So, You Want To Learn Japanese?

Ah, I can recall like it was yesterday- sitting at my desk, one that served as just a mere link in the u-shaped chain of students the teacher had us in so they could see all our faces. Day after day, class after class our environment stayed the same. Only the teachers that entered the classroom marked the change of the subject.

After lunch, the clock would chime and that’s when you could hear the click-clacking of heels approach the room. “Hola clase!” The fabulously dressed tan-skinned woman would announce. And that marked the beginning of Spanish class. My nemesis…

Each day we would run through the grammar “Yo soy. Tu eres. El/Ella eles” and the vocabulary “gato. perro. lapis.” And each day I would get restless and bored. “Why do we have to do this?” I would say in my rebellious child-brain. “Speaking something different is cool. But why do I have to learn what they want me to?”

It didn’t take long for me to stumble upon Japanese. My 13-year-old self was already staying up past midnight to catch “Inuyasha” on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” block. One of my favorite parts, aside from all the half-demon fighting monsters in ancient Japan, was the opening and ending theme songs. Unlike the dubbed story content, they always aired in Japanese. Then, it dawned on me. Why not learn one of those very songs I loved? Cue music:

“Fukai Mori” by Japanese artist Do As Infinity marked the beginning of a lifelong journey. This one, simple decision shaped my entire life. Once I mastered mimicking the words of the song, I wanted more. I wanted to know what the words meant. Thus, I began self-teaching with the help of early 2000’s internet resources. Fast forward 11 years and I was enrolling in university to obtain a BA in East Asian Studies. Two years after that, I was packing my bags to live abroad in Japan for 5 months which turned out to be the time of my life. Let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing more empowering than living out a childhood dream or any dream for that matter. Fast forward to 2019, I found myself retracing my “steps-of-study-abroad-past” visiting all the places that still held so much nostalgia for me. Which brings us to today, an October evening in 2020.

Here I am, age 30 and still studying. Though my fluency may not be where I’d want or expect it to be, making my way through Japan alone last year is something I’m proud of! But I still need more. I just recently decided I want to study there again in a few years for six more months. I want to be able to buy books and read them. I want to turn on a Japanese tv show and understand it. I’m what you would call a “forever student” and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Self-study gives me direction, it gives me a purpose in life and brings me immense joy. Did you know the kanji for caterpillar translates to “fur bug”? Like, come on, that’s freaking delightful!! And the word for testicles is literally “gold balls”. Nuff’ said.

Anyway, you’ve heard my story, now I’d like to hear yours. Why do you want to start this journey? What brought you here? Why Japanese? What do you want to get out of it? How will it make you feel once you can start understanding things, not in your native language? Think about it really hard. Do you have a clear intention now? Great! Let’s go- 行こう!

My Japanese is all over the place thanks to the books I found on my own and learning different things in Japanese and American classrooms. Trying to find something that fit my level while teaching me new things and keeping my engaged seemed hopeless. I had no idea what my proficiency level was until I stumbled upon the golden trio:

  • Wanikani
  • Lingodeer (and Lingodeer Plus)
  • Japnese From Zero!

With the help of these sites and apps, I took the plunge and started learning from scratch and it is one of the best decisions I made since the initial one all those years ago.

Wanikani is a website and app that drills over 2000 kanji and 6000 vocab words into your head through the use of a smart system that spaces out what you know from what you don’t know. Its levels range from 1-60 and by the end of it, you will be able to read proficiently (or so they say, I’m on level 6). The first three levels are free but after that, it’s $9 a month. So worth it.

The next app is “LingoDeer”. Not only is the mascot super adorable, but it also has a second app called “LingoDeer Plus” that offers learning games to supplement the original. It also has more languages than “Wanikani” and “Japanese from Zero!”, making it more appealing to a broader audience. Throughout each lesson, you will learn new vocab, grammar, and have mini-quizzes.

Lastly, “Japanese from Zero!” has been my main go-to for learning new grammar and content. George, the creator of JFZ!, is an American who moved to Japan with his military father when he was 12. Since then, George has dedicated his life to learning (mostly) Japan, Korean, and Chinese. His insight as a “foreigner” looking in offers helpful tidbits for people who’s native language is English. He is also great at giving the “why” to language rules so you get a well-rounded view of what you’re learning.

Some tips before we dive in:

Learning a language is what you make of it. There are several different components to learning a language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and it’s natural to excel in one over the other. Consistent practice will go a long way.

Be patient with yourself. Learning a language will be a super frustrating times. I remember while in Japan, me and a few classmates walked out of the room because we were so frustrated we couldn’t understand what the CD was saying. Which leads to the next tip:

Context is everything! Learning things out of context can make things seem harder than they are. If you’re stuck on something, try making up a fun situation in your head that fits with what you’re learning or look up the proper usage online.

Below is a schedule that I have created for myself and am now sharing with all of you. It outlines all of Japanese 1 course 1 with “Japanese from Zero!”- a total of nine and a half weeks. You’ll notice I don’t list the use of “LingoDeer” in the schedule. You can use that as supplementary work. “Japanese from Zero” teaches Japanese in a different way than the typical starting places of many textbooks. Also, note that I provide the links to the videos on YouTube. You can take to the website instead of a more comprehensive look at each lesson, including a breakdown of the vocabulary and what you should be learning when.

Japanese 1 Course 1 Outline:

  • 3 lesson videos per week
  • 1 “One thing in Japanese” every two weeks
  • 2 Japanese in 5! per week
  • WaniKani 3 times per week

Week One

Monday

Japanese Pronunciation Basics (15 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

KIERU vs KESU – Japanese in 5! #1

Wednesday

Japanese Numbers PT 1 (1 – 99) (22 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Hitokoto #1 – AIKAWARAZU

Friday

Japanese Numbers PT 2 (100 – 9999) (14 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

How to say “You Should” in Japanese – Japanese in 5! #2

Week Two

Monday

Japanese Numbers PT 3 (10,000 to 99,999) (14 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

How to say “Because” in Japanese – Japanese in 5! #3

Wednesday

Japanese Numbers PT 4 (100 million and above) (25 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Friday

Japanese Numbers PT 5 (Zero) (7 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

I want you to… – Japanese in 5! #4

Week Three

Monday

Lesson 1: Creating Simple Sentences (22 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Japanese Particles in 5 minutes! – Japanese in 5! #5

Wednesday

Japanese first meeting (10 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Friday

Japanese age related (15 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Light hearted Japanese phrases – Japanese in 5! #6

Week Four

Monday

Working with a Japanese topic (30 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Japanese Punctuation – Learn Japanese in 5 minutes! #7

Wednesday

Possession and Particle NO (18 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Hitokoto #2 – ZANNEN NAGARA

Friday

Subject Marker GA vs WA (9 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

“Maybe” in Japanese – Learn Japanese in 5 minutes! #8

Week Five

Monday

Colors and Three types of adjectives (15 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – Adverbs #9

Wednesday

Linking and Disliking (19 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Friday

Making things negative with Janai (15 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – What is MITAI? #10

Week Six

Monday

The ONE pronoun (7 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – SHUNKAN vs TOKI #11

Wednesday

Making い adjective negative (24 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Hitokoto #3 – NEN NO TAME NI

Friday

Locations and the どこ word group (10 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – “Whether or not” # 12

Week Seven

Monday

The BUT Connector (11 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – Speak Japanese Like A Pro #13

Wednesday

Months and Days of the Month (25 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Friday

Past Tense DESHITA (12 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – Japanese Grammar HODO #14

Week Eight

Monday

Days of the week and Years (17 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – Japanese Grammar TE MIRU #15

Wednesday

This, Next, and Last Dates (14 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Hitokoto #4 – KEDO

Friday

Asking for Things (20 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

JI5 – Japanese Grammar PPOI #16

Week Nine

Monday

Japanese Counters (30 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Wednesday

Time and Location Particles (22 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Friday

Telling Time in Japanese (22 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Week Ten

Monday

From and Until Particles (15 mins)

Wanikani (10 mins)

Voila! There you have it: a stepping stone to strengthening your mind and broadening your horizons. I wish you all the best and hope you have a blast with this journey! I encourage to you leave me a comment or send an email if you’d like to talk more! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Love and light, 

Ze 💜

**Disclaimer: I am not associated with any links that I post. All programs, products, sites that I mention are for sharing purposes only. All images are from the Google search engine. Where applicable, consult with any physicians necessary before embarking on a fitness journey.**

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