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"Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

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"Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby CajunCoder » Fri 12.19.2008 10:17 pm

Hi everyone. Long time no see!

I haven't been very active here in the last... year or two? But, I'm still learning Japanese. Well, kind of. To be honest, I don't feel as if my Japanese has improved much in the last year. I'm still living in the USA, but I have made Japanese a part of my life - I use it every day, from keeping in touch with my friends and reading their blogs, watching Japanese dramas and news on TV, etc. I haven't really "studied" in a very, very long time. There seems to be only so much that you can study systematically, after which point you just need to practice and become familiar with the language. However, even though I'm using Japanese on a daily basis, the amount I'm exposing myself to the language and actually using it is still very limited in comparison to if I spent some time in Japan. There's so much everyday stuff that you simply aren't exposed to in Japanese unless you're actually living in Japan. So, whereas I can hold conversations on some topics almost fluently and without effort, I don't know how to say the simplest things when a topic I'm unfamiliar with comes up.

For the last year, at best I haven't forgotten much, but I seem to have leveled off. I feel like I need to put effort into Japanese now, if I want to maintain my level or get any better - but I'm not sure how. When you start off - it's easy. It's easy to identify what you don't know and need to study. You study grammar concepts and familiarize yourself with useful vocabulary and kanji. But three years later, when you've done any kind of structured learning you can do, how do you continue to "study"? Do I simply need to find more ways to practice and expose myself to the language? It might still be a year or two before I can spend any time in Japan, so until then, I don't want to lose the ground I've made, and if possible, I hope to be far better than where I am today.

So, I was just wondering if anyone else has experienced this sort of plateau, and if anyone has any ideas on how to overcome it.
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Re: "Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby richvh » Fri 12.19.2008 10:25 pm

How varied is your reading? I'd suggest reading some more, in different genres.
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Re: "Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby CajunCoder » Sat 12.20.2008 12:35 am

That would probably be a good idea. I haven't been reading as much as I used to.
My reading is limited primarily to keeping in touch with friends through the internet, and reading their blogs. On occasion, I browse Japanese websites. I used to play a lot of games in Japanese, which helped a little - though that's not very "every-day" Japanese.

I've never read much for entertainment, aside from a few manga (most of which don't hold my interest very well.)
Perhaps I should try reading some books? The key there would be to find something that grabs my interest enough that I can stick to it, though (as novels and such tend to be rather difficult.)
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Re: "Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby spin13 » Sat 12.20.2008 1:17 am

What did you do to continue learning English past, say, the third grade?

If you are looking for varied reading material, I was recently recommended 日本語上級読解 by ALC and 速読の日本語 by The Japan Times. Though I haven't actually used them, I did find the former at the bookstore and was able to leaf through in more depth than the Amazon Look Inside feature. The introduction and usage guide, unfortunately not viewable online, sets the book out like this: the text contains 30 articles, each with a pre- and post-read discussion question, arranged by length and difficulty aimed at providing interesting material that serves as a glimpse into the Japanese thought process and Japanese life. It's just a reader - and one you could put together yourself, if you were so inclined - but it looks to be a good place to start.
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Re: "Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby nukemarine » Sun 12.21.2008 9:55 am

There's this thing called the Internet, with more Japanese content than you'll ever be able to experience in two lifetimes. Sarcasm aside there's a blog www.alljapaneseallthetime.com that gives great advice on how to inject Japanese into every second of your life.

Seems like you're at the point that you can study only when you come across things you don't understand going off what you said.
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Re: "Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby Chase » Sun 12.21.2008 11:48 am

It sounds a little like a thought I've put on my blog last week. It's a lot of text, so I'll sum it up: All those different ways of learning a language can be described by their alignment to the two extremes of academic learning (grammar books, etc) or immersed learning (being exposed to the language).
What I was trying to hint at is, that neither of those methods work isolated! The tricky part is to find ways of learning that are balanced. Use your advantage of structuring knowledge into logical sections, while at the same time exploring the language in a more natuaral way.
For instance, when you recognize a new pattern when watching a movie, you should investiage. Figure out the grammar or core idea behind it, form a new sentence with it (but make sure it's correct), and thus adapt a whole set of sentences into your active vocabulary
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Re: "Studying" Japanese 3 Years Down the Road??

Postby clay » Sun 12.21.2008 3:05 pm

With all the reading and listening you are currently doing, my guess is, you are actually still learning quite a bit but the obvious milestones are not as obvious.

As a beginner, you go from nothing to reading hiragana (a milestone), to recognizing a few kanji, to being able to hold a basic conversation, to understanding the weatherman on TV, etc. You probably don't have many moments now like 'wow I can do that!'

Perhaps go back and review a book or drama you saw a year ago. If you've progressed since then, you should realize all sorts of things you know now but didn't know then. That may give you some encouragement.
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