Language progress, slooooow

I’m reminded, every day now, of just how much repetition it takes to get new items into my head and to then refresh them. As a result, I think I’ll back off from my goal of turning all four columns completely green by the end of the year.

A few clarifications: I know more than the words shown of Finnish, Hungarian, and French. These are just the items that I am systematically learning/refreshing with Before You Know It. I know fewer Japanese words than I know “items” on the graph. That’s because (1) Japanese is new to me and (2) I’m including as “known” all items that I have turned bright green on KanjiBox. So I can read the hirigana and katakana syllabaries now. As far as Kanji are concerned… A very large portion of the items are kanji that I’ve learned well enough so that when KanjiBox shows me four kanji and shows me the list of meanings, I can reliably choose the correct kanji out of four. However, there are lots of internal hints about the meaning of kanji thanks the the limited number of radicals that show up again and again, so in some cases, I don’t really know the kanji, but can figure out which one must be the correct answer.

I’m happy to accept this, though, as a stage along the way. Thanks to KanjiBox, there ARE some kanji that I can now recognize if I see them in a different context. Also, other systems of learning kanji begin by attaching just one meaning to a character when, in fact, there are often seven or more meanings. With KanjiBox, I’m at least being exposed to multiple meanings and am beginning to group them in my memory. Eventually, once KanjiBox no longer challenges me on the individual characters (I still have hundreds to turn bright green), I will switch over to Anki, a flashcard system that will require me to recall one meaning for the kanji when I see it.

I am not learning to write the kanji. In the view of many teachers, this is a mistake. However, learning the kanji that well will take more time, and I’d rather have a purely passive relationship with a larger set of characters. My interest in Japanese at this point is mostly conversational.  I want to be able to read some signs, navigate on my own, and ask and understand directions. I also want to be able to, say, change trains and actually end up on the right one!


  1. Learning 4 languages at once o_o? I wish you the best of luck. I noticed you said your interest in Japanese was conversational. Do you practice Japanese with somebody?

    • hollandrogers

      Justin, I’m hoping to go to Japan a year from now on a research grant.

      According to recent experiments in cognitive psychology, learning multiple languages at the same time may result in my remembering them better in the long run. It is a little frustrating when, as I’m looking for a word, words in three or four other languages present themselves first. But that interference is part of what makes the memory so strong in the end, apparently.

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