What I learned from learning Japanese for 5 years

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Japan is a fascinating country which is well known for quality products and artisans who devote their entire lives to their profession. It’s a virtue by Japanese top peers from all different kinds of fields which really made a huge impression on me. This dedication to one thing and the personal wish (let’s just call it that) to really excel in the area you chose is something that really fascinates me.

We probably all have these moments when we struggle with work, with our studies just with most of the things we’re doing with our lives. I always welcome these thoughts in a certain sense because it never can wrong to questions yourself and the things you’re doing now and then. But I can be a lazy person and when things get tough after a little while and the first rush of excitement and fast process is gone I tend to let things slide a little.

And then I usually find another excuse to just stop what I’m doing entirely. It happened with Japanese and not just once. My daily routine for my “real-studies” (doesn’t sound perfect but you get the drift) is pretty tough especially when exam after exam in a tight rhythm is coming up. But I still find the time to read the daily news, check twitter, instagram, Facebook and all the other sites I’m reading.

I bet 15 minutes of iknow would’ve been in the cards for that day. And then there comes the time again when I think about these Japanese artisans (which sounds a little too uptight for my taste but let’s just call them that) and how they’re devoting their entire life and not just a couple of hours to their profession. Of course you can now argue that learning Japanese is not my profession but let’s just skip that thought and get all the motivation out of my little example that we can.

The reason why most Japanese students fail

Is because you lack the motivation to really push through the many many frustrating moments when you feel like you can’t understand anything. And unfortunately this happens a lot. Learning Japanese is a never ending story but especially for those of you who’re not living in the country things can get frustrating pretty fast. Manga are difficult, books are difficult and don’t even get me started on Anime. The problem is that Japanese is just so much more complex and not just because of the Kanji (which really make the whole process a lot more miserable). Japanese is probably one of the more easy languages to quit because you don’t seem to make any progress for such a long time. Again, especially when you’re not living in Japan.

I’ve written about this issue a couple of times now and even mentioned it in my personal guide on how to learn Japanese. Motivation is always key to success and becomes even more important when there is no real pressure in the sense that when you don’t succeed you won’t be able to get the job you want.

Thinking about this I was wondering what my motivators were for learning Japanese in the first place. It came down to the three clichés about learning Japanese: Video games, manga and movies. But let’s be honest here. This is not enough. Interests change and with that your love for Japanese anime may fade quickly. And bam, you’re out of one of your essential motivators. That’s the time when most of us quit learning Japanese for a while. Maybe they’ll come back to it at some point but (which leads me to another important point about studying) – consistency is key.

And we’re not just talking about studying Japanese here. Find some long term motivators that gave you the initial wish to do something and try to b consistent with your work. There is no miraculous way that keeps you on track or helps you find something that captures your motivation for the long term. You have to be that driving force from the start and you have to be the person that constantly reminds you why you got into this in the first place.

What I do

I like post-it notes. I use them for learning (my books are plastered with them, containing little notes), for shopping and to keep my mind on track. Like I said not matter what you do – motivation is key, and so I like to keep my mind on track with short post-it notes on my fridge. I’m always astonished how often I can read these without being annoyed by their content. This let me to another insight –  you can’t hear or read these little motivators too often.


Like always each person is different and so I’d love to hear your little tricks and experiences about learning Japanese. I’m sure it’s a tough hobby for all of us, how do you guys stay motivated?

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