Reflecting on: studying Japanese
A few times throughout my life I decided I wanted to learn Japanese, but could not sustain the practice. However, one of my silver linings from COVID is that during the shutdowns I decided to try again. I set the bar very low, because I was feeling very poorly and I just wanted something to motivate me to get through the pandemic. I figured that if I did 5-15 minutes a day, by the time the pandemic was over and I was done with my degree, I would be able to have a fun trip in Japan as a celebration.
To begin, I dusted off a visual novel for learning Japanese. The structure made it a lot easier for me to focus on memorizing the kana for the fourth or fifth time, and I flew through that pretty quickly. Unfortunately the visual novel lost most of its utility after that.
While using the visual novel I decided my next step would be to look for a teacher on italki. I liked my first teacher quite a lot, because we had shared interests in anime and video games. The basic lesson format was to watch or read something in Japanese and translate it together, word by word. These lessons are very fun and I still do them! I learn a lot, but I realized that the pacing didn't match my study habits well.
So, I decided to find a second teacher to focus on the basics. One of the things I like about italki is that it allows practicing with professional or casual teachers. For my second teacher, I found someone who had prior teaching experience at language schools. These lessons have much more repetition in them. I practice the same sentence structure repeatedly, instead of multiple sentence structures when reading a story.
Together, these teachers have helped me so much. It is really invaluable to get native feedback when learning a language. The last piece of the puzzle for me was finding a good way to use Anki. At first I tried making my own vocabulary decks, but I found that downloading others online is much better. This has really helped me in combination with the teachers. I have a slowly growing knowledge of vocabulary. This also helped me get over my fear of kanji. I still have a lot of trouble with them of course, but I am shocked at the amount I have learned just through spaced repetition.
I am pretty happy with my progress, especially considering I am getting there 15 minutes at a time ;)