I received an e-mail from a reader yesterday asking how I stayed motivated when I learned Japanese. Losing your motivation or feeling depressed by your lack of ability to speak Japanese is something that happens to many of us. My secret to staying with Japanese, even when I felt I wasn’t making progress, is really no secret at all. It’s very simple and something that can be applied to just about anything in life you decide to pursue.
Choose clear goals that you have a strong motivation to accomplish.
My original interest in Japanese came through my love of martial arts. My love of martial arts eventually lead to me studying a lot about budo, feudal Japan, samurai, and eventually Japanese.
There was no Japanese at my high school, but I enrolled into a class when I entered college. After one year, I could barely say “How are you?” Why? Because though I enjoyed Japanese, my interest in Japan and martial arts didn’t give me any clear goals. I couldn’t answer any solid questions: why I wanted to learn, when I would be able to speak, how much I should study everyday, how learning would help me, or a number of other important questions.
I was learning because it was interesting. It’s an okay reason, but it isn’t enough to keep you motivated when studying gets hard. I was thinking about giving up when I noticed that I couldn’t speak as well as I had hoped. I figured that Japanese was just too difficult.
After two years in college I had to choose a major. This was something that I wasn’t able to decide for two years and was causing me a lot of stress. After giving it a lot of thought, making lists of things that interested me, and considering my skills; I realized that I would study international business with an emphasis on Japan and a minor in Japanese.
Setting my goal helped me choose the path that I needed to achieve it
I had set me goal! After that it seemed like everything just fit into place. Setting my goal helped me choose the path that I needed to achieve it. Making just that one decision allowed me to immediately realize the following things:
- I would focus on business classes (especially those pertaining to international business.
- I must become fluent in Japanese.
- I needed to put in more effort to learning Japanese
- I needed to find a way to practice speaking with Japanese people
- I need to spend at least a year studying in Japan.
- I would work either in Japan or at least for a company who works with Japan.
So did I accomplish all of these things? I can proudly say “YES”. Was it always easy? NO. But I never felt like I would fail because I could see the finish line.
I declared my major as business with an international concentration, added a Japanese minor, and started studying more seriously in Japanese class. I also started taking advantage of the Japanese language tutoring lab to practice speaking. There were Japanese students available and I had never even thought to talk with them.
In addition, I started looking at study abroad courses and in the meantime took my first vacation to Japan. This motivated me even further and in my junior year I studied abroad at Waseda University and spent a year living with a host family in Tokyo.
After I graduated, I moved back to Tokyo and worked as an admissions counselor to help other students from around the world come visit Japan.
I never would have gotten here if I didn’t have a solid goal and a very good reason for wanting to learn Japanese.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself regarding your Japanese study that should help you.
- Why are you studying Japanese?
- Why did you choose Japanese over other languages?
- How well do you want to be able to speak?
- When do you want to achieve this (what’s your deadline)?
- How will being able to speak Japanese help your life?
- When will you visit Japan?
- Are you planning to live or study in Japan?
I would love to hear your answers to these questions. Please let us know your reasons in the comments section.
Highlighted have been learned
I finished my 5th day today and am currently at 299 kanji. I had about 50 reviews plus the new cards I studied today. All together it still took me about an hour. Finding and marking the kanji off the kanji poster took far more time. However, I have to say that the kanji poster has been very helpful. It has forced me to recognize the kanji to make sure I know meaning.
Now that the kanji are starting to pile up a little, it is more important than ever to focus on the stories and really imagine them. I studied in the car today while waiting for my wife in the store. It was easy to get distracted and I realized later that I didn’t remember those kanji as well. Make sure you seclude yourself and really focus. Don’t try to go too fast.
In case you missed the start of this program you can read about how to do it yourself here: Learning 2042 Kanji in just 58 Days
This is just a mini-update to let you know that I am still on track for Remembering the Kanji. I have been doing it for a total of 4 days now and am up to 234 kanji. In order to finish in time I need to continue to study at least 33 kanji per day. I am planning to continue at about 50 or so a day for at least the next couple of days, so that number should go down. At this point retention is still very good and I am not having any trouble with this many each day. I spent about 1 hour total today.
For those having trouble remembering the kanji after you’ve learned it, don’t focus on the writing. Instead, spend more time visualizing the story. It will make writing it much easier.
Also, be sure to check out the latest post I made about exporting lists into Anki. A tip to help you study more Japanese words faster: Using Imiwa’s Export Function to Get More Japanese Words
Does learning the kanji sound like fun to you? You can find what you will need to do the same thing here: Remembering 2042 Kanji in 58 Days
Highlighted kanji have been learned.
I just finished with day 3 and am up to 172 Kanji with a very high retaining rate. I also have them all reviewed in Anki and highlighted on the Kanji Poster.
I am a bit ahead of schedule, but I am doing it on purpose. I figure I will study as many as I can in these early stages while it is fun and exciting. That way I won’t have as big of a workload as the reviews get longer.
Today I studied about 70 Kanji in about 30 minutes and then reviewed 74 cards in 11 minutes with Anki. All together less than one hour.
I look forward to your comments and hearing about your own progress.
I should mention that studying the kanji won’t teach you any Japanese words or grammar along the way. It will however, teach you the basic meanings of the kanji and how to recognize and write them.
Is it possible? Many of you are probably thinking no! However, there are others who have done it. I won’t be the first. I should point out that I wouldn’t recommend this method for everyone. I have a lot of experience with kanji, I studied Japanese in the US, attended Waseda University in Tokyo, and currently live in Japan. Unfortunately, I haven’t taken the time to learn all 2042 kanji and make sure that I can recall and write them whenever I want.
I’ve decided that NOW is that time!
I calculated that to reach my goal of 2042 kanji in
58 57 days that I need to study at least 36 kanji per day. I actually started yesterday, and studied 52 yesterday and 52 today. So two days and I am now at 104 Kanji. For the first couple hundred I will probable keep this pace to give myself a little leeway at the end.
So what better time than to learn the kanji than to study along with me!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Remembering the Kanji 1: I did a full review on this book and was really impressed with the method it uses to teach kanji. You can get it here. (Purchasing using this link helps support this site.
- Anki: We will be using this to review the kanji and make sure we are remembering them correctly. The full set of RTK cards can be downloaded from their site.
- Reviewing the Kanji: I recommend an account here so that you can check out different stories for help (This will make more sense to you once you start). The downloadable card set in Anki already contains the links.
- Kanji Poster: Recommended if you want to see the kanji all in one place. Cool to have, but not really necessary to reach our goal. (Link also helps support this site).
How to Study Kanji for this project
- Choose your finish date, and then divide the number of kanji by the number of days you have left. In my case 2042 kanji/58 days=36 kanji per day.
- Study the Kanji using the Remembering the Kanji book.
- Review the kanji you have learned in Anki. I usually wait at least a couple of hours before reviewing.
- Mark off or highlight kanji you know on the kanji poster (not necessary, but will help give me a visual of my progress)
- Rinse and repeat, until you have conquered all the kanji.
- Make sure you continue to study Anki and also use your learned kanji to read Japanese.
So, in order to stay motivated, lets do it together! I will be posting about my progress, and please feel free to leave comments or questions about yours.
In a few days I will be travelling to Tokyo and Nagano for a friend’s wedding. While I am there, I thought I would shoot some video and Japanese conversation so everyone can learn some real world phrases and words. If there are enough people who are interested in the videos, I will also continue to make them when I get back to Okinawa.
To find out what kinds of videos and situations you might be interested in I have have created a short survey.
It will be very helpful if you can fill it out and give your opinion. You can find it at the link below.
I look forward to getting your feedback.