Tree completed. What to do next?
This is my first completed tree that I had started as a total beginner. It took me 776 lesson and practice sessions to complete the tree while keeping it golden. Big, big thanks to all the course contributors and developers for this wonderful opportunity! I first had the idea of studying Japanese when I was a middle school student. This is the first time it worked! I would welcome general and specific ideas on where to move next — an app to learn Kanji? But how do I actually learn how to write? Shifting to the Japanese-English course? Some comprehensive Japanese-specific app, perhaps? ayakita, hideki, jkanero, Kippis, mhagiwara, moeka518, ochancoco191, THANK YOU
I'm only a little over half-way through the tree and from the amount of Kanji I've seen so far, I'd say learning more Kanji should be your primary goal. As far as apps go, I really enjoy WaniKani for learning/studying Kanji. Though it is an SRS system, so things start off slow, but pick up very quickly after the first few days or so, given that you don't mess up a lot in the beginning. It'll teach you the kanji and vocabulary for the kanji.
Remembering The Kanji 1 and 2 are also both great, often recommended books. You mentioned wanting to learn to write? RTK covers stroke order as well, though there may potentially be better ways to learn stroke order.
Outside of Kanji, drilling grammar is going to be a big one. Duolingo isn't great when it comes to drilling you on the specific things you struggle with (which I'm sure you already know). Given the number of particles and number of rules and exceptions for each, you can always use more practice. Finding articles written by native speakers is a good idea in just about any language. For Japanese, I like http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/easy/ which are a collection of japanese news articles that are made to be easier to read for children. With that site, you at least know that what you're seeing is more likely to use correct grammar than, say, a blog or journal entry. Japanese magazines about topics you're interested in are also a great source and many can be found online.
If you feel confident enough, LINE messenger has many Japanese-speaking groups where you can meet and talk to people in Japanese. Having a conversation(or trying, haha) is probably the quickest way to build up your ability to speak and think in Japanese (so long as you're having ACTUALY conversations and and exchanging more than just greetings!). I know I was able to find a couple that were specifically for english-japanese language exchange with natives at one time. Though I don't have LINE installed anymore or else I'd share.
Edit: I forgot to mention grammar books/text books in Japanese! There are a number of great Japanese text books that will teach intermediate/advanced grammar. One that I learned quite a bit from was "Mimi kara Oboeru: Mastering "Grammar" through Auditory Learning". Books like this are written entirely in Japanese and can be really intimidating at first, but once you've learned grammatical vocabulary, they're not so bad. You can't really beat the effectiveness of learning a language...in that language. With text books, like the news site I linked earlier, you have that guarantee that what you're learning is correct. There are tons out there, google and amazon reviews will be your friend if you choose to go that route. Though, many of them, you can only get by importing through white rabbit or similar service.
Congrats on being super dedicated! I started learning Japanese quite some time ago, but only recently am trying Duolingo to keep my memory active.
Since you seem to be learning so many languages, maybe you're like me and enjoy learning, but don't necessarily have any plans to use what you learned. That is totally cool! The reason why I've looked into languages like Swahili and Sanskrit is just because I found them interesting, I haven't even heard those languages spoken in real life!
However, through learning Japanese I discovered something I think is really special... not only is it fun to learn, it is really fun to SPEAK! English natives tend to have a difficult time with pronunciation (I feel absolutely RIDICULOUS trying to speak German and Hindi out loud!), but aren't Japanese words just so fun to say!? I'm not sure how in-depth the Duolingo course gets by the end, but remember... that reading isn't everything!
Feeling pretty confident with our Japanese skills are we? Think we "understand" Japanese do we? I don't think any program, website, or workbook out there can even come CLOSE to preparing us for the nuance and subtleties (not to mention speed!) of actually LISTENING to native Japanese speakers!
Lots of people learn Japanese because they're interested in the culture, watching Anime without subtitles is common, but if you aren't an "おたく" like me, there is still a whole new world of incredible film and television open to you now!
So finally, here is my suggestion: 1. Find a Japanese movie or TV show that you like. If you can't stand anime, maybe try a classic with huge cultural importance like Seven Samurai (and then the whole library of Kurosawa-sama's films!), or discover the origins of popular Western film tropes with Battle Royale (one of my favorites!). 2. Watch it with English subtitles. 3. Maybe watch it with English subtitles a few more times... :) 4. Watch it with JAPANESE subtitles! Notice how big the difference is because of how hard it can be to translate from Japanese to English? It can almost be like watching a whole new movie! Go slowly, look up kanji you haven't seen before (Jisho.org is INCREDIBLE!), and word you don't understand. 5. Watch it with NO subtitles at all! Focus on accents, how sentences flow together, vocal pitches, slang pronunciations. Suddenly, you are watching a whole new movie again! You might not have even known something was funny until you are actually listening!
If you don't plan on doing much speaking, a few more (totally free) tips I have are: Read Japanese twitter and Instagram posts! So much of language "book-learning" is incredibly formal and even outdated, find out how modern speakers actually write! Try to write the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets everyday. Take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) and try to master all 2136 常用漢字! Memorize all of the 助数詞 and learn how to count everything from years of age (さい) to drops of liquid (てき). Once you do that, forget the ones that are never used. Learn the Japanese particles. Take tests on Japanese particles. Try to use all the particles in sentences. Figure out the meaning of life (if you can figure out Japanese particles, you can probably figure that out too).
Whichever way you want to use (or not use) your new knowledge, remember that you can't be a "completionist" when it comes to learning a language (I guess technically you could, but you would be a very sad one). The fluent polyglots I know always say they weren't comfortable speaking a language before they started thinking in that language. Try to teach yourself to stop thinking of phrases in English (or whichever is your native) and then TRANSLATING it to Japanese... think in Japanese!
I would recommend Skritter for learning to write. I don't have any Japanese friends but most of my Chinese friends tell me technology has made knowing proper stroke order & general character writing skills mostly obsolete after completing school. She told me aside from signing her name she seldom physically writes anything because everything is typed out on computer/tablet/smartphone. Touchscreen devices do have an option to "draw"hanzi/kanji to type it but it's far slower than other methods and therefore seldom utilized. Even in english I seldom physically write anything, even if I want to make notes or shopping list or something I do it through google docs on my phone so that I can share it with my wife or some one else if the need arises.
You could always move on to actual books to extensively learn the grammar and become advanced since you already have a good basis in the language from Duolingo. There are tons of book series that even have audio supplements. Ones that I like to use are Complete Living Language Japanese (Ultimate is way too expensive as it is), Complete Japanese (by Teach Yourself) and the Japanese from Zero books (these books do not have audio though, but are very content heavy). Learning more vocabulary through other means like online courses etc. would all be fine! Ganbatte!
Try doing the reverse course, i.e. "Japanese for English Speakers". I've been working this course for some time and it is very tough...I haven't finished either forward or backward course, but there's no comparison, the reverse course is much more challenging, and I think it covers much more material. There's a broad range of vocab you'll get exposed to, and you'll encounter fairly advanced grammatical constructions fairly early on. It also makes you figure stuff out on its own.
And it teaches a TON of Kanji...pretty much everything that is commonly written in Kanji, is written that way in the course.
And perhaps the best thing of all, it's all open-ended typing exercises, no matching.
I think this is a natural next step for people who like DuoLingo's learning style and want some extra challenge. I highly recommend it and I bet it will take you to a much higher level than the current "forward" course. (And I hope DuoLingo staff is reading this and will take some lessons...I desperately want open-ended typing and the option for full Kanji in the "forward" couurse as well.)
You /can/ learn kanji from something like wanikani, anki, or memrise. Personally, I think it is better to learn vocabulary, conjugations (jukugo) of kanji.
The kanji have meanings and special readings, but it gets pretty dumb over time to try to remember all of those. Yes, it can give you an idea about what a conjugation kanji means, but you can also associate that from other vocab.
For example, take this kanji 生 , from context you can decide how it might be pronounced, but you just -don't know- (unless you use rikaikun/chuuta/or have furigana) based on the 7+ pronunciations unless you have experience reading it (or just knowing the vocab).
生ビール なま ビール fresh beer 生たまご なま たまご raw egg 生かす いかす to revive/ to make best of ...etc 先生 せんせい teacher 生きる いきる to live 生える はえる to sprout/to grow 生まれる うまれる to be born 生じる しょうじる to arise/to result from
I also recommend vocab and reading through Tae Kim's grammar guide. Since this course is still in beta, the grammar foundation is... lacking. Especially the て-form, it is probably the most important thing to understand when speaking/reading.