We are in December, time to look back on the year and see what progress I have made!
2017’s hardcore study vs 2018’s relaxed tempo
I feel that I haven’t worked as hard in 2018 that I did in 2017. When I say “work hard” I mainly mean learning tons of vocabulary and spend a lot of time in grammar books.
In 2017, I took the JLPT N2 twice, in July and in December. It definitely helped me to make progress in Japanese. I worked with the Sou-matome series for the test of July and with the Shin Kanzen series for December. I have learned a lot of grammar, made a lot of exercises, and my Anki literally exploded with N2 words.
While preparing for the JLPT helped me to improve my level, it was also a little too much in the end, and I wanted nothing more than to relax and take advantage of what I had learned to read novels in Japanese.
Even though I had in mind to try N1 in December this year, I gave up the idea because I didn’t feel like going through the JLPT preparation again.
So while I have continued to study Japanese in 2018, it is nothing compared to last year. As a result, I certainly have progressed less but had more fun in my experience with Japanese.
Reading vs other skills
My main goal in learning Japanese is to read novels, so I naturally spent more time and effort in improving my reading over other skills. This has been true since I started learning Japanese and it paid off.
This year, I have worked on my reading by practicing a lot rather than by learning new vocabulary or making JLPT style exercises.
For the first time this year, I have read different authors and tackled challenging books (with mixed results, but oh well…). In 2017, I had read mainly Keigo HIGASHINO’s books because he was the only author I knew I could read without struggling.
In 2018, I started a reading challenge for the year and wanted to read one book per month. This is what I have done for some months, but then I certainly started reading faster and I was able to read more than a novel per month. In the end, I read much more than I expected to. I still come across novels that are too difficult to me, but I have undeniably broadened the scope of authors I can read.
Listening, writing and speaking
In spite of my effort, I cannot feel a lot of progress in listening. There are things that I can understand well, like some drama and animation films. But mostly, I still feel lost when I watch a Japanese film without subtitles or listen to a podcast.
In writing, I feel like I am taking baby steps only. I haven’t written every day during the whole year but I did make some effort in producing at least some lines in Japanese on a regular basis. But to be honest, I feel that the progress I make are so tiny, no one would notice them.
As for speaking, I haven’t put effort in it at all. I don’t have occasion to speak Japanese and I am not trying to create them either. During this whole year, I have spoken Japanese only once. It was last month, during the Seoul Pen Show, to buy an old fountain pen from a Japanese seller of vintage Pilot.
Highlights of the year
If I were to note the turning points of the year, I would select two:
- First, I started reading the news in Japanese, particularly articles about politics. It also helped me to understand the Japanese political system better and get to know some of the major issues of the moment.
- Secondly, I have started a new Anki deck and decided to learn the words in a passive way only. That is, I only have one card pro note in the direction [Japanese —> Pronunciation/English]. I have given up my older deck which contained all the N2 words I had added for the JLPT. It is a shame really, but this deck had become overwhelming and I had reached a point when studying Anki would take me more than one hour per day.
It is strange to think that the year is almost over. I have started and given up a lot of things, but all in all I have stuck to my mission of reading more and to diversify what I was reading.
Looking back on the year is an interesting exercise, you might have studied more or made more progress than you realise. It would be great if we could meet the person we were on January, 1st and compare ourselves to that person! Trying to go back to the beginning of the year and visualising our level and our expectations of the time is a good way to measure our progress. I don’t know if I have changed much during this year, but the Japanese learner inside me has definitely changed a lot!