How do you get re-motivated to learn Japanese?

Hi, everyone!

From the title, you can probably guess what this is going to be about.

As of this moment, I’m sitting on a comfy pile of 948 reviews, 107 lessons, and being on level 38 for probably 2 months.

Before I give the obligatory “excuses” I want to make it clear that nothing prevented me from completing my reviews and lessons, things just demotivated me to the point where I just lost the energy to do things that made me happy. My life became so focused around other issues that I lost the energy to review for Japanese (because sometimes, reviewing Japanese can be demotivating when you feel like you’re not getting a concept, you always fall for the same leech, etc.)

It used to be that reviewing for Japanese was part of my schedule, not always “fun” but not chore-like or a reluctant task, and I was learning outside of my usual study (University Japanese classes, WaniKani Review). I really want to get back to a place where I find learning Japanese fun, or do-able again and have a shift in attitude.

Here’s what I’ve tried or what I am doing so far:

  • Watching more anime with Japanese dub (Evangelion, anyone?)

  • Talking to people on HelloTalk

  • Buying Japanese novels and just going through trying to understand (with the knowledge that I won’t know everything)

  • Trying to do at least 100 reviews a day (hit and miss on this one)

I’m not particularly interested in resetting, because as I go through my reviews I find that the ones I get wrong are my leeches, or things that I rushed to learn. I find that I end review sessions between 70% and 80% correct, so I don’t want to let go of my level just yet. What I really want is to change my attitude.

I would love to hear from you guys if you’ve been in the same spot as me. What things did you do to get re-motivated? How did you re-spark your love for learning Japanese? Any good TedTalks?

Thanks for your time.

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I would love to hear from you guys if you’ve been in the same spot as me. What things did you do to get re-motivated? How did you re-spark your love for learning Japanese? Any good TedTalks?

I don’t know if anything I’ve got to say will be especially helpful, since I’m more of a beginner . . . but in college, I was all set for a trip to Japan, only to have the opportunity snatched away from me by illness. For a while I was so depressed by that that I didn’t want to do anything related to Japanese—including watching my favorite anime. I found other things I wanted to do instead and invested much time and effort in self-care. But my love of Japanese language and culture remained, so eventually, over a long period of time, I started rereading my old textbooks and getting back into anime. And now, I’ve found WaniKani, and rediscovered the passion I had for the Japanese language. I think a supportive community will be helpful for me in case I have another setback.

You don’t have to reset, but what you can do is take some time to do other things you enjoy and be kind to yourself. Even if you forget some things, you can always relearn them. I figured that out a few days ago when I signed up here! Whatever you do, I hope it’s something that makes you happy, first and foremost. That was the best medicine for me.

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I haven’t ever been REALLY demotivated, but I imagine I would have already been if I had just done nothing but maintain a uniform daily schedule. The thing that I always do when I feel down on Japanese is just to try something new. Get some new kind of exposure to the language. There are obviously a million and one ways to go about this, but just try to incoporate Japanese in to whatever you like to do normally. Get some hobby or habbit that you enjoy independently but also can use to practice or learn with.

And if you don’t have something in mind after that, Tofugu has got you covered. They make a post every month recommending learning resources and I believe they’ve been going on for like 15+ months now? If you can’t find something from there that would help shake things up, I would be very surprised.

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Taking a step back here, what were your original intentions and goals with learning the language?

If you have clear, tangible goals that you’re excited about and have genuine interest in, then motivation is easy. Furthermore, by having small stepping stones or mile markers along the way, it’s a confidence and motivation boost when you have success.

If you don’t have concrete goals or are learning kind of for the hell of it with vague or immeasurable targets, motivation is easily lost.

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Oh man I’ve stopped and started too many times, so I’ve totally been in the spot constantly over the past 20 years - though I only have been actually studying Japanese for two years.

I first started ‘learning’ Japanese in Primary School in 1999, but then I went to a different school a few years later and that Primary School taught french, I then when to another Primary School for year 5 and 6 and they taught Japanese.
However, it was just random vocab and kana.
Then in Highschool from Year 7-10 I took Japanese as a class, but I barely tried and my teacher in year 10 was awful, so I didn’t continue in Year 11 and 12. I visited Japan twice in High School, once with no Japanese in Year 8 and then with some Japanese in Year 9 (the latter as a school trip).

Fast forward to 2016, I try briefly again prior to a trip with my boyfriend at the time but my Japanese level was still super low.
After that trip I was sort of motivated to actually try and learn, I had bought some manga on my trip so I tried to read them and spent ages just translating the first few pages before I realised that I wasn’t learning ANYTHING.
I then picked up Genki, and put it down, and picked it up…and put it down without actually learning anything. I was getting stuck on the vocab and was missing out on learning the grammar. I then started on Memrise and Duolingo, which definitely helped, but I still was awful with Kanji, so I waited until the end of 2017 for WaniKani’s annual sale and immediately bought a lifetime subscription.

Throughout 2018, I spent time studying WaniKani only at first, and then transitioned onto picking up Genki and some N5 and N4 materials. I decided I’d try to take the JLPT in December that year, which I did, and passed the N4. I then went to Japan again for the New Year’s holidays and was surprised by how much Japanese I was able to speak and read.

The reason I was able to re-motivate myself was the fact that after a few months on WaniKani, I was able to pick up a book that was completely impossible to read the year before, was actually pretty simple to read. Everytime I feel like I want to give up because I still have SO far to go in terms of fluency, I’m able to compare with how I was just a short time prior, and I realise that, while I still have a long way to go, I’ve come pretty far.
Also, whenever I want to just give up, I try and work out what’s hard, last week I realised that I really wasn’t getting anywhere with my grammar, so I finally actually started on Bunpro.

I make my reviews a habit, every morning after my weights at the gym, I go on an exercise bike and do all my reviews. It’s actually something I look forward to every morning, it’s a great feeling to clear out the reviews too.

So basically, for me, it’s a fact of seeing improvement to motivate myself, and, initially, finding resources that work well for me - apps work really well for me because I can do them when I’m on the toilet at work, in bed, at the gym, waiting for food to cook, etc, I can always find time to run through a few reviews.

Good luck.

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Wow, you are an amazing person!

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Motivation is a scam. Consistency is the key.

Motivation fluctuates with our growth and failures. It will be awesome at first as it will give you a jumpstart but it will only take you as far as the motivation fuel can. The better way, which I prefer, is to continue threading without thinking about what’s at the end.

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Pavlov’s dog that ish. Finish 100 reviews in a day treat yourself, finish all your lessons BIGger treat. if you can continue to associate reward with the work your brain will motivate itself with endorphins. setting long term goals is also important so that you have a goal to always be moving toward. (visiting Japan, taking the JLPT, getting a job with Japanese).

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What @jerseytom said, absolutely - the other stuff will help, but you need to know in the core of your being why you are doing this. And if those goals have been altered or changed completely due to changes in circumstance (she writes from experience), that’s ok, but you do need to find new reasons to keep plugging away at this because Vendemiaire is right to some extent…

…and you’ll only be consistant if you have a good reason to be.

I reset from only lvl 17 and I still haven’t got back to where I was, so absolutely do not reset from 38. Think of your goals and your workload/commitments and do some maths to figure out a reasonable number of reviews to do each day (possibly leaving off doing lessons until your numbers are more like your usual routine).

Welcome back to the 丸砥石 and best of luck!

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Honestly one of the biggest motivators recently was doing the N2. Having a concrete goal motivated me to get rid of my review pile and level up.

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The good old fashioned way: shame and regret! :smiley:

Really, though, I took one semester of Japanese in college, and every time I think back on it, I regret not sticking with it. So, I’m doing it now. It’s like that adage, “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago; the second best time is now.”

And to add to that, I kind of worked backwards. I know a smattering of a few languages, but I want to really know at least one other, ideally several. I settled on Japanese first because I’d really love to visit Japan (and maybe guide some friends if we go together!), I’ll never lack for native material that interests me, and honestly because it’s notoriously difficult for native English speakers.

I’m in no rush, but my goal right now is to pass one JLPT level per year. I might be tempted to try for it twice a year, but AFAIK they only schedule it once a year in US testing centers, and I want to collect ALL those certificates. :stuck_out_tongue:

So… remembering how I feel about giving up on learning a language, and remembering why I’m doing it/what my goals are.

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Thank you to everyone who posted so far! I might not reply to everyone, but know that I appreciate your posts very much. It’s encouraging to see that everyone has tackled this issue in their own way.

Thank you for this. As I’ve gone on learning Japanese, I’ve come to peace with the fact I won’t be able to remember/instantly learn everything. If I put every new word/grammar into a flashcard (or Bunpro/Kitsun.io), I would never get anywhere (I know because I’ve tried, haha).

I’m going to start watching more Netflix shows in Japanese with Japanese subtitles, in addition to this cool Chrome extension that will bring up definitions for Japanese words when you hover over them. Then, I can sort of watch and translate on the go and shorten my pause times. I hope that will prove to be more fun for me, with focusing less on trying to learn every word/sentence, but trying to get a large amount of exposure (all while watching something that interests me!)

Original goal was to just enjoy Japanese media. Video games, anime, manga, etc. However, as time went on I found that I really liked translating (shout out to Tofugu’s 4500 Japanese Sentences!)

Knowing kanji helps a ton. So doing WaniKani really helps, but despite knowing I want to translate, I’m having a hard time going through with it.

Further goal is of course, get some JLPT, visit Japan, maybe do translation as a job.

I resonate with this so hard. Compared to when I started, I am so much better and it feels really good actually! Having complicated grammar down that was so daunting at the beginning is really encouraging.

I agree, thank you so much for this post! And I’m definitely not going to reset. I think that would be more demotivating.

I really want to do the N3, but i’m not really done with learning the N4… but I just feel shooting for the N3 is a better use of my time and money. (California, the closest place I can test at, is a far drive from where I live and would require me to take time from work.) Would you say it would be worth while to just go for the N4, since I’m nearly read to take it?

Thank you everyone for you input! I’m not going to select a “solution” or answer, because I think everyone in here has some good insight that might work for some better than others. I can’t wait to make a follow up post when I finally get to 60 <3

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Sheer fear of my old career keeps me going. There are plenty of jobs I can get just by knowing Japanese. That said, I’ve stopped progressing in WaniKani, I’m writing instead.

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I had a bit of a dip myself recently. I stopped doing lessons for a few weeks until my daily reviews were under a hundred. Definitely helped.

I am still suffering a bit. Have (finally) got a bit bored with anime. Or perhaps just can’t find anything good. Also, at the in between stage where I don’t want to watch with English subtitles but my understanding of the spoken Japanese isn’t good enough to watch with no subtitles and my reading of Japanese is too slow to keep up with the Japanese subtitles. What is doubly annoying is that I can’t find an anime that has language I can nearly follow eg Flying Witch that has Japanese subtitles.

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Recently I was also in a rut like this. Levels 35 and 36 took about three months put together. WK wasn’t really fun anymore, also I think I was busy processing a lot of grammar in the background, so there wasn’t any energy left for reviews.

What helped then is I downloaded an app called ‘habits’ (probably. Dutch title was ‘gewoontes’ and Japanese title since I switched phone languages is ‘習慣’), which lets you set goals at whatever frequency you want and you can check them off each time.

So I set myself a habit of doing WK for 20 each day, preferably before noon. In the beginning I would set a timer for 18 minutes and when it went off I allowed myself to press the wrap up button. More often than not I would just stop after 20 minutes, but sometimes I would want to go for a bit longer, until one day I just cleared my review pile. I had gotten my motivation back! Started guruing my kanji, getting apprentice down again and after a couple days I felt comfortable doing lessons again.

I also joined the Race to JLPT 2020 leaderboard, with a goal of burning all items by then. That must have helped too, since I just completed level 39 within 8 days, and the one before that in 11 days.

This made me go to Japanese class a couple more times a week. At least I was going to class, even if I wasn’t doing my reviews on WK or actively studying for N3, was my thought process.

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There have been many times that I’ve felt overwhelmed or had other things in life that would cause my Japanese language learning to be put on hold. I find that watching YouTube videos/social media of people sharing their language learning experience can get me remotivated. The language learning community is very supportive and motivating! I also play a lot of videos games with my boyfriend who is a game collector so sometimes we’ll toss in a Japanese language Nintendo game or something and try to translate it. Books/streaming in Japanese can also be a great remotivator and the excitement you get when you can understand what they are saying is very rewarding!
I found that even doing a 30 mins session or small study sessions throughout the day keeps my exposure and motivation to learning the language active.
Good luck with your studies!

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UPDATE
7/15/19
Hi everyone! Here’s an update on my progress if you’re interested:

Right now I’m sitting at 524 reviews! Even though I’m making small progress, I am making progress. If I keep up at the pace I’m going, I should finally be ready to crack into my lessons again soon.

What’s awesome though is that I’ve found a way to have more fun with the Japanese I know, and I have a great reward system for making sure I finish my reviews.

The daily goal is 100 reviews a day and I can’t play any video games until I finish them. This really drives me to just get it out of the way so I can play more Auto Chess. If you play Auto Chess (mobile) you should add me! @AnesJW

I’m also enjoying more media in Japanese which is keeping me engaged and learning new vocabulary. I’ve switched Brawlstars and Auto Chess to Japanese, which helped me look up and learn more vocabulary specific to video games (勝利, 利子, 連勝, 敗北, etc). And a lot of video game lingo transfers over to other games, so it’s a great deal and it’s actually way fun to feel like I can play a game in Japanese and not be lost, thanks for knowing a fair amount of kanji.

Furthermore, I’m watching videos about games in Japanese and learning vocab that way. I really like SSB Ultimate, so I started watching videos of Japanese R.O.B players so I can learn terminology for up air, down air, etc. I’m doing this in the hopes I’ll be able to watch Japanese smash tournaments and be able to understand the commentators better.

TL;DR
Found a reward & goal system that works for me
I’m integrating more Japanese media into my life

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