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.
It has been a few days since my last update, but I wanted to let everyone know that I am still studying kanji everyday. There are a few days that I wasn’t able to study (attending a friend’s wedding, busy work days), but for the most part I have stayed on track.
As of yesterday I was up to 835 Kanji and will finish today at about 870. That puts me very close to my target of completing the entire Remembering the Kanji book in 58 days.
I also have a few tips for using this book to study Japanese.
- The stories are important. So when you get to the part where you have to make up your own, make sure you create a very visual story and don’t just skip though the meanings.
- Focus when you are learning the stories. If your attention is divided you most likely won’t remember the kanji later.
- Pay attention to the kanji when you are learning Japanese words for your normal study. The more reinforcement you have of seeing the kanji the better.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. If you feel like you are going too fast and it’s too much, slow down.
- Use the Glossary in the back or a kanji poster to mark off and see your progress. It will also give you one more chance at recognition.
- Lastly, set your goal. It may seem like you will never finish, but if you have a goal, it is much easier to move forward.
If you are following along and study the kanji as well, please post a comment talking about your experience.
You have been studying Japanese and learning lots of Japanese words. But what if you are heading to Japan and don’t have time to study or remember a lot of Japanese words? Well, I would say that there is always time if done efficiently, but just in case, here is a list of words that you must know.
I wanted to keep the list small and have decided to limit it to just 10 words. A Japanese words survival list if you will. If you can remember these words, then you should at be able to take care of your basic needs. They might not get you much further, but at least you will be able to get to the bathroom.
I should note that the grammar below is not complete. It is written for someone who only knows these ten words to get by.
1. Doko (どこ)-where
Knowing how to say where is really important. Especially if this is your first time to Japan. Just add the place name in front of this: Restaurant doko?
2. Ikitai (いきたい) -I want to go to
Similar to doko, but this allows you to tell someone where you want to go: Station ikitai.
3. Sumimasen (すみません)-Sorry, excuse me。
This word can be extremely useful because of all of the ways it can be used. Mainly, you can use it to say “sorry” or “excuse me”.
4. Ikura (いくら)-How much
You will most likely be buying things. This allows you to ask how much.
5. Otearai (おてあらい)-Bathroom
You will definitely want to remember this one. You can combine it with number one for: otearai doko?
6. Arigatou (ありがとう)-Thank you
This is the short form of thank you (thanks), but it is easy to say and easier to remember than the more polite arigatou gozaimasu.
7. Byouin (びょういん)-Hospital
This one is a bit of a no brainer. You can combine it with ikitai or doko to help you actually get there?
8. Tabetai (たべたい)-Want to eat
Not quite hungry, but about as close as you can get with one word. Also allows you to say what you want to eat: sushi tabetai!
9. Nomitai (のみたい)-Want to drink
Same as above, but for drinking. Omizu (water) nomitai.
10. Eigo (えいご)-English?
Said with a rising voice this will mean “can you speak English?” More and more people can these days, so it might be helpful if you need some help.
*Bonus 1. Speak English slowly- A lot of Japanese words now days are English words. speak slowly and enunciate clearly and they will likely understand.
**Bonus 2. Write it down-Japanese are required to study English from middle school (now elementary school) and actually have a pretty good understanding of grammer. Write it down and they will likely understand.
As I mentioned before, this definitely isn’t a complete list, and it is more for someone who has no experience with Japan. These words should help you get the basics, but not much more. On the plus side, anyone should be able to remember 10 words on the flight over. You could also print them out and stick it in your pocket.
Now’s your chance to tell me: what words would you put in your top 10 words you have to know.
For a much longer list of words see here: common Japanese words
You can also find a downloadable list here: 1000 Japanese words
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