Stories of how/why you began studying Japanese

This thread is for sharing your experience studying Japanese! It’ll be interesting to see what inspired people to learn Japanese, and the method they used to do it!

And so, I’ll start.

After a year or so of slowly memorizing Hiragana/Katakana whenever I felt like it, I decided to purchase a few books to start getting more serious about learning Japanese. I picked up Tae Kim’s “A Guide to Japanese Grammar” along with Genki’s “Kanji Look and Learn” (workbook and textbook). Each week I would try to complete one chapter of the Genki book since learning Kanji seemed to be the longest task when learning Japanese (coming from English only). Each chapter in that book is only about 4 pages, with 16 Kanji to learn, so along with review, one chapter was not too much work for a week.

I would try to understand a bit of the grammar book as well, but since I didn’t know much Kanji yet, I’d spend more time learning the new Kanji in the examples than learning grammar. Bunpro has some really great example sentences that make learning grammar much easier, so people new to the language should be able to start their grammar study soon after memorizing Hiragana and Katakana using Bunpro.

Initially, the reason I wanted to learn Japanese was simply to understand anime without subtitles. Since I had already watched tons of anime at this point, I had some appreciation for the “real” culture as well. Honestly, it has made learning the language much easier as somehow I just “know” some of the readings and translations for new words simply from hearing/seeing them translated on screen for so long.

I really like the quiet and polite culture of Japan. It’s unpopular here to be anti-drug for some reason, so I appreciate that aspect of Japanese culture as well.

Now that I have a WaniKani and Bunpro account, it’s been much easier to remain consistent with my studying since it’s easy to just open a new tab and do a few minutes compared to setting up at my desk. The Spaced Repetition System is really the way to go.

I’d still consider myself a big noob in Japanese, but I’d love to visit Japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. By that time I hope to be able to read, write, and speak at a level that I can communicate without much difficulty.

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My mind started to feel foggy because I didn’t use it enough, so I decided to try learning a difficult language. I concluded that it should be an East-Asian language, probably Chinese or Japanese. I ended up picking Japanese because I preferred the way it sounds and because I had been watching anime for a bit over a year at that point.

I first learned hiragana, I forgot how… After that I tried Duolingo’s Japanese course, which was downright terrible. Two months later it was Christmas 2017 and I came across Wanikani and I got addicted. In the Wanikani forum I learned about Bunpro which I used for a short while before concluding that grammar isn’t as fun as kanji.

Starting two months ago I slowed down somewhat with Wanikani and now I’m getting back to learning grammar again with Lingodeer. After that I intend to start trying to read (maybe with the help of Floflo.moe) and to get back to using this site for additional grammar practice.

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My reason for learning Japanese is quite simple. I started to learn almost three years ago. I moved to Japan, but couldn’t communicate at all. I’ve learned a lot about the struggles immigrants in my home country dealt with. Struggling with a language in the country where it’s spoken is challenging and frustrating to say the least. So I resolved to learn the language and be more independent.

After hundreds of hours of study, I’ve gotten to a point where I feel like I’m getting better. I still have a long way to go. Hopefully BunPro will help to start using grammar points I’ve practice here in conversations with people I interact with.

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One day I saw Shaman King (anime) on the TV for a few seconds (2006 I think). Mid 2007, I found that anime and watched the whole thing. Then Death Note… Then I got a bit a bit addicted to anime, manga and tv series…

But not everything is translated or available online… So in 2012 I decided visit Japan (which I did a few years later for a week) and to learn Japanese. That year I just wrote a lot of Hiragana and Katakana and a bit of Kanji on practice sheets from learn-japanese.com

2013 I found about Tae Kim and www.freejapaneselessons.com. Then I went to Japanese evening classes for 3 years. By the end of my studies I was probably more N3 level with a bit of N2/N1 mixed in.

Took a complete break for nearly 2 years due to life. My resolution for this year (2018) is to get to JLPT N2 level. (Silly me).

For the last 4.5 months, I have been using:

  • Trying to get through 2 JLPT N3/N2 grammar drill books like New Kanzen Master
  • Kanji Senpai on my Android phone for vocabulary learning
  • Animelon - to watch anime with japanese subtitles
  • NihongoNoMori( YouTube channel) for grammar and listening
  • Notebooks to write kanji, vocabulary and grammar points

I found this site last week through Chad Zimmerman (an YouTuber). Soo happy! More practice!

My current goal: to understand light novels and books and (hopefully) write a light novel in Japanese. I really like writing in Japanese… This may be weird to say but its like programming in a way.

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Hello everyone ! Allow me to revive this post by sharing how I began my japanese studies.

~2 years ago, I stumbled upon the anime ちはやふる, from which I learned about the existence of 競技かるた (Competitive Karuta). It is a traditional japanese card game that requires good hearing, memory and reflexes.

After watching the entire show, I fell in love so much with the m̶a̶i̶n̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶r̶a̶c̶t̶e̶r̶ game that I just had to try and learn it. And so this is how I began studying japanese !

I’ve been at it for 2 years and I’m somewhere around N3 (studying N2 grammar, but I’m terrible with vocab) with over 1500 kanji into RTK. I had to take a few pauses because of school, but I’m determined to continue and even go to Japan as an exchange student ! (in 2 years)

And I can now play Karuta. :relieved:

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TLDR version.

Sailormoon.

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Oh this is fun:

I always wanted to learn Japanese because it just seemed interesting. I finally got a web development job that was so bad it made me just want to leave the country. So I went back to grad school, started studying Japanese, and then got a job here in Japan.

Now I’m continuing to study for job advancement, wanting to understand my Kyudo teacher, and just wanting to be able to better have conversations with my friends.

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great story! inspirational. Working in technology is fairly direct exchange of money and mental health.

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This is going to be a stupid story, but here’s my reasoning for learning Japanese.

I love video games, and have always wanted to make them. I do as much research on them as possible whether it being watching GDC videos, learning programming, heck I even taught myself calculus and physics because of my obsession with games.

There was a point in my life where I wanted to be the very best and most knowledgable person I can be about games, and jotted down ideas in order to achieve that.

The first method of doing so would be learning Japanese, as it is absolutely paramount in my goal. Many, many games originated from Japan and most not localized. Plus, in order to truly understand the author’s intent for a story it’s important to play games in the original language, so even localized games aren’t sufficient anymore. There are exceptions of course, I’m not going to teach myself Polish for the Witcher or Russian for the Metro games, as it would override the sense of practicality.

My goal is to play Japanese games in the original language, experience the gaming culture from a Japanese perspective and of course somehow find every issue of Famitsu and read it. :wink:

So, it’s nearly been three years of studying this stuff daily. Am I happy with the progress that I made? Yes and no. Because I’m still not happy with my progress with Japanese, I push myself to do more with it every single day. I made a hard rule not to consume any more media in English until I get where I am happy to be in Japanese. Now I force myself at least 6-8 hours of immersion per day, plus I listen to Japanese audio while working.

Is it crazy to do all this for video games? Probably, but you need to be just a little crazy to get what you want out of life. This isn’t work, though. I’m having fun learning and decoding the mystery of Japanese. Slowly but surely all the games I wanted to play in Japanese (Chaos;Head, Snatcher, or even weird ones like Segagaga) are becoming understandable to me.

Just a side note, the irony is that going this path has resulted in me playing less video games, but building a pretty solid skill set.

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I started learning by accident early last year - I was working my way through cooking shows on Netflix when I started watching Midnight Diner… Although I was annoyed I’d mistaken it for a program about cooking, I let the first episode play and got hooked on it from there.

After a few episodes I got used to the sound of various common phrases, and thought it might be fun to learn a few more - so I started with Duolingo.

I initially didn’t plan to learn reading / writing much at all, but Duolingo forced me to learn hiragana and katakana. Then I thought I’d stop there, but Kanji started popping up so I got a little worried I should be thinking about learning them too.

I discovered Wanikani and tested it out with the free levels, which sucked me into paying and continuing past level 3 then eventually becoming a lifetime subscriber.

I was hoping to learn just by sound / feel, rather than doing any formal study of grammar, but I gave in eventually and started working through Tae Kim’s guide after seeing someone mention it was relatively “fast” compared to some other textbooks. I didn’t want to work too hard on grammar and add in another SRS, but I kept seeing people talking about Bunpro. I ignored it for as long as I could, but could not escape forever - I signed up to try it for a few days, and of course I’m hooked here too, working my way through the N5 points mostly in the Bunpro order.

In between these other methods I’ve been listening to podcasts (Noriko, Teppei, Learn Japanese Pod, etc.) when I couldn’t study in other ways (out running / walking for example).

It would be so easy to want to get way more carried away with expanding my studies further, chasing down the etymology of every word / the origin of every Kanji, checking out different dialects, etc., but in reality I’ve been quite constrained for studying time so the whole thing has turned into a tricky scope management exercise / balancing act in my life (working full time, 2 small kids, supporting my wife in as many endeavours as I can, etc.) - although I’m not progressing as fast as some others, I’m pretty much going at the maximum speed I realistically can :slight_smile:

From now I expect to spend a few more years at a steady pace absorbing grammar and Kanji, plodding away aiming for consistent study rather than high speed. I’m hoping I’ll continue improving and becoming better experienced to the extent that I can within the constraints of my responsibilities. I’ve enjoyed every moment of study so far, and as long as I keep enjoying it, I think I can keep studying!

Wishing the best of luck to all in their studies for 2022 and beyond!

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That was a great story that I really enjoyed reading - I can certainly empathise with your motivation here - many thanks for sharing it!

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How’d you like Tae Kim? Always curious to see others’ POV about why they started it and why they moved onto something else.

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I absolutely LOVE Chihayafuru too! It’s also one of the reasons I decided to start learning Japanese again, although I haven’t been motivated to learn to play karuta.

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So far it’s been good - it dispelled quite a few confusions I had about grammar that I’d picked up from Duolingo - since I need to build a mental framework when I learn, I’d been forced to invent a load of rules in my head because Duolingo is essentially a guessing game for grammar understanding. (I don’t use Duolingo anymore because it became more hindrance than help - this is one of several contributing reasons for that)

I think Tae Kim is a useful companion to Bunpro, but it’s become a secondary source for me now for reading around points. I had seen others warn that some of the ideas it presents are strange (e.g. the “ga” particle), so I tried to read it with the idea that I was steering my grammar understanding in the right direction, rather than regarding it as a hard, fast, concrete source of truth. So far I think this attitude / approach has served me well with it.

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I started in high school way back in the 90s. In my freshman year, I had a choice between Japanese and French (the school wouldn’t let students take Spanish until their sophomore year for some weird reason). I thought Japanese would be more fun. Plus I had a Nintendo Power subscription. They had this short-lived column called the Epic Center centered on RPGs. Near the end, they just gave up and started covering games that weren’t getting localized, but I still really wanted to play them.

I ended up taking three years of high school Japanese, all from different teachers. Then I minored in the language in college. Frankly, all those years of school Japanese weren’t nearly as useful as studying on my own since I graduated. If I could do it over again, I’d have spent a lot more time working with the professors during their office hours. I should’ve built more friendships with exchange students as well, but at my school, they were extremely insular (which, I admit, makes sense from their perspective).

Yeah, I feel strongly that Duolingo is actually quite Eurocentric. Its ideas of what language is and how to study it get less and less useful the further the language is from the Romance/Germanic languages that it was obviously built around.

I’ve seen Tae Kim get a lot of flack over the years, but I like his explanations. They’re clear, linear, and concise. So many resources (including Bunpro—sorry!) get wrapped up in exceptions and nuances when it’s too soon for learners to worry about that sort of thing.

The longer I teach, the clearer it’s become to me that EILI5 is the gold standard of lesson plans. I like that Tae Kim starts with the 5-year-old explanation and then threads in the warnings once the basic lesson is established.

Believe it or not, that’s the same motivation I’ve had since I started learning Japanese about 25 years ago! I’m taking Unity classes on Udemy and that’s been really helpful in building my confidence with coding. I could recommend some if you’re interested!

My advice to you (which I really should be taking): start with “gray box” games. Use Spriters’ Resource or Models Resource for temporary assets, get your game design coded, then deal with (or throw money at) the music and sprites/models/art once you feel good about the game itself. What held me back for so many years was that I wanted to code the game exactly as I was “playing” it in my mind, then the fear would hold me back. Don’t make the same mistake I did and let perfectionism hold you back for most of your life.

To tie this back to Japanese… 案ずるより産むが易し!

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Thanks for the offer, I’d dig some resources if you have the time! I actually made the entirety of the first Pokemon game using Unreal and C++ back in, I think, 2014 and 2015. It was quite a crazy thing to do looking back at it. Of course the first thing I did was remove the trade evolutions and added the version exclusive Pokemon in. :wink:

I was thinking of starting my own small projects using Unity, as C++ was, quite frankly, painful to use as my first programming language. C# seems pretty simple in comparison! The only thing really stopping me is lack of artistic skill, as that’s one thing I’d like to really focus on at some point in my life. The Pokemon project involved me going pixel by pixel, line by line copying existing sprites into Photoshop, just to say I did it from scratch.

In the last six months, I made a few board games, with zero art, that I was considering translating into video games, or making them more complex in ways that don’t work well in board games. But I don’t do well from fragmenting my focus. So all of my spare time is entirely on Japanese haha.

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Sorry for being a little vague before - to try and be more precise, I do feel it’s lead me in the right direction and been a good resource - I think I’ve been a little tentative about saying that too strongly because I am still too early in the journey to really assess it properly - hopefully in a couple of years time I can say good things about it with more feeling of authority :slightly_smiling_face:

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Tae Kim is one of the main reasons why I was able to move to a more advanced class when I applied to study for evening classes at one college years ago. I think its a great introduction to Japanese grammar.

Mate, thanks for writing that story. I can really relate with some parts. This year I am hoping to make a few very small complete games just for fun using C++

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For me I never watched a whole lot of anime but I would enjoy buying Manga. Of course, the manga was in english but i knew they game from japan. I like art a lot so being able to look at the art in the books was always so cool to me, i’d spend hours trying to copy certain manga drawings I really liked.

Now that i’m older i get to appreciate other things about Japan. its not a perfect place but I want to see it eventually, as a tourist and to maybe even live there. I love learning and for me picking up japanese is a way to stay motivated while I wait for an opportunity to really get to see what japan is like. I’m sure some things will be different when what i expect but i think learning japanese also teaches me that i need to learn a lot in order to get a good grasp on how things work. Even if i’ll run into culture shock no matter what, i can at least try to make it as minimal as i possibly can. or at least keep myself from making any big mistakes.

And even if i don’t formally move to japan i think it would be cool to make some friends overseas, just because I can. I like talking to people and obviously knowing some Japanese helps with that.

My dream would be to live in japan making video games, but doing some other kinda thing over there would be cool too, I know that video games are pretty hard to get into sometimes.

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Mine’s a bit personal and very stop-and-start, haha.

I “started” over a decade and a half ago, first because I was into stuff like J-pop, and then eventually because I was dating someone. But I honestly didn’t get very far - I picked up a little Kansaiben, I learnt hiragana and katakana and a few basic kanji, but I barely even scratched the surface. I stopped learning for a good few years after my partner and his dad - my main conversation partners - passed away, and had the occasional brushes with Japanese until I gave up on it again. I didn’t really see much point in it any more, even if I still enjoyed stuff like J-pop, video games and the very occasional anime.

I picked Wanikani up again in 2017 after I got into enka in a big way and swiftly realised that whilst I could coast in Johnny’s fandom without Japanese due to the wealth of fansubs, I couldn’t exactly do that with enka. I was still very slowly learning and it wasn’t a big focus, but I would say that was the beginning of me properly starting to learn.

Then I got a teaching job here in 2019, ramped up the studying a bit more out of sheer necessity, and I’d say from 2020 onwards is when I really started to actually make some progress. Though I had the basics down upon landing here, it wasn’t until a year or so later where I started to actually be able to hanker down and commit to learning.

I’m really enjoying learning again - I can read about things I’m interested in, I can play games and watch shows, communicate with people albeit clumsily… I’d say the vast majority of my learning now comes from consuming native content, and Bunpro is the supplement to that. I honestly just think I needed the time away from learning when it wasn’t bringing me much, and finding a new reason to get properly involved again helped a lot.

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