Learning Japanese: Never Give Up
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
Image Credit: Fey-Rayen (DeviantArt)
Whether you’re a beginner, advanced or somewhere in between, at some point in your Japanese studies you’ve probably “hit the wall”. I’m sure you know the feeling – you’re over it, you don’t want to see another kanji or verb conjugation as long as you live.
There are many reasons this can happen – perhaps you’re bored, too busy with school or work, sick and tired of studying or you’ve simply lost your motivation.
It happens to the best of us and it’s a common problem in any endeavour, not just learning Japanese. However, it’s the way you deal with the “wall” that will define your success or failure.
If you have read anything about successful people, a common thread is that they never give up.
It is what separates them from others who start a business and then get disillusioned when they’re not making $50,000 a week, a month after opening their restaurant and give up.
Perhaps they would have had a chance at making $50,000 a week but it would take 5 years of hard work and the determination to see it through. Either way, they’ll never know because they gave up.
The world is littered with the carcasses of great dreams that went nowhere because of a lack of staying power, focus and determination. It takes a certain person to push through the pain and keep going while others fall by the wayside.
The Tipping Point
The phrase “Tipping Point” comes from a book by Malcolm Gladwell, and basically means “the process in which, beyond a certain point, the rate at which the process proceeds increases dramatically.”
Put in the lingo of language learning it means that at a certain point everything just seems to come together.
Perhaps you’ve been studying hard for a few years and seemingly getting nowhere and suddenly there becomes a point where you just feel like it comes naturally. You’re not thinking about tenses and conjugations and how many strokes in each kanji – you’re just thinking in Japanese – it’s become part of you.
Right before this “tipping point” is where the problems lie. The years of study are taking their toll and you’re wondering if you’re ever going to be fluent. This is where many people just give up as the “wall” just seems to great to get over.
Remember The Reward
If you feel yourself losing focus or interest in your Japanese studies, it’s time to remind yourself of just how far you have come and what the rewards are for sticking with it.
Your goal may be as simple as personal improvement or as life-changing as moving to Japan to live and work. Both are valid reasons to push through any walls you hit along the way.
Value Your Progress
A great way to embolden yourself and also bring clarity and excitement back in to your daily studies is to look at how much you have achieved.
Even if it’s taken you three years to learn the basic hiragana and katakana then you’ve already accomplished what most of your friends and family will never do in their lifetime.
Just think about it – you can look at hiragana, which to others is a bunch of mindless squiggles, and make sense of it. That’s pretty impressive stuff.
It is too easy to dismiss your knowledge as “simple” but if it were that simple then everyone would know it.
Open one of your hiragana text books and show a friend or family member and I bet they won’t know what anything means and conversely I’m sure they’ll be very impressed when you can read a hiragana sentence out loud to them.
While it may seem like nothing, you’ve actually come a long way and you need to acknowledge that and use it to push yourself to the next level.
Have you ever visualised being able to read an entire Japanese newspaper or watching an entire Japanese TV show and being to able to understand everything?
Don’t think you could? Well you can – it’s just a matter of using the same skills that you used to learn hiragana and katakana – study, focus and determination.
Yes, it’s much, much harder but if 125 million Japanese can do it, so can you.
Name and Shame
If you need a kick along in the area of self-motivation then why not make your plans public? If you’re stuck on the first 100 kanji, then set yourself a goal to learn them by a certain date.
In my opinion there is no better motivation than to have your friends, workmates or classmates knowing about your goals. Post something on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or even your own blog. Outline what you plan to achieve and make it public.
I guarantee the next time you feel like watching TV rather than learning a few kanji, you’ll think twice about the consequences ^_^
It’s All About You
In the end you still have to really want to learn Japanese – there is no getting around that and it is the most powerful motivator.
You can’t be doing it just to hook up with the hot new Japanese exchange student in your class or because your Mum and Dad want you to. You have to want it badly and you have to want it all by yourself.
So if you’ve hit the wall, please don’t stop there. It’s a very long road to proficiency but it’s also very rewarding.
Imagine being able to fluently communicate in another language? It doesn’t get much better than that in my book.