Figuring out how to stay motivated learning Japanese isn’t an easy thing to do. Language learning is hard, it can be super frustrating, and there will always be a million things you could be doing instead of studying. Of course if you’re in high school or college taking a language class means if you don’t study, you don’t pass. But self-learners have a whole other problem. How do you stay motivated when you’re the only one making yourself study? How do you stay motivated when your friends are going to the beach or to see a movie? How do you stay motivated when you just got a new video game you’re dying to play?
These are all great questions, and with summer just around the corner we thought we would a handy guide to help you stay on top of your studies this summer, and the whole rest of the year as well!
Use It or Lose It!
One of the strongest motivators to keep you learning should be the fear of forgetting what you already learned! Taking a break and coming back only to realize you have to review SO MUCH that you already learned should be a powerful reason to keep at it every single day.
Everyone Has 15 Minutes a Day
Should you study for more than 15 minutes a day if you really want to get better? Of course. But if 15 minutes is all you have, it can definitely make a difference. On Nihongo Master this might mean just coming in to do some drills and keep things fresh!
Schedule Your Learning Time and Stick to It
Telling yourself “I’m gonna study later” is great if you actually do it, but making loose, unspecified plans is a great way to break them. When planning your studies for the week be sure to set aside specific tasks for specific times. “From 6-6:30 I’m going to do Nihongo Master drills.” “From 6:30-7 I’m going to do my WaniKani.” Most people who are self-studying use multiple tools and websites so building out your study plan at the beginning of the weeks means you know exactly what to do and when each and every day. When you have that time set aside, you can be sure not to have anything else scheduled and you will be much more likely to complete your tasks!
Feeling Frustrated? Take a Japanese break!
Learning Japanese is HARD with confusing grammar and thousands of kanji and sometimes you just wanna give up! If you start feeling like that, then take a break to do some FUN Japanese stuff. Watch your favorite anime or J-drama. Leave the subtitles on so you’re not working so hard. Dance around to your favorite J-Pop band. Whatever reason you love Japan and Japanese culture, it can help you stay motivated. Working too hard and getting burnt out is a surefire way to give up.
If you’re not into Japanese culture and are just learning for work or for family then remind yourself why those things are important to you! Go spend some time with the person you are learning Japanese for. Or make a list of reasons why this new Japanese job is the best thing ever! Everyone has a different reason for learning Japanese and sometimes you just need a little reminder!
Get a Skype or Email Buddy
Having a set date (weekly is best, but every other week works too) to speak or write Japanese can keep you on track even if the rest of your study time is falling by the wayside. Letting your studies slip is a great way to feel like “Well, it’s too late now, may as well give up!” But it doesn’t have to be that way! Just having your weekly Skype date with a Japanese friend, or another learner, means your brain will be using all the Japanese you’ve already learned. Like we said before, use it or lose it!
Get a Study Buddy
If you don’t have a study buddy on the site, then at the very least you should tell other people about your plan. Tell your best friend, tell your mom. Write it on your calendar and post it on Facebook! The more people you tell your study goals to, the stronger the will to keep up with them will be.
Record Yourself Speaking Japanese Every Week
Whether it’s just a few sentences or a 10 minute YouTube video, recording yourself is the best way to practice your pronunciation AND track your improvement. You don’t have to post it anywhere or share it with the world, but HEARING your own progress each week is a great source of motivation. It can be both validating (when you hear how much you’ve improved) or inspiring (when you realize you need to practice more to get better)! If you have a Japanese friend, send it to them and have them grade your pronunciation.
If you are old maybe you have one of these cassette recorders…but the microphone on your computer should also work just fine 🙂
Make an Inspiration Board
OK, so this one might seem a little girly, but whatever. Boys can make cool inspiration boards too! Put up pictures of your favorite anime, the places you want to visit in Japan, anything!! Add fun or inspiring quotes (maybe in Japanese AND English) and put it somewhere you’ll actually see it. Every. Single. Day. Being reminded of the WHY behind your choice to learn Japanese is the best way to keep your motivation levels high. Obviously, if you forget why you’re learning Japanese, it won’t matter much to you if you give it up.
Here are some good motivational quotes to get you started:
“It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
Don’t Get Frustrated!
Frustration, feeling inadequate, and feeling like Japanese is too hard is something EVERY learner goes through. Japanese is tough! But if you’re coming up on some grammar you just don’t get, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, just go back a little bit in your learning. Maybe read a kid’s manga children’s book that is easy to understand. Try practicing with a beginner learner so you can help them while feeling better about yourself! Reminding yourself of how far you’ve already come can jump start your motivation to keep going forward.
Create Rewards for Your Achievements
Rewarding good behavior is called positive reinforcement and it’s a technique that almost all teachers and parents use to help encourage good behavior. But there’s no reason you can’t use this technique on yourself! Set specific goals each week and month and build in small rewards for accomplishing them. This could be things like studying for an hour a day for 6 days means you earned a night out at the movies with your friends. Or if you get above a 95% on your next quiz, you can get that pair of shoes you’ve been saving up for. Whatever prizes will help you stay on track, it’s totally up to you! The trick is to be strict with yourself and never reward yourself if you didn’t really complete the challenge! Self-studying requires a level of honesty and self-discipline and no one is there to hold you accountable except yourself!
Figuring out how to stay motivated learning Japanese is going to be different for everyone. What works great for your friend might not work as well for you. The key is trying as many tactics as po