For those self-studying... How do you keep yourself going?

When taking Japanese in college, I’ve always felt a constant flame right up my derriere in always trying to keep up with vocabulary, grammar, kanji, the works. It’s been years since I’ve graduated, but in returning to my studies, I now fondly remember and kind of wish I had more of that pressure applied against me.

Self-studying WKers, what do you guys like to do in keeping that combo of discipline and pressure going, especially when real life gets in the way sometimes?

Personally, I have to admit that the past few months have not been stellar for my studying habits, especially when I’m not home for work or other appointments. However, I’ve found that getting to grind and study at a place like Starbucks, noise-canceling headphones in check, things have gotten a lot better.


(I’m assuming you’re asking generally and not specifically about WaniKani. If not, hopefully my answer is still useful to you or someone else.)

I keep going mostly because I like reading, so even when I’m slacking on the actual studying part, I’m still using Japanese. When you think you’re ready to start reading (if you haven’t started already), joining one of the book clubs here on the forums is a great motivator. Since most of the book clubs have weekly schedules, that acts as a kind of outside pressure that can motivate you to keep reading even when you’re busy.


A couple ways. For starters, it’s just kind of the thing that I do. WK has taken over my life, and that obsession kinda bleeds into other aspects of learning. It’s a habit. I don’t need to be motivated :stuck_out_tongue:

Also, similar to what seanblue said, I’ll play games in Japanese, and just kind of learn passively if I’ve truly run out of steam that day.

And maybe most of all, this all started for me with wanting to go to Japan, so I think about that. …I mean I could go to Japan like a normal tourist, but I wanna have very basic conversations with the locals so I can seem cool :sunglasses: …half-kidding


What are you using?
I’m using WaniKani, the textbook みんなの日本語 and graded readers. I have no problem keeping up with WaniKani and the graded readers, but the textbook is more difficult. I like it and the structure it gives (I like WaniKani but I don’t think I’m a fan of learning via apps otherwise) but it’s so easy to just not open my textbook. I was doing a study log which I thought was helping so maybe you can think about that. Master List of Study Logs
I just have to constantly remind myself why I’m learning. I don’t need to learn Japanese, which doesn’t help. But if I want to understand an interview with my favorite band or read a book that won’t ever be translated, then I need to keep studying.


For me when I’m feeling kinda burned out I just do something I enjoy, but I do it in Japanese. Lately studying kanji here has been tough due to having less time. I still have time to study, but by the time that time comes around I just don’t want to. So I’ll play a game in Japanese, or talk to a friend in Japanese, or watch Japanese tv programs, etc.

But yeah, at the end of the day, I guess the thing that keeps me going is that I just want to learn Japanese. Fun language.


If I think of how many hours I’ve invested into learning Japanese, it would be silly to let that go to waste. The same can be said for learning any new skill.

I just look forward to the future where I can watch raw anime :laughing:

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It depends…

What’s your goal with Japanese?

When I first started studying Japanese, I had no “real” goal in mind. I thought it would be fun to try and teach myself the language. However, fun and motivation often do not like to be friends. So it took me a long time until I became serious about my Japanese studying.

Flash forward to about 2-3 years ago, and I started to really work hard at Japanese. Granted, it wasn’t efficient, but I was making more progress than in the past. This time, I had a goal to work towards: Join the JET Program and go to Japan. I applied last year, and unfortunately, didn’t get in.

I kind of struggled for a while after that until I came up with a new goal: Pass the JLPT N5/N4. I had a tangible goal to work towards again. Now, I’m working towards the test in about two months and motivation is high!

So my biggest advice is to find a goal that you can realistically work towards. I used JET as a motivational tool and that helped, but then moved on to the JLPT. Maybe you could start with something simple like being able to read a book you enjoy in Japanese?

P.S. I would also like to mention the importance of taking breaks. Don’t kill yourself and don’t break yourself. I’ve burned out hard several times In the last couple years because I pushed myself too hard. Make sure you are at least taking a little break every once in a while to keep yourself motivated. I would say don’t take more that at most a weeks break, but that will be up to you.

Anyway, good luck and happy studying!


All the time you’ve spent learning Japanese is a sunk cost. If at any point it’s no longer fun or there’s something more interesting or important to you, it’s perfectly reasonable to stop studying it. I studied piano for many years when I was younger. I don’t play anymore despite my family’s repeated attempts to get me to resume playing piano. But that doesn’t mean the time I did spend was wasted. I’d just rather spend my time now learning Japanese. :slight_smile:


h n n when I started it was just for fun, I didn’t start taking studying seriously until a little over a year ago … It’s exciting when I can read random words on clothing or in books or understand what people are saying. If it wasn’t fun I probably would have stopped a longggg time ago. Sometimes when I want to bang my head on the wall because I can’t understand anything (grammar is pain) I want to quit and then I just remind myself of how much money I’ve already spent on this and decide I can’t quit or it’ll have been wasted :v


Thank you! The forums have actually helped inspire to check out more reading materials. I’ve started to check out Convenience Store Woman. I hope to read it in Japanese soon — Tangentially, I’ve actually began reading a Japanese slice-of-life visual novel on the Switch, like what @pahko kind of alluded. I get constantly floored at the new vocabulary I keep learning.


I’ve initially tried to embrace my Tobira textbook that I’ve used a bit in my remaining Japanese classes before graduation, but it didn’t click for me. I think the rustiness and lack of habits made me quickly drop using it… This was a couple years though. I feel that with WaniKani helping getting me back to speed, perhaps it won’t be so bad!

I agree. It’s good to remind myself why I want to be doing this. In this case, I want to speak with my Japanese friends and host family to my fullest expression. It makes me really happy being able to connect with them far deeper than I would have otherwise, so I really want to embrace that in studying further.

Hah, I learned piano when I was younger as well, but I didn’t enjoy it back then. Once I reached high school, I started to enjoy it more (I played oboe in the concert band). I enjoy classical music, so it’s not a bother for me to maintain around 30-45 minutes (8-ish pieces) for when I’m in a situation where I can play for people.

Anyways, after many years of watching anime, I finally had enough interest in the language to learn it. That interest is not going anywhere :slight_smile:

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Routine, routine, routine, and in my particular case a routine supported by having detailed weekly plans of what is to be done when based on medium and long term goals (the JLPT test next Dec is what I’m currently geared towards).

Life will get in the way (it did for me over the last few days), but be kind to yourself when that happens and just pick back up where you left off as soon as you can. All the best!


Right now I have the huge motivator of a planned trip to Japan with a person that does not speak Japanese. Over the years, I’ve found that it was way easier to study on my phone in bed in the morning. For me it was the easiest routine to keep because there’s rarely something that comes up last minute in the morning and doing it on the phone means the barrier of actually having to get up was removed. It also helps to wake me up in the morning so I’m able to tackle the day in a timely manner.

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I just want to be able to speak clearly in Japanese so I’m well understood. It’s hard to truly express yourself in a second language, and I’d like to speak and read at a fluent level. Seeing the results of my studying (and having tangible goals e.g. JLPT, Kanken, WK levels, filling bars on Bunpro, words marked known in Kitsun, etc.) are great reminders for me that I am indeed making progress, and that’s enough to keep my nose to the grindstone.

Even if I’m not always making quick progress, I try to always be making progress.

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Taking the JLPT every year has helped give me something to shoot for.


The Japanese language equivalent of an event horizon, haha!

I didn’t start Japanese with any particular goal in mind. If at any point learning Japanese stops being fun, I have no qualms about dropping it in favor of other interests for a while (well, beyond the fact that I paid for a year of WaniKani—gotta get my money’s worth there :sweat_smile:)

Maybe because of that, I’d agree what @seanblue and @pahko have said—often its less about “studying” for me, and more that I’m finding books, games, etc. that interest me and I want to see if I can understand any part of them. Unfortunately, what I want to read is often way beyond my current level, but I’ve always had a bit of a masochistic side that enjoys difficult puzzles (like Japanese grammar) and seeing how it all fits together :woman_shrugging: .

What keeps me motivated most days comes down to celebrating a lot of tiny victories that show me I’m getting better. Like, I’ll get (maybe overly) excited when I make it through a sentence in a manga and only have to look up half of the kanji. Or I’ll hear a line in a (Japanese) song, and look up the lyrics to find out that they sang exactly what I thought they did! All those little moments of “Ooh, I actually kind of understood that!” add up to me still being excited about learning the language, and wanting to keep learning it.


If I may, I think there are a couple of things at play here. As an aside, kudos for asking about discipline and not motivation! I reduce sticking with learning things like this to roughly two things. It’s either because you have to (ex: school, if you don’t want to fail, kind of like in your Japanese class you mentioned) or because it is fun.

We’re not too different, what with the whole Japanese-in-college and life-decided-for-us-for-a-time thing. I always wanted to be fluent in Japanese, but, subtly, this was just the issue. It was a whimsical want.

After reflecting for a bit, I one day decided on fluency. Everything changed when the fire…was lit in my soul instead of under my pants.

If you decide on fluency, Japanese must become real life. One benefit of this, by the way, turns out to be that pressure plays a lesser part in the equation because most people don’t find they have to pressure themselves to do things they would otherwise normally do.

Colleague: So, Orphen, what are your hobbies?
Orphen: Japanese.
Colleague: …wut? >.>

You’ve got your “why” figured out; sweet! So what do we do next? I’d blithely say all Japanese, all the time, but you’re clearly asking about how to integrate Japanese into a somewhat sporadic schedule.

Do you have a smartphone with an English operating system? Not anymore. That sucker’s in Japanese now. You check your phone to answer a text hours later, and the interface is partly incomprehensible, and you wonder, “why did I do this to myself again?” And then you think about your host family and friends.

Do you use a computer in English? Not anymore you don’t. There’s us, trying to figure out why we made such a powerful device harder to use, when we remember the people we’re looking forward to talking with in Japanese.

Favorite websites? Their Japanese versions, if any, are your new favorites.

Do you cook at home? Try this recipe on the stove:

  1. Live stream Japanese news; set aside
  2. Crack 4 eggs
  3. Whip
  4. Nae nae

Do you use public transportation? Or maybe use the bathroom? (Same question in some places.) That’s a fair opportunity to read or listen to Japanese.

Thinking and inner dialog–rethink those thoughts and rephrase that dialog into Japanese as much as possible! Can’t think of how to say something? There’s some additional study material to learn or to revisit.

You and I both fall outside of the category of needing to learn Japanese, so the next best thing is to have fun to keep us going. Read what you like, watch what you like, listen to what you like, play what you like, etc., but in Japanese as much as possible.

There are running themes in this thread, examples of which I want to collate in a way that’s totally not confirmation bias.

Cheers, fellow wayfarer!


I love your breakdown on this topic! It’s also a really good perspective to consider that studying and improving on Japanese can be approached and consumed like it’s a primary hobby. I think that passion that can be put into a beloved hobby can just as equivalently be used in Japanese as well.

Great idea integrating more opportunities to learn the language in subtle and passive ways. I’ll be sure to observe any opportunities where I can keep my JP brain going. :+1:

Thanks to everyone who responded with your own uplifting goals and solutions in keeping the Japanese flames burnin’. It’s a real delightful booster in reading!!