There is, in fact, a secret, but I am going to make that secret public. Are you ready? Here it is: Consistent daily effort. Work at it.
I once asked a friend, “How did you learn the Kanji?” His answer was “Brute force memorization.” There you go.
Seriously, here’s what I do:
Minna no Nihongo I and II – Vocabulary Review
Chuukyuu e ikou – Vocabulary Review (once every two weeks I get a new chapter full of vocabulary to learn
JLPT N3 Standard 2400 – Vocabulary Review and learn new vocabulary daily
Satori Reader – Read at least part of an article
Chhukyuu e ikou – Study Grammar and do homework (This is pretty much scattered over most of the week as time permits)
Japanese Lesson with my Cafetalk tutor – usually Saturday morning
Language Exchange – I have 4 people I meet with regularly to chat in Japanese and English via Skype
As the mood strikes me:
Review vocabulary on Satori Reader
Chat or exchange message with people
Watch some video in Japanese (streaming, YouTube or DVD)
So, how much time do I spend every day on Japanese? It varies. On average, I would say 1-2 hours, but there are days when I spend longer than that. For example, if my wife is watching a movie I’m not really interested in, I’ll sit with her but grab my tablet and do some extra studying.
Some people would be appalled at that amount of time. 1-2 hours every day?! What are you, nuts?!
Other people would wonder why I was such a slacker.
I’m not saying that the way I do is the best. I’m just saying it works for me. I can carve out that much time and I choose to spend it studying. You have to do what you can do and what you’re inclined to do.
It’s a question that interests me, though. How much time do you spend daily studying Japanese?