As kids we knew how to learn anything. We learned to talk, to walk, to play games, to ride bikes, and all without anyone really teaching us how to do it. So why do we forget this as adults? After years of book learning and “being taught” we seem to lose our natural ability to learn. Books can be a big help in learning, but many things require that you actually “do” the activity. Of course the more time you put in studying, the faster you will learn Japanese. However, that doesn’t mean that spending endless hours with your head in a book will make you a fluent Japanese speaker. It’s true that you need to study to learn lots of Japanese words and phrases, but you also need to practice using them again and again.
I just finished volunteer teaching a kids English class here in Miyakojima with about 25 kids. The class met a total of 10 times and by the by last class there was a pretty big gap between the kids English level. Some of the kids could remember and repeat almost everything in a conversation, while others were still struggling. The kids who really improved only had a few differences.
First, they weren’t afraid to try. If you want to learn a language then you need to make mistakes. If you aren’t willing to make mistakes then you will not learn as fast or become as good of a Japanese speaker. There are many ways to apply this attitude to your Japanese studies. It can be anything from speaking up more if you are taking a class, to finding a Japanese speaking partner, or even trying new study methods. There is a chance that things won’t go perfect the first time, but they (and you) will get better the second time!
Second, they would keep trying again and again until they got it right. The students would try again and again ultimately spent a lot more time in than the kids who gave up the first time.
Lastly, they had fun. Sometimes it’s easy to forget when you are struggling with kanji, pronunciation, or listening, but learning Japanese should be fun. Try not to take yourself to seriously. Set goals and reward yourself for achieving them, and of course, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself if you make mistakes.