As you may have read in an earlier post, my son finished the Kana Conqueror deck not too long after turning five. He did it at an agreeable pace. He then saw first-hand the benefits of being able to read Japanese. And he was up for another challenge. So, naturally, I uploaded JALUP’s beginner deck into Anki.
Why I Chose the Beginner Deck
The beginner deck by JALUP has a number of features, but the three most important for me were that it contains 1000 sentences spoken by a native speaker, introduces only one new item at a time, and is part of a larger series that my son can continue with until he’s fluent.
The last is particularly important—for kids as well as for adults. For my son, however, it means he doesn’t have to jump from one resource to another, becoming bored with the repetition. And for me it means I don’t have to spend energy looking for those resources, let alone trying to motivate him to work through them.
With this series of decks, however, the path to fluency is there. Each step to it is easy. All that is required is to show up each day and take a couple of ‘em.
How He Uses the Beginner Deck
A couple steps—or two new cards per day—is the perfect pace for my son right now. He completed the first 500 cards of the deck at that speed just before turning six, and it’s a pace that is challenging without being demanding.
What that means is that he spends less than 10 minutes studying with Anki each day, becoming overwhelmed with new cards is never a problem, and the pleasure of learning something new is always there.
That pace also means Anki is not “a thing.” At worst, it is like a commercial break that he sits through once a day. But most of the time it is a little challenge providing a little pleasure. He simply reads each card aloud—often with help from me for the kanji he hasn’t learned yet—and then moves on, having accomplished something for the day that he can already see is starting to pay off.
What He Can Do (and What He Can’t Do)
My son can now read in Japanese—and not just within the sentences he knows from the JALUP deck. He can read parts of よつばと！for example, as well as some of the フィニアストファブ books that he (serendipitously) discovered on my bookshelf.
He doesn’t understand everything, of course. Nor does he speak much Japanese, although he was slow to speak both English and Vietnamese too—until he jumped from single words to the equivalent of very long paragraphs in one fell swoop.
He has learned enough vocabulary to enjoy some shows, however—his favorite being Dragon Ball. He also enjoys YouTube channels—his favorite being kougeisha. And he can even ask tough questions. For example, right after reading the sentence テーブルの上にテレビゲームがたくさんある, my son turned to me and asked, “Is English backwards or is Japanese backwards?”
What Does This Matter To You?
The progression of a young boy toward fluency is not exactly riveting. But it’s worth paying attention to, and perhaps caring enough about to get motivated by. If a child can show up each day and take two steps toward fluency, what can you do each day and how far will that take you over the next year?
I love reading books in Japanese and plan to start translating them into English in 2015.