Native Learner's Learn Natively Language Learning Log

I usually just lurk on forums, but I want to be more active on here. I don’t know what else to post, so have a language log.

I know that this post is super long, but I have a decade and a half of setup to get through and only one post to do it. I’m not normally this rambley, honest.

Previous Japanese experience
Junior high/High school

I started learning Japanese on my own in junior high/high school because I got way into anime.
I honestly didn’t spend too much time actually studying. I mostly spent my days watching anime or random vocaloid videos on Youtube, but I would still credit this early phase with solidifying my interest with the language and culture.
Before, I was only interested in anime. After, I realized that learning a language for its own sake was fun and interesting. (Even if I didn’t have the willpower to actually stick with it at the time.)

College courses

Eventually, I took Japanese classes in college. This is also about when I mostly stopped watching anime. I went from watching hours per day, to maybe watching a single show every couple of months.

In the 3-5 years before college I did manage to make some progress. I had about half a semester headstart from my previous study.

I unquestionably would not be where I am with Japanese if it were not for my college courses. I absolutely needed the structure that they provided. I was forced to learn the language because my grades and my degree relied on me learning the course material.

The dark days of Anki

After 3 semesters of Japanese, I stopped taking classes. For the better half of a decade I barely touched the language. I couldn’t bring myself to open a textbook on my own, no matter how much I wanted to learn. It was so much easier to waste time online than it was to study. I tried using Anki to memorize kanji and vocab, but I couldn’t stick to it for more than a couple days at a time.

There were some よつばと! and のんのんびより manga that I had bought while taking classes, which I lazily went through some volumes of, but I stopped reading them entirely by the time I graduated.

My Japanese journey quickly devolved into re-trying Anki, quickly stopping because I found it absolutely mind-numbing, then forgetting about Japanese for several months or years before trying Anki again.

Finding Learn Natively

Eventually, I discovered comprehensible input. It was a neat idea, but watching native content was daunting, so I didn’t do it.

Cut to last September/August. I was re-watching ごちうさ and decided to try watching the second season without subs, just for kicks.

I understood practically nothing.

But! It kick-started my motivation to finally try out comprehensible input. Even if it didn’t work out, I would still have an excuse to watch some anime again.

I decided to watch the first season of ふたりはプリキュア. It’s a kids show, so I figured that it would use pretty simple language and it is a cultural phenomenon, so I was curious to see where it started.

It was instantly easier to understand than ごちうさ. I didn’t understand every word, but I was able to get by with help from English subtitles. At first, I was toggling the subtitles several times per episode, but pretty soon I spent most of the time with them off. The only parts that I really struggled with through-out were the more exposition heavy scenes, which would completely lose me.

At some point while watching プリキュア I found out about Learn Natively, which gave me exactly what I was missing: a way to find a ton of native material at my level.

With native input as my tool and Learn Natively as my resource, I finally re-started my language learning journey.

Nearly 1 year on Learn natively

This section is pretty long, but that’s because this past year or so has easily been the most productive I have ever been in language learning.

I started watching upper N4 ~ lower N3 content that I could find on Natively, with the idea of building up my Japanese ear with easier shows until my listening comprehension matched my level of theoretical knowledge.

I was never good at building up daily habits, so instead of trying to watch something every single day, I decided that I would watch an average of 2 episodes a day. If I didn’t watch anything for a few days, that was fine. I could always catch up later. This really helped to start building my Japanese learning habit. It was a lot easier to accomplish than trying to force myself to watch something every day, which meant that I could actually stick with it until it became a habit.

As December 2023 came, I made a goal for myself. I wanted to have 150 hours of content watched on natively. I went into December with a little under 100 hours watched, so I needed to watch 2 hours a day. It was the first time that I needed to force myself to be more consistent and to spend real time in the language.

I managed to enter 2024 with 157 hours!

In the new year, I had a new goal: watch something, anything, in Japanese every single day. I failed in the first month.

Overall, January was a great month for my progress. I averaged ~3.5 hours a day of watching Japanese media.

One week in January I really wanted to push myself and cross 40 hours in a week. I managed to end the week with 42 hours (an average of 6 hours a day). Unfortunately, it completely burned me out. The next day, for the first time in the new year, I didn’t watch anything.

I barely managed to watch a single episode of content a day for the next week or so because I was completely emotionally burnt from the previous week.

The only other days that I have missed have been because of life events that got in the way. This one day in January stands as a black mark on my language learning record this year.

In February I started reading some manga. I read a bit in January, but I started making it a habit in February.

In March I decided to shift my focus from listening to reading, with big results. In March alone I read more than my entire Japanese journey up to that point.

After March I slowed down my reading significantly. I was still reading every day, but usually no more than a few pages - just enough to be able to mark the day as ‘read’ on Learn Natively.

In the latter half of June, I decided that I wanted to try to read more in a week, than I had in any month before. It was a bit daunting, but I hadn’t exactly read a ton before, so it wasn’t unreasonable to attempt.

I failed.

I started off strong, but a couple days in I started reading less and less. In the end I only got a little over half-way there.

Oh well, it was a bit ambitious anyway. I can try again another time.

Unrelated, I decided that I wanted to read the rest of お兄ちゃんはおしまい!. I read the first volume the week before and couldn’t hold out anymore. I bought the rest of the volumes and blazed through them in a couple of days. To my surprise, that put me close to my total pages read for the previous week.

I gave it another shot right away and started reading whatever I thought would not burn me out (Mostly のんのんびより, because it was lower level and had furigana). I manged to read 2400 pages that week, which is more than the 2339 pages I read in March.

After failure, I happened into success.

That puts me to where I am right now.

Where I am now

First and foremost, I am in the habit of reading/watching in Japanese and I am actively enjoying what I consume. This was always the endgame of studying Japanese for me, so it is great to be at this point. I still have a long way to go, but I can enjoy the fruits of my labor already.

I am still in N3, but I have made a ton of progress in the past almost-a-year. I went from having lower-N3 knowledge but no listening ability, to mid/upper N3 knowledge and listen/reading ability. My kanji knowledge is still lower-N3, but even that is better than the N5/lower N4 that it was before.

My reading speed has also improved. Back in January/February I timed myself reading some chapters of のんのんびより and found that I was taking 1-2 minutes per page. I timed myself reading a few volumes last month and I am now only taking 35-40 seconds per page.

Finally, the last 2 weeks of June really solidified my reading habits. I was planning on taking it a bit easy with reading for the next week or two so that I wouldn’t get burnt out, but I have already read as much in the last 2 days as I used to read in a week. Going hard for a couple of weeks is what I needed to push myself into making a habit of reading more.

Going forward
Short term goals

I want need to watch Dragonball Daima as it airs as this will likely be the last time I, or anyone, will get to watch something that Akira Toriyama worked so heavily on as it’s coming out.

To that end, I have been reading and watching Dragonball in order to familiarize myself with any distinct vocabulary/speech patterns of the series.

Year-end goals
Light novels

I want to finish my first light novel by the end of the year. I am currently reading もしもの世界ルーレット あったら便利? “スペアの体”の使い方 他 | L21, but my progress has been pretty slow. It’s not that difficult, but I am half-way through the first story in it and nothing has happened yet. The prologue instantly hooked me, and how the actual book is loosing me because there is absolutely zero plot. I am finding it difficult to pick it up again.

Comprehension level

I want to have a good grasp of upper-N3 content by the end of the year and to start moving on to N2 content in a meaningful way. I’ve dabbled in some N2 content already, but it is still beyond my level at the moment.

This was my primary goal from the start of the year, and it is looking like it is in reach.

Hours watched

I want to have 500 hours watched in Japanese by the end of the year. An average of 2 episodes a day should put me there.

Initially, I wanted 1000 by year-end, but that was before I started reading as well. Now my time is split and so is my goal.

10X my total pages read this year

I want to read 10X this year compared to everything that I read before. That would put me at around 20,000 pages total.

That would require 55 pages a day for the rest of the year. It’s doable, but only if I stay consistent.

Long term goals
Speaking ability

In general, I’m not that interested in speaking/writing beyond the basics. I’m mostly interested in listening/reading.

However, I am going on a trip to Japan next year and want to be able to converse with locals in Japanese. This is still a ways off, but at some time this year or early next, I am going to start taking speaking lessons so that I can start to output in a meaningful way.

Long term comprehension

By end of next year I want to have a firm grasp of N2 level content. There will still be a ways to go in Japanese, but upper N2 would allow me to consume nearly all of the content that I am interested in without issue.

Kanji comprehension

Learning kanji will of course go hand-in-hand with learning more Japanese, but I find it much harder to learn new words if I have to memorize the reading and the meaning at the same time.

With this in mind, I plan on splitting my reading between with furigana and without furigana. Anything without furigana I am going to limit to 2-4 levels below my current maximum level with furigana. That way I will be less likely to run into as many new words and I will be able to more easily learn the kanji for words that I already know.

This gap will likely shrink as my kanji knowledge increases.

I’m sure there are things that I forgot to include, but I already spent too long typing this up and it’s already too long.

I don’t have a set schedule that I plan on updating this log on. I’ll probably just update it when I feel I have started/accomplished something of note.

13 Likes

I really enjoyed reading through your journey up to this point! It’s always so cool to meet so many other people who’ve really benefited from finding Natively; it’s definitely become one of those resources for me where, if you took it away, there’s be a huge hole for me.

I really need/want to work on my own listening; I did the opposite of you and really focused on my reading first and foremost, but now I’m feeling the burn in other areas. :sweat_smile:

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100% agree. I can’t thank @brandon enough for creating and working to improve Natively. I would without question still be struggling to find the motivation to do anything in Japanese if it weren’t for the site.

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It’s really interesting to read your learning history, and see how similar it is to mine. Swap:

for music and it’s pretty much a copy paste of how I got here except that I probably took longer breaks :sweat_smile:

So take that as my own very rambly way of saying I agree with @eefara!

Amen. The site and forums are responsible for at least as much of my Japanese abilities as my undergraduate degree in the language.

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Reading update

I ended up reading a fair amount this week, though not as much as the past couple of weeks. I only finished 1 volume of manga, but I read a fair amount of 8-10 different volumes.

My reading was almost exclusively the first volumes of different series. I wanted to find some series to purchase during the next big Bookwalker sale. I have plenty of unread manga already, but it’s mostly without furigana (which I am burnt out on atm) or is part of a small number of long-running shounen series.

I want more series to read at a time because that makes it easier to read more. Even if I don’t feel like reading a given series, there are a half dozen others to choose from.

Here is the list of what I intend to buy if anyone is curious. Probably won’t buy everything at once. That’s too much money.

I passed 11,000 total pages read this week and fully expect to pass 10,000 pages read for 2024 sometime this month.

Watching update

I didn’t watch much this week. I did watch something in Japanese every day, but for several days I only watched 1 or 2 episodes of リコーダーとランドセル | L18, which are only 3 minutes each. I didn’t even break 2 hours of watch time for the entire week. I’ll definitely try to do better in the future.

Also, some things about my journey/where I am that I forgot to mention in my first post but that I feel are worth not ignoring:

Comprehending simpler Japanese

I can understand most N4 and some select low N3 content as if it were in English when listening. I definitely still miss some words, but my brain isn’t registering it as a foreign language. I won’t even notice that I missed some words at times because my brain is just filling in the gaps.

I noticed this happening some time ago and it feels great to be at the point where I am fully absorbing the language without any processing, even if it is only for simple shows.

I’m not nearly at that point with reading however. I have noticed that I am taking less time processing what I am reading, but it is distinctly different than reading in English, even for simple texts.

I watched way more anime than I thought

When I started watching raw Japanese shows I noticed that there were a large number of vocab and grammar points that I already understood but that I had never studied before. After some thinking, I realized that I had picked it up from all of the anime that I watched in junior high/high school. (I have nearly 2500 hours recorded on Myanimelist, 90%+ was before I finished high school. I also don’t think MAL counts re-watches in that time so it may be closer to 3000 hours.)

I guess spending my youth watching anime wasn’t a complete waste of time because it gave me a boost to my Japanese comprehension. I never really thought about it before because I was always using English subtitles, but I must have brute-forced it into my brain through sheer volume of listening.

This is also probably why I am able to process easier Japanese as if it were English. I unintentionally immersed in the language for years, which gave my brain time to absorb the language fully.

tl;dr Anime is good for your brain. Go watch it.

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Bold statement

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I bought everything at once as soon as the sale started. Plus more. 13 full series, plus what I was missing of 2 others.

I’ve banned myself from buying any more manga for quite a while.

Including what I bought this past week, I have over 500 unread manga. 5-6 longer series make up about half of that because I like to buy entire series at a time (Naruto and Dragon Ball make up nearly a quarter on their own). I am going to try to not buy any more manga until to get that down to a reasonable number or reach N2 level with my reading. Most of the manga I have is varying levels of N3 on Natively, so once I need N2 reading material I will end up needing to buy more books.

Also, I hit 1 year on Natively over the weekend! I wasn’t using it consistently until October/November, but still it’s wild how far I’ve come in such a short time.

Reading update

I didn’t read much this last week. I can blame it on several things but either way time just got away from me and I didn’t do as much reading as I wanted to.
Reading the second chapter of 雨でも晴れでも 1 | L22 for the Yuri/GL/wlw book club and part of 好きな子がめがねを忘れた 3 | L19 made up about half of my reading this week. Definitely want to power through some volumes that I bought before the listening challenge next month.

Watching update

I didn’t watch much this week until the weekend. I started watching ハリー・ポッター シリーズ | L29-31 and ブルックリン・ナイン-ナイン | L33?? on Friday and that really accelerated my watch time for the week. Both of these series are definitely too advanced for me, but I am familiar enough with them that I can follow along even when I lose track of what they’re saying.

I can half understand Harry Potter, but any time anything cop-adjacent is mentioned in Brooklyn 99 I completely lose the Japanese. It will be nice to revisit these both in a year or so and see how much I’ve progressed in that time.

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Ugh, I know this feeling too well. I just bought way too much the last few weeks and I’m already salivating for more…

Congrats!!
… I think I missed my Nativelaversary, not that you mention it :sweat_smile:

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