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rulu ruru

post Learning Japanese

May 11th, 2009

Filed under: Ramblings, Announcements — admin @ 10:10 am

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Ever since I started training, I’ve tried to learn Japanese.  With all of the trips to Japan that I take, being able to speak Japanese would be a big plus… not only for just getting around, but for being able to understand the things the Shihan say without having to rely on a translator.

Lacking the time to go and enroll at the local community college, I’ve tried to use the Pimsluer “Learn to Speak Japanese” series of about 50 Audio CD’s.  I made great progress quickly, but it just seemed to drop by the way side, since I never have the time to sit and devote 100% of my attention to listening.

So, for a while I got a tutor.  A nice girl I found on Craig’s list would meet me once a week, and we’d go over a workbook that I bought at a used bookstore.  She had me study the Hiragana first, so I could pronounce everything for the workbook better.   This worked out ok, because she’d go over the lesson with me, and then say “But… this isn’t what people actually say in Japan, they would say …”.   This went on for a while, then she moved.

I was thinking of trying to find a class again that would fit into my work/training/Pink Tornado schedule, and then Trueheart gave me some great advice.  As a former Japanese major in college, his japanese skills are infinitely superior to mine, and he sent me a great email with instructions for the best/fastest way to learn Japanese.

I am including his email in it’s entirety here (with his permission).  If you are wanting to learn Japanese, I strongly suggest you follow his advice.

I have all of the books mentioned in PDF format, and some extra study resources, as well as a lot of the Heisig flash card decks.  You can download them from here, but the links are blind… email me directly for the links. ;)

I am currently knee deep in the Kanji… which I failed miserably at trying to learn before.  Amazingly, it’s easy to learn with the method described below.

<BEGIN EMAIL>

Dude, forgive this long wall text.  I have buckets of advice for learning Japanese, but I’ve tried to keep this short and only the necessary information.  Still it’s long though because there’s a lot of information that’s necessary.  I hope you can find the time because it is definitely a worthwhile investment.

If you want to study Japanese at an accelerated pace, then you need to be able to read and write the language.  Unless you can pay for some hot, spunky Japanese girl to follow you around all day and make conversation, your only affordable access to the language is books, manga, TV, anime, and the internet. And the beauty of the written word in particular is that it gives you access to the language whenever and wherever you want.  For both you and me, all we want is to be able to understand soke’s speech, so reading and writing seems like a distraction.  But it’s like lowering your kamae: to a whitebelt it seems unrelated, but once you try it everything becomes easier.

To get started: download the program Anki from the following website:

http://ichi2.net/anki/

While you’re there watch some of the videos to get accustomed to what this software accomplishes.  A more technical introduction is here:

http://www.supermemo.com/articles/theory.htm

Then download and read the introduction to “Remembering the Kanji” and do the first few lessons.  Web address:

http://www.nanzan-u.ac.jp/SHUBUNKEN/publications/miscPublications/pdf/RK4/RK%201_sample.pdf

[Jason: I have this book in PDF format.]
You’ll want to order the whole book ASAP.  I’ve attached to this email an Anki deck of lesson 1 from my own studies.  Be sure to install the KanjiStrokeOrders font (google it).  This deck has images associated with each kanji, which I find tremendously helpful.  I wish I could send you the whole deck premade, but I just started going back and adding image support to it.  For lesson 2 and beyond you’ll find the following forum thread to be of help:

http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?id=2553

[Jason:  Trueheart has sent me the first dozen decks… links available upon request.]

Some theory and background: theres some dudes in academia that figured out you can learn a language much quicker if you focus entirely on input (massive amounts of reading and listening) before doing any output (writing or speaking).  Back in the 80’s and 90’s some Polish guys applied this principle to English and were able to get to native level fluency in an impressively short period of time.  Their story is on antimoon.com, and there’s some good advice to be found there.  I’ll link to just one article, the “Myths and Facts of learning English”:

http://www.antimoon.com/other/myths.htm

Just replace “English” with “Japanese” and its solid advice.

In 2004 a Kenyan guy that had read the antimoon stuff decided to apply those lessons to learning Japanese.  He had no prior exposure to the language, but by the end of 2005 he had landed a job with Sony in Tokyo in a fully Japanese environment.  His website is:

http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/about

His writing is a bit over the top at times, but his advice is solid. Finally, a community of Japanese language learners that follow and extend upon his method has developed in the forum section of the following website:

http://kanji.koohii.com/

The site very useful (especially the stories and the forum), but the algorithm behind its SRS is substandard.  Much better to invest your time and energy into Anki.

The basic roadmap (time estimates assume about an hour of study spread through the day, every day):

These steps in serial (don’t skip ahead!)
1) Learn Joyo kanji list (~2000 kanji).  2-4 months
2) Learn hiragana and katakana.  1 week max.
3) Learn onyomi readings with movie method 2-3 weeks.
4) Learn grammar using Tae Kim and sentence method (about 1000 sentences) 1-2 months.

The next items are done simultaneously:
5a) Learn kunyomi readings by replacing RTK keywords.
5b) Begin sentences with Kanji.Odyssey.2001
5c) Start reading native media.  First simple manga, then more complex manga, newspapers, and novels.  THIS is where progress is rapid and fluency is achieved.

Some terminology there is from the community and might not make sense without that background.  But if you started now I would expect to be starting stage 5 by January of next year, and rapidly progressing by the time of your spring trip next year.

I’m gonna end this email before it gets any longer.  Good luck, and please contact me (or ask me in the mornings) if anything is unclear.

– Trueheart

<END EMAIL>

1 Comment


  1. Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /home/public/wp-includes/formatting.php on line 74

    Меня тоже волнует этот вопрос….

    Начальник отдела, главный эксперт Ever since I started training, I’ve tried to learn Japanese…..

    Trackback by Kylie Batt — May 18, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

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