When I first got to Japan, I was looking for convenient, inexpensive ways to study Japanese. A friend of mine mentioned Smart.fm, and after checking it out, I was hooked. The interface really worked for me, and the Spaced Repetition System seemed like a great learning method. I enjoyed being able to track my progress and quantify my efforts with all of the various calendars, percentage bars and what not. There was even a user-generated list based on the very books I had been using to study kanji—Basic Kanji Volumes 1 & 2. Best of all? It was free!
I made a habit of studying every day, starting with 10 or 20 words and slowly building up to 50 and beyond. I even got a bit compulsive about my studying, logging in tipsy after Enkais, getting up ridiculously early the mornings before trips, just so that I would avoid a blank spot in the calendar.
Then at the end of January, it was announced that Smart.fm would soon be no more, and iKnow.jp would be taking over. Gone would be the user-generated content, gone would be the structure that worked so well for me, and what WAS still available would be disappearing behind a paywall for the sum of 1000 ¥ a month. The internets railed against the change, but it goes on, and now my months of study have come to an end.
I’ve learned a lot in these past few months, and I’m definitely grateful for this amazing service I didn’t have to pay a dime for. If I had had this while I was studying Spanish, I have no doubt I could have reached a much higher level.
I still have a long way to go with Japanese—for example, my focus on vocabulary without much attention to grammar makes it so that while I often understand most of the words in a sentence or conversation, it’s sometimes hard to glean the actual meaning. I often find that I know what someone is saying, but I don’t know what they mean.
For example, in the sentence “Dog ball throw boy” you can probably assume from the context that the boy is throwing the ball to the dog. However, in a rapid-fire sentence, you might not know if the dog is throwing the ball, the boy is throwing the dog, or perhaps the ball has achieved sentience, grown arms and is throwing everything.
So here we are at the end of all things. Since August 14th, I’ve studied this goal for 7.5 months, with a total of over 86 hours clocked on this program alone. I have completed 1580 Kanji, and finished 100% of the goal. It looked briefly like I might not make it, but luckily I squeaked in before the service shut down.
So now that I don’t have Smart.fm for my studying ways, I’m a bit lost. What do you use to study Japanese? What’s worked for you, and what hasn’t? Everyone’s learning style is different, and not everything works for everyone, but luckily there’s tons of options out there to use. I just wish my favorite wasn’t going away!