My brain on Japanese

Ok, here’s the thing. I’ve been learning Japanese for a few years, but I’m not a consistent learner so the outcome is not extraordinary. Coupled with the fact that I have never taken a formal class, I don’t even own a textbook (can you believe that?). Yes, I’m just lazy.

I do use online websites as learning tools, though. For example, I started this journey by signing up to the paid subscription of I found that it was very useful for beginners to learn the basics down pat and I finished the course within a year or so. Concurrently, I would watch a lot of Japanese TV, be it drama/movie or just plain ol’ TV programme. I also listen to podcasts in Japanese. Plainly speaking, I was just doing the whole immersion thing.

And my listening comprehension is pretty good.

But depending on your learning goals, learning a new language also requires you to be literate and being able to express yourself in that language.

On reading

There are a lot of methods to this. Hiragana and Katakana was not that hard, I picked it up quickly. Kanji on the other hand, is a different story. When I went to Japan, I couldn’t read a lot of things and it was frustrating. Currently, I’m using wanikani to learn and retain kanji.

On speaking

So I tried to make a few Japanese friends for this purpose. But the flip side to this is that unless you have a lot in common, it’s harder to maintain that friendship. That’s just my experience though. Almost a year ago, I found Masumi. And Masumi likes pretty much the same things I do, so I  should just practice with her, right? The thing is, Masumi’s English is better than my Japanese so it was easy for me to fall back to English.

I tried italki, a service that allows you to have language lessons online. I scheduled a lesson with a community tutor for some casual conversation practice. And I realised something…that my listening comprehension was not as good as I thought it was.

I think it was mainly due to the fact that when I’m having an actual conversation, I literally force myself to understand every single thing that my tutor is saying and at the same time, try to figure out a response to it. On the other hand, listening to podcasts or watching shows does not require me to understand everything and I don’t have to do any output.

I struggled a little bit but thank goodness the tutor understood what I was trying to say, and corrected my sentences when needed, which was something that Masumi wouldn’t do.

Language learning is a continuous process and while my progress is slow (because yes, laziness), as long as we keep at it, we’ll get better and better with time.

As the saying goes, 塵も積もれば、山となる: Even dust, when piled up will become a mountain.