2021 in Japanese

Another year has come and gone, and I’ve managed to stay consistent with my Japanese pursuits throughout. If I were to measure my progress in terms of pure vocabulary count or new grammar discovered, this year would definitely not as dramatic as the last (let alone the one before that), but I feel good about how things have turned out.

I kept track of my reading goals in this post, which I updated throughout the year (including some brief commentary at times). Looking back at the edit history, it’s clear that my relationship with those goals was pretty tumultuous. Part of that definitely comes down to poor planning; I procrastinated starting my first novel until nearly the end of January, and it wasn’t until June that I finally checked off my first completed game.

However, there was another factor that I hadn’t anticipated, specifically when it came to video games — there was barely anything out there that I actually wanted to play. While 2020 blessed me with Persona 5 Strikers and 13 Sentinels, the first new game this year that caught my interest was Nier Replicant, and I didn’t even end up liking it very much. While SMTV at the end of the year was a highlight for sure, I was somewhat disappointed that it got a simultaneous worldwide release. It’s a lot of fun to be able to get ahead of the curve and I suppose I was a bit spoiled by PQ2, P5R, and P5S among others in the last couple of years.

Hardships aside, I still maintained an unbroken streak of at least 30 minutes (though almost always more than that) of reading or audiovisual content per day, and continued publishing weekly reports. I also embarked on a journey of practicing output, and have fallen hard and often out of the habit. Part of this has to do with the fact that my living situation right now has very little privacy, but I think the fact of the matter is that output is simply not a big priority for me right now, so it’s hard to motivate myself to find the time and place for it. It could be that I’ll regret procrastinating on this in the future, but for now I’m okay with focusing on the parts that I enjoy.

On that note, it’s become pretty clear to me that the way I most enjoy interacting with Japanese content is by reading manga. While I think it was helpful and productive to spread myself across multiple goals this year, I often found myself thinking “I really need to catch up, but I’d rather be reading manga” (ironic considering that at the beginning of the year, I felt rather differently). This year saw the conclusion of a couple of series which I had been reading for some time (すいとーと, とつくにの少女, ) and the beginning of many new favorites (怪物事変, 呪術廻戦, ホリミヤ, 無能なナナ, 戦隊大失格, おとなりに銀河). My manga backlog has grown to an unrealistic size and I think the writing is on the wall that I should prioritize it as a goal for the next year.

In May, my faithful Kobo Aura One ereader died an unexpected death after nearly three years of daily service. I replaced it with a Libra H2O, which was unfortunately kind of flaky for a while but is now quite satisfactory thanks to a firmware update. The most important thing is that it’s still waterproof. I still find that the bath is the perfect place to read and relax without being tempted by the distractions of the world.

In July, in the heat of trying to read 異世界食堂 within a short timespan, I got tired of manually punching numbers into my calculator in order to figure out how many pages to read per day, so I took the old software developer solution and made an app to do the work for me. I’ve been using it daily ever since and it’s been extremely helpful for helping me stay on track with my various goals, whether that’s manga across the entire year or pages in a single book. I’m pleased to be able to report that some of my friends have also found it helpful as well, and I’ve been working on it here and there to add various new features and fix bugs as they report them.

Thanks to my weekly reports, I was able to backdate all of my progress throughout the year into Moyase, which leaves me with these cool graphs. I like how each one has a sort of a story behind it — long periods of activity on one graph correspond with lulls in another. I was never once behind pace with manga, whereas with videogames I only barely managed to squeeze in at the very end. It’s very easy to over-apply data analysis in the language learning world, but this much is fun.

Moyase, of course, has a Japanese localization which I wrote myself (with careful oversight). While talking to a friend of mine who recently started at Gamemaker (which apparently relied on google translate somewhat for its localization), I was inspired to retranslate it using machine translation to demonstrate what can could go wrong.

This year also saw Tabletop Simulator releasing a Japanese localization of their own, pumped directly through google translate with no oversight, to hilarious results.

Bafflingly, Google still touts Translate as one of their phones’ killer features, when in actuality it’s still broken in rather amazing ways. The messaging surrounding Translate reached a new high this autumn, featuring an obviously edited interview with Marie Kondo that proved (in my mind) beyond a shadow of a doubt that they know just how bad it is, and are either too invested or too prideful to admit it.

I wrote two new articles about topics which come up regularly in the discord learning community I frequent; one about politeness vs formality, and one about a triplet of grammatical particles which many learners tend to struggle with. While I’ve had many ideas for such articles, these are the only two which ultimately came to fruition. As my familiarity with Japanese grows, I often come up with ideas like this that I hope will be able to demystify the process somewhat. It’s always nice to see the lightbulb moment when an unfamiliar paradigm becomes clear.

One big highlight of the year was the fact that I was able to not only do quite a lot of translation, but also make a friend. I happened to notice that an artist I follow on Twitter had reposted an old Persona 5 fan manga she had written. I decided to reach out to ask if I could translate it for her, and the rest is history. Since then, I’ve been able to work on several of her other works; Just the way you are, Kiss Day, and Every day is happiness, and then finally LA FOI 10, a full-length doujinshi which she published at summer comiket. Despite the fact that I’m still not very confident with my speaking ability, I’ve managed to develop a friendly working relationship with her while communicating entirely in Japanese (I give 京都寺町三条のホームズ a lot of credit here for helping me get familiar with polite speech). At the time of writing, winter comiket is upon us and she’s just published another one — here’s hoping I can work with her again soon.

It’s been a busy year, and maybe next year should be a little less busy. Nevertheless, 2021 was pretty good to me. Here’s to 2022 being even better.