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.