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

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:

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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!!


Since I started dating my (now ex) boyfriend in April this year I’ve been struggling to keep on top of my studies to be honest. Before that my mind was focused and I lived and breathed my Japanese studies when I wasn’t in work. When I started dating my ex my priorities shifted and Japanese was pushed aside in place of healthy eating, exercise and re-planing my future. When my ex broke up with me those things lost priority but my motivation for Japanese hasn’t come back. Now I’m struggling to find time to get anything done outside of work beyond sleeping and eating. YouTube, social media and Pokemon Go probably have a lot to do with that but to be honest I’m not finding much fulfillment in anything outside of teaching my English classes right now. But when my motivation finally does come back I’ll let you know how I did :wink:
Hope you manage to keep moving forward with your studies. Doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go it’s more important that you just don’t stop completely. 3 reviewed items a day is better than 400 followed by three weeks of none (my current situation :sweat_smile:)


Aw… Thanks for the support, and thank you also for sharing your story. With those reviews, I’m an anxious mess when it comes to that. When I see something just stockpile up constantly, I develop this anxiety that just makes it seem more dreadful to even tread near… Like a pile of unread notifications and highlights. It’s something I need to get better at too.

I wish you the best with your studies as well. Do take your time and not chastise and put yourself down. Those kinds of things are never easy to deal with… A shift back to previous or different routines is never instantaneous either. Those subconscious habits are gradual, after all…

I hope the other responses in this thread or the other WKers around can help inspire some sparks to ignite! And if you do revisit your studies, be understanding with yourself and look on the positive steps forward. :slight_smile:


I made the mistake of either not having enough goals or setting them too low. I’ve wanted the Japanese animal crossing 3ds for a long time so I made it my goal that if I could make it to level 10, I could buy one. I worked really hard for it! But after I got to level 10, my study habits dropped off completely and I became discouraged by how hard using the 3ds was for me.

I’d still like to set more goals for every 10 levels so I have something to motivate me but I don’t have very many ideas yet.

What about small checkpoints? Levels 10-20 kind of ramp up the amount of new kanji you learn.

Maybe one at Level 12, one at Level 15, and a big kahuna at Level 20? They don’t need to be necessarily materialistic, it could be like going out to eat somewhere nice (and Japanese? :muscle:) or visiting some place too.

Also, keep trying with the 3DS! There’s always stuff like Google Translate that can come in clutch for unrecognizable kanji. Then you can further research it on something like Jisho.

I just always have my goal in mind. There’s a stack of games waiting for me, not to mention all the literary adventures out there. That, and studying itself is quite fun, although sometimes it does get frustrating

Well said.
If you aren’t enjoying Japanese or can’t find “motivation”, then you’re doing it wrong.

Just as Orphen said, make your life Japanese and make sure you learn by having fun.
I highly recommend New? Start Here - Japanese Level Up
Its a more concise and coherent version of khatsumoto’s “AllJapaneseAllTheTime”

1 Like

I have had many ups and downs with self-studying. Life bogs me down sometimes, and when things get crazy it can be hard not to push studying aside when there’s little accountability to keep going. What’s worked for me is an echo of so many things already listed…

  • Setting daily, weekly, monthly goals that are measurable and achievable.

  • I keep a study journal in a Google doc to keep track of what I do each day, also logging any roadblocks I encounter. If I miss a goal, I try not to beat myself up, but do come up with a plan to catch up.

  • Once a week, I evaluate what’s going well, what I’m struggling with, and decide whether to adjust my goals for the upcoming week. This isn’t a huge, drawn-out process, just a couple of minutes each Sunday afternoon.

  • Find ways to test myself regularly. I signed up for the JLPT N4 in December, so I’m taking a practice test once per month between now and then, and using those results to refocus my learning.

  • Reward myself for hitting milestones. I am buying myself Studio Ghibli movies every time I finish one of the practice tests, which has the added benefit of giving me more Japanese input as well. So last month, I bought Kiki’s Delivery Service for completing a practice test, and also got the book in Japanese as a reward for hitting 4000 burned items.

  • Since I’m planning a trip to Japan next year with my husband, I also intermix language learning with cultural studies and specifically learning more about the places we are going to visit.

I mostly try to set aside an hour or two each evening since that works well with my schedule, plus on my lunch breaks I usually watch YouTube videos or listen to podcasts. Sometimes these are language-learning specific, sometimes more cultural. I try to do a little bit of reading each evening before bed (though that’s been the one that I’ve been struggling to keep up with).

Having a tangible goal of passing my JLPT has been more motivating to me than my original (non-specific) goal of being able to understand and speak enough to get around when we’re in Japan.

1 Like