Student Interview: Jack

Posted: 22nd Mar 2023

Welcome to the latest installment in the Ippo Ippo Japanese Student Interview series!

So far we've heard from Hannah and Gina, both students getting ready for N5 of the JLPT via my Prep for N5 course, as well as Eleanor,  who is currently taking part in Pre-Intermediate Japanese Conversation.

Today, we hear from Jack, who originally came to Ippo Ippo Japanese through a Tadoku Taster, then Travel Japanese, then Japanese for Beginners 1 and 2. Phew!

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Hi Jack, thanks for agreeing to take part in this interview series! My first question for you today is what made you want to start learning Japanese?

I've always been fascinated with Japan, and being a bit of a nerd, computer games exposed me to Japanese culture very early on. I got a Japanese import copy of Sonic Adventure 2 for the Sega Dreamcast and I used to just love looking at the manual containing all these little picture characters (kanji) wondering what they could possibly say! It was a few years later when a family friend who had lived in Japan read some of it to me and it blew my mind that someone who wasn’t Japanese could learn this language.

Fast forward 15 years and I was lucky enough to find my now wife and sold her on the idea of going to Japan for our honeymoon. Because we got married during the pandemic we are still yet to have it, but we are booked to go in November of this year. I decided if I was going to finally visit Japan I should do it properly and try and immerse myself as much as possible!

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What a great story! How long have you now been learning for?

I have been learning for around 2.5 years I would say, but have started taking it a lot more seriously in the last year. There's no way round it: you just need to learn that vocab!

Are there any resources you've found useful that you'd recommend to other beginners?

There are always a lot of suggestions to use flashcards to learn vocab and grammar. I didn’t really get on with any of the usual suggestions, but the one that has stuck with me is Renshuu. It’s a website and an app with prebuilt learning lists that uses SRS (spaced repetition software) to help you memorise things. As it’s got a great app for the iPad, this is how I do most of my studying.
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Jack's Japanese shelf

What do you enjoy most about learning the Japanese language?

I enjoy the patterns you start to notice in the language and the way you can figure out what some words mean from kanji 電車 - the Electricity Car!

Note from Elly: 電車 (densha) is formed of two kanji. 電 (electricity) and 車 (car). Together, they mean "train"! Another similar word is 電話 (denwa): electricity + speech = phone!

And what do you find trickiest?

I find remembering vocab the toughest. Just trying to get my knowledge up of new words has been tough. Especially when one word that's spelled the same can mean two different things that can sometimes only be differentiated by their pitch! 🤯

Note from Elly: an example of this phenomenon would be はし (hashi). Depending on the pitch accent, this can mean bridge (橋), chopsticks (箸) or edge (端). While in writing the words are distinguishable via their kanji, in speech/listening it's a lot trickier!

Do you have any words you get mixed up?

Yes! Another thing I've used to help study Japanese is WaniKani and there were two phrases I always got stuck on: 年中 (nenchuu - all year round) and 年内 (nennai - by the end of the year). I even had to look it up to get it right here. Year middle? Is that within the year or am I in the year so the year is all around me? So all year round?!

Note from Elly: this is a tricky one! 年中 (nenchuu) is made up of the words "year + middle", while 年内 (nennai) is "year + inside/within". A little tip: sometimes it's easier to learn just one of these words and forget the other for the time being, as trying to memorise two very similar words at once can be confusing.

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Jack's favourite Japanese food: takoyaki (from the Japan Centre, London)

You have a trip to Japan coming up in the near future. What are you most excited for?

I really do have to say the food! I can’t wait to try local dishes and see what Japan has to offer. I have never been one to shy away from trying new and usual food so it’s exciting to think what I might be able to get (in between lots of takoyaki, of course!).

ジャックさん、ありがとう!

Jakku-san, arigatō!

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