Tom here! People ask the same questions a lot during my streams of ポケットモンスターサン and どうぶつの森とびだせ on our channel, Game Grammar, so I’m collecting them here.
What dictionary are you using?
During streams, I use JLookUp. It is a light-weight application that doesn’t rely on internet searches to function, which makes it great for streams when I am trying to reduce both CPU and bandwidth consumption.
However, for personal use, I prefer Jisho.org. Jisho is more flexible in how it uses search terms, has a more up-to-date database of words it references, and has a bunch of useful features like audio recording for vocabulary words, and a huge database of sample sentences. I occasionally bring it up during streams when JLookUp doesn’t have what I am looking for.
How long have you been studying Japanese?
I studied for one year during university (although I took two years worth of courses during this time), and lived and worked in Japan for two summers (together, about six months). Since then, I have had a about three years of self-study under my belt. Self-study is a dubious measurement, because it depends more on how much work you put in than time spent. If you take your games, anime, or whatever you do in Japanese seriously, and write transcripts and translate EVERYTHING , you’ll improve a lot. Trust me. I know this because I do it for Game Grammar now, and I’ve improved a lot. But the first year or so of self-study, when I didn’t do this? I learned practically nothing, and probably forgot a bunch of stuff, too!
Note that I am the least experienced person at Game Grammar. Argenis, our production editor / director, and Tavi, our language editor, are both more advanced than I am, and frequently point out the errors that I make. Errors are part of learning! Embrace them, and learn from them.