>>2018.06.28: still a WIP >>

2 or 3YEAR JAPANESE DEGREE >>

This page details how it was for me to major in Japanese and get a 2-year (Associate's) and then 3-year (Bachelor's) from Högskolan Dalarna in Sweden, as well as (later on, once I add it in) what you can do with or without those degrees. The courses are 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
└◆ 95-98% dropout rate
└◆ Free for Europeans or residents of Europe (=people in Europe on a spouse or work VISA; on a student VISA it isn't free, thanks to EU laws)

1 full-time semester = 30 credits = 20 weeks
└◆ 3-5 hours of class time a week (in comparision, the same amount of credits at a Japanese, American, Chinese or Taiwanese university would be around 12 class hours a week)
└◆ including expected self-study time, equivalent to a 45 hr/wk job

——

Associate's Degree + Work VISAs in Japan:

Something I wish I'd've known before I started studying at Högskolan Dalarna:

1. To be an entertainer or artist (manga artist, actor, singer etc) in Japan you don't need a degree in anything, nor do you need experience. Having a portfolio, taken a class or having "one" published thing + a company that'll hire you is enough to get you a work VISA.

2. Legally, to be an English teacher, work at a hotel, etc. you need a finished Associate's degree (2-year degree; Högskoleexamen in Sweden) + a place that'll hire you. Having N2 or N1 level Japanese will increase your chances of both getting hired and getting a work VISA by at ton. However most companies don't know this, and will only hire you if you have a finished Bachelor's degree. Thus you theoretically can get a job but you'll need to give yourself a lot longer time for the job-hunt.

3. The rules for sponsoring your own work VISA via having your own business have recently become considerably more relaxed, now you basically only have to have a company that's 3 or more years old... as far as I remember.

Associate's Degree:

After 4th semester (=after having 120 credits in the subject of Japanese, 7.5 of which come from the "Japanese II: Academic Writing" course which, despite it not being written anywhere in the course description, fulfills the requirement of "a project or thesis paper on the Japanese subject"), you can apply for a 2-year degree diploma on the subject of Japanese.

Bachelor's Degree:
If after getting the 120-credit degree you go on to study 60 more credits (=one year) of Japanese:
15 of which come from a Japanese IV course (at the moment, either Japanese Cultural Anthropology, Introduction to Japanese Translation or Introduction to Japanese Linguistics; NOT the general Japanese language course and not anything like "Intro to Linguistics" in general). This is a prerequisite to the below:
15 of which come from "Academic Writing and Research Methodology" (="How to write a BA paper" course). This is a prerequisite to the below:
15 of which come from the "Japanska: Bachelor's Degree Work" (=the "actually writing your BA paper" course)

...you can then apply for your BA (=3-year) degree certificate. That is to say, out of the 3rd and thus final year of your degree, only 25% of your courses are actually directly related to improving your Japanese. If you've already gotten a 120-credit degree, you can reuse all the same Japanese credits in the 180-credit degree so don't worry.

——

Tips for all Japanese courses:

└◆ One of the best things you can do is learn to read "Chinese" at least to a basic level. I heavily recommend the site "Domino Chinese", it's only $2 USD a month and can get you to reading newspapers in Mandarin in just 9 weeks (approx. 200 study hours), although it also teaches stuff used in Taiwanese Mandarin etc. Japanese is actually like 70% directly from Chinese in both grammar and vocabulary, and 10% directly from English in vocabulary: most of the grammar concepts are copies of Chinese (ex. both Japanese and Chinese say "give" to say "please do for me") and there's a usually logical pattern to the pronunciation in Mandarin and the pronunciation in Japanese (ex. Mandarin is "kuh wai (cute), dien hwa (phonecall)" and Japanese is "ka wai, den wa").

The thing is, all of this — including kanji meaning, pronunciation and kanji usage — is a lot more regular and simple in Mandarin, so Mandarin is much faster to learn (ex. Japanese says "hito, jin, nin" for "person 人" but Mandarin just has one, "rzen 人") and you'll learn the "secrets" behind word usage and stuff in Japanese automatically, that the dictionaries don't tell you. Kanji are easier to learn in Chinese because they're used "individually" and have more regular usage in general, while in Japanese they're often used as set pairs so you never really learn the meaning of each individual one in some cases, and the Japanese people introducing words from Chinese to Japanese were rich academic types who maybe borrowed irregular weird fancy words instead of normal more logical words. Anyway due to all this, people who know Chinese normally learn Japanese 3x faster. You'll also make a lot of friends who know both Chinese and Japanese, so you can ask them for help.

└◆ Learn Esperanto (you can do it in 3 months), it'll help you with understanding grammar and word-building concepts. After Esperanto most people become 3x faster at learning a foreign language than their peers of the same language background (whatever that background may be), so with Chinese and Esperanto together you'll be 6x faster eh? You'll also make a lot of Japanese friends who know Esperanto. Some of the hard vocabulary and grammar concepts in Chinese/Japanese can actually be understood through Esperanto if you don't automatically understand them.

└◆ Use erasable ink highlighting for vocabulary or grammar you don't know, and just highlight stuff as you soon as you find it. Keep a designated colour for this. The highlighters I use are called "PILOT Friction Light", aka "パイロット 消せる蛍光ぺン フリクションライト". After you've thoroughly learned the vocabulary you can erase the highlighting, so if you plan on selling the book later it's no problem. I do this in my textbooks, in manga, in novels, in reading and grammar practice worksheets. Later when you add the unknown words to SRS software or whatever, this makes them a lot faster to find. It has the double benefit of that if you ever re-read the same text again a while later, you'll realize how much you've improved.

└◆ Using an erasable ballpoint pen in another colour, write notes and summaries directly onto your textbook on the relevant pages. These notes can be pronunciation, word translations, paragraph summaries, you can underline stuff the teacher said for sure is going to appear on the test, whatever. For example I use a red erasable pen and write the meanings and/or pronunciations of unknown words in manga directly onto the manga pages. If you reread the same text later you'll never have to use the dictionary again.

└◆ Do this kind of stuff and learn all unknown words from class as fast as you can. In particular, do grammar homework the same day you received it (so the grammar is fresh in your head from class). Always read through a reading assignment twice. It doesn't matter if it's two super-fast times immediately after each other or not, you'll usually catch more the second time.

└◆ For the grammar you've learned in class, keep your own list of helpful example sentences that you find as you keep learning Japanese. Later if you need to review or help another student out it'll be super useful. For example, if I'm reading manga on my smartphone or watching anime with Japanese subs I screencap a particularly good example sentence, then add it to a list later; after a while I'll have 20 example sentences while the textbook only has 2.

└◆ Use a smartphone dictionary (or something similar) that lets you bookmark words as you look them up, and bookmark every single word you're forced to look up; after class or whatever, learn the words from the bookmark list.

└◆ Use an OCR app (or something similar) to OCR book pages, signs, etc with lots of words or kanji you don't know, then just copy-paste the words into a dictionary. It's faster than trying to use a handwriting recognition look-up.

1ST SEMESTER
AUTUMN 2015

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

∇ 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/BL manga (ex. 聖ロザリンド)
└◆ Children's picture books, but specifically ones meant for children who are just learning how to read and NOT ones meant for parents to read TO their children.
└◆ 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!
 

2ND SEMESTER
AUTUMN 2016

★ 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, informal, very formal, or slang forms). "I like dogs" level. Classmates who went to Japan at this stage said they felt like they didn't know a word of Japanese.
└◆ 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.

3RD SEMESTER
SPRING 2017

★ Ended with 14-17 students. 4-5 had Japanese parents or had been living in Japan for at least a year already, 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.

Syllabus:

Final paper info:

Advice:
└◆ 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, so I recommend starting at chapter 15 and going backwards to chapter 1 if possible.
└◆ Do grammar homework the same day as that grammar appeared in class so everything's fresh in your head.

Recs:
└◆ N5-N3 anime
└◆ N3-N2 grammar
└◆ Children's books meant for 1st through 6th graders. These usually come in larger font and with hiragana over every kanji. Translations of English children's books into Japanese are normally much more difficult than books originally written in Japanese, becasue English books include words like "tailor, taffeta, hansom/horse-drawn cab" and so on.
└◆ JLPT grammar videos from "Hina-chan" (日本語の森) on YouTube; she speaks entirely in Japanese so it might be a bit hard at this stage, but her example sentences are REALLY good.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tVKqDebSSU
└◆ .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). It'll be difficult but you can manage it.
└◆ Let's Plays, Vlogs (especially on the theme of "testing out products or foods")
└◆ Drama CDs with matching manga panels; look on YouTube and NicoNico.
└◆ Fairytales for young children (picturebooks for ages 5-7 or so, called "絵本"). Be careful because some are actually written in dialectal or archaic speech.
└◆ Crappy BL/romance novels. These are some of the easiest reading material I've found. Some are a lot more difficult than others.
└◆ 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 only easy because you already know the contents in your own language, you can watch the movies, and the vocabulary repeats itself constantly.

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

Textbooks
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?" etc).
└◆ Class activities: Reading aloud and 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).


Advice:
└◆ 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 (don't use scans, they have missing pages & out-of-order chapters!). Note that these are NOT easy manga to understand for learners at our stage and the teacher chose them due to them being famous culturally and not due to them being easy.
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 plot-points (usually they're almost understandable from the images alone). Weekly worksheets, sometimes with 300-letter answers. One 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?".





Advice:
└◆ Learn N3 and N2 vocabulary ASAP.
└◆ Watch the anime, listen to the drama CDs etc before reading in Japanese.
└◆ Do the homework as you read through the manga for the first time 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 or BL) before taking this class so you'll already be more used to informal Japanese, which hadn't really been taught in the degree thus far.

Tobira = JLPT N3 level
└◆ After finishing Tobira you'll understand 30-80% of most modern Japanese (30% = war, political, legal or dialectal talk; 50% = daily conversation, shounen manga; 80% = 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, though you're still far from understanding "everything".
└◆ 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, excluding Sweden.
└◆ 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. Just so you know, one year later in January 2018, after having been on exchange in Japan for one semester, I was at just below N1 level.)


SUMMER 2017

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.

September: I felt I was securely in JLPT N2. News articles, dialects, archaic speech ("crazy monk-talk" etc) were still too difficult. 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 50-70% of N1, 80-90% of N2, 99% of N5-N3 level shows without looking anything up.

4TH SEMESTER
EXCHANGE YEAR

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, 12 hrs/wk. 8 Japanese classes were equivalent to 32 Swedish credits.

Σ MUE: (Autumn 2017) = 32 Swedish (ECTS) credits, 8 Japanese credits
All classes at Miyagi University of Education are entirely in Japanese unless otherwise stated.

Textbooks
日本語能力試験 20日で合格 N1文字・語彙・文法本
日本語能力試験問題集N1文法スピードマスター 
アカデミック・ジャパニーズ (listening and reading classes)

Required Classes: Each class meets once a week, 1 1/2 hrs x 8 = 12hrs of class per week. No tests/quizzes/exams, and basically no homework.
Speech (writing), 2 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
= going through textbook pages (10 kanji meanings + pronunciations a week). mid-term & term-end assignments were to write 20 sentences using kanji we've learnt. no kanji handwriting practice.
N1 Grammar, 6 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 could also sit in on (=audit, take without getting credits) 1st-year classes meant for Japanese students, ex. Braille, Chinese, Teaching Japanese to Foreigners, Pottery. If you attempt to take them for credits or not is up to you but you'll usually be graded at the same standard as the Japanese students.

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 didn't enforce that we use polite language with them, they cared about us learning to "speak fluidly" instead of to "speak perfectly". We got handouts instead of buying textbooks; there were no expectations that you memorize all unknown vocabulary or grammar. 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, and throughout the 2 semesters we had Taiwanese, Chinese, Swedish, Estonian, Russian, Malaysian, and Zimbabwean classmates (although by far most were Chinese and Taiwanese). Those who came with a Japanese level lower than N3 had to take intensive Japanese courses at MUE's sister school (Tohoku University) for their first semester, instead of being with us at MUE.

JLPT N2: You start learning 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 (although, depending on the company, N1 is business level) and is the level of a finished Swedish Bachelor's Degree. By "business level" what they mean is that you know enough Japanese to be able to just barely 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 attend. Having proof of N2 level, whether through having passed JLPT N2 or having failed JLPT N1 but still getting enough points to count as N2 level, will let you get a work VISA more easily.

Recs:
└◆ N2-N1 anime
└◆ N2-N1 grammar
└◆ JLPT grammar videos from "Hina-chan" (日本語の森) on YouTube; she speaks entirely in Japanese, her example sentences are REALLY good.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tVKqDebSSU
└◆ 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)


★ 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. 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 big 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) more regularly. 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.

5TH SEMESTER
EXCHANGE YEAR

Ω  Högskolan Dalarna: (Spring 2018)

• Japanese IV: Academic Writing (15 credits)
6 people took the class, only 1 seemed to pass.

└◆ This is the course where you do the second to final essay of your 3-year degree, aka what I call "the BA thesis prep course". Taking this is required before you, in the subsequent semester, write your final essay of your degree and then "graduate". All work and lectures are entirely in English. Other schools don't have this as a separate course and instead just include it in the general BA thesis writing course.
└◆ Homework: Analyze other students' finished BA papers, come up with 2-3 example paper topics, make two "annoted bibliographies" (works cited + descriptions of what each source is and how it's good/bad), make a BA thesis proposal plan composed of a few different parts as described further below.
└◆ With the good graces of your teacher you choose your topic for and plan out your own future BA paper (which will be written in English or Swedish, not Japanese, as far as I know).

Unfortunately, due to the bad structure of and almost complete lack of information about how to do the assignments in the course, every student I talked to had huge problems and were extremely confused. I myself failed due to foolishly thinking that if I followed what they actually had written on the instructions, that would get me to pass. Actually, this is not a course where they teach you anything at all, nor a course where they WANT to teach or help you. Instead you're supposed to teach yourself while going on almost no hints as to what they actually want, and you're supposed to avoid talking to the teachers as much as possible.

The course itself did not actually teach you how to write an academic paper other than how to cite sources (ex. it didn't tell you anything about formatting), nor did it actually clarify what you were and weren't allowed to write your Bachelor's paper on. For example, we were only allowed to write our papers on a theme included in the Japanese IV class we had taken (which, by the way, had never been told to us in previous semesters), but the categorization of themes wasn't clearly explained in any way. For example, "writing a review of female characters in anime" was in the "literature" category despite being animation. "Counting out how many times dialects and sociolects are used in a manga volume" was included in the "linguistics" category, but didn't count as literature. There was nothing like a list of BA paper titles from previous Högskolan Dalarna students, or Swedish students in general, sorted into which category they fell under.

The teacher (again, the head of the Japanese department) continuously acted like none of the students had ever read any sort of academic paper or academic book before, that we students were intellectually lower than the teachers in all ways, and kept repeating that no one would "be getting lots of help from the teachers when they wrote their real degree paper". What he actually meant by "help" was that the teachers weren't going to answer any questions you might have about ex. how to complete homework assignments, questions which were all caused from the teachers themselves not properly defining what they wanted. He also made it clear that he didn't like it when students offered suggestions or critique for how to improve courses, textbooks, or teaching styles, and basically he seemed to hate teaching.

Since I needed to take different classes in order to be eligible to have a different supervisor (one that'd actually give me help in how to writing my essay) for my BA in order to be able to pass the course, my graduation was essentially delayed by 2 years. In the meantime I got an Associate's in Japanese at the same school (requiring a much easier essay class taught by a different teacher) and started working on a Bachelor's in Chinese.

Ω  MUE: (Spring 2018) = xx credits

Required Classes:
Textbooks
日本語総まとめ N1 文法 ISBN 4872177266 (Grammar class)
日本語能力試験問題集N1文法スピードマスター  (2nd grammar class)
アカデミック・ジャパニーズ (Listening and Reading classes)

Speech (writing/speaking) 
Culture, Conversation (+ field trips, essays) 
N1 Grammar 1
= Going through 12 grammar points a week, with practice exercises
N1 Grammar 2
= Going through workbook pages and guessing at the answers, then the teacher explains the answers.
N1 + N2 Reading
= Doing half N1 and half N2 reading practice questions each week, with a time limit of 10 minutes less than the real test would require. Then the teacher goes over the answers.
N1 Listening/Reading comprehension (+ Pronunciation)
= We read a paragraph of a text aloud that's equivalent to JLPT N1 or higher level (ex. texts on the Joumon era), answer reading comprehension questions, and then go over the answers. And/or 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.

Non-required classes:
(=courses meant for and almost entirely full of normal Japanese students):
You can choose from basically any 1st-year courses meant for Japanese students to take. Japanese students all seemed to think that taking at least 10 courses per semester was normal, but my Swedish school considered 8 courses to be slightly more than full-time studies. Other exchange students took for example: kendo, tennis, calligraphy, pottery, woodwork, Korean, Chinese, English Paragraph Writing. Due to various things like my part-time job and the courses I needed for graduation at my Swedish university (aka. things completely unrelated to the Japanese school), I wasn't free to take literally any courses I wanted, so I took:

International Comprehension (国際理解教育支援)

The teacher showcases examples of different cultures, for example the inside of American and Budan houses, photos of an Australian university campus, what spices people use in foreign countries, what's banned by the Koran, what's in the declaration of human rights, and so on. The general focus is on Asia. Sometimes we fill out simple questions about short reading tasks or the lecture topic, for example we read about the Koran then answer "does it say anything about women?".

Linguistics (言語学)
教養のための言語学 ISBN 4903742121 (=main textbook)
言語学入門 ISBN 4254515715 (=rarely used)

All the various fields of linguistics, basic "linguistics" vocabulary, and a brief history of the study of linguistics in general are explained. The class lectures are almost direct readings from the 教養のための言語学 textbook but the teacher inserts clarifications and examples when needed, and for my personal benefit (me being the only non-Japanese in the class) he usually summarized the info to English as he went. The class was about world-wide linguistics but, being a class taught in Japanese in Japan, there was a slight focus on Japanese linguistics. The only assignments were 1 final exam (extremely easy; no memorization of dates or names, only "did you understand the basic concepts in class?" which you'd understand if you just SHOWED UP to class) and 1 essay (3 pages; a summary of your 2 textbooks and 2 other books on one topic in linguistics, ex. pronunciation).

There were a lot of words I didn't know in the textbook but they tended to repeat themselves, the teacher tended to clarify everything, and we only went through about 6 textbook pages a week. I also knew around half of the concepts (just not the terminology for or history of them) because I've read a ton of language textbooks in English in my lifetime, including some of the famous ones mentioned in the textbook like stuff by Rasmus Kristian Rask and Basil Hall Chamberlain. I understood 80-90% of the teacher's Japanese.

English-American Literature (英米文学)
Popular Classics of English Literature ISBN 978-4-269-23005-7 (there seems to be a Japanese version called 英国ポピュラー名作講義)
• The teacher's photocopied exerpts (roughly 1 chapter each) with translations of those excerpts, of Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, A Christmas Carol, Dracula, and if time allows Sherlock Holmes and Winnie the Pooh.

The teacher explains the extremely basic history, geography and literature style history of the UK (simple as in, stuff like what England's flag looks like) or the concept in the book (the history of vampires in literature and movies). We read one chapter of the English textbook (=10-15 pages) a week, then go through excerpts of some of the most famous books in class and watch parts of movie adaptations of the stories. I had already read all the works chosen at some point in my life and I understood about 95% of the teacher's Japanese so it wasn't a problem for me. The only assignment was a 1-page paper to read a book from a certain publisher (60+ pages if in English, 200+ if in Japanese translation), summarize it and tell your thoughts on it. The final exam was very easy.

★ By May 2018 Japanese felt completely "normal", or just as normal as speaking/hearing/reading English or Swedish was for me anyway. I was getting 50-80% on the in-class JLPT worksheets — despite not studying the grammar, I had been passively picking it up due to reading so much random manga and bits of novels, so I "recognized" all the N1 grammar even if I didn't know or remember how to use it. I'd started teaching English with my wife, 3-4 hours a day 7 days a week to an office-worker couple in our same age bracket, so I was orally translating and teaching to/from/in English and to/from/in Japanese daily.

★ By the end of June 2018 Japanese felt completely "normal", or just as normal as speaking/hearing/reading English or Swedish was for me anyway. I was definitely N1 level and was getting 50+% in all my worksheets for N1 prep classes (for the real exam you need 40+%). Despite not studying the grammar, I had been passively picking it up due to ingesting so much Japanese media, so I recognized everything even if I couldn't remember how to use it. I was doing job interviews entirely in Japanese, could read certain kinds of novels without difficulty, and could watch certain kinds of movies with almost no words I didn't know. There was still various pieces of grammar I didn't know/remember (ex. だろうか vs だろうが) but I thought that with another year in Japan, with dedicated study to Japanese, I could definitely get to almost native level in understanding.

JLPT N1: The level of a Japanese middle-schooler. You can read anything without any real problem, including newspapers, except for stuff no one teaches in class (=slang, archaic speech, dialects, proverbs etc) which you'll need to self-study. You're still definitely not native-level in Japanese though.
└◆ N1 is the standard "professional (translator)" level (that is to say, it's higher than "business level"), and is the world-wide average level of a finished Master's degree in Japanese. If you're applying for a work VISA, you get +15 points for N1 level Japanese and +10 for N2 level.

Recs:
└◆ N1 anime: Basically find any series that has a lot of words you don't know and then just watch it.
└◆ N1 grammar
└◆ Fiction novels meant for late elementary schoolers or above. Useful too are kid's versions of stuff like Dracula and Sherlock Holmes.
└◆ Very certain high-level manga: Gintama (=high-level vocabulary+grammar), historical manga (=archaic grammar), any manga where characters often speak in dialect or which covers a specific topic (ex. deafness, dentistry) that you don't have much vocabulary in.
└◆ Read Japanese webpages on very specific topics to do with Japanese life. For example, go find a page on getting your "proof of disability" card (just search something like 障害者 証明 カード) and learn the various terms used on the page.
└◆ Learn Keigo: First you need to learn to understand keigo, then you need to parrot it in order to learn how to use it. The easiest way to learn is actually from anime, manga and videogames, but some series use shallow or wrong keigo and others are almost entirely in keigo. For example, the "Legend of the Galactic Heroes" anime uses tons of keigo in the original version, and uses simplified keigo in the new version. Just so you know, in real life how much keigo is used is actually entirely dependant on the person who's speaking and not on their status (some teachers use high-level keigo but speak it with a casual air, others use the simple desu/masu forms that are just extremely basic politeness; some people use keigo with friends they've known for years, others drop it the second time they meet each other).
└◆ Learn Dialects as used in fiction: Yakuza movies, samurai movies, geisha movies, manga set in the countryside, whatever, you'll extremely often come across watered-down dialects in fiction. So you'd best learn to understand them.
└◆ Basically just find some media you want to ingest, and ingest it.

6TH SEMESTER
DEGREE THESIS

Autumn 2018.

★ 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.

Ω  Academic Writing: (Autumn 2018) = 7.5 credits
= The last course in a 2-year (Associate's) degree.

Ω  Bachelor's Thesis Work: (Autumn 2018) = 15 credits
= The last course in a 3-year (Bachelor's) degree.


STUDY TIPS

★ 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 or watch anime with subtitles. 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

If you learn Chinese first you can avoid a huge part of this step.

• It's best if you memorize vocabulary using a language that's much simpler than 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". You don't have to worry about memorizing most words if you learn Chinese first.

• 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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