Don’t

Yesterday I ran into a colleague who is going to…someday…learn Chinese.  He has had this idea for several years now but he hasn’t started yet.  I pointed him toward some useful language resources and then began to think about why people don’t learn a new language, especially a language like Japanese.

So, in no particular order, here is my list of things NOT to do if you want to learn Japanese:

DON’T:

Listen to the opinions of people who haven’t studied Japanese

Oh, it’s too hard.  Oh, it’s impossible.  It simply can’t be done.  Well, no it isn’t, no it isn’t, and yes, it can.  These might be great people and very intelligent, but, if they haven’t studied Japanese, how can they have an informed opinion about how hard it is?

Tell yourself you can’t do it

Of course you can do it.  Start by taking that fact for granted.  It might be easier or harder for you than for someone else.  We all have different gifts, after all, but, hey, you learned English, didn’t you?  English is a bear to learn, especially writing and reading.  Don’t believe it?  Just compare the words bough, though and cough for a start.

You know why we have spelling bees in English?  Because English is hard to read and write, that’s why.  There are plenty of languages where the concept of a spelling bee is ridiculous because the language is so easy to read.

Put it off

Someday never comes, right?  If you figure that you are going to learn Japanese someday the odds are pretty good you’ll never learn it at all.  Why put it off?  Start small, maybe just half an hour a day, but start.  If you don’t take the first step, you won’t ever get there.

Skip days studying

Most of us have some free time, and we prioritize how to spend it.  For one person it might be reading books, for another watching TV, for another going for a run…for some of us, we use part of that time to study Japanese.  Every day.  (Well, it’s an imperfect world.  Nearly every day, then.)  If you let two or three days slip by without studying, you get into a hole, and it’s hard to get out again.  Keep up.

Just play at it

Look, learning a language take a serious effort.  I won’t kid you about that.  I like to say that learning Japanese isn’t difficult.  Applying yourself to that study on a daily basis is what’s hard, but, if you do that, you’ll learn Japanese.  Make is a priority and work at it.  You’ll get it.  I have a full time job and a family, but I’m serious about wanting to learn, so I am

Make excuses

If you want to do it, do it.  Sure, things come up, everyone’s life is different, but, if you’re making excuses about why you can’t do it, then you won’t do it.  If you apply yourself to it, you will.

Yes, it takes time, and I don’t know how much time you have, but it doesn’t take as much time as you might think.  After all, there’s no time limit, right?  Someone who can spend three hours a day studying will learn faster than someone who can only spend half an hour a day studying, but they’ll both get there in the end, and it isn’t a race.

Yes, it takes effort and diligence and sometimes you have to push yourself to study when you don’t necessarily want to.  You just have to do it.

Doubt your ability to learn

I am convinced that anybody can learn Japanese.  People look at me like I’m a martian when I tell them I’m learning Japanese, and they look utterly astonished when I speak Japanese to them, and then they act like I’m some kind of genius who has accomplished something that normal mortals could never hope to aspire to.

Which is all ridiculous.

I’m just a guy who has applied himself and put effort into studying.  If you do the same thing, you’ll learn just as much as I have and probably more.  I’m not a genius and I don’t have a special gift for languages.  I’ve just put in the work on a consistent and ongoing basis.  You can do that just as well I have.

So go ahead.

And here’s the last don’t:

Don’t spend any more time thinking that you’d like to learn Japanese.

Go ahead and start.

And, by the way, if you can think of more don’ts, let me know.  I’ll happily post them.

頑張って

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