I’ve been studying Japanese since September 2006 – that’s almost five years! You would think that I would be quite fluent by now, wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. But I only have myself to blame. (>_<)
For the first almost year and a half I studied in an evening class, once a week, after work. While the classes were excellent (thanks to the teacher), I was too busy with other things to really concentrate on studying most of the time. In the class, we used ideas from the textbook Japanese For Busy People, as well as my teacher’s original ideas and parts of Minna No Nihongo. However, we didn’t actually use the textbook in class, and I was too, er, busy to open it up at home. I did attempt to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) 4 Kyuu (4th grade) in December 2007 but I failed. (I didn’t really expect to pass, to be honest.)
When I first arrived in Japan in 2008 I was shocked to discover how little Japanese I could actually understand or speak. I soon realised how different “real” Japanese was to textbook Japanese, and signed up for private lessons in Nagoya. I took classes once a week for the most part, but stepped it up to twice a week prior to taking the JLPT again in 2009. In my classes I used the well-known textbook series Genki, which is published by The Japan Times. I really like this textbook – the characters are funny, the stories are interesting, and it grabbed my attention a lot more than Japanese For Busy People did (or Minna No Nihongo, but I won’t go there today…).
I got lucky on my second JLPT attempt and managed to pass JLPT 3 Kyuu when I took it in December 2009. Well, when I say I got lucky, what I really mean is that I worked myself into the ground studying for it, to the point where I almost didn’t want to study anymore.
So, since January 2010 I have to be honest and say that I haven’t studied Japanese seriously. Of course, I was living in Japan until April this year, so I was picking up bits and pieces and practicing constantly. But I haven’t really put my head in a textbook or taken a class since I moved to Hamamatsu in March 2010.
Now I’m back in the UK, some would question the need to continue studying at all. However, it’s unthinkable that I would stop now. Studying Japanese is one of the only hobbies I’ve ever really stuck at for any serious amount of time, so I couldn’t possibly quit now, even if I’m struggling a bit to get motivated. I hope to be able to use Japanese in my future career (if not immediately, then sometime), and I certainly plan to go back to Japan to visit many times, so it’s essential that I continue studying. Not only that, but I like studying Japanese. It’s fun, interesting, and rewarding. 😀
So I began to look for ways that I could review what I’ve learnt, and I came to the conclusion that I ought to do what I often used to suggest to my own students: retake! Luckily, I came to this decision before I left Japan, and had the chance to buy myself a brand spanking new set of Genki textbooks:
This is the all new Genki 1 textbook and workbook. Genki has been updated since I last bought it, so I’m happy to see that I won’t be retaking 100% of what I have already done.
In addition to using the Genki textbooks, I want to use the Internet to review what I have learnt so far. I have already been using a site called Renshuu.org, which I find useful because it is very interactive and lets you review specific parts of the Genki series, as well as study for JLPT.
Recently I have also begun to use Nihongo Up.
Nihongo Up has an excellent design which really engages the learner, and even offers some fun games which you can play online or download. (I particularly like their “Toaster” game. You download it to your desktop and it pops up with Japanese sentences to quiz you at regular intervals. It’s kind of distracting, but fun when you’re just playing on the Internet.) Another thing I really like about Nihongo Up is that they use kanji right from the word go. Kanji is introduced straight away, but it’s not scary, and if you can’t read it you can simply scroll over it to see the furigana. Nihongo Up has various levels of membership, depending on how much you’re willing to pay, so check out their website if you’re interested in joining.
In 2010 the JLPT was changed, and there are now five levels instead of four (N1 – N5). I’m hoping to take this test again in the future, and I guess I’ll be aiming for an N3 or N2, depending on how much I study before I take it. N3 is in between the old 2nd and 3rd grades, and N2 is about the same as the old 2nd grade. I know I should set myself a strict goal of when to take the test, but until I get settled into a job and new home I can’t imagine doing that. Also, if I end up working in London (which is quite likely) I am hoping to sign up to classes again. I have my eye on a course that I’d really like to do in London, but it’s a bit expensive. Still, hopefully I can think about doing it in the future.
In this post I’m not trying to suggest that any particular method, textbook or website is better for studying Japanese. I’m simply letting you know what I’m up to. If you have any suggestions for something that you have found to be a good way to study, by all means let me know in the comments below! 🙂