It is been three years learning Japanese. Three sweet years. If I was in a relationship with Japanese, I should start thinking about engagement soon.
Yes, I have been comparing learning language to loving a person.
I have noticed that recently, upon meeting a Japanese person for the first time, they would tell me 日本は長いのですか “Have you been in Japan for a long time?” instead of 日本語が上手ですね “You speak Japanese very well”. Would it mean that my language level is improving? Though three years seems quite a long time and I have considerably improved, my level is still nowhere to be able to use the language freely.
I can introduce myself properly and I am not as nervous as before. But I can’t say I’m confident. Feeling of doubt still lingers. And I am always afraid of dark matter: a word, a kanji, an expression or a phrase I’m not able to grasp.
My language level doesn’t hold me back from reading. Or trying to read. I have started from manga with furigana and children books. Although speaking and writing are very important, I consider reading and listening essential. If I had to make a recommendation, I think you should simply pick up a book, a magazine (or a movie) according to your level and most importantly which you have interest in.
Best way of learning Kanji
Many Japanese learners have been discussing the best way of learning Kanji. I believe there is no such a thing as it depends on personal circumstances and needs. There are repetition methods, learning by strokes order, flashcards, million applications. I am not saying you shouldn’t use them, just maybe personalize different methods for yourself.
For me, learning kanji is coming back and forth between using Japanese in my everyday life, reading, learning vocabulary, expressions and their meaning in different contexts. For example what can one kanji mean in different words, expressions and contexts. Since I am also immersed in Japanese language environment, why not to learn what is written on the 豆乳 soy milk bottle and 牛乳 usual milk bottle, or 有効期限 expiration date written on my sushi bento. Still going through these: not only productive, but very convenient.
Listen, Read, Speak, Write, Think!
About one year ago before I started lessons with a tutor who is also a Japanese native , I had a lot of problems with Japanese clashing with other languages, mostly English and Portuguese. When I was writing in Japanese, she would point out 英語っぽい！ “This sounds too English!”. In the beginning, I coudn’t help but resource to another language and think a phrase in English. So I ended up involuntarily translating to Japanese. That had to be undone, I had to learn to think in Japanese. I think if you can think freely in another language, you should be able to do all the other things: listen, read, speak, write. There is still a long way to go.
And the last, but not the least: motivation and passion are indispensable to keep on learning a language.
Still coming back to my dear partner.