Category Archives: progress reports

Priorities, Priorities, Priorities

I’ve always had in the back of my head a vague idea of what I’ve wanted to do with Japanese, but today I’m going to write explicitly what I am most interested in doing with Japanese.  I think this exercise will help me prioritize my study into the future.  Also, since I’m getting close to be able to read and follow along with real Japanese, it would be nice to start crossing things off the list saying “Finished.  I can do that now.  Woo-hoo”.

I’ll actually create two lists, each with the same items, only the ordering will be different.  The first list will be prioritized by which is most important to me – the stuff I want to be able to do most.  However the things I want to be able to do most might not necessarily be the easiest to achieve, so I am want to pick some of the low hanging fruit sooner than the tastiest.  So the 2nd list will be sorted more in the order that I plan to take these projects on.

Skills by importance:

  1. Hold conversations entirely in Japanese
  2. Exchange pleasantries in Japanese (eg how are you doing?, have you been here before? what was your favorite food?)
  3. Watch Japanese movies + TV (with Japanese subs, or raw)
  4. Read a Japanese menu and order food in Japanese
  5. Shop confidently.  (be able to ask for longer pants, organic milk, paper or plastic and understand answers from salespeople)
  6. Read Japanese non-fiction
  7. Read Regular NHK, Asahi Shimbun, etc
  8. Read NHK Easy
  9. Read Manga

Skills by order of study

  1. Read NHK Easy
  2. Read a Japanese menu and order food in Japanese
  3. Exchange pleasantries in Japanese (eg how are you doing?, have you been here before? what was your favorite food?)
  4. Shop confidently.  (be able to ask for longer pants, organic milk, paper or plastic and understand answers from salespeople)
  5. Read Manga
  6. Watch Japanese movies + TV (with Japanese subs, or raw)
  7. Read Regular NHK, Asahi Shimbun, etc
  8. Read Japanese non-fiction
  9. Hold conversations entirely in Japanese

The lists are somewhat an inverted version of each other since the things which matter most to me are also the most difficult.  For instance, If I’m able to hold a conversation entirely in Japanese on virtually any topic, it’s likely that I can do pretty much anything else on the list.  However there are some notable exceptions such as manga, which I’m not so interested in itself, but will help me with some of the conversation stuff so it’s closer to the middle of my priority list.

So we’ll see.  This list may evolve and I’ll likely work on several skills at the same time.  But I thought it would be helpful to explicitly prioritize certain things over others to guide my study.

Revised Lesson Plan for Q4 2016

My last lesson plan was a complete fail due to RTK reviews taking longer than anticipated.

Long story short, about a month after finishing RTK I noticed my reviews were not going down and my accuracy was poor and not improving.  I saw no progress whatsoever for over 30days.  I made the decision to drastically crank my anki settings to study my cards more often and improve my accuracy.  Slowly over two months, my accuracy went from low 70s to high 80s, sometimes peeking into 90s but if my workload did anything it increased.

Virtually no progress but this should change soon.

Virtually no progress but this is finally starting to change.

I turned the settings back to normal a little over a month ago and workload has gone down substantially while maintaining accuracy. I should have normalized my settings much sooner so I could have a lower workload sooner, but it sure is nice to have accuracy still peeking into the 90s some days. Overall, my RTK workload was over 400 cards for several months, now it is hovering around 250 and dropping.  Since I made the change a little over a month ago, I’ve managed to increase mature cards from 500 to 750 which is amazing.  In another 45 days I expect to have 50% of my RTK cards mature and a workload in the mid 100’s which will make more time for studying other things.

Moving on

I plan to do roughly my old lesson plan set back by several months.  I’m still working on the plan so things may change. I’m still not not sure how I want to prioritize everything. One thing I’m considering adding is what I’m calling Easy Vocabulary™ because I believe I can make a list of words that I can learn much quicker than a normal vocabulary list.  Basically easy vocabulary are words whose constituent kanji give a hint to both the word’s reading and it’s meaning. I will write more about Easy Vocabulary at another time because there is more to it than this. I’ve added the WIP plan below.

Exercise Cards* Cumulative Cards* Finish by*
jpod 101 vocab 90 90 oct 23done oct 26
jpod 101 dialogs 119 209 dec 2 44 to go 2/2/2017
shirokuma vocab 500 709 jan 21postponed
Rtk lookalikes 85 794 TBDdone nov 4
shirokuma manga TBD
Easy Vocabulary™ TBD

* card counts could be WAY off which will obviously effect the schedule.


Once again I’m a little behind the schedule I set for myself.  I’m not sure exactly what happened.  I didn’t take any breaks and I was pretty busy except for the week between christmas and new year.  It’s probably because I estimated to liberally how many jpod101 dialogs I could get through in a day.  Turns out even 2 a day are too many so I’m oscillating between 1 and 2 per day.  Overall I was pretty happy until I revisited this list today so I think the list was a little ambitious.

Lesson Plan for the 2nd half of 2016

Update:  This plan was a total fail.  RTK reviews took WAY longer than than I anticipated and crowded out everything else.  I know RTK isn’t even on this list but it was the lingering reviews that refused to go down for several months.  Good news is they are going down now and I resumed  jpod101 vocab last week.  I’m working on a slightly revised lesson plan now.  More details to follow.

I’ve revised my lesson plan slightly for the rest of the year. The notable addition is NHKeasy vocab since I’ve started reading one article per weekday. I’ve decided to prioritize learning things that directly help me consume media that I can fit into the gaps in my day. NHKeasy I can read while at work, and jpod101 I can listen while driving. I kept perfect groups and anime on the list with a question mark. If I have time, I will consider adding them. It’s looking like N3 is a distant dream this year. But I haven’t completely written it off.

Exercise Cards* Cumulative Cards* Finish by*
jpod101 dialogs listening - ongoing
NHKeasy vocab ~400 ~400 Aug. 12 fail
NHKeasy articles read 1 each weekday - ongoing fail
jpod101 beginner s1 vocabulary ~400 ~800 Oct. 8 200 to go
?perfect groups ~400 ~1200 Dec. 3 fail
?anime vocabulary + watch ~400 ~1600 Jan. 30 fail

* card counts could be WAY off which will obviously effect the schedule.

Clearing my review backlog

I finally got my reviews down to zero last night.  It took 21 days to catch up after missing the better part of 11 days of reviews.  All of the red in the chart below shows how much skipping a few days affected my accuracy.  The first few days of catchup in particular saw my accuracy down in the low 70’s.  The low accuracy combined with a wall of 2k reviews didn’t do much for morale I can tell you that.  Screen Shot 2016-06-15 at 2.30.29 PM
The good news is that I’m caught up now.  I have a few more days until the reviews truly settle down to the same general level they were before this madness.  I’m actually hoping they settle down below the original level since I haven’t added any new cards in the last 20 days!  Ideally I will be able to add a few extra cards than normal to catch back up a little.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to match the pace I set for myself at the beginning of the year, but I’ll get close.

I’ve also started reading one NHKeasy article each weekday with much help from the new yomichan chrome extension.  Once I start adding cards again, I will probably add some of the more frequent NHKeasy vocab sourced from this site which has aggregated a frequency list of words culled from from a few years of NHKeasy articles.

2016 Lesson Plan – Progress Report

I was going pretty well on my lesson plan until around mid-April and things started getting progressively off track.

First, I realized that my estimate for jpod101 beginner vocabulary was about half of the amount I needed.  I initially budgeted 400, but the real number is likely closer to 800 once I weed out all of the words I already know.  The complete list was around 1600 as I recall, but I seem to already know half of the words.  It’s a little bit discouraging to learn that I still don’t know half of the beginner vocabulary list.

Then I started noticing that my rtk workload wasn’t going down over time despite getting decent and increasing accuracy above 80%.  I noticed my pile of mature kanji wasn’t increasing and my mature accuracy was in the low 70s, so I’m guessing I was failing enough mature cards to offset the effect of increasing intervals on younger cards.  I’ve recently decided to change my settings on my rtk deck to get my mature accuracy much higher, but that it going to slow my progress as I’m not willing to increase my study time to compensate.

The worst thing to happen to my progress however was that I got extremely busy at work and wasn’t able to finish many reviews for a little over a week.  I ended up with about 2k reviews to work though and more reviews becoming due each day.  I’ll get through them in a few weeks and I might even spam correct answers on my most mature deck.  However, catching up with the younger cards will end up putting me behind my already behind schedule by about a month.

I’ve also decided to tweek the lesson plan a bit. I’m still planning on finishing the jpod101 vocabulary so that I have something comprehensible to listen to in the car.  That will effectively add time that I am able to do japanese things that I didn’t have before.  After that, I will probably insert some reading and reading related vocabulary study.  I’m not really sure what I’ll be reading, but maybe it will be nhk easy or some easy manga.  If I can find some short things that I can read during downtime at work, I can add a little more study time that I didn’t have before.  That also fits into my desire to focus on consuming as much actual Japanese media as possible.

All this means that it is all the more unlikely that I will be studying for the N3 this year.  I will probably take a few practice tests towards the test time and decide if I should take N3 or maybe N4 if N3 looks unlikely.

Updated Lesson plan for 2016

I’ve been getting more serious about making intelligent decisions on how I spend my study time.  To that end I’ve decided to start writing down my tentative lesson plan as a way of formalizing my plans which will hopefully lead to better decisions.

I’ve pretty much given up on the idea of proceeding further with core.  Instead, I am going to be focusing on learning only the words used in a particular work and then reading, watching, or listening to the work until I it is well understood.  I’ve decided to start with japanesepod101 dialogs because transcripts in english and japanese exist, vocabulary lists also exist for each season and I can listen in my car.  Ideally longer, well written stories would be better but I don’t feel like taking time to search and cobble together transcripts in 2 languages and create vocabulary lists.  Jpod101 dialogs will do just fine.  Additionally, there are levels all the way up to advanced material, so they are a bit like graded readers with audio.  The listening in my car part is important because it’s time that would be wasted, so it’s extra study time I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Before I do all that, I want to finally finish RTK and then proceed to start learning unknown vocab from jpod101 beginner season 1 and so on.  Mastering each season until proceeding to the next until it becomes too easy and I’ll move up to intermediate level.  Concurrently to this, I want to learn all of the vocabulary in a few songs that I can listen to for listening practice.  I’d also like to pre-learn the vocab used in a movie and then watch the movie until I can follow along easily.  I’ll use subs2srs if I need help with longer sentences.

I’m still not sure, but I might study for the JLPT N3 test in december time and enthusiasm permitting.

Exercise Cards* Cumulative Cards* Finish by*
finish rtk 140 140 feb 9 done! feb 7
add rtk leeches 300 289 440 mar 10 done! mar 28
rtk lookalikes deck 180 184 620 mar 28 done! feb 27
jpod101 beginner s1 vocabulary 400 1020 may 7
jpod101 dialogs - - ongoing
song vocabulary + srs + listen 100 1120 may 17
perfect groups 400 1520 june 26
anime vocabulary + watch 400 1920 aug 5
jlpt n4 ? dec?

* Card counts are approximate which makes finish by dates approximate as well.

My 2016 lesson plan

I should finish RTK by the end of the year. I’ll be traveling to Japan for the holidays, so I’m also planning to learn/refresh some survival japanese – the kinds of things that will really be useful, like reading a menu, and asking for a larger size of pants, etc. In 2016, I’m hoping to spend a lot less time learning, and more time using Japanese. Here is my tentative 2016 lesson plan:

  • Learn a few songs in Japanese that I can listen to over and over and also sing in karaoke.
  • Pick a few easy anime and/or dramas to scan and learn unknown vocab, then subs2srs, then watch.
  • RTK 2 (or at least memorize perfect groups).
  • Un-suspend all anki leeches.
  • Convert all kana vocab cards to kanji and eventually remove all furigana from the front of all cards.
  • Start reading NHK easy.
  • Start listening to native Japanese audio(podcasts, radio, etc) in the car and at work.

Progress Report: [1013d]::[1248hr]::[2329vocab]::[1621kanji]::[2312sentences]

In my last report, I mentioned that I was still planning on taking the jlpt n3 test, but almost immediately changed course.  Instead, I decided to finish RTK and then start native media.  I just felt that not finishing RTK, I would still have too many unknown kanji which would make studying native material and vocabulary too inefficient.

I currently have 350 unseen kanji(there are some suspended leeches).  I’m adding 98/week, so I’m hoping to finish just before the holidays and my Japan trip.  I’d really like to start studying some of my survival Japanese in order to understand as much as possible while I’m there.

I’ve been spending all of my time on getting through RTK, so I haven’t made any attempts to read japanese.  I’m expecting I’ll be able to understand a lot more written Japanese once I finish RTK.

Entering a new era – Semi-literacy

I finally added all the N3 kanji and vocabulary about a week ago.  So I’ve decided to branch out from anki exclusivity and start dating other apps.

I spent last week keeping up with anki reviews and reading actual Japanese.  Each day, I read a story from Japanese graded readers and an NHKeasy article(on reddit because there’s no furigana and people have translated the articles, so I can check my understanding).  I’m reading NHKeasy with a cool app called wakaru which has a built in dictionary so I can click on words  that I don’t know and get definitions.  I can also add the unknown words to a study list and export to anki.  I plan to keep up with anki reviews and read at least one new article per weekday while adding unknown words as I go.

This is finally where I’ve wanted to be since I started this odyssey – where I can understand enough Japanese in order to directly read things other than textbooks.   In other words, from now on I will be learning japanese by using Japanese.

For the next few months, I think I’ll stick with 1+ NHKeasy article per weekday or at least until it gets too easy.  I might mix other things in to keep it interesting, but I’m hoping to leverage narrow reading to the point where there is something I can do in Japanese that comes relatively easy. Already read one article 2 days ago that seemed to go pretty smoothly and it was a joy to actually just read without stumbling over difficult words and grammar.  I’ll probably continue with NHKeasy until every article goes as smooth as that.

Probably sometime towards the end of the year, I will switch to some other materials which I’ll list here just so I don’t forget:

  • Subs2srs for shows I’ve seen before (sikou no rikon, totoro, ect..)
  • Finish RTK 1 (finally!)
  • Read manga (Doraemon, Yotsubato!, etc…)
  • Memorize song lyrics
  • RTK 2 (or at least memorize perfect groups)
  • Kanzen Master and/or So-Matome books
  • Un-suspend partially learned leeches
  • Add vocabulary which I already know the kanji for(kanji word association tool)
  • Monolingual vocabulary cards

I’m also going to Japan for the holidays, so I’d like to learn some things that will come in handy while I’m there.  Stuff like navigating Japan’s trains in Japanese, place names, and the Japanese names of foods I’d like to order at the restaurant.  There are two events that happened when I was in Japan before and I’d like to avoid things like this from now on.  The first event is the first time I tried navigating the trains.  I got on the correct train going in the right direction, but one stop before the station I wanted, everyone got off the train and I was sitting there alone for a few minutes wondering what was going on.  Next thing I know, the train starts heading back to Shinjuku.  What I should have known was how to figure out that the train I was on only went as far as Nakano.  The other embarrassing event was when I went to a neighborhood ramen shop by myself and ordered a ramen. I’d studied what I wanted to order in advance, but didn’t anticipate everything because the lady who didn’t speak a word of english kept asking me if I wanted something that I didn’t understand.  Turns out she was asking if I wanted fresh garlic, but she had to bring it out the my table for me to understand.  So, at the very least, I’ll be prepared to solve those two problems by December.

Progress Report: [841d]::[968hr]::[2329vocab]::[787kanji]::[2312sentences]

After I wrote this, I completely changed gears and didn’t do anything I planned out here.  Instead, I’m continuing studying RTK until I finish in about a month.  Then I will start on native media.

The first thing you should notice is that I’ve added 421 new kanji since my last report.  This is for 2 reasons.  The first reason is that I’ve been wanting to start reading and I don’t want to spend too much time finding material with complete furigana coverage or adding it.  The other reason is that I’ve decided to study for the JLPT N3 test in December.  I haven’t decided to actually take the test, but studying for it is forcing me to round out my stills into something more useful for actually using Japanese.

Overall, kanji went quite fast compared to vocabulary.  I was able to add about 10 kanji for every hour I studied instead of 6 or 7 vocabulary words.  The kanji I added were the ones tagged as N3 in my kanji deck.  I’ve also suspended any unstudied non-N3 vocabulary, so I have about 80 more vocabulary to study.

As of today, I’m starting 2 new cards – audio only vocab to start getting better at listening comprehension, and kanji only vocab to get better at reading without the aid of furigana.  I’ll continue to mature the old cards for now.

June Goals:

– Audio only vocab cards.
– Vocab cards without furigana.
– Add the last 87 N3 vocab words

July & beyond:
– NHK easy
– Finish Tae Kim
– Start taking practice jlpt tests
– Reading parallel texts
– Listening practice (podcasts, subs2srs, nhk easy, buonaparte’s listening-reading)