The Japanese teaching industry seems pretty strong. People watch some anime, think Japan is a land of mystical ninjas and magic girls in short skirts, and say to themselves, “Boy, I bet Japanese would be great to learn!”

Then after your first year of gently being taught hiragana and katakana and a few simple kanji, you look at the road ahead of you and see that it’s long and bumpy and curvy. And there are no ninjas or magic girls, just an occasional bowl of Sapporo Ichiban with green onions.

What! Too hard? AJATT and Dogen agree with you, sort of, but by simply being independently wealthy and/or doing nothing else in your spare time, you too can be fluent in under ten years!

My theory is that everyone’s road is different. Because everyone learns differently. Visual, from references, from writing down with pen and paper, from flashcards, it goes on and on. But you have to choose the way that works for you.

Obviously I’m biased towards learning kanji first, but that doesn’t mean I ignore everything else. My life is a balance between studying all aspects of Japanese, working, sleeping, eating, exercising, and trying to not think about COVID-19.

Study hard, but be gentle with your failures. Don’t let some expert tell you that their way is the only way, but take what they have to offer. Like Bruce Lee said about martial arts, absorb what is useful.

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