And now we come to a tricky balancing act. How do you study your new language consistently (every day!) without getting burned out? The problem is that, if you skip one day, it gets easy to skip two days and then three and then a week and then two and then you have to start all over.
On the other hand, if you hit yourself in the head with a new language day after day after day after day…there may come a day when your head breaks and you just don’t want to do it anymore.
So, what do you do?
You find a balance.
My plan (and I’m not saying it’s the only way or even the best way, just that it works for me) is this: I have a list of language related tasks, some of which I must do every day and some of which I can do each day, but which I can also skip if I’m just not up to it. That means that I am always doing something but that I have some control over how much I do.
My list looks like this:
- Go over all review Kanji
- Study 22 new Kanji
- Add up to 5 new Kanji
- Listen to audio lessons
- Study grammar
So why does the “must do” list use numbers while the “can do” list is just bullet points? Because not only must I do those two things, I must do them in that order. I always review old material before I cram new material into my brain.
In the “can do” list, why do I limit my extra Kanji to no more than 5? So that the number of Kanji I have to review doesn’t get out of hand. Right now I have to review, on average, around 120 Kanji a day, and I can handle that, but the more I study each day, the more Kanji I will have to review each day, and the time required could get out of hand.
Yes, if I up the number of new Kanji and spend more time on it I will finish faster, but the important thing to remember is that getting to the finish line is the important point, not how quickly you get there. I am a teacher, and, in my classes, on test days, the students finish at different times. Sometimes the last person to finish will make a comment about how slow they are, and I ask them if they would rather be the first one out the door but score ten points lower on the test. No. So why is how quickly you get done important? It isn’t.
Now, this list of tasks is the list right now, when I am in the midst of learning the Kanji. When I get through the 2200 cards in this anki deck, I will continue to review my Kanji, but I will be in a new phase of learning and my list above will change accordingly.
Most days I also do some audio and some grammar study (which actually means some vocabulary acquisition as well) but, because I can skip those things if I feel like it, some days I do, and that prevents me from burning out, but doing the things on the “must do” list means that I don’t stop studying altogether.
For me, that’s the best of both worlds.
I have some other motivational tricks as well, but that’s another post.