I’m now two-thirds of the way through my Japanese textbook, and the second third went much more smoothly than the first third did. All but one of the chapters took two weeks each; that one took three weeks and, if you throw in the two vacation weeks, it only took me 23 weeks to go through this chunk.

For whatever reason, the grammar in the middle third didn’t seem any harder for me to learn than the grammar in the first third. And there are actually fewer vocabulary words to memorize than in the first third; I suppose it makes sense that, when starting the language, they have to throw more new vocabulary at you to enable you to read anything.

I’m also getting better at memorizing vocabulary and kanji. I’m now up to 448 kanji on my journey through the joyo kanji; I can reliably learn fourteen a week (seven every three days, actually), whereas before I only did seven some weeks. I still have a hard time believing that I won’t run into a wall at some point during the 1500 kanji that remain, but I could be wrong; if I haven’t run into problems so far, maybe I won’t run into problems later? I still have a good two years of kanji memorizing ahead of me, unless my rate speeds up dramatically, but that trip is starting to look increasingly manageable.

If I could wave a magic wand and fix one thing right now, it would be my retention of vocabulary (and, to a lesser extent, grammar) that I learned a few months ago. I don’t have a magic wand, but I’m hoping that the memory project will solve that problem. (I still haven’t started programming on it—bad David—but I did write my first toy Rails app this evening, so I am taking baby steps.)

It looks like I’m about five months away from finishing the textbook. Which isn’t exactly right around the corner, but it’s close enough that I should start thinking about next steps. Some possible areas to work on:

  • Speaking Japanese.
  • Listening to spoken Japanese. (E.g. in movies or video games.)
  • Reading Japanese.
  • Increasing my vocabulary.
  • Learning more grammar.

For now, my main goal is to improve my ability to read Japanese, so I’m going to have that drive my next actions. (Though if we decide to travel to Japan next year, I’d want to bump up the priority of speaking Japanese.) I’m getting some pretty good ideas of what I might want to do next in that vein: Japanese volumes of Hikaru no Go, the annotated books I recently purchased, some kids’ magazines that Jim mentioned. (I realized that I’m acting like some of the people mentioned in the NLP book: I want to learn Japanese, so I try to imitate people who learn Japanese better than I do, so I act like a Japanese kid (or an American kid with Japanese parents), so I order Japanese children’s magazines!)

And, of course, reading Japanese will require me to increase my vocabulary and grammar; I’m comfortable with my plan for the former (words that I run into in books, the joyo kanji), and I have some resources for the latter.

All in all, pretty happy. I just need to get off my butt and start programming, so I’ll have the memory program available before I go on vacation. (Or before I run out of blank cards in my vocabulary box!) And I should probably just go and subscribe to a subset of those magazines; I might as well start trying to read some of the younger ones right now.

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