle,” which helps a lot in the Intermediate Deck. It’s actually a J-E-J in disguise.
● Some people are completely fine with the explanations Beginner Deck provides, while some people feel that they may need a supplement for a true Beginner (like me). For the latter group, I highly recommend using Tae Kim guide as a supplement. Read Tae Kim daily, and whenever a new grammar point is introduced in Beginner Deck, look it up.
● Although your brain will eventually absorb grammar through immersion, it will do so quicker if you know core “rules”. Let’s use a RTK analogy. What’s easier? Knowing 食 means Eat and then figuring out the meaning of 食事、食べる、食べ物、食う or the reverse?
● If you are going at 30-40 cards/day (i.e. fast pace), I recommend starting immersion after you complete Intermediate.
3. Intermediate Deck
● Make sure you know all the vocab from Jalup Beginner, are comfortable with N4 grammar, and have read solving the puzzle article.
● In the beginning, instead of learning the meaning of a word, learn “how” to read the definition. If you have down the meaning of 変える (to change) in English, don’t just move on. Try to find out how it’s definition (物事を前と違った事にする) creates the meaning of to change. Analyze the definitions. After around 150 words, you’ll be comfortable.
● Use the awesome feature of “Review Forgotten Cards” at least once a day till you reach 150 cards.
● Keep the best things for last to serve as motivation.
● While understanding the definition, try to find the “core” part, which is mostly present at the end of the sentence. The rest is just there to enhance the definition.
● If you are going at 25-35 cards/day speed, I recommend starting passive listening after your complete Expert 1.
● Constantly change your cards and definitions as you learn new stuff.
Continue the same as above, and then eventually work your way to making your own cards, which is the best thing you can do to further improve your Japanese ability.
Finished the Jalup Decks up to Expert Stage 8?
Still want more cards? I’ve decided to provide the 4250 cards I personally made after completing the Jalup deck series.
Notes on the deck:
1. This deck contains some errors, and I haven’t gone back to edit things.
2. I’ve tried my best to make this as close to i+1 as possible, but remember that I come with outside knowledge as well, and there are about 30 unexplained words in the deck.
3. The first 200 or so cards will be tough because it might take some time to get used to my way of doing things.
4. There are some names like Kaori , Amane, Shigure etc. and names of vegetables or animals like カバ , イルカ, 鷲 , 鷹 etc. that are not explained. Neither are loan words (ex. キャラクター is character) that are obvious. However, I have explained non-obvious loan words like ギャラ.
5. Completing this deck would probably put you to close to the level 60 range. For reference, I can read a Standard visual novel or book fairly smoothly. I’ve also made it in a way that bridges gap between Expert and The One Deck, making it essentially i+1.
6. It uses RTK knowledge. So all of the RTK kanji keywords count as Japanese words “already known.” This means I don’t explain words like 綱、紐 or even 爪. So if you haven’t done RTK, you may have to add in these explanations on your own.
7. A picture speaks more than a thousand words. Search images for the words you don’t know/get/understand. Many words like 体操 or 曲芸 are instantly understood with just an image.
8. This deck contains a lot of words along various genres ranging from mystery to technical science, and contains 54 words that some might be deemed as inappropriate.
9. Many sentences are from internet forums, so they range from super cute to super creepy. 彼女に性癖を告白した。「お尻、叩かれたい！」って。This was the cute one. People ask a lot of questions about MS Word, MS Excel, etc.
10. Technically, this deck continues after stage 6 of Jalup Expert, since I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer to start making my own cards. So there will be the occasional crossover between Jalup expert stages 7/8 and this deck.
11. This deck has not been edited by Adam, and is an “unofficial” deck he is letting me offer here on Jalup, as my way of giving back to this great community.
This was a long story!
But if you made it to the end, thanks for reading! And remember, if you want it bad enough, all of your Japanese dreams will come true.
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Submit it using the “Join” button and include your: start, reason for learning, methods, milestones/timing, confusion/discovery, worst/best moments, advice, and how Japanese changed your life.
Anime and Visual Novel enthusiast, who has a goal of achieving fluency in Japanese within 1.5 years. After being told by everyone that this is too unrealistic, he now has “realistic” goals of graduating as an alien fairy and helping the world.