Japanese Self-Study Vlog

I started learning Japanese back in February. Here’s the backstory.

It’s been a blast so far. たのしいです。 I’ve decided to keep a vlog for fun, for practice, and to track progress. (Vlog located at the bottom. I hope to post monthly updates.)

This is my journey so far. I started out with a vague goal of wanting to speak Japanese, but not really knowing how to get there. I only knew that I didn’t want to learn “textbook Japanese” through a formal study. I had to first learn how to learn Japanese.

There seems to be two schools of thought. One is that you need a system (a good program, daily routine, practice, etc.) The second thought is that you do not “learn” a language, you “acquire” it (immersion.) My premise is that you probably need a little of both.

Month 1: I started collecting a variety of resources (iPhone apps, websites, YouTube, manga, etc.) I quickly discovered that I did remember a little Japanese from my youth (I flunked Japanese school when I was little.) I also remembered about 90% of hiragana, which was a big help. The turning point was when I bumped into a few visiting students from Tokyo on our campus. I wanted to be friendly and have conversations with them. All I could mutter was “konnichiwa.” My essential question became, “so what do I want to be able to say in Japanese?”

Month 2: I quickly discovered that a lot of what I learned in the 1st month was either rude or useless. Words like anata, sayonara, etc. A Japanese YouTuber asked, “Why are foreigners learning a style of Japanese that we don’t speak?” I had to rethink and redesign my methods. I got off the apps and vocabulary recordings and sought out more natural Japanese. This led me to Japanese vloggers, talk shows, and J-dramas. I also started journaling to take notes of important phrases and topics. So instead of being a passive receiver of information, I decided to teach myself what I wanted to learn.

Month 3: I moved more toward the side of immersion. I got into culture, cuisine, and even J-pop, all via YouTube. I watched my first anime and J-drama on the DaiWEEB website. Here you can toggle on-and-off Japanese and English subtitles. Of course some of the dialog is not used in real life, but I learned about body language, gestures, and nuances (masculine/feminine, polite/casual, seniority, etc.) I’m also trying to speak a little now (to coworkers, to myself, and to inanimate objects…)

Self-study has allowed me to make adjustments on the fly, whereas a program would have to be scrapped. Immersion has made this process rich, engaging, and fun. I don’t see it as a “task,” but moreso as “recreation.” 日本語 has become a passion.

They say it takes 2200 hours to become fluent in Japanese (approximately 6 years for one hour of daily study.) I’m “studying” about two hours per day now. And with my Japanese school background, I hope to be able to converse in Japanese in half that time (ETA 2022.)

がんばります。

Japanese Self-Study

Turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese, I really think so.”
– – The Vapors

Just recently, I got this sudden urge to learn Japanese. I believe it was sparked by friends posting travel pics on social media. That made me reflect on the wonderful memories of my own travels to Japan.

Flashback. Growing up, my grandmother (obaachan) lived with us. I was exposed to Japanese at an early age. However, I picked up Japanese from watching dad’s samurai shows on KIKU TV. I learned mostly curse words like “chikusho!” To my obaachan’s horror, I was quickly enrolled in Japanese Language School. I really wanted to play Little League Baseball instead, so I hated Japanese School. I didn’t learn the language at all (which I now regret.) 

Because Japanese School failed me (rather, I flunked Japanese School) I chose not to enroll in any type of formal study. I’m going about it via independent study. I’m trying to immerse myself in a variety of mediums to find my own path. So far I’ve watched YouTube videos, started journaling, downloaded iPhone apps, read manga, watched J-dramas, and listened to KZOO Radio on my commute. I even do my grocery shopping at Nijiya Market. Every bit helps…

YouTube seems to be my favorite mode of learning right now. I’ve found a few helpful YouTubers like Risa on JapanesePod101 and Japanese Ammo With Misa. But my go-to channel is Susuru TV. Susuru is a dude who eats ramen everyday. It’s all in Japanese, and there are no subtitles.

I also stumbled upon polyglots on YouTube. I feel validated that self-study is what they do. They said that there are no secrets, shortcuts, or a “language gene” that you are born with. The keys are having fun, finding your way, and doing a little each day.

And I hope to keep it going. がんばります。