Language Learning

Genki Desu: Learning Japanese

What happens when an anime nerd has had it with horrible dubs and slowly translated manga? When the suspense of what happens next during a particular arc is driving her insane? Well….She decides to pick up learning Japanese.

Piece of cake, right?

My language learning journey began late August in 2021. I spent days researching on what was the best courses, book resources, channels on YouTube, podcasts, and children’s anime/manga to start with. I made a syllabus and I listed down all the manga I wanted to translate to help me with the reading comprehension portion. It was very exciting to put together. And it was exciting to get into.

Textbooks

For my self-learning Journey, I decided to go with the Genki Textbooks. I purchased Vol 1 and Vol 2 with both workbooks and the answer key. I’m still going through volume 1 (I spent a couple of months not being able to study new things due to burn out) but I find that Genki is a great beginner resource. The textbooks come with a code to download the listening comprehension app and it’s easy to follow. One thing I do have to say is that the books were made for a classroom environment so you will need another resource to go along with it. I like to watch TokiAndy on youtube.

This Youtube channel goes through the Genki textbooks by chapter and offer a teacher-student experience. Andy breaks down each chapter into something that is digestible and offers real-world examples. He’s also very clear in what parts of the text do not make sense in this day and age.

My method when studying Genki is as follows:

  • Study Day 1: Listen to the Vocabulary on the Genki App and repeat. Write Vocabulary on index cards in English/Spanish on one side, in Hiragana (and Kanji if available) on the other side.
  • Study Day 2: Review Vocabulary using index cards/Anki. (I usually review the previous chapters vocab with the new).
  • Study Day 3: Listen to the Listening comprehension of new chapter. Read and Repeat the story on the page.
  • Study Day 4 and 5: Read the rest of the chapter and take notes. I highlight main points on the textbook, write quick notes on a post it. When I’m done I transfer those notes to my notebook.
  • Study Day 6: Do the chapter work at the back of the Textbook and Do the chapter work in the Workbook and check my answers using the answer key.
  • Study Day 7: Review new + old vocabulary and try to write a paragraph in Japanese using as much of the vocab as possible.

Now, I don’t study 7 days a week straight. I usually take a day or two off but this outlines my “study days”. I try to study for at least an hour each day and complete as much as I can within that hour without rushing. There are times where the contents of what I’m studying that particular day may bleed into the next and that is okay! Sometimes I don’t write sentences but I do say them out loud throughout the day.

Workbooks

I mentioned above that along with Genki, I also got the workbook. The Genki Workbook is laid out like those pop quiz pages teachers give out. A chapter can have 4 – 8 pages of work and its split between multiple choice, matching, and text input. I like to pretend that I am in fact taking a quiz when I’m working on the workbook. I set a timer for 45 minutes and try to get as much done as I can without looking at my notes or at the textbook. When time is up, I grab the answer key and check over my answers. If I got something wrong, I write the right answer next to it and make sure I study that particular item more.

Along with the Genki Workbook, I also use the Nihongo Challenge N4-N5 workbook. This particular workbook is geared at learning Kanji. It separates the Kanji into groups within sections. The first page is always a small summary of what each Kanji means followed by a matching section. The next couple of pages is learning how to write the Kanji characters, the Kunyomi and Onyomi, and some vocabulary using those characters. And lastly, the last page is usually an input section. At the end of the sections, it offers a quiz to test yourself on all the Kanji you’ve learned so far.

I strive to learn a section at the same time I go through a chapter in Genki. So the study timeline above will look more like this:

  • Study Day 1: Listen to the Vocabulary on the Genki App and repeat. Write Vocabulary on index cards in English/Spanish on one side, in Hiragana (and Kanji if available) on the other side.
  • Study Day 2: Review Vocabulary using index cards/Anki. (I usually review the previous chapters vocab with the new).
  • Study Day 3: Listen to the Listening comprehension of new chapter. Read and Repeat the story on the page. Do 1 section of Nihongo Challenge Workbook. Write Kanji in notebook with Onyomi and Kunyomi.
  • Study Day 4 and 5: Read the rest of the chapter and take notes. I highlight main points on the textbook, write quick notes on a post it. When I’m done I transfer those notes to my notebook.
  • Study Day 6: Do the chapter work at the back of the Textbook and do the chapter work in the Workbook and check my answers using the answer key.
  • Study Day 7: Review new + old vocabulary and try to write a paragraph in Japanese using as much of the vocab and new kanji as possible.

Studying Tools I use for Learning Japanese

Studying tools nowadays are in abundance, especially on the internet or on your phone’s app store. Before I dove into learning Japanese, I watched hundreds of videos of Language Learners and took notes on what tools they used to study. Especially on apps and online resources. I also watched reviews and videos on learning methods to help me come up with what would work best for me. Not everyone learns or studies the same way but having an idea on how someone else goes about it, can help you plan things out better. The tools I use for studying are as follows:

  • Flashcards – Good ol’ flashcards can go a long way! They are great for repetition learning.
  • Anki – This digital flashcard software is amazing! It uses Spaced Repetition which is scientifically proven to help you learn faster and memorize longer!
  • Kanji Dictionary – I use this book to look up Kanji I see in the anime I watch or in the manga volumes I translate
  • Grid Lined Journal – This is great for studying my kanji strokes and for jotting down notes as I study the textbooks.
  • Japanese Manga – I bought the entire collection of Futari de Koi wo suru Riyuu in Japanese so that I could translate it as I read it. I also bought the Wotakoi Anthology in Japanese for the same reason.
  • Quizlet – Quizlet was a lifesaver when I went to college! Many people have uploaded flashcards and have made study sets for Genki. I have the app downloaded to my phone for some studying on the go!
  • Anime – Watching anime in Japanese with Japanese subtitles is a great way to immerse yourself and gives you the opportunity to use context clues and what you’ve learned to figure out what is happening. I usually watch it once subbed with english subtitles and then once again with Japanese subtitles.
  • Oto Navi App – This application is what Genki uses for its listening comprehension portions. I usually go back to listen to the conversation over and over again.
  • Nihongo Con Teppei – This is a Japanese podcast I found on Spotify. I love to put it on when I’m doing chores around the house and want to get some studying in.

Where am I now?

Not counting the break I took from language learning November – February, I’ve been learning for about six months. Learning is not linear and no one’s journey is the same. My study plan has changed and evolved until it ended up where its at now. It’s hard and there are some days where I don’t want to even look at a textbook or workbook and I allow myself that break. The beauty of the study plan I made for myself is that it allows me to jump in as if I hadn’t stopped 🙂 Despite the long break, I understand Japanese way more than I did when I first started. I know all the hiragana and katakana, am familiar with 20 kanji characters, can write basic diary like sentences of what I did today, and can have light conversation about who I am, what I want to do and ask how much something is. Those are big strides!
Even if I’m not as fluent as others in the six months of learning Japanese, I know more than I did last August and I will know more than I do now next August 🙂

XoXoXo,

Jeimy

How many languages do you know? Have you picked up any new ones?

Let me know in the comments below!