I recently came across this article by Gabriel Wyner describing how he became fluent in various languages in 5 months. Much of what he said adds up with my experiences I’ve had with languages. (I’ve been studying foreign languages since I was 9 and have dabbled in around 9 different languages.) Since his article gave me a few new ideas, I decided to give his method a try. I decided to go with Japanese because my friend, Phil Moufarrege, is studying it right now also, and I bet him that I would become fluent in it before he did even though he’s actually in Japan, haha.
I officially started this trial in Japanese last Friday (August 29, 2014). I am currently using Anki every day and making my own custom deck based on the Core 625 Words List from Gabriel’s site. I am using absolutely no English in Anki. I look up the Japanese for each word on the list along with a picture in Google Images (so I know what it means). I am also utilizing various grammar resources on the web to help me understand the structure of Japanese sentences and when they use what to express various ideas.
In all fairness, I must say that I am not totally new to Japanese. When I was 9, I studied Mandarin Chinese, and thus already knew some Kanji as a result. I only knew how to write the words and what they meant — I had no clue how to pronounce them. I also used to know both Hiragana and Katakana. I knew some very basic Japanese phrases and a tiny bit of grammar (just the idea that particles existed and are used in the Japanese language). Most of this knowledge I had unfortunately forgotten over the years. This has given me a bit of the upper hand though, because all I’ve had to do is remember my Kana instead of learning it from scratch, and could start learning Kanji along with my vocab words. The Kanji is not so foreign to me since I’m already familiar with the stroke order and many of the radicals, even for characters I’ve never encountered before.
I have decided to learn my vocab and both the kanji and kana for my words all at once due to my background. We will see how well this works out.
I will come back periodically and give updates on what I am doing.