Creating Your Map To Japanese

Your map to success, image by Pandachan!

Learning Japanese is a journey, and what better element to give direction to a journey than a map. Plotting out where you want to get to with Japanese, and how you can get there is the best thing you can ever do to feel a real sense of progress and focus. In other words, it can tell you what you should be doing right now. On the other side of things, looking at future points will keep you motivated for what’s to come when the time is right.

I first started drafting out a personal map like this during my Esperanto project. At the time, I had been feeling a lot of burnout with my Japanese studies. It felt like no matter how much kept spinning my Japanese wheels, I still didn’t truly know the language. The short break with Esperanto gave me not only a lot of confidence in language learning, but also helped me develop steps I could focus on to improve my Japanese, and give myself a real sense of progress. A lot of these ideas came from looking at language learning from a fresh perspective with Esperanto; by thinking: knowing about the techniques and resources I know now, how would I go about learning any new language effectively?

I think the key word with a map like this is focus. Not only a focus on Japanese, but on a specific element of it. Before getting too deep into explanations, let me show you a simplified example of what your personal map could look like if you were starting out with Japanese. (The italicized parts are just notes to help you understand how the map works. I like to have the topic that I’m focusing on right at the top. That way I can tell myself to focus on this element above all. The goal should be something measurable, so that you know you’re on track. It’s important to be as specific as you can about it.)

Current Focus: Hiragana & Katakana

Current Goal: Learn 10 new kana per day

Learn hiragana and katakana to be familiar with the sounds of Japanese. (The focus stated clearly in a statement. Then the following is the method(s) to accomplish your goal. )

Next goals:

  • Subscribe to some Japanese podcasts to keep the language in your mind.
  • Learn JLPT N5 (beginner level) vocabulary.
  • Get familiar with Japanese grammar.
  • Learn the meanings of kanji characters.
  • Start reading short, simple texts with Learning With Texts.
  • (To keep it all about the Map itself, I won’t get into all the specific resources for the rest of these.)
  • (It’s a good idea to lay out your journey here to give yourself a sense of direction.)
  • (Naturally, most of these steps will continue to be practiced as you move on to the next.)
  • (For example you’ll want to keep reviewing your previously learned vocabulary even once you start learning grammar.)
  • (You can of course expand on these points like the kana one above, once you get to them.)

Completed goals

  • (Don’t forget how far you’ve come on your journey!)

Like any good journey, you will of course plot your own points and courses along the way. This is your journey after all! You can be as specific as you like, even things like playing a certain video game in Japanese or discovering new bands can be part of your map. As for my own journey… First, I would define my current level as lower-intermediate. Well past beginner, but not yet past that hurdle of being able to understand the majority of what is heard or read. It’s often stated as one of the most difficult levels to get past, and is where a lot of people give up. Well I literally don’t think I could give up if I tried, so here’s what I did…

My first sort of trailing challenge was kanji. I’d gone through RTK, but a bit rushed and without any proper technique. So ignoring learning any new vocabulary, extensive reading, or anything like that, I focused entirely on RTK using this slightly modified Anki deck. I tell you, by focusing my efforts on this one element, I plowed through it. My comfort level with kanji easily doubled from what it had been before. By focusing on a single element (keeping up things like passive immersion of course), I felt like I was making record progress.
Now what I’m focusing on is vocabulary. The biggest issue with not being able to understand is of course not knowing all the words! So how did I take this general direction and turn it into a focus with a specific, measurable goal? I’ll show you! Without further ado, here is my actual, real, personal Map to Japanese that I’m using right now.

Current goal: 1000 Words

Learn 1000 new Japanese words

How will this be done?

  • Use the online tool Learning With Texts
  • Create cards in LWT that include extra example sentences, and some J-J information.
  • Export cards from LWT to Anki each week
  • Maintain an average of 10 new cards per day
  • (I’m already in to this focus, so if I manage to maintain a steady amount of new cards each day then my estimated date for the completion of this goal: October 6th, 2012. This puts my goal in the not-so-distant, foreseeable future.)

Where will materials come from?

  • Wikipedia articles on topics of interest
  • Example sentences from Yahoo! Dictionary
  • Articles from the Hiragana Times blog
  • Text from subtitle files
  • OCR from manga

What are the next steps?

  • 30 Days of extensive reading
  • Reach 2000 terms, using solely J-J cards
  • Practice kanji readings
    • Use the site Read The Kanji
    • Examples from kanji dictionary

Completed goals

  • Re-learned all RTK kanji

As you can see, I have even edited my own original design a bit when it comes to my personal map. Also notice how I have extra notes for the “Practice kanji readings” entry. It’s a good idea to plan ahead so you’re not lost when you reach your next destination, even when it comes to specifics. However you want to arrange the layout, notes, etc is fine so long as it puts you into action and gives you focus on your current goal. So have fun creating your personalized map, and good luck on your adventures!

3 Responses to “Creating Your Map To Japanese”
  1. This really helpful! I’ve made something like this the day I started learning Japanese, but more on an iterated type instead of mapping. Right now I’m currently mid-way on my Kanji Road 🙂

  2. Delenir says:

    Thanks for the Like! 🙂

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  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
    Total read for Tadoku:
    __433.3 pages!__
    Placement: 115/188
    October 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 97/120
    End Tally: 59.2
    July 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 86/142
    End Tally: 195.6
    April 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 62/106
    End Tally: 154.5
    January 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 84/99
    End Tally: 24
    August 2010 Contest:
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    End Tally: 160

  • Read Or Die 2013

    Goal: 600
    Total: 906.26
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    March 2-Week:
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    Goal: 250
    Total: 314

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