So the final grades are in. I got a 91%. I would have gotten higher but sensei dinged me on participation. I’m not sure why, but the difference between 91 and 98 percent is really just ego, to be honest. So I’ve let it go.
Japanese is an interesting language – it has a very, very high initial learning curve. It’s intimidating as heck and it’s hard to even know where to start – because you have to learn several entirely new writing systems before you can even start doing anything productively with it. It’s really easy to want to give up during that stage, because it can feel like you’re getting pretty much nowhere.
And that’s because you are, actually, getting pretty much nowhere.
But once you gain some proficiency with hiragana and katakana, find a study system that works for you, and figure out how to immerse yourself in the language enough that you start to understand how it works, it actually becomes much like learning any other language. You pick up words, you learn grammatical constructs, and you start figuring out how things fit together.
It gets easier.
That’s not to say it gets easy. It still requires a lot of work and study. But the “a-ha!” moments start getting closer and closer together, you start studying the kanji and suddenly things start clicking, and you find that somehow you picked up about five hundred different words and a hundred kanji and you weren’t even really trying, it just happened. I mean, it was a lot of work, but it just kind of happens when you put in the effort.
I found an app called “kanji tree” which has become my new favorite kanji study app. It helps you with recognition, with readings, and with drawing the kanji – and if you do these things with any regularity at all, you’re going to learn a whole hell of a lot without really doing much more than fiddling with your phone. It won’t take the place of a native sensei and also a good textbook, but it’s an invaluable substitute and I’m spending an hour or two per night with the app.
Getting over that hurdle is hard, though. I think it’s when most people give up, because while you’re trying to learn hiragana, katakana, and enough kanji to not feel like an idiot, you’re not going to get very far at all, every word you learn seems disjointed (without the kanji to help, it’s really hard to memorize words), and it just seems insurmountable.
But… it’s not.
Just find a method that works for you, and go for it. And even though it feels like you want to every step of the way, don’t give up. It gets easier. But you have to get over that hump first.