I was reading an article about language learning (imagine that!) and it made two very useful suggestions.

  1. Set goals
  2. Make language learning a habit

Now, there’s nothing earth shattering about these suggestions.  I’ve made the same ones from time to  time, but sometimes things can stand to be reiterated.

What would be examples of setting goals?

-learn 10 kanji today

-spend fifteen minutes listening to someone speaking Japanese (TV, podcast, YouTube, etc.)

-spend fifteen minutes reading something in Japanese

Notice that these are simple daily goals.  Long term goals are important (speak Japanese fluently) but easily achievable short term goals give you a boost.  Hey, look, I met my goals today!  すごい!

(By the way, even if your Japanese level is very low, you can find something to read.  Look for level zero graded readers, for example.)

Make these bite-sized goals.  Yes, you might decide to learn 50 Kanji today, but will you actually do it?  And will they stick?  And do you have time to do that?  An easily achievable goal gets you a pat on the back and a step forward.  A big goal that you can’t meet just gets you frustrated and tired.  わるい。

So, what about making language learning habitual?

One way to do this is to find habits that you already have and let Japanese piggyback on them.

For example, perhaps you get up in the morning and drink tea or coffee or chocolate milk or…I don’t know…prune juice.  Perhaps, as you are sitting down with your morning beverage you could open up Anki or Memrise or StickyStudy or whatever you’re using and run through your vocabulary.  Do that for a while, and pretty seen you’ll automatically be reaching for the computer as soon as the prune juice hits the glass.

The drive/ride to work/school/chess club/bagpipe practice could be accompanied by listening to a podcast or an audio lesson or some Japanese music.  If this is a ride that you take regularly, then listening to Japanese as you go could easily become a habit.

Maybe you hit Joe’s Coffee Shack or someplace like that on a regular basis for a Venti Iced Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato, Sugar-Free Syrup, Extra Shot, Light Ice, No Whip.  Well, what are you to be doing while you drink it?  Decide that you have to study Japanese so that the two habits become inextricably linked.

Find your habits and find some way to weave Japanese study in with them.  Pretty soon, you’ll be studying Japanese regularly without even really noticing it.  Japanese study will become automatic, and, just like that, you’re on your way to fluency.

I might also add that you might consider being a little selective in what you study.

For example, Chapter 4 of 中級え行こう has a list of vocabulary which includes ユネスコ無形文化遺産 which means UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.  I’m thinking that I don’t really need to commit that to memory because it isn’t very likely to pop up in conversation or novels or movies or, well, anywhere, really, so I’m not using up time or effort on it right now.

We’re all in this together, so tips are always welcome.



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