Here's a message I got from a fellow learner of Japanese:
I have been studying Japanese for 4 months, I know the kana well, and about 150 kanji. The problem is, I don't know what to do next. I get distracted all the time with all the new resources, and spend all day reading the great sites on learning Japanese without learning. I planned on dedicating months to just learning the kanji, and nothing else. So after using Anki, and RTK book, I get to about 200 kanji,
I get a little bored, get distracted, then read your site about listening to anime to learn Japanese. Then I read part of Tae Kim's book on grammar, because I find it so interesting. Then I start studying kana only vocab. etc. etc.
So, after this, I forget most of the 200 kanji and start all over again. I'm sure you must know what I'm talking about. What do you recommend? Do I study strictly kanji then move to vocab, then grammar. Or try to learn to listen, read. It's confusing on how to proceed in the best order. So any recommendations would be very appreciated.
I used to have this exact same problem. And in many areas of my life, I still do.
What Order Should I Study This Language In?!
No one can answer this for you.
I mean, yeah, I have a lot of opinions and educated guesses about the best ways to learn a language, but at the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning anything.
The basic structure that I followed is:
Pronunciation and Kana --> Kanji --> Vocab (A Lot) and Grammar (including speaking)
But if I started over, I'd probably just do:
NativShark every day, then all kinds of fun stuff whenever I have time and motivation
Just DON'T Move Backwards
I read this really awesome post about finance and investing once. Being the scholar that I am, I have no recollection whatsoever where I read it, but it went something like this:
The #1 rule of investing is this: Don't Lose Money.
Whenever we talk about investing, we start daydreaming about "making it big."
If only I could invest in the next Facebook, you think. So then you go make an impulsive investment on something that sounds like it could be the next Facebook. And boom, your savings are gone.
Good investing starts with holding onto the money you've worked so hard to get.
In a very similar sense, good studying is about holding onto the knowledge you've worked so hard to get.
Seeing as how I'm the king of "bad study investments," I'll give some examples.
60 Hours Wasted on a Bad Study Investment
Several years ago, I had this brilliant idea.
I told myself, Niko, you should learn Chinese.
And I was excited.
So I spent like a month plowing througand it wasn't long before I'd put away a solid 200 or so Chinese words, along with 400 or so Chinese characters
Fast forward another month, and I'd already gotten distracted moved onto the next thing — walking along the river in Nakameguro drinking beer. Or something like that.
I just didn't feel like studying Chinese anymore. After all, I only started on an impulse. So I started skipping days. And a couple of months later, I just deleted my insurmountable flashcard deck.
I threw 60+ hours of study time in the trash.
Looking back, I kind of wish I'd stuck with my studies. Oh well. Live and learn... or tell yourself you learned something so that you feel better. Or something. I don't know.
Since I'm starting to hurt to my own feelings, let's look at a completely opposite example, a good study investment...
Maintenance Is About Priorities
How big of a priority is learning Japanese for you right now?
Is it the one thing you're focusing on?
Have you committed to sticking with it for at least a couple of years?
Most likely, the issue isn't your specific study methods, it's the way you approach studying in general.
A primary reason that we started NativShark was so that we could offload all of the mental burden of managing study methods, and then learners of the language could simply worry about showing up every day to learn, which is the true challenge in learning a language.
Best of luck!