There was a time when I considered passing the JLPT’s (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) highest level (level 1) to be the goal. Since passing it, I’ve understood it’s actually more of a beginning than anything else – and it’s a beginning of something good (and it ain’t just a beautiful friendship). There’s still lots more to learn, but with the end of JLPT studies begins the time when mastering the whole Japanese language is the goal, and there are no more silly tests.
Let me tell you three things that I used to think sucked but really enjoy now:
- Discovering a kanji I don’t recognize
- Reading a word I don’t know
- Finding a sentence pattern I don’t understand
Out of which 3 and 1 are fairly uncommon. And I am making an effort!
Every time I find a kanji that I don’t recognize, or a come upon a word I don’t know, or find a sentence pattern (grammar) I don’t understand, I look it up in the dictionary, find words using its different readings, locate sentences using these words, and add them to my Anki card deck.
I am learning 5 new items per day, and I make an effort to catch up by learning more on days after I for some reason didn’t do any new items (such as holidays). Most of these items are words, so that means my Japanese vocabulary is growing by at least 1800 words per year, which seems like a reasonable pace to me – although I’m sure it’s possible to learn much more than that.
Finding 5 new items per days actually takes some effort though. Although some days just seem to bring with them a storm of unseen vocabulary and kanji, in order to keep a decent buffer of them – I aim at always having at least 50 unseen cards in my Anki deck for rainy days – some effort is required. These are my main sources for discovering unknown Japanese:
- Japanese Wikipedia
- News”papers” – specifically Asahi Shimbun
- Books – any book, as long as it’s in Japanese
I find these three to have quite different characteristics; Japanese Wikipedia uses quite formal and long-winded language, decent supply of new words, but not many unknown kanji. The news on the other hand is written in that typically very compact form with lots of kanji compounds, but of course almost no non-joyo kanji, with a decent supply of new words, and also often interesting sentence patterns or vocabulary usage.
Books of course depends on the book… I read essentially anything I find interesting. Quite often that is books about the Japanese language or one of those introspective books about Japaneseness – of which there are plenty in Japan – both ones that go “Japan is the greatest” and those that go “Japan sucks”. The one I’m reading right now is quite basic in its general difficulty level but uses a tremendous amount of obscure kanji – actually I think the author is trying to show off – but that is of course great for my purpose.
Anyway, so, lots of reading, finding new things, and reviewing – every day. I used to listen to the radio a lot but I kind of grew tired of it and it stopped being very effective (although I still think it is for JLPT 1 listening practise), and besides now I’m listening to Chinese while working.
So that’s how I’m studying Japanese now, and I don’t expect it to change much for a while since I’m focusing on Chinese, albeit still mostly on a hobby level. Another thing I’m going to do is write a few more pages like my recently published page on software development-centered technical Japanese. I found writing that more fun than I had thought as well as providing me with a good chance for review, and I have a few more topics in mind!