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Martin, Engineer
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Experience:  i'm 41 and i never stopped studying and experimenting
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Japanese Learner: Exacerbated and Busy!Background:34

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Japanese Learner: Exacerbated and Busy!

34 years old
Married, 3 children (9, 5, 2)
College educated - Mechanical Engineering
Employed in automotive industry

I desperately want to learn to speak Japanese. My goals are to be able to speak and write with confidence and moderate fluency in everyday personal and business situations. I want to be able to go to Japan and move about somewhat freely and to be able to communicate with customers and coworkers. I have been studying (more accurately: trying to study) Japanese for approximately 1 year. I am surrounded by native Japanese speakers and have ample exposure, but I have made little progress and feel that I am getting nowhere.

I use mounds and mounds of resources (i.e., Pimsleur, some Rosetta Stone, several grammar books, Ankidroid for vocabulary which is helping tremendously, etc.) , which may be a contributing factor. I can read the kana, I know some kanji but am not close at all to understanding compounds or multiple readings, my vocabulary is approximately 150 words, about 25 set phrases, and I know the difference between phrases such as ちゃいろうま and うまはちゃいろです。Anything more complex and I'm lost.

Time is a major factor. I work 70 to 80 hours per week, every week. I have 3 kids and a house. I am at work by 4:30 or 5:00am every day so I'm usually in bed by 9:00pm. I have all the resources in the world at my disposal to assist in my learning, but I bounce from one to the other due to aggrevation at not making progress, or trying to use what I am "learning" only to find out I didn't really understand it or I don't know things that I need to know to use it correctly.

The question:
What is a solid method for learning that I can incorporate into my lifestyle? Also, how can I incorporate the many different types of knowledge I need to acquire (reading, listening, speaking, vocabulary, kanji) into a cohesive plan, or am I going about this the wrong way?

By my nature, I am a visualizer and an analyzer. I'm not very good at rote memorization. If you need something calculated, patterns found, problems solved - then I'm your guy. But Japanese, I have found, does not fit neatly into a formula where I can transpose current knowledge into. I prefer writing and reading paper due to the tactile nature, but, as I have found with Ankidroid, something that is easily transported and flexible seems to work best.
Hello and welcome.

Welcome to my boat of eventually not making progress in learning Japanese :)

Some pick up language easily, some struggle, we are the later. Your problem is time. If you really want to make progress you need a big long period of continuous study. That is easier said than done. I have personally a whole session planned for a 2 months period not doing anything else but i have yet to be able to fit it in my schedule. Until i can i won't progress more.

Even if you got many courses, you never have enough (i own Gigabytes of them). While looking for a link to one you missed i noticed they updated it (they change it over time so you can always check for new ones): When i go jogging or working in the forest i put them in my mp3 player and run them until i know it by hearth then i take the next lessons. I also speak aloud the exercises.

The problem with courses is that you don't interact with them. The best way to interact at will i found is to play SNES and Genesis Japanese RPG. The story are simple and with modern emulators you can do convenient save at any point and even do video record and go back into them. Those force you to translate all the time and the sentence are always short so the process is less boring than reading a book. DO NOT translate with google or things like that, use a paper dictionary (effort and pain is needed for good retention).

You can also tune on Japanese radio. Not music as it often don't make enough sense in song. You can read mangas. You can watch anime (be sure to NOT use subtitle EVER. Subtitle make you spoil the will to translate to learn the story and your brain eventually block what is said and you don't want that, you want your brain to open to what is said in Japanese (it took me a while to figure this out). Same for radio, don't tune to it if you can't concentrate on it or the brain will learn to filter it as noise and you will in reality unlearn.

150 words is not enough and that is the real hard part. The part that need effort. You need to build a big vocabulary. Don't bother that much with grammar first, this will come automatically with time. You need a good 1000 word before hoping to be able to learn Japanese from Japanese by context (and this is the big breaking point you need to reach).

So, try to find a way to do a big 2 month at least of complete immersion. I used to do 2 hours a day for 5 years and i made more progress the time i experimented learning full time for a week than in all those years. This is where the 2 months figure came from, an estimate to be able to reach 1000 word with the progress i made in that one week.

Once you get to 1000, you will be able to enter chat room and then things will speed up a lot.

I personally completely evacuated kangi. As kid we learn to speak first, writing come a lot later. Spending time on this will only dilute the time you have for vocabulary. Those that have good memorization could tackle it but as you seem to be like me and rely more into learning "process" than "list" it would slow you down.

Lastly Japanese use very different common expression than in western languages, try to learn those as they are a big part of it.
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