Learning Japanese Entry #10 – Is RTK 3 Worth It? | Final Entry

This is entry 10 of my Learning Japanese Diary via the AJATT method. As always, the entry I made during the time of writing is below and after the entry I will discuss things I did right and things I did wrong, after knowing what I know now. A lot of the stuff I did in the beginning stages was stupid so definitely read to the end! Feel free to comment with any questions. 

Click here for the previous entry.


Diary Entry

14th of February 2016: Going to keep this short. There isn’t too much I want to discuss anyway. The past 2 months or so (since christmas really) have been incredible. I will say that the only thing I have changed slightly is deleting easier sentences in my sentence deck as I see them as a waste of time. I have also really noticed a large step up in my Japanese level. I now have a firm grasp on the language. It’s very difficult to easily put in to words so I will list the things I am now able to do:

– Understand basic conversation
– Understand anime very easily (depending on the show of course)
– Understand TV very easily (again depending on the show)
– Understand some jokes and often find myself laughing at them (It’s kinda a weird feeling when this happens haha)
– When listening, pick out words and be able to type them (based on how they sound) to find a sentence for them
– Have a solid grasp on Kanji readings but this is still an ongoing process
– Know 2000+ kanji
– Can read the news
– Can read manga
– Can read university reading material (I’ve mainly been using websites though)

To sum up, it feels like I have really got a feel for the language and how it works and flows. I can watch a video on YouTube and guess meanings of new words based on context. When reading I get the same feeling, using kanji and other knowledge of words to understand new words etc, etc. Listening has become easier, I can hear words in music a lot better as well but music isn’t something I am focusing on as I struggle to hear lyrics in English songs anyway. Right now I have the exam period but then the summer holidays start so that means lots of immersion! Can’t wait!


Listening: 4536~ hours

RTK 漢字: Mature 1515, Young+Learn 370, Unseen 0, Suspended 14

All Sentences: Mature 3569, Young+Learn 971, Unseen 290, Suspended 0

RTK3 漢字: Mature 199, Young+Learn 367, Unseen 423, Suspended+Buried 119 (lots of trees and flowers, why?!)

(New deck for writing kanji, same as the other two combined but I only focus on stroke order)
Writing: Mature 177, Young+Learn 68, Unseen 3744, Suspended+Buried 11

End of entry

Becoming Second Nature

It’d been about 8 months since I started. Based on the stats section, and the time that had elapsed since I started, I was almost half way to reaching fluency. By this time I had reached a level where I could understand enough Japanese that I could enjoy almost any type of content, despite not being able to understand it all. This made progress pretty easy as it was no longer such an uphill struggle. In fact, the more Japanese you know, the easier it becomes to progress. I very much like the metaphor of a snowball turning into an avalanche. The further the snowball falls down a mountain, the more snow it accumulates and the bigger it gets. In other words, the more words, phrases and kanji you know the more access to the language you get and the more words, phrases and kanji you are therefore able to learn.

At this stage I also started to find myself reacting to content on an emotional level, which in my opinion is a huge stepping stone. I can remember watching talk shows, stand up comedy, films, anime, dramas etc and finding myself laughing at jokes, feeling sad, happy, just like I would when watching in English. This was a big deal for me and it felt great that I had managed to get to this level, even if I couldn’t understand everything.

I also become able to listen to specific words and then write them down. Up until this point, Japanese was really fast for me so being able to “get” words when hearing them straightaway was pretty hard, but I could now hear a word once and then write it down to search for it. This made a lot of things easier as it meant that if I wanted to learn a certain word that cropped up in listening then I could easily search for it and then find a sentence in my sentence bank so I could learn it’s meaning. Of course, I have no doubt there where still words that I still struggled with and had to listen to more than once, but I often found myself watching an anime, e.g. アルドノア・ゼロ, and catching words that I didn’t know the meaning of but could hear and then adding them to my “new vocab” anki deck so that I could find an example sentence for them later. I can’t remember whether it was at this stage but at some point I also became able to guess the kanji used for new words based on 1. The reading of the word and 2. The context the word was used in. Kanji, sometimes, can be very logical so this worked out well a lot of the time but I wasn’t always correct. It was still pretty cool being able to do this though. 

Everything was 順調, reading and listening got easier, and yeah sure, I couldn’t write or speak that much but I didn’t care about output at the time. My main focus up until then had always been understanding Japanese so output wasn’t on my mind. Japanese had become a natural part of my life though, and from the time of writing this entry I continued to add sentences and immerse, until I finally reached a level that I would call “fluent” after another 9-10 months or so later.

Is RTK 3 Worth It?

Remembering the Kanji is a must if you want to be able to learn to read Japanese quickly. It gives you a great base by teaching you the meaning of each kanji making you ready for learning their readings by reading books with furigana. The main RTK book you should use is Remembering the Kanji 1, but you can also use Remembering the Kanji 3 if you want to learn an extra 1000 characters. The main point of book 1 though is that it covers all the most common 2000-ish kanji needed to read adult Japanese. So do you need to know the kanji in RTK 3? Well, yeah and no. Some of them are surprisingly common while a lot of the kanji are actually pretty rare and useless. If you are interested in which ones I would ignore as a beginner then you can check out my post Skipping Unnecessary Kanji – Remembering the Kanji TipsI would consider RTK 3 worth the effort but bare in mind that a lot of the kanji in the 3rd book aren’t used that much at all. I think you could probably get away with just doing RTK 1 but RTK 3 is only an extra 1000 characters and by the time you start it you should be able to complete it pretty quickly as you already know the process from using book 1.

I also recommended that you finish RTK 1 before starting sentences but you can do RTK 3 whenever you want to really (make sure you do RTK 1 first, of course). I wanted to get into sentences ASAP so I put it off for a while until I eventually did RTK 3 alongside adding sentences. Other people prefer to completely finish all of RTK before moving on and I think that’s fine too. As RTK 3 is only 1000 characters, and a lot of them aren’t that common, I don’t think it matters that you do RTK 3 while doing sentences.

This is actually the last entry…

I want to quickly point out that this is the last entry that was in my “Japanese diary”. It’s been a long time since I wrote this and can’t remember why I stopped writing in the diary but I do remember that I reached a point where I was happy with what I was doing with Japanese and so I guess I forgot about adding to the diary. As this series has been quite popular and a lot of people have found it useful, and motivational, I have been thinking about whether to continue the series by writing about my current progress and thoughts. If you think that would be interesting then let me know in the comments! 🙂


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By Matthew Hawkins


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Here are some of my favorite tools and sites for learning Japanese

Thank you for reading this blog post, which I hope you found useful for learning Japanese. Here are some of the most useful websites that I’ve found for finding Japanese content to use for immersion as well as some really useful learning tools to help you through your Japanese studies. Some of these are affiliate links which just means that if you decide to use these sites by clicking the following links, then I will earn a commission. But honestly speaking, these are the sites that I use and recommend language learners, even my friends, to use anyway.

Anki Tools: To get started, I really like Migaku for Anki. By itself, Anki is already a super useful tool for language learners but Migaku allows for integration with websites like YouTube and Netflix, allowing it’s users to create flashcards from the shows and videos that they are watching, as they are watching them. If you use my link you can get an extra month for free.

Speaking Practice: For this I absolutely love iTalki. There are thousands of Japanese teachers on the platform that are available at all times of the day to have conversations with you, in Japanese. Some teachers take a more traditional approach while others are just there to chat, these are the ones I would recommend if you are looking to improve your conversational Japanese. Lessons start from just $5 and there’s no long term commitment, I highly recommend them.

Immersion: I’ve used a lot of different earphones / headphones over the years but by far the one that has come out on top is the NENRENT S570. This is a singular in-ear earphone that matches your skin tone to keep it discrete, meaning you can listen to the language you are learning while at work, or school. For a full list of tools and gadgets I recommend for maximizing your immersion time, check out this blog post.