L-Chiki's Study Log

Alrighty, so I’m trying to get back in the game after a looooooong hiatus.

In 2012, I was probably around N3 level (this is a guess, since I never took the test) and I know I’ve slid a lot since then. I’m hoping to pass the N3 next year (2020). I know that seems like a rather long time from now, but my second kid is due in October, so December 2019 is out of the question. (Speaking of, are there any other parents/family types on here with any study tips…maybe this is another thread, but most of the advice I see from people suggests that learning Japanese is a young, single man’s game.)

I finished RTK once long ago, so I’ve just started going through that again. In addition, I’ve got a deck of about 7000 common words that I’m plowing through. For both of these I’ve set the leech count low and the initial easy interval to 3 months. Reason being, I’m really just trying to get through them as quickly as possible since I already know a significant amount of the info and don’t want to get bogged down with known cards. And, since I don’t particularly care about any specific card, a low leech count means anything that’s giving me trouble will just get pushed out of the way.

In parallel, I’ve got a ton of study material that I picked up back when I was one of the aforementioned single, young men that I’ve never gone through. These include:
日本語総まとめN3 (the whole set)
シャドーイング 日本語を話そう 中~上級編
レベル別日本語多読ライブラリー レベル4
Living Japanese: Diversity in Language and Lifestyles
Read Real Japanese: Essays
Short Stories in Japanese: New Penguin Parallel Text
A few novels and some manga

Not sure what to do with all of that yet…but I’ll formulate some kind of plan!


(This reply turned into a real tome. Sorry.)

I’m not a man but I’m married with two school aged children.

My experience is, the most important thing is to be realistic about how much progress you can make, and don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. Look both forwards and backwards at your progress: have a goal but also a benchmark. In my case, unintentionally, my first benchmark was the first story in Short Stories in Japanese: New Penguin Parallel Text, the one whose name starts, “Concerning the Sound of a Train Whistle…” That story is one and a half pages long. IIRC it took me more than a week to read it, and I still didn’t understand everything. Then I went back and reread it a year of studying later, and it wasn’t so bad. By which I mean, it still wasn’t easy for me to read, but I could definitely see that I’d made real progress. It was such a huge confidence boost for me and one of the reasons I think keeping a study log is so helpful. When you feel stalled out you can go back to entries a year ago and see your progress, and you know that your studying has not been in vain.

The other thing is, make two kinds of time for your studying. You have to study a little bit every day (like, ten minutes) no matter what. That’s maintenance. And you have to negotiate a block of time every week for deeper study. My spouse and I give each other a “night off” every week so when all is said and done I usually have about three hours to myself one night a week. I endeavor to spend at least an hour of that time studying Japanese. It is not a lot of time, but it’s a set block of time that I can rely on. I personally cannot take advantage of this time unless I leave the house to study. If I try to study at home I find too many other things to distract me. (My spouse and I started this arrangement for sanity purposes, way before I got back into Japanese, when my youngest was done nursing. With a newborn I’m not sure how realistic this kind of setup is, unless you have some kind of option for a weekly babysitter. But I highly recommend it as soon as possible.)

Good luck with your studies!

Thanks for the advice! Yeah, my wife and I are trying to work out a ‘night off’ schedule for each of us once a week, plus a babysitter once every-other (at least until the next one comes along).

Otherwise, it’s mostly just flashcards on the toilet and in line at the grocery store, or listening to entirely incomprehensible podcasts on the drive to work.

It sounds like your goldmine is that daily commute drive time.

I bet that if you swap those unintelligible podcasts for comprehensible audio, you’ll make nice gains.

The commute is only twice weekly, but it is long…

The trouble I have is finding comprehensible audio. The only real audio I’m ever able to comprehend is stuff that I’ve read the transcript for, looked up all the words I didn’t know, and then reread the transcript a few times before listening. I’ve tried this with the Living Japanese book since it is basically a bunch of transcribed interviews. I’m not sure if this counts as comprehensible input though…since it’s really just using the audio as a trigger to recall the main points of the interview.

Listening to one without first studying it for a few days is basically pointless. I feel like I’m flailing around in the ocean. I can catch a few words or even a few sentences here and there, but as soon as something comes up that throws me off, I’m basically toast until they change subjects.

So I’m having trouble finding stuff that I can just dive into raw. Hence, the random unintelligible podcast. I’d really like to find time to make that commute more useful, especially since listening is my weak point for sure.

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I think listening to audio of what you’ve studied is very useful. I did that with all of Genki and the Japanese graded readers before moving on to audio with no transcript. But I did have a hard time making that leap.

I found TV to be more approachable (e.g. Terrace House) because you get additional nonverbal input. Not an option for a commute of course.

I found that listening to the same podcast twice can be great practice, even if the first time it is way over your head. Though, I found this most effective when I had done some vocabulary lookups in between listens.

The first podcast I was able to even sort of sink my teeth into was バイリンガルニュース, because Mami converses in Japanese and Michael converses in English. I find their topics mostly interesting (science, tech, social psychology) and their take on the topics… a different kind of interesting. Mixed quality, I’d say. The main thing is, it’s very useful for hanging onto the conversation thread when you actually do understand half of it. I also like that they use a more colloquial speaking style than other stuff I listen to. They have a subscription service for access to their transcripts, which are very detailed down to the ums and ahs. I think it is $3 a month. I’ve subscribed to these in the past but found that I didn’t have enough time to study them appropriately. They discuss sexual topics not infrequently, so the podcast is not always family-friendly. That can be a problem for me because I do most of my listening on speakers at home while preparing dinner, but it’d be okay for a solo commute.

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If you were interested in using TV for the commute, you could convert episodes to audio files and listen. I do that a lot for my commute, and I find it fairly engaging. However, it seems like you’d need to have watched the episode before, and I know that finding time for something like that might be a problem. But if you do find the time, and you watch it with subtitles, I think it’d be interesting to listen to the episode afterwards (repeatedly if it’s not too irritating). That combination of things seems like maybe you’d be able to pick out some stuff you otherwise wouldn’t. I watched a drama series raw recently and now I’m listening to it in the car, and it’s surprising to me how much more I seem to be understanding with just audio (I assume because I’ve seen and heard it before, but it’s still more than I would have thought). Like my brain knows what’s coming and that gives me context for the barrage of Japanese and I can discern things in it I didn’t the first time.

Based on your description, this sounds great! My usual problem is that as soon as I start to lose the thread when listening, it’s impossible to get it back. Having the little breaks in English should at least provide a series of rest stops to catch up with the conversation.

This sounds a little advanced for me right now. Not to mention the time constraints…the last time I was able to watch anything in Japanese was 僕だけがいない町 when I was on parental leave when my last kid was born and I was staying up all night feeding him while his mom slept… I really liked the show, though and watched it with J-subs and was able to pick up most of what was going on, which was nice.

Anki Stats

I haven’t done much new studying this week, just adding more RTK cards and a few vocab. I didn’t post any Anki stats in my first post, so consider this my starting point from which to grow.

Kanji Deck

Mature Cards: 207 (9%)
Young Cards: 73 (3%)

Vocab Deck

Mature Cards: 1175 (17%)
Young Cards: 61 (1%)

I listened to about half of an episode of this on my way into work and found it really refreshing! I’m still lost for about half of time when Mami is talking, but even when I don’t understand it, the conversational nature provides lots of opportunities to catch little turns of phrase that I can grab onto.

Also, this week I started reading/listening to 雪女 from the Japanese Graded Reader set and am finding it really enjoyable. I have had this set for a while, but assumed, since it’s level 4 (the highest in the series), that it would be really difficult, similar to native material. I was quite wrong. I’ve tried reading a few novels/short stories in Japanese and usually end up having to look up one or two words per sentence on average. With the graded reader, it’s more like one per page, and even then, it’s usually something I could get by without looking up (at least so far). Plus being able to listen to the audio in the car is great since, even if I miss something, I know the gist of things, so I can catch back up.

If I can keep pace with RTK, I should see the last card at about the start of September. The vocab deck will take about another year at current pace…That seems like a long time and I probably win;t stick with it. I’m prioritizing kanji right now though, so once that’s done, I should be able to pick up the pace on new vocab. I also hope to be pulling the vocab from reading/listening material instead of just following along with the deck in order.

Anki Stats

Kanji Deck

Mature Cards: 272 (12%) – +70
Young Cards: 128 (6%) – +55
Total: 400 (18%) – +120

Vocab Deck

Mature Cards: 1200 (17%) – +25
Young Cards: 138 (2%) – +77
Total: 1338 (19%) – +102

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I can now get through listening to the whole 雪女 story from the graded reader set and understand almost everything, having only actually sat down and read about a third of it. This feels really good since listening has always been a weak spot for me. I do want to go through the whole thing though and look up any words I don’t know. I’m so tempted to dig into little grammar things, but I’m trying to learn to let them go. I’ll probably spend another week on this story, then move to the next one.

I got some help from sysop in another thread with a tool to generate Anki style furigana outside of Anki. This is in preparation for later, when I start going through some of the N3 test prep material. I’m hoping it helps reduce the burden of creating sentence cards.

Anki Stats

Kanji Deck

Mature Cards: 350 (16%) – +78
Young Cards: 200 (9%) – +72
Total: 550 (25%) – +150

Vocab Deck

Mature Cards: 1227 (18%) – +27
Young Cards: 170 (2%) – +32
Total: 1397 (20%) – +59

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This week has really only had time to focus on kanji. We had a friend in from out of town, so I didn’t really have much time to do anything else.
I’ve started adding Japanese keywords to my kanji deck, but haven’t started reviewing using those cards yet. For some kanji, it’s tough finding words that accurately represent the meaning of the kanji, have unique readings, and where the two kanji in the word do not have meanings that are too similar.

Anki Stats

Kanji Deck

Mature Cards: 466 (21%) – +116
Young Cards: 284 (13%) – +84
Total: 750 (34%) – +200

Vocab Deck

Mature Cards: 1287 (19%) – +60
Young Cards: 110 (2%) – -60
Total: 1397 (21%) – +0


It’s been a long time since my last update. Life has been a little hectic with doctor’s visits and family trips.
Anyway, I’ve still been chugging through RTK. I’m not halfway. :+1: I’m going through very slowly adding Japanese keywords to the cards in the hope of running through them again later.

Sample J-Keyword Card


In addition to RTK, I tried using Subs2SRS for the first time on 隣のトトロ. This rendered a deck of just over 300 cards. I’ve only reviewed a few of them so far, but I think I like the concept. I threw these cards into a listening deck.

I also added the sentences from Japanese Sentence Patters for Effective Communication into a grammar deck that I’m trying to burn through quickly. Most of this will just be review, but it’s well needed review. I Also added some vocab from graded readers.

Anki Stats

Kanji Deck
Mature Cards: 740 (+274)
Total: 1100 (+350)
Vocab Deck
Mature Cards:1370 (+83)
Total: 1418 (+21)
Grammar Deck
Mature: 0 (+0)
Total: 60 (+60)
Listening Deck
Mature: 0 (+0)
Total: 40 (+40)


Mature: 2110
Total: 2618

Checking in after a long time with little progress. Work has been really busy, so I’ve been running straight through with no lunch break (which is when I typically study). Plus, I took a trip across the country with my son to visit my family. Without the help of my wife, I was on duty 100% of the time and didn’t get a break to study at all; I’m lucky I was just able to keep up with my reviews. My Anki stats are pretty abysmal, with only 135 new cards added in the last month.

I spent a lot of time trying out some of the tools that I’ve heard mentioned here and in the Koohii forums, namely Subs2SRS and Morphman and I think I found a godd flow for studying via immersion with TV (or Netflix in my case) shows.

  • I use Subs2SRS to create a deck of all the lines in the episode.
  • I go through the cards one by one in the browser, using the preview capability.
    • The cards have the audio and an image on the front, and the subtitles on the back.
  • If I understand it just from the audio, I delete it and move to the next one.
  • If I don’t, I show the subtitles.
  • If I understand it from the subtitles, I delete it and move to the next card.
  • If I still don’t understand it, I’ll look up any unknown elements.
  • If there is only one unknown element, I add the unknown element to a ‘target’ field, tag the card as ‘i+1’ and add it to my listening deck.
  • If there are multiple unknown elements, I suspend the card but hold onto it for later. (not sure what I am going to do with these)

My goal is to spend a week on each episode of any given show (currently it’s 僕だけがいない街). Watch the episode raw one day, walk through the cards the next day, spend the next 4 reviewing those cards, then re-watch the episode raw on the last day before picking up the next episode.

So I’m having good luck with Subs2SRS, but not so much with Morphman. I tried using Morphman to generate the i+1 cards for me instead of doing it manually as detailed above, but I feel like it was more trouble than it was worth. I took a ton of time tagging cards as already known, creating an external.db from a text file of known words, and a bunch of other steps to try and get it to present me with i+1 cards, but I just wasn’t happy with the results I was getting back. It seems to pick up potential or imperative forms of verbs as separate morphemes from the dictionary form, that along with a few other odd choices means a bunch of sentences that should have been i+1 were tagged as NotReady. There were problems in the other direction as well where Morphman broke things down a little too far and compound words or short phrases that were unfamiliar to me got skipped over. Going through each card one by one and trying to correct Morphman’s mistakes is just as much work as going through the cards and tagging them i+1 myself without the ‘help’ of the add-on. And even when I was getting real i+1 cards from Morphan, I was getting them in basically random order.

So in the end, I spent a lot of time messing with Morphman that I could have spent actually studying. Bummer.

Anki Stats

Kanji Deck
Mature Cards: 1045 (+305)
Total: 1215 (+115)
Vocab Deck
Mature Cards: 1378 (+8)
Total: 1418 (+0)
Grammar Deck
Mature Cards: 60 (+60)
Total: 60 (+0)
Listening Deck
Mature Cards: 42 (+42)
Total: 60 (+20)


Mature Cards: 2525 (+415)
Total: 2753 (+135)

Under the circumstances you described, I think adding 135 new cards this month sounds good. :slightly_smiling_face:

Hey! It’s been a while…

Although I haven’t posted in a long time, I have been trying to keep up studying.

I’ve started using the Voracious app, along with downloaded Netflix videos (Flixgrab) and subtitles (Subadub), to watch a few shows. I am trying to break away from spending so much time in Anki, and spending more time with native material. So I’m watching 僕だけがいない街, 鋼の錬金術師, and アグレッシブ烈子. I think that 僕だけがいない街 is probably what I’m getting the most out of; the story is interesting, the dialogue is relatively slow, and the vocabulary is commonplace. 鋼の錬金術師 has some unique vocabulary that might not be useful elsewhere, and アグレッシブ烈子 tends to be really fast (at least to my ears). With that said, all three shows have been enjoyable so far and I can not heap enough praise on Voracious. It has replaced Subs2SRS in my workflow and has turned what used to be a multiple step process of going from raw media to text/media files to flash cards, into one step (plus a little tweaking in Anki).

The cards that I wind up with focus on listening (I figure if I can hear it, I can read it) and have a screenshot and audio on the front with a button to optionally show the subtitle. On the back is the target/focus/i+i word or phrase with audio of that word and a Japanese definition. There’s also a button to optionally show the English translation of the word. This card type allows me to do reviews entirely in audio, which is really nice.

I’ve also given up on RTK. I’ve gone through it once before and thought that going through again would prove to be a quick refresher, but it was actually just a slog. I got frustrated failing cards when I actually know several words that use the kanji, just because I didn’t have the association to the right English keyword. I still want to study kanji though, so what I’ve done instead is sort the 常用漢字 by frequency and create recognition cards where, based on the kanji on the front, I need to remember a word that typifies the use of that kanji on the back. Also, as I go through the new cards, I just delete any for kanji I feel like I basically have down pat.

That leads into another change I’ve been trying to make with my study: being far more liberal with what I consider known or understood. In the past I had a very perfectionist attitude and could never move on to the next sentence when reading/listening/watching unless I knew every single detail about the previous sentence. Needles to say, that made consumption of native material a brutal chore. Now, if I more or less get the gist, I count it as a success and move on. If there is one thing that was new to me, I’ll make a card, but if there are more than that, I’ll just keep going. And if I don’t get it at all, i might peek at the English subs if I have them, just to make sure I have the full context for later sentences.

Since switching to this method, I’m enjoying watching shows much more (although I’m still trying to find a way to keep up reading). As a result, I’m watching more and having more fun. Hopefully it pays off! I’m still not getting a lot of exposure though (at least not compared to those people who immerse for 3+ hours a day), but I get about 45 minutes a day of dedicated time watching shows, plus listening to them again in the car or when I take my son for walks in the stroller.

Anyway…that’s what I’ve been up to.

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It’s been a rough month, both for Japanese study and life in general.

My second son was born on October 28th. And we’ve had a lot of family visits. Plus, since I took two weeks off work as parental leave, I had a mountain of work waiting for me when I went back. Throw in Thanksgiving, and I’ve had a month of no studying whatsoever.

I’m glad things are finally starting to slow down and I can actually enjoy spending time with the new kid. He’s been good so far - sleeping well (as well as a one-month-old can, anyway) and pretty personable. He needs to be bounced around constantly though, which is tiresome…I was holding him and bouncing on one of those big exercise balls in order to give my knees a break, but apparently doing that for hours is not great for the spine since the next day I leaded over to pick up a dirty diaper and didn’t make it back up for about 30 minutes!

Ahh…life with a newborn! Plus the two-year-old isn’t going easy on me either!

Like I said, it’s been a rough month…but a good one!



Since our second child was born, I find I just don’t have the time to watch anything in Japanese anymore. I used to do it on my lunch break, but now my lunch break either consists of holding the baby while my wife puts the toddler down, or vice versa (the joys of working from home*). Furthermore, we have so little time alone without the kids, I can’t really justify spending any of it shut away by myself. “Sorry dear, I know you’ve had a rough day with the little monsters and you’re super stressed out, but I can’t spend time with you 'cause I’ve gotta go watch some anime” is not convincing to anyone. On top of that, I’m just sick of sitting at my computer all the time.

So despite my recent switch to trying to focus on listening, I’ve decided to put that on hold and focus more on building a reading habit. I think this has a few benefits: 1) it gets me away from my computer, 2) it’s a more portable way to immerse, 3) I can do it in shorter installments, and 4) I can do it sitting in bed with my wife. I know there are some drawbacks to skipping on listening, but I can only do what I can do.

So, with that in mind, I’ve (re)started reading スパイダーウイック家の謎**, but I’m doing it in very short chunk: just three pages a day. The reason I’m reading so little is really just to get into the habit. It’s also related to a kind of motivation hack I learned about several years ago.

I find myself wanting to keep reading at the end of three pages, and if I stop myself there, that feeling of wanting to keep going persists until the next time I pick up the book. Conversely, if I wait to stop until I’m frustrated, that feeling of frustration is there the next time I go to read which means I’m less likely to actually do it. So far it seems to be working well and I’m getting further into this book that I have into any book in Japanese before. Page 56 in a book geared towards 10-year olds might not seem that impressive, but today is two weeks of not missing a day and it feels good to be on a roll.

Since I was trying to get away from my computer, I’m not making any flashcards for unknown words, and so far not really looking anything up at all. It might just be due to mental fatigue, but I find myself not really having the urge to pull up a dictionary when I encounter an unknown word. Blowing by the occasional incomprehensible sentence took a little getting used to, but I think it’s really paying off.

I’ve also just abandoned Anki, but I’ll deal with that later…

*This is phrased sarcastically, but I am actually incredibly thankful that I’m lucky enough to have a job that allows me to see my kids as much as I do. Also, that I’m able to take some of the burden of childcare and housework off my wife’s shoulders.

**スパイダーウイック家の謎 is a translation of “The Spiderwick Chronicles”, a series of children’s fantasy novels. I’ve never read them in English seeing as they are a little after my time, but I remember them being somewhat popular. So, hopefully it’s good.


Just finished my first whole book!



I wonder if there is an audiobook? That would be good to listen to on the commute. It should be long enough that you could leave the whole book playing on repeat and just keep listening whilst commuting and it shouldn’t become repetitive like a short story would. Since you’ve read the book “zoning out” now and then shouldn’t be a big issue.

I’ve also just abandoned Anki, but I’ll deal with that later

Meh, it doesn’t matter. If you’re reading you’re doing SRS anyway. I’ve been keeping new cards to a minimum (10 on easy material, and between 3-6 on harder stuff). If I can’t complete my reviews in 20 minutes I don’t want to do them. Seeing > 100 on the Anki icon just puts me off!

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Tadoku is ending in a few minutes and I just submitted my last pages for a total of 252 pages read.
In that 252 pages is my first full book, two thirds of my second, and two manga volumes.

This switch to reading has really gotten me feeling good about Japanese again! I think the ability to do little bits at a time is really suited to my life right now. I can read a few sentences, change a diaper, read a page or two, cook dinner, and then grab a few more pages while rocking the baby to sleep. With my previous focus on watching movies and shows, I was always locked to my computer, and I felt that if I couldn’t devote enough time to watch a full episode, I just didn’t do anything, which meant I often didn’t. It also meant that study (or rather engaging with the language at all) was an activity I had to do in isolation from my family. Now I feel like I can do both at the same time.

Tadoku is over, but I see no reason to slow down. In fact, at the start I was deliberately reading very little in order to maintain the urge to read the next day. Now that I feel like I’ve got a real habit going, I think I can really start to pick up the pace. I see no reason, why 10-15 pages a day would be too high a goal (assuming the material is comprehensible).