On Learning Japanese: I Serve the Crabigator!

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but every time I thought about it, I would say to myself, “Ugh. Effort.” It’s because I’m a lazy sort of person.

It’s funny though — once I start writing, it’s hard to stop so the whole “Ugh. Effort.” bit boils down to simply opening up the WordPress dashboard and starting a new post.

Anyway, here’s a bit of a history that’ll lead up to WaniKani, what it is, and why I’m using it.

In the past, I’ve tried an old Windows application called Power Japanese and learned hiragana and katakana through it (although I’m still rather slow at reading katakana). It also teaches vocab and grammar, I believe, but it never went into kanji. In fact, one of things that drives me mad about a lot of software and books that teach Japanese is that they DO NOT show kanji; everything is either in kana or romaji.

I’ve also tried some ancient version of Rosetta Stone Japanese and it annoyed the hell out of me. I hate rote memorization and it seemed to only teach spoken Japanese? It wasn’t my cup of tea; especially with the fact that I wanted to focus more on the reading aspect.

There was My Japanese Coach, a software for the Nintendo DS, too. There are some good things about it but it’s annoyingly strict on how well you traced kana characters. I’d give an example but I haven’t used it in years. ^^;  There were also some kana characters where the order of strokes differed from what I learned in Power Japanese years ago. I’m a firm believer that stroke order doesn’t matter in the real world since what matters in the end is if people can recognize what you wrote. But I suppose, like the English alphabet, there are some guidelines that one should follow when they first begin.

Finally, I bought Human Japanese a year or 2 ago for my Android tablet. Out of everything I tried, I like this one the best mostly because of the casual tone and down-to-earth explanations on kana, vocabulary, and grammar. One drawback is that there is no focus on kanji.

During the last few weeks of 2012, a friend of mine would talk about learning Japanese a lot and was going through TextFugu to learn vocabulary and grammar. He eventually started on  WaniKani. (All this was due to his devotion to Dragon Quest X on the Wii. ^o^~)

Anyway, I eventually got curious enough to sign up for WaniKani. It’s a website for self-learners to learn kanji and vocabulary. In fact, it promises to teach me “around 1,700 kanji and 5,000 vocabulary words in about a one to two years”. That’s a quote from the About Us page. Sounds pretty incredible and even far-fetched but hey, the first 2 lessons are free so why not give it a go?

So now, I’ve been using WaniKani for almost 2 months now — I’m on level 5 (out of 35 as of this post) — and it’s great. While the use of a space repetition system is nothing new, WaniKani employs mnemonics to help you identify and recall radicals, characters, and vocab with relative ease. This method is proving to be more useful for me since I don’t have to keep repeating the pronunciation over and over until it gets ingrained in my mind. Instead, I can look at a character and say something like, “Hey, that’s a pile of poop on top of something. That must be “Thread'”.

(The kanji for thread is 糸 and the mnemonic for the top of it, 幺, is “Poop”. Why is it “Poop”? It’s just something that the writer thought of. But because it’s so bizarre, it’s easy to remember!)

Readings have mnemonics too which works great for terms like 四つ and 五つ. All I have to do is remember the order of the yogurt (for 四) and eating it afterwards. (Eat for 五.) Of course, it’s much easier to make sense of all of this if you could see the descriptions and explanations.

What’s my goal with WaniKani? I’m sure it’s pretty much the same as everyone undergoing the program; to be able to read and understand common kanji. I’m excited at the prospect of being able to read much more than I can now considering that I have a lot of raw Japanese games and manga. Right now, it’s exciting when I spot one that I learned through WaniKani and can even understand its meaning. ^^

Of course, simply learning characters and vocab is not enough as there’s the grammatical side of things. I should just suck it up and continue with Human Japanese but my mind seems to shut off when it comes to Japanese grammar lessons. ^^ I wonder if TextFugu would be better?

I’ll post some screenshots of WaniKani once (or if?) I get the permission to do so. ^^ I’m hesitant right now since it’s a beta program that requires sign up and last I remember, you can’t browse the site unless you’re registered.

I plan to start a journal of sorts where I’ll talk about characters and vocabulary I learned as well as the silliness of some of the mnemonics and such. :3

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One thought on “On Learning Japanese: I Serve the Crabigator!”

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