Learning Japanese: Do It Your Own Way
Thursday, June 10th, 2010
Everyone learns a different way. It’s an obvious statement but one that bears thinking about when you’re attempting to learn a language.
For example, if you’re studying at school I guarantee that no-one bothered to ask you about how you wanted to learn Japanese?
In a typical classroom setting, you have no input in to what time of day you start or how many students are in your study group or what textbooks you use.
What if you learn better on your own? What if you don’t want to learn romaji? Maybe you’re better suited to learn kanji mnemonically rather than delving in to readings from day one?
For some of us, this type of disconnect between how we are taught and what we actually need to be able to learn, is enormous and it can seriously affect our ability to learn a language.
A common scenario is that on your first day of Japanese class you’re filled with anticipation at finally begin able to learn the language you love so much.
However, several months later, you’re lagging behind the class and have lost all motivation and even worse, you might be questioning your own intelligence. Am I just dumb? No you’re not – please read on.
Don’t Blame Yourself
Firstly if you’re reading my blog, your intelligence is beyond question – so no worries there at all ^_^
Secondly, don’t be too quick to blame yourself if you’re not at the level you think you should be. Perhaps the classroom environment and/or syllabus is just not right for you.
If you’re at a grade school there is not alot you can do about that but outside of school hours the time is your own and if you truly want to master Japanese then you’ll need to study the way that suits you and make up for the lost time in the classroom.
I’ve listed below several study variations that may help clarify in your own mind what works best for you. These thoughts apply to anyone studying Japanese – not just in school.
Goals versus Free-Form
You’re either a goal-orientated person or not. If you’re younger you may not know that yet but by the time you finish school you will.
Some people find setting personal goals to be claustrophobic and unnecessarily draconian. They would rather just take it easy, get the job done in their own time and on a timeline that suits them.
Others can’t function without goals. They need a short or long term goal to constantly maintain their motivation and feel rewarded by attaining their goals on schedule.
Both options are okay for the individual but our non-goal friends are probably not going to enjoy the classroom environment very much.
If you’re on the non-goal team, then after-hours tutoring is perhaps a better option for you or maybe teaching yourself on the interwebs. Both of these options will reduce any unnecessary or counter-productive stress caused by the classroom environment.
Be really careful not to allow the stringent nature of the classroom to dampen any enthusiasm you have for the language as it is very hard to regain that once it is lost.
Conversely, if you need to learn in a group make sure you put yourself out there and make it happen.
RTK versus JLPT
RTK or Remembering the Kanji is a well-known method of learning kanji and JLPT is of course the standard test worldwide for Japanese proficiency.
RTK focusses more on how a kanji is put together and is very visual whereas JLPT is pretty much a learn by rote system. RTK doesn’t teach the kanji readings at all (until RTK2) while JLPT starts with the whole package – kanji, radicals and readings – from day one.
If you’re struggling to remember any kanji in class then perhaps you’re more of a visual learner. In that case Remembering The Kanji may be more suited to your needs.
The trick is not to think there is only way to learn Japanese.
If something is feeling harder than it should be, make sure you look around for other options. You know you have what it takes to learn so don’t stop until you find the right method for you.
When you’re fluent Japanese, no-one is going to stop you mid-sentence and ask what method you used. If you’re fluent, you’re fluent – job done.
Classroom or Self-study
This is a big stumbling block for some people.
If you’re at school you have no choice but to learn with others in your classroom but if you’re working during the day and trying to self-study at night and getting nowhere then you might be someone who needs to learn in a group environment.
If you’re forced to self-study due to economic or time issues then make sure you get your face-to-face time with others online. Websites such as EduFire offer live video tuition for numerous languages including Japanese. You can then get your interaction fix while still self-studying.
Don’t give up now. Fix the problem by getting to the core issue of why you feel you’re not progressing. Only you know the answer to that question.
Morning or Night
Do you struggle to learn at different times of day?
Perhaps you work during the day and study Japanese at night and find yourself going nowhere fast?
Or maybe Japanese is your first class in the morning at school and you just can’t focus no matter how hard you try?
There’s morning people and night people. Some of us come alive the closer it gets to midnight while others are at their peak at 5am.
If you’re struggling at certain times of the day, then why not try re-arranging your day to see if that changes anything.
Instead of sitting down to study at 11pm, go to bed early and hit the books at 6am.
Give it a try – it might just be the thing that is holding you back.