>>2018.01.12: still a WIP >>


3-year university degree (Japanese major) from Högskolan Dalarna in Sweden. It's taught entirely in English and online, so you don't need to know Swedish or reside in Sweden to get the degree.

└◆ Official Class List
└◆ 95% dropout rate
└◆ Free for Europeans or residents of Europe (on a spouse or work VISA; on a student VISA isn't free)

1 full-time semester = 30 credits = 20 weeks
└◆ 3-5 hours of class time a week
└◆ including expected self-study time, equivalent to a 45 hr/wk job


★ Started with 200 students; ended with 50 after the 1st 10 weeks, 30 after the 2nd.

∇ 1st 10 weeks: Japanese I: Basic Proficiency (15 credits)

Genki I, ch 1-61 chapter per week.
└◆ Homework: Audio/reading quizzes, forum & handwriting tasks once a week. Occasional recording tasks. "Forum tasks" are just 1-2 sentences. "Do you like dogs? I like dogs."
└◆ Bonus PPT presentations about ourselves/our countries to Spanish students studying Japanese.
└◆ Final essay: 400-500 letters about "your best memory".
└◆ Final exam: verb conjugation, single kanji writing, single kanji reading.

∇  2nd 10 weeks: Japanese I: Language Proficiency (15 credits).

Genki I: ch 7-end1 ch/wk
└◆ Homework: same as previous class.
└◆ Final essay: 400-500 letters about "something in Japan", I wrote about dog cafés.
└◆ Final exam: same as previous class + simple questions in Japanese about our essays. "Have you ever been to a dog café? Do you own a dog?".

Genki I = JLPT N5 level
└◆ You don't even know all the basic verbforms and can't understand any "real Japanese". In English terms, "I... dogs" level.
└◆ You can self-study Genki I from start to finish in 1-2 months.
└◆ 1st year uni studies in USA, France, Germany. 1st semester in Sweden.

Study/Practice Recs:
└◆ N4-N5 anime
└◆ N4-N5 grammar
└◆ simple shoujo/porn manga (ex. 聖ロザリンド)
└◆ 二ノ国 (Ni no Kuni: NDS, not PS2), has furigana & voice-acting.
└◆ とびだせ どうぶつの森 (Animal Crossing New Leaf: 3DS), has furigana.
└◆ Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal (GBC), other Pokemon games are harder.
└◆ BOTさん (short stories with pictures)
└◆ Go Nihongo (culture stories)
└◆ Go Nihongo (short stories)

★ Pokemon Green(/Red/Blue/Yellow) example:

"Yes-yes! Welcome! This is Miracle Bicycle Shop!". In kanji this would be: はい、はい!いらっしゃい!ここはミラクル自転車屋!


★ Ended with 20 students. At least 6 had visited Japan for long stays, were living in Japan, or had Japanese parents/girlfriends etc.

Θ Japanese IIOral Proficiency, Written Proficiency (30 credits)

Genki II: ch 1-end1 ch/wk.
└◆ Homework: same as previous semester + forum tasks graduate from sentences to paragraphs.
└◆ Final essay: 1,000 letters; I wrote about family/marriage relationships.
└◆ Final exam: instructions are in Japanese. Reading paragraphs aloud; reading and translating sentences. Questions on our final essays are in English and just things like "I didn't understand what you meant here, can you clarify?".

Genki II = JLPT N4 level
└◆ You know all the basic-polite verbforms (no archaic, very formal, informal, or slang forms). "I like dogs" level. Classmates said that when going to Japan at this stage they felt like they knew "no Japanese at all".
└◆ You can self-study Genki 2 from start to finish in 1-2 months.
└◆ 2nd year in USA. 2nd or 3rd year in France. 2nd semester in Sweden.
└◆ The average exchange student (world-wide) begins their exchange with Genki II knowledge.

Recs: Same as Genki I.

★ After 2 semesters you're officially able to study abroad but still can't understand daily conversation, read the average manga etc. Class hasn't taught informal language yet and your "respectful language" (keigo) is almost nonexistant. I heavily recommend you take 3rd semester as well as self-study until you reach JLPT N2 level before going on exchange; more details below.


★ Ended with 14-17 students. 4-5 had been living in Japan for at least a year, or had Japanese parents etc. 3 had never been to Japan (including me).

Λ Japanese III: Language Proficiency (15 credits)

Tobira ch 1-71 ch/2 wks. Tobira's 90% in Japanese and instead of a "textbook" it's more of a "learn by immersive reading" book.
└◆ Class is taught 90% in Japanese. We start learning informal speech.
└◆ Homework: info is given out 90% in Japanese. Kanji reading quizzes/grammar worksheets every 2 weeks. 5-minute recordings & PPTs, 1500-1700 letter essays, 1-2 paragraph forum posts 2-3 times in the semester.
└◆ No kanji handwriting (and none for the rest of the degree).
└◆ Class activities: Reading aloud, discussing, summarizing, finding info in nonfiction paragraphs. Learning how to complain, ask questions politely, say "your own" opinions.
└◆ Final essay: 1,500 letter research paper + 5-minute PPT on a topic within the first 7 chapters of Tobira. Mine was "Do Japanese people think about their religion on a daily basis?" (Answer: no, even if they do "religious" stuff they don't see it as "religion").
└◆ Final exams: 10 minutes of kanji pronunciation (fill-in-the-blank); 20-minutes of grammar worksheet (mostly multiple-choice). Passing grade = 70% or higher.


Final paper info:

└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Translate reading passages before they're taken up in class so you can remember the contents better.
└◆ Tobira explains things "lightly" at first, then much better 5-10 chapters later. I recommend starting at chapter 15 and going backwards to chapter 1.
└◆ Do grammar homework the same day as that grammar appeared in class so that everything is fresh in your head.

└◆ N5-N3 anime
└◆ N3-N2 grammar
└◆ .hack// original 4 PS2 games, they're voice-acted. Parody mode that unlocks after you've beaten normal mode is easier to understand.
└◆ Sims 4 (computer game)
└◆ Let's Plays, Vlogs (especially "meal times", "testing out products")
└◆ Drama CDs with matching manga panels; look on YouTube and NicoNico.
└◆ Fairytales for young children (books for ages 5-7 or so). Be careful because some are actually written in dialect or archaic speech.
└◆ Harry Potter books (buy them off "Pottermore"); you can use Calibre to insert or remove furigana and kanji and thus adjust the reading level to your needs, ex. I changed all ふくろう "owl"s to 梟. You can use other software to insert spaces in-between the words. Harry Potter's the easiest novels I've tried reading, mostly because I already know the contents in English and the vocabulary eventually just repeats constantly.

Λ 1st 10 weeks: Japanese III: Short Stories (7 credits)

太宰治の海 (In class I understood 70% with a dictionary; at JLPT N2 without a dictionary, 99%)
林芙美子の絵本 (In class 40%; N2 80%)
芥川龍之介のトロッコ (In class 20-30%; N2 80%)
林芙美子の蛙 (In class 30-40%; N2 90%)
岡本かの子の愛よ愛 (In class 20-30%; N2 80%)

└◆ Class is 70% in Japanese.
└◆ Homework: 1-page book reports (in English), easy reading comprehension worksheets (in Japanese) every 2-3 weeks. "What happened in the story, and what are your thoughts about it?".
└◆ Class activities: Reading aloud, translating sentences. The teacher points out dialectal stuff, kanji differences (木 vs 樹; 聞 vs 訊 etc). You can read your answer directly from the text instead of answering from memory.
└◆ Final essay: 1,000-1,500 letter book report (in Japanese).

└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Translate the entire story as best you can before it's taken up in class. Your translation'll be full of errors but still helps a lot.
└◆ The in-class PDFs are unreadable. I used two computer screens. Some people printed out the stories and read them from paper.

Λ 2nd 10 weeks: Japanese III: Reading Manga (7 credits)

Textbooks (beware of scans: missing pages, out-of-order chapters!)
ドラえも1 Fujiko. F. Fujio ISBN 4-09-140001-92
落第忍者乱太郎1 Amako Sobee ISBN 978-4-02-275001-33
ちびまる子ちゃん1 Sakura Momoko ISBN 4-08-618115-04
ゲゲゲの鬼太郎1 Mizuki Shigeru ISBN 978-4-12-204821-8

└◆ Homework: understand the most basic plotpoints (usually they're almost understandable from the images alone). Weekly worksheets, sometimes with 300-letter answers. 5-10min PPT on a topic the teacher chooses (mine was "school events in Japan", ex. cultural festivals and sports days).
└◆ Class activities: No reading aloud. The teacher asks questions about the basic chapter contents or if we know a word/cultural reference. In the last few weeks we start learning informal Japanese.
└◆ Final essay: 1,200 letters on "how is manga good for learning Japanese?".

└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Watch the anime, listen to the drama CDs, read the scanlations  (those I found were full of huge errors) before reading in Japanese.
└◆ Do the homework as you read in Japanese. Read through the chs a 2nd time the day before class.
└◆ Ideally you'll have tried to read some much easier manga (ex. random shoujo) beforehand so that you're more used to informal Japanese.

Tobira = JLPT N3 level
└◆ After finishing Tobira you'll understand 30-90% of all modern Japanese (30% = war, political, legal or dialectal talk; 50% = daily conversation, shounen manga; 90% = shoujo, yaoi, porn or slice-of-life manga). "I like dogs and I had a dog when I was a kid" level. After Tobira is a good enough base to start living in Japan with.
└◆ You can self-study Tobira from start to finish in 2 months.
└◆ 3rd-4th years in USA; 3rd-4th semesters in Sweden.
└◆ N3 is the average (world-wide) level of a finished Bachelor's Degree.
└◆ The average exchange student (world-wide) returns from Japan with N3-level knowledge.

In 2nd semester (Dec to Jan) I self-studied Tobira from start to finish, until then I had been more or less purely studying from books. I started using Japanese on Twitter, watching anime with Japanese subs, reading manga etc. every day.

Jan 29th, 2017 (beginning of 3rd semester) I took the J-CAT:
 • Vocab: 41 / 100 
 • Grammar: 50 / 100 
 • Reading: 47 / 100 
 • Listening: 40 / 100 
 • Overall: 178 / 400 
= JLPT N3. 201 or higher would've been N2. Some of my classmates had around 130; others (living in Japan) had over 201.


July 2nd, 2017 I took the JLPT N2 (having had 3 months to prepare). After the test I basically tossed my textbooks and started studying via real-life Japanese (anime, manga etc). Got my test results August 23rd:
 • Vocab, Grammar: 27 / 60 (19 to pass)
 • Reading: 23 / 60 (19 to pass)
 • Listening: 30 / 60 (19 to pass)
 • Overall: 80 / 180 (90 to pass) = I failed by 10 points.

August: I felt I was securely in JLPT N2. News articles, dialects, archaic speech ("crazy monk-talk" etc) were still too difficult.

September: Moved on to "real life Japanese": if I wanted to know a recipe, info about VISAs to Japan, etc. I googled in Japanese first before English; set my computer to Japanese etc. Started watching anime and documentaries even without Japanese subs. With Japanese subs, I understood about 60-70% of N1, 80-90% of N2, 99% of N5-N3 level shows without looking anything up.


October 3rd, 2017: Went to Japan for the first time in my life, from Högskolan Dalarna (Sweden) to Miyagi University of Education (MUE, 宮城教育大学, Sendai) for a year. Here's my English exchange blog, which has extra info like how much it all cost. Here's my Japanese one, which I didn't edit much after writing so you can watch my Japanese level grow.

★ Japanese uni is like American uni. Instead of 2-3 classes per semester, 3-5 hrs/wk on degree-focused topics like in Nordic unis, you have 8 classes on various topics, 10-15 hrs/wk.

Σ MUE: (Autumn 2017)

日本語能力試験 20日で合格 N1文字・語彙・文法本
???? (listening/reading books)

Required Classes: (=30 credits; 24 on "basic level 2" of the degree, 8 on "basic level 1".). Each class meets once a week, 1 1/2 hrs x 8 = 12hrs of class per week. No tests or quizzes, and no real homework aside from writing or gathering data for speeches.
Speech (writing)
Speech (reading/speaking) 
= Short speeches, with a written script or not, on topics explaining stuff about our countries or comparing our countries to Japan etc.
Culture, Conversation (+ field trips, essays) 
= playing Japanese games, writing haiku, taking short field trips and then writing short essays about what we noticed during the trip.
N1 Kanji (meanings, readings: no writing)
= going through textbook pages (10 kanji a week). mid-term & term-end assignments = write 20 sentences using kanji we've learnt.
N1 Grammar
N1 Vocabulary
= going through workbook pages and guessing at the answers, then the teacher explains the answers.
Reading comprehension, Pronunciation 
= we read a paragraph of a text aloud, the teacher then reads it aloud in pieces and we repeat it aloud after them.
Listening comprehension
= we hear a text once, fill out a worksheet as we hear it a second time, then finally get the transcript as we hear it a third time.

You can also sit in on (=audit; take without getting credits) most of the 1st-year classes meant for Japanese people if you want, ex. Braille, Chinese, Teaching Japanese to Foreigners, Pottery.

All classes included some culture lessons and handwriting practice (on the whiteboard / on worksheets), but you could always write entirely in hiragana and in informal grammar if you wanted. The teachers also didn't enforce that we use polite language with them, they cared about us learning to "speak fluidly" and not "speak perfectly". We got handouts instead of buying textbooks; no expectations that you memorize all unknown vocabulary. Once a month or so we had either field trips to local places (castle ruins, waterfalls, elementary schools) or big events (speech contests, onsen trips).

We were 11 exchange students who were studying Japanese, 20 were on exchange at the school total. Our classmates ranged from N3 to N1 but we were all in the same classes: 3 Taiwanese, 3 Chinese, 3 Swedish, 1 Estonian, 1 Russian. In 2nd semester a Malaysian, Zimbabwean and another Chinese student joined us. Those who came with a Japanese level lower than N3 had to take intensive Japanese courses at MUE's sister school "Tohoku Uni" for their first semester instead of being at MUE.

JLPT N2: You start learning lots of slang, archaic & dialectal stuff. Japanese starts to click and feel natural. N4-N5 level stuff doesn't even require brainpower to understand. N2 has, overall, the most useful vocabulary and grammar for anime and manga. "Y'know, I had dogs when I was a kid, and they're really cute so I like them" level.
└◆ N2 is business-level and the level of a finished Swedish Bachelor's Degree. By "business level" what they actually mean is that you know enough Japanese to be able to get by at a low-level job, ex. selling oden or working in the back room at IKEA. If you go to job conventions in Tokyo they'll probably have a minimum requirement of N2 in order for you to even attend.

└◆ N2-N1 anime
└◆ N2-N1 grammar
└◆ Easy fanfic (on Pixiv)
└◆ Visual Novels (Dating SIMs etc)
└◆ Harry Potter novels (I can't stress this enough)
└◆ Tutorials (ex. how to make 水飴, recipes, sewing tutorials)

N2 anime: "Parasyte"

Hunter x Hunter

★ Coming to Japan, I learned: Japanese people understand horrifically bad Japanese, and they don't care if you don't speak in polite language but they expect you to understand polite language. They don't expect you to know literally anything about Japanese culture except that what all foods are (ex. what "ponzu" is - soy sauce mixed with citrus juice). If you praise/compliment someone, doesn't matter how bad or simple your Japanese is, they'll get really happy. The most-used language that you'll hear around or get used on you is actually informal - followed by keigo by shopkeepers and politicians, then thirdly "desu, masu" form. As long as you can say anything at all, doesn't matter how many words you don't know, they'll call you "fluent". If you speak a foreign language in town people'll stare tons; if you speak in Japanese they'll treat you normally.

★ In October 2017 my exchange started. I couldn't really keep up with normal spoken conversation and it felt like my classmates were leagues ahead of me. Felt like I couldn't pass JLPT N1 level by June but could maybe make it by the end of my exchange. Us exchange students stuck to either the "Chinese" or "English" language groups, we didn't really speak in Japanese to each other.

November 2017 I bought the entire e-book set of Harry Potter; started reading it without looking anything up and thus finished my first novel in Japanese. Bought a lot of secondhand manga. I was studying vocabulary but only on the commute to/from school. I got a part-time job at a food car (no interview, no CV/resume), made various Japanese friends but none I could talk to "every day". Us exchange students really started meshing and speaking Japanese together.

★ In December I had come to understand most of what was on TV, including police shows. No problem with normal spoken Japanese anymore. Started reading children's books, short stories like "走れ!メロス", and bits of novels (おくりびと) while looking up words. Started watching unsubbed Japanese TV a lot. N1 by June suddenly felt possible.

★ By the end of January 2018 it felt like I could probably barely pass JLPT N1 by the end of February. The amount of unknown words in reading/worksheets was noticably diminished from October. Instead of reading books/manga I got a Netflix subscription and started watching hours of TV with Japanese subs every night. In N1 grammar class I was consistently getting around 50% correct on the worksheets even when I felt like I was guessing randomly. My pronunciation and speaking speed had very noticably improved.


Ω  Högskolan Dalarna: (Spring 2018)

• Academic Writing (15 credits)

— A required class, taught in English, where you analyze other students' finished BA papers and then plan out your own future BA paper (which will be written in English or Swedish, not Japanese).

Ω  MUE: (Spring 2018)


JLPT N1: You can even read scifi novels and newspaper articles without a problem.
└◆ N1 is the standard "professional translator" level, and the average level of a finished Master's degree (world-wide). Note that N1 is still lower than "native" level.

└◆ N1 anime: however instead of looking for "N1 anime" you should ignore level and watch ANY anime that you lack vocabulary in, etc. doctor shows for medical vocabulary.
└◆ N1 grammar

N1-level anime: "Psycho Pass"


★ A "degree thesis" is a long essay/research paper you write in your last semester to finish your degree. You're not supposed to take any real classes at the same time as it.


★ You can never be too far ahead. I was supposedly a full semester ahead of the class in both 2nd and 3rd semester but felt like I was barely hanging on.

★ If you don't understand the grammar, skip it, revisit it later — and read tons of manga. You'll see it 500 times in manga compared to just 5 times in your textbook. I've learned way more grammar/vocabulary from anime/manga than I have from any textbook.

"Read the Kanji"

• Learn 3-5 words, read a single manga/book/fanfic page or watch 1 minute of a TV show, then learn 3-5 more words. That's how I could keep up my motivation and study all day long. When reviewing, review 10-25 words, read 1 page etc.

• Use black background with light text to save your eyes; this can be done with Stylish and CSS on your computer, or changing the font type and inverting the colours on your smartphone.

• Set sites/apps to authentic-looking handwriting fonts. Below is "Seafont" (海フォント) on the Memrise app. You can get handwriting fonts at a site like this: http://www.freejapanesefont.com/category/handwriting/

"Honyaji Re" (ほにゃ字)

For practicing handwriting, you can read something random in a handwriting font and copy down the whole text by hand.

• Break each word into its kanji (meaning + 2 most common pronunciations), then its compounds, then the full word. Ex: for 子犬 (koinu, puppy) memorize:

子 - offspring, small thing
子 - (Japanese pronunciation) ko
子 - (Chinese pronunciation) shi
犬 - dog
犬 - (JP) inu
犬 - (CN) ken
子犬 - koinu
子犬 - "child-dog", puppy

• It's best if you memorize vocabulary using a language that's NOT English; my retention rate is 70% if I use English but 90% if Esperanto (English is my first language). Your brain simply has an easier time if you're memorizing "north, opposite-north" instead of "north, south".

• Replace the roots of words in a text with matching kanji. This works much better with Esperanto, Swedish etc than English because with English you can no longer tell 私 is a noun, 好 a verb, 黒 an adjective:

I like my black dogs —> 私 好 y s
Jag gillar mina svarta hundar —> 私 好r a a ar
Mi ŝatas miajn nigrajn hundojn —> 私 好as ajn ajn ojn

English also has ex. "I like him", "he ran like the wind", "it was like, almost too big": 好 only means the first (=Esperanto and Japanese use 3 different words where English uses 1).

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