The podcast about learning Japanese.

Starting Japanese – Studies after a Long Hiatus

Posted May 13th, 2011 by Kimberly in Learning Japanese

How does one start learning Japanese again after being out of the game for so long?

Since it has been a number of years since I actually self-studied, participated in language exchange clubs and even taken a language course; I felt it was in my best interest to start from the very beginning.

By starting from the beginning, not only does it act as a well-rounded review, but you re-learn the fundamentals.

I did a quick review of my kana tables; both hiragana and katakana to refresh my memory. As well as hand writing out each character while saying it aloud.

Once that was complete, I took out all my old textbooks and started with the very first lesson. And to my surprise, though I understood the word once I heard from the audio CD, I had a hard time visualizing what the word looked like in its kanji form.

This made me realize that since I have not been actively maintaining the different skills of language learning; reading, writing, listening, and speaking; my skills have diminished quite significantly.

I personally had thought; “if only I can turn back time and start over, I would do things differently.” Well here’s my chance!

It has been about 3 weeks since I started over, and I feel I understand more now, then what I did when I first started learning Japanese nearly 15 years ago. Although I have some regret not taking my studies seriously when I was a teenager, I am now more motivated than ever to reach my ultimate goal of becoming fluent in Japanese.

One piece of advice I would like to share is; learn the kanji based vocabulary as soon as you encounter them. Do not be afraid of jumping right into learning kanji even if you are just embarking on your journey into the world of the Japanese language.

Kanji seems to be the number one daunting task for Japanese learners, but if you start now, you will save yourself time and effort in the future. For example, a lot of textbooks teach vocabulary in hiragana only; so I learned “chair” as いすand not 椅子. By not learning the kanji from the first encounter, I had to learn this word twice.

And now that I am learning vocabulary with kanji instead of hiragana, my brain can now recognize certain kanji as easy as hiragana; like 木. (Tree; き)

Learners, what have you done to help you with get back on track? Feel free to leave your comments. We would love to hear from you.

Next week, we talk about finding the time for self-studies.


  1. 2 Responses to “Starting Japanese – Studies after a Long Hiatus”

  2. By How to learn kanji on May 16, 2011

    Hello Kimberly. I feel very related to what you have posted here. I was also learning Japanese for some time but I decided to put it on the shelf and pursue another project that is a lot more important to me right now… and I know once I decide to get back into Japanese, I will have to start from scratch… from the first kanji.

    But you know, there’s something I’d like to share with you: I also had the mentality that if I wanted to learn Japanese I needed to:
    *Be very self-righteous and disciplined.
    *STUDY at least two hours a day using educational material like textbooks and audio recordings.
    * Learn kanji by memorizing their stroke orders and drilling them endless times.

    But… I realized that that is not how it works. You can’t get to OWN a language by studying ABOUT a language (i.e. grammar). You can’t get used to the language if all you hear are unreal recordings for educational purposes, but never interact with native, “real” media. You know, I didn’t learn Spanish (my native tongue) by taking 11 years of classes or studying by myself for that time; I already knew almost perfect Spanish by the age of 5-6. And why? Because of plain immersion: Hearing and reading everything ONLY in that language during a very long period of time. That’s also how you learned English too hehe :D

    And BTW, although I studied English in Colombia for years, it wasn’t until I went to the U.S. as an exchange student for a year (full immersion!) that I actually acquired the language, and was able to actually understand it and use it as I’m doing right now (although one never stops learning!)

    So… my point is: Stop studying. No matter how righteous it looks, it doesn’t work. But then, how do you get to “OWN” Japanese then?

    I suggest you check out this page. It changed the way I see language learning forever, and I think it can change yours too. Please, tell me what you think about it :D

    Te deseo muchos éxitos!! :D

  3. By Kimberly on May 17, 2011

    Hello there! Thank you for taking the time to share your comments and thoughts with us. Let me begin by saying, thank you for your support of this blog and I hope to see you again!

    I hope you will find the articles helpful enough to give you ideas on how to improve your Japanese.

    I had also thought at one point; one must study for hours upon hours to become fluent in a language. Countless learners of the Japanese language have told me that they would study on average; 6 hours a day! Wow! I do not have that kind of time to dedicate to my studies, or anything else for that matter. That is great if you have or can make the time but I personally could not do that everyday.

    You are certainly correct in that; no matter how much studying one can do from textbooks, audio CDs, computer software etc; one cannot “own” or “conquer” a language without interacting with native speakers.

    Immersion is definitely the best way to achieve fluency in any language. I highly recommend for anyone to go on an exchange program, or an intensive language program in the respective country. But of course only if time and money is of no issue.

    I know when I speak Japanese, I want to sound like I am having a living conversation rather then repeating phrases from textbooks.

    Also, putting pressure on yourself to “get fluent now” is also not very affective as it can really discourage you if you hit a “road-block” and may hinder your studies instead of helping them.

    In regards to the link you have shared, I have indeed been to AJATT. He does have some great tips and techniques on how he became fluent in Japanese.

    I have, in fact applied some of what he has shared into my own studies. As an example, I like how he suggests to learn 10,000 full Japanese sentences so that you can learn the reading of the kanji and how it is used in context, as well as how to learn grammar naturally by seeing patterns rather than trying to memorize every grammar rule. This site is very inspirational and is highly recommended amoung Japanese learners in many online communities.

    Thanks again for your comments, and good luck with continuing with your Japanese studies!

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