Staying Motivated

If you’re lucky, the sheer fact that you are studying Japanese will be enough to motivate you on most days. (As someone once said, the easiest language to learn is the one that interests you the most.) Still, we all have off days, days when we’re tired, days when we want to break out of our routines. We will all have days when we don’t want to do our studying. The trick is to find ways to motivate yourself when those days come along.

1. The Almighty Study Chain.

I didn’t come up with this. I read about it first at as part of the Hacking Japanese Supercourse, and he got it from Seinfeld, of all places. Read about it at  one of those sites. (Hey, what’s the point of having links if you’re just going to repeat what’s there?)  By the way, Niko’s version at NihongoShark will give you the most detail.

2. Rewards

Let’s say that your task is learn 22 new kanji every single day. Pour yourself a drink that you like. After every other kanji, you get to take a sip. (Yes, choose your drink wisely.  I personally use hot tea.) You could do the same thing with a food that you like or a candy that you like or an anything that you like. You could say that you only get to listen to your favorite music while you’re studying. You know which rewards will motivate you, I don’t.  Choose them yourself.

3. Short Term Goals

And I do mean “short term”. Set goals that you can reach in a matter of days. (There’s nothing wrong with long term goals, but gradually moving closer to your long term goal doesn’t give you the same sense of accomplishment as actually reaching a short term goal does.)

For example, I am learning the 2,200 daily use kanji using anki. After every study period, I look at the results, and they look something like this:


“Mature” cards are the ones that I know, “young + learning” are the ones that I am learning (duh!) and I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself what “unseen” means. I use these numbers (and the pie chart) as short term goals.

So, on this chart mature = 683.  A goal is to get that up to 700.  Unseen = 846.  A goal is to get that below 800.  Unseen is 38% of the total.  A goal is to get that to 33%, so 2/3 of the cards will be in play.  Another goal is to get to the point where unseen is not the largest percentage of the three.  You see?  I always study at least 22 new cards a day, so unseen will drop below 800 in 2 or 3 days. I can see it coming.  These are very short term goals.

Each little goal that I reach earns me a pat on the back, a sense of accomplishment and maybe even some small reward in celebration. Because these are small goals, I reach one every few days, and that sense of accomplishment helps keep me motivated and moving forward.

4.  Medium Term Goals

I guess the title is self-explanatory.  In this case, one of my medium term goals is to have a conversation with someone on italki.  I haven’t gotten there yet, but it’s coming soon.

5.  Blogging

Yep.  Blogging.  Whether anyone else reads it or not, the act of writing out these thoughts and posting my accomplishments helps to keep me motivated.

6.  Not talking about it too much

Yes, I know that sounds like a contradiction considering #5 above, but it really isn’t.  You see, the trick is to spend your energy actually learning the new language, not talking about learning the new language, and I don’t bore my wife to death by telling her all about Japanese and what I’ve learned and what I’m going to learn and…blah, blah, blah, blah.  On this blog I don’t, as a general rule, go into any detail about what I’m going to be learning and what I’ll do once I’ve learned it and how cool Japanese it and…what I’m doing is discussing the learning process, and I have to keep learning in order to have anything to say about that.  See how that works?

Well, if you made it through all that, you deserve a song.  Here you go.



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