How to Learn Kanji, in 10 Steps

I don’t go to a lot of cocktail parties. But somehow when I do, I always meet people studying Japanese. Maybe it’s just me. Or more precisely, people who’ll eventually stop studying, only they don’t know it yet. Here’s how the conversation goes:

“Ken! I’m studying Japanese! I’m stoked! And I’m completely serious about improving. Just tell me what to do—anything—and I’ll do it.

“Three words,” I reply. “Paint my house. Nah, just kidding. You should learn the kanji.

“Ah, you know,” they begin to trail off, “I just want to speak Japanese, not read it. Continue reading “How to Learn Kanji, in 10 Steps”

How to Stop Learning Japanese

“Ken Seeroi, you should write a book.” People always say that.

Well, like six people, but that’s still a lot. After my fabulous career as English-teacher-in-Japan, I’m counting on book sales to provide for retirement. I assume each person will buy at least ten thousand copies.

Of course, I could write lots of books if I wasn’t so freaking busy. Look, I’ve got mad stuff to do: shower, trim my eyebrows, study Japanese, lie on the floor surrounded by cans of beer watching YouTube. Those are 4 of the 7 habits of highly effective people. Hey, is it my fault wingsuit videos are so enthralling? I think not. The more I watch, the more I’m convinced that arial stuntman is my true destiny. Naturally, as in all things, beer helps. My potential increases exponentially by the can. At this point, the only thing I’m lacking is money. Well, that and skill. And courage. I was just born underprivileged, is all. Continue reading “How to Stop Learning Japanese”

Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?

A reader named mintyroll recently commented:

The “Japanese People Don’t Want you to Speak Japanese” part is one of those minor things I’ve always been afraid of whenever I think of how my first trip to Japan will be . . . Consequently, it’s made me want to reach at least fluent level of Japanese before I ever make the trip.

So mintyroll—-is that a Spanish name?—-well, I can’t say what Your Japan will be like, but I can tell you about My Japan. And maybe we can extrapolate a bit.

Life in Japan as a Foreigner

Take yesterday, for example. It was a hot, gray day, and I finished work early then hustled to the station. Running up the stairs, I found myself surrounded by school kids, who immediately began yelling, “Hello! Hello!” in English. That warms my heart. Or maybe it’s just the humidity, I never can tell. Continue reading “Is Speaking English in Japan Unavoidable?”

Why no one Helps you Learn Japanese

I have a lot of great ideas. Really, just a ton. Oh sure, to the untrained eye, I’m kicking it on the balcony drinking Asahi beer and watching sardine trains packed with commuters ride into the sunset, but really, I’m thinking. Hard. Like about my tiny Japanese apartment, and how to make it more livable. So, first I bought a sofa-bed. It’s a little lumpy. Then a lamp. That came from Ikea, so actually it’s great. They really understand furniture, those Swedes. And meatballs. Then I thought, Hey, how about a little hydroelectric power plant? That’d be a nice addition.

Surprisingly, there aren’t many YouTube videos about doing this at home. But I figured, Well, how hard can it be? I mean, I’ve got a sink, and what am I gonna use it for? Washing dishes? Heh, that’d be the day. Continue reading “Why no one Helps you Learn Japanese”

The Real Japanese Learners

Making the Jump from Intermediate to Advanced Japanese

Recently, a reader posed an interesting question:

I’ve done the entire Pimsleur system, gone half way through Rosetta Stone, through RTK1, taken up an SRS, spent countless hours listening to Japanese audio, watching untranslated Japanese TV, trying to read sentences, and I feel I have very little to show for it.

I’ve read that people who are good at identifying patterns are also good at learning language. This is interesting because I suck at identifying patterns. Consequently, whenever watching/listening to something in Japanese, my brain seems to think it would be a better idea to start thinking about English things rather than listening closely.

I was wondering, how did you go from having a promising beginning to being fluent? You once mentioned that about 90% of people who say they’re going to learn Japanese eventually give up.  What I’d like to know is how you got past that point, and became a part of the 10% that make it all the way through. Continue reading “The Real Japanese Learners”