Learning Japanese: Weighing in After 3 Months of Study

For a review of all the studying that came before, feel free to access the following links:

part 1) Hello Again Japanese

part 2) Anki: Flashcards Revolutionized

part 3) The Japanese Challenge

part 4) Video Blogging

part 5) Major Project Maintenance

part 6) Japanese Instructional Podcasts

I am pleased to announce that I met the goal I had set at the beginning of this class, which was to pass the JLPT5 (Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level 5). JLPT5 is the first of 5 stages that prove one’s comprehension and mastery of the Japanese language. And while the test I wrote was the easiest of the 5, it still was no joke, I can assure you.

If you have been following along, I had spoken about how the original idea was to find an old copy of the JLPT and have a friend administer it to me. Unfortunately, finding something like that, even through the internet, is very difficult, and despite my searching, I couldn’t find anything. I had considered buying a study guide, and using that as a mock test, but then I came across an iphone app that was exactly what I needed. にほんご1(Japanese 1) is an app specific to the study of the JLPT. Unlike the ANKI smart flashcards I have been using, the app strictly works as a means of testing one’s proficiency in kanji, grammar, particle, vocabulary, and te-form (another grammar form, which represents present continuous). While ANKI recognized mistakes, and would help to remind you of the information again, this app simply pulls from a larger database, and asks 20 random questions specific to the section within the JLPT5 you are studying for.

The ANKI flashcard deck I had been using wasn’t strictly specific to the JLPT5, so I was a little nervous that there was content I hadn’t studied yet, but it turns out I was wrong! Having studied between 30-1h per day (using ANKI, watching Japanese shows or blogs, etc.) gave me a really strong proficiency base to work with. I actually am rather sad that the real JLPT, which would require me to take the test in person in Calgary, isn’t for another few months yet. Having spent this much time studying, it would have been awesome to have actually had some physical, tangible evidence of this feat. All I have are screenshots from the app, which I suppose is better than nothing.

IMG_3058 IMG_3059  IMG_3060-MOTION

(Screenshots from にほんご1/Japanese1): Autoawesome gif effect courtesy of Google)

Unfortunately after all this studying, I got a little cocky. Especially after I quickly went through all the sections of the JLPT5. So, I decided, why not translate the summary of learning I’ve been working on? It will be a good challenge, right? It was indeed! I think in the back of my mind, I thought that if I really got stuck, I could always get my wife (who is Japanese) to help bail me out, and to offer me advice, etc. Unfortunately she and my 2 kids just left to Japan on holidays for the month of December, leaving me high and dry. Basic Japanese essentially deals with asking questions about places, introducing oneself, and talking about one’s immediate environment. So, all the training I had done up until this point hadn’t really prepared me for comparing/contrasting, as well as talking about more abstract concepts, such as online identity.


(Printing out, then practicing speaking the lines to record for the summary of learning)

Coscom.co.jp really helped a lot. The site has quite an extensive list of Japanese verbs. Whatever other vocabulary I lacked I used my wife’s old Japanese electronic dictionary. I would have used Google translate, but I have had bad experiences with that site, so even looking for a one word translate had me nervous that I wasn’t going to get an accurate translation.

Something else that deflated the Japanese language ego bubble was when I called to Japan to see whether or not my family had arrived at my wife’s family home yet. They left on Tuesday AM, and as it was Wednesday AM, I figured I would have heard from them already. Instead, I got my wife’s 98 year old grandmother. I had no idea what she was talking about on the phone. Like, literally not a word. She didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about either. So, I finished that ‘conversation’ frustrated, both because I still didn’t know how my family was, and also because someone I hoped to talk to while in Japan this Xmas, is still so inaccessible to me. (My wife and my kids arrived moments after I made the call, so at least that didn’t have to worry me for the rest of the day!)

Using this class as an excuse to finally study and learn Japanese has been an excellent one. While skeptical at first, I really came around quick to all the resources online that would really help to learn a language. Of course, the first and foremost support I had was ANKI, the smart flashcard program. I’ve spoken a lot about it already, but suffice to say the best part of it was the routine that I was forced to adopt, in order to not fall behind in the program. This fear alone, of having to spend more time because I skipped a day, was enough to help with the incentive I already had.

Having the ability to bug a Japanese person with questions was also very handy. My wife is Japanese, so it was easy to ask her questions I had when I got stuck, or to try out a phrase (and of course quickly find out that I am still way out of my league!). The Google+ Japanese Language Community was also very helpful for feedback on the posts I did for Japanese language. All the Japanese podcasts and blogs I tried also made a big difference, especially if nothing more than to stop having to look at ANKI for awhile! I seriously have a love/hate relationship with that program.

I have created a separate post for my summary of learning, but because I put so much time and effort into the translation of the content for the video, it deserves a link here:

Am I done? No. After that phone call to Japan, I’ve realized that a lot more time needs to be spent working on Japanese. Especially after putting so much time into my language acquisition, it would be foolish to just stop now.


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