My first year as a self-learner of Japanese

Happy birthday to me! Yes, today exactly one year ago I started to learn Japanese. 18th August 2010 was the day that my friend 真吾 came to my flat for our first tutoring session. There would be a total of 30 sessions over the year. These dates with 真吾 was the most constant part of my Japanese year; even when I felt down or hadn’t studied much he always suggested we meet. In the calendar above, 真吾 is the red head.

As you can also see in the calendar graph, I started out pretty heavily, conquering the first volume of Japanese From Zero in less than a month, and the second one as fast. The reason was that I had a lot of time, because I spent three weeks in Prague, monitoring the printing of my book, which mostly meant a lot of waiting until the actual printing began. The same day as I took the train to Prague, I searched for the DHL guy on the street and found him some blocks from my flat. I asked for my Amazon package and he searched for it among all the other Amazon packages until he found it. Very happy I headed for my train and was absorbed in the first chapter during the whole trip.

I think it was good to start out boldly. I’m impatient and I want results – fast! But this manic way of learning always comes with a backlash. Mine came in my third month, as you can see in the calendar. However, after having realised I was about to throw away my first two months, I got back my passion and continued learning.

I’ve used several means of learning. In the beginning, I relied mostly on textbooks:

  • I started with Japanese From Zero, volumes 1 – 3.
  • Then I read Genki I pretty fast, to let that book repeat what I had learned in JFZ 1-3.
  • I continued with Genki II, as that one was more complicated than JFZ ever became. I’m still at chapter 18 in Genki II.
  • In April I added Elementary Japanese to my textbooks. The first chapters worked as repetition – it’s much more fun to repeat from a new book than from the old one! Now I’m at chapter 11 in Elementary Japanese volume 1. (I also bought Volume 2, but it’s not included in the total sum.)
  • In January I started using as a spaced repetition system of learning new words. I loved it.
  • In February, closed and transformed into Many of the courses I had taken disappeared, and I lost my lust, as you can see in the graph. But since I decided to start paying for Iknow, I’ve used it very regularly and have as of today started 1335 items (words) and mastered 932 of them. I’m about to finish the last 3 parts of Japanese Core 1000, which includes the 1000 most common Japanese words. Then it’s time for Core 2000, etc, up to Core 6000. I just hope the company will stay in business.
  • In May I advertised in a language school that I looked for Japanese tandem partners. I met several once or more times, but the one who stuck was コウヘイ – he’s the green head in the graph. We’ve met a total of 28 times during the last 3 months. He studies German close to my flat, so we usually have coffee after his classes end. With me he trains his English though. We speak Japanese for 30 minutes, then English for 30 minutes, and so on. The regularity of our sessions (not to mention their number!) have meant a lot to my Japanese skills.

So, how is my Japanese now, after one year of self-studies? I was hoping to be able to show you that today in a video or something, but there was no time. But yes, I can speak Japanese now! I can keep up a simple conversation. And I’m thrilled about it!

Ok, no more time to write now – my friend Andreas is waiting on my terrace with some rosé prosecco! But I want to end by thanking those who were involved in my Japanese studies. Most of all 真吾先生, who was with me from the very beginning and remained the most consistent feature of my studies. Then コウヘイ, who has worked wonders with my Japanese in the last 3 months. And then the rest of my tandem partners: あゆみ, まさし, まゆ, and especially みずき, whom I met four times before she went back to Tokyo. And my tandem partners’ friends and girlfriends: なおこ and あかね. Thanks also goes to my old friend たすく and that guy I met on the street in Prague almost a year ago, ゆすけ.


This year cost me 559 euro (796 USD). It might seem a lot, but keep it mind it doesn’t only include all the text books, but also 30 private tutoring sessions of one hour each.

Hope to continue serving you with reports of my progress – cheers! 🙂

One thought on “My first year as a self-learner of Japanese

  1. what a sweet text! my congratulations… i am really impressed with you progress and i simply confirm what i’ve always known about you, how centered and motivated you are… go ahead with your studies and i still wait for the day you decide to start portuguese… brazilian one of course!… 😛

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