Struggling to stay motivated- how have you kept going?

Hi everybody,
Apologies if this is in the wrong section, I’m new to the forums.

Some background- I’m about to turn 28, and have been learning Japanese on and off since I was 14, but this learning stretch has lasted since June and is the furthest I’ve ever come! However, lately I’m struggling to stay motivated. I was doing a chunk (~50) of reviews yesterday and found myself struggling with some older ones and getting quite upset and frustrated. I’ve also not really been as committed to my other study as before, when I was doing about an hour a day.

My guiding goal before was the JLPT N5, but I missed the deadline to apply by a week as I was low on money. This really knocked me back, as it removed something to work towards, but I gave myself a week off from studies, picked myself up and kept going. I went to a Japanese language night in London but it was so busy and loud that I really struggled to hear anything anyone was saying and got sick of saying “one more time please!” over and over like a parrot.

A lot is changing in my life lately. I used to live in an anarchist eco squat and I’ve now moved back in with my parents ahead of moving to Wales in the new year to live on a smallholding. In the move I’ve misplaced my vocab book with months of handwritten hiragana vocab and grammar notes in it :pensive:
I’m working weird shift times (14:00-22:00) with a commute of about 3 hours a day, so I’m tired a lot and can’t make noise when I get home from work cos of my parents.

My motivation in the first place? Arts, crafts, self-sufficiency, and the environment. I studied ceramics at university and would love to visit some potters out in Japan as well as other crafts people, small organic farms, and perhaps interview people about environmental topics in Japan for a youtube channel.
This can also make it hard to stay motivated as it feels like Japanese language programs cater for anime fans, businessmen and no on in between.

But at the moment I just feel despondent. I don’t have much money and my NihongoMaster is chipping away at what I do have to the point I think I should cancel it and just buy Genki instead.

Resources I’m using: Nihongo Master, WaniKani, Japanese for Busy People.

TLDR: I’m an arty hippy whose life is falling apart and I’m struggling to stay on track with my language learning.


First of all, have you learned to say “anarchist eco squat” in Japanese? (Sorry, I can’t help you there. :slight_smile: )

It sounds like you are going through some tough times, but are at least learning Japanese at the right time - while you are young and your brain is still adaptable. I’m over 50, so not only is my hair thinner and greyer and my bones weaker, but I’m likely going to have a tougher time learning Japanese.

But seriously, stick with it! Japanese is one of the toughest languages, and remember that it is more like a marathon than a sprint. If I were in your situation, I would try the following:

  1. Stick with Wani Kani, but take it slow and steady. No rush.
  2. Use your 3 hour commute wisely! If you are driving, listen to a Japanese podcast or two every day. JapanesePod101 and Bilingual News are good, and there is a good shadowing recording on Spotify called “the cut tongue sparrow”. Pick away at this stuff.
  3. If you ever have any free time, start learning some specific nouns and kanji related to ceramics and/or crafts you are interested in Japanese.
  4. Try BunPro for grammar. Learn one grammar point a day. Take it slow.

You notice I’ve been saying “take it slow” a lot. This is to avoid burnout and design a plan you can stick with for a few years. Think long term about all of the above. Sometimes (usually) it is hard to see your progress on a daily basis. but when you revisit something you were studying a year or two ago, you will be dazzled by your progress. I remember almost giving up several times, but when I reread the stuff I was having difficulty with I see how much I have progressed and get a big smile on my face.

Maybe in a year or two, you will be surfing the web and reading native Japanese articles about the ceramics scene and culture in Japan. But, most of all, have fun and don’t sweat the little stuff.


So, I’m about to leave for college and thus I don’t have much time, but here goes my piece of advice: in december 2014 I started using WK, I managed to keep up well until level 30, I was finishing my 1st year of college away from home, was kinda depressed and not caring all that much for japanese anymore, so I ended not doing my reviews and lessons and it all piled up. I came back just about 5 months ago, I was still studying a little outside the site, but not as whole heartedly as before. And the break did me good. I managed to organize my studies and everything else, have been keeping up really well this past few months, much better than the first time back in 2014. And at times, I don’t manage to do all my reviews on the same day they come up, or do all my lessons accordingly to what I wanted to, but I have managed to keep a steady peace of 7d12h more or less, and that is a good number for me.
So, I would say take is slow. If you need a break, take a break. If you can’t level up as fast as everyone else, then don’t. If you can’t pay for WK or anything else now, try some free sites or online books or whatever and save some money in the meantime until you can afford what you want. Do it at your own peace, otherwise you might burn yourself out (like I know I did to myself).
And just for the record: I’m in a hurry and english is not my mother tongue, so do ignore if I typed anything wrong.

EDIT: Btw I keep motivated by saying to myself that since I plan to go to Japan someday, I must know japanese really well so I can live there as normally as possible and not be a baka gaijin. And also so I can read all the manga and books and novels ahead of it being translated. I’m a simple person.

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I agree with everything @pgoonghang has said. They’ve given some great advice.

I just realized how long this post is, so I've put it into one of these thingys to spare people scrolling through

Don’t worry, doing reviews often causes me great levels of anger and stress also.

Remember the small victories. Every time you read something in Japanese and go: “Oh, I just learned that word/kanji!” will give you a small kick. Often times it’s hard to stay so motivated with one clear goal when you’re doing something long-term. This is why the little things matter. They’re (at least from what I’ve experienced) the key to not burning out in the long run.

Me. At any social event in public, ever. This is why I stay at home and study Japanese.

I gotta say, this sounds pretty interesting

What about businessmen anime fans? :thinking:

Just remember there are tons of dead cheap and even free resources out there. Bunpro is a great one as stated above, but if you’re looking for other ones check out this holy grail of a thread:
The Ultimate Additional Japanese Resources List!


Okay if you don’t like anime, Find a super, super, super good book series or games, or drama adapted from Japanese. Read, watch, or play half of it in English. Once you’re addicted, you can’t finish the rest until you’re able to do it in Japanese. Whenever you get the urge to read, play, or watch your series, study Japanese.

At least that’s what happened to me lol.

My secret is that I actually study Japanese to procrastinate on what I have to study for college. It’s pretty efficient…


Me too actually haha :smile:

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Same here! Except I had to unwillingly because the scanalation group stopped translating the manga… :sob:


What I do is very simple.

Every time I sit down to do some reviews and I’m just not feeling it, I think to myself: “Do I rest for the half an hour this review will take, or do I want to learn Japanese?

So bolster up, it doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop.

Story of my life… There’s a paper and master’s thesis waiting for me, but nooo I study vocab on Anki…

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Genki is fantastic. I’d definitely recommend using it. I’ve been using Genki, WaniKani, and iKnow.

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I am kind of struggling with depression. Not the type that makes me want to kill myself but the type that makes me bored and improductive nearly the entire time. I’m trying really hard to stick to WaniKani, because the idea of leaving it aside and giving up on Japanese (as it has already happened at least twice) scares me.

What has been working for me is eventually changing the environment. I won’t leave WaniKani aside but sometimes I do my lessons and reviews through the WK app at work, sometimes in the morning on my computer and sometimes at night. As for the other resources, I watch a few episodes of a series and then start watching another one, I’ve been using FluentU for nearly a year but now lost interest in it and switched to studying textbooks. There are at least 5 hours of Japanese listening materials from different sources in my SD card that I listen to in the car. So, use as many sources as you like but keep WaniKani.

I think it’s important to stick to WaniKani because it makes you feel progress fast. In a matter of weeks you can read something you couldn’t read before, so you have a higher chance to stay motivated. I also reccomend Bunpro and Duendecat, as they’re fast, practical and easy to put away anytime you feel bored.


Ah, it’s not so much that I don’t like anime, I’m just not super in to it so when people or sites try and motivate you by saying “learn Japanese so you can watch anime without subs!” I just shrug. My boyfriend and I were watching Attack of Titan but he is very dyslexic so we had to do dubs over subs or he wouldn’t be able to keep up.

Added into the mix, my laptop is super old and literally grinds to a standstill if you try and play videos on it, so I’m not really able to seek out much.

However, my parent’s TV has Amazon Prime video on it, and I found a series for free on there called The Great Passage (舟を編む) about the white knuckle world of dictionary compilation :wink: While the spoken language is quite advanced, there’s kanji flying about all over the place in the background and it’s cool every time I spot a character I recognise.

Thank you all so much for your kind words and advice. I work in the mail sorting warehouse and when I came back to letters after writing this on my break there was a Japanese envelope covered in katakana waiting to be sorted. It felt like a sign :slightly_smiling_face:

To answer a few bits:

Nah, at the Japanese meet up where I chatted about jobs (it was one of the few questions I could ask), I said I was a gardener! :grin:

I take the bus. It’s only my 2nd week and I’ve been a bit shellshocked by returning to paid work and commuting, but once I’ve adapted I think I should try taking some Japanese reading material. I don’t have an MP3 player or storage on my dodgy phone for podcasts (one of the reasons I’ve gone back to work is to get money to replace all my tech)

Good advice. I think I need to listen to myself and actually acknowledge that I’ve pretty much flipped my life upside down with very little warning in the space of about 2 weeks and it’s normal to have some disruption.

That’s part of my motivation too. In English I’m a massive chatterbox and I’d hate to think I couldn’t talk to people in their language in their country. I went to Tokyo in 2009 for 4 days and got by with just すみません and ありがとう, but by the 4th day I felt pretty lonely and isolated.

So the activist squat I was involved with was set up in protest against an airport expansion, and while there I learnt that there was a protest movement against expansion at Narita too. I’d love to go and talk to some people who have been involved in that resistance.
Over the years I’ve just become more and more interested in environmentalism in Japan and the Japanese attitude to the natural world. Things like- Japan has an amazingly high amount of forest cover compared to the UK. I remember reports from the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster of people in shelters still diligently separating their paper and plastic and thinking “we British would never consider that a priority”. There was a great video I watched recently about a town in Japan where they separate their rubbish into something like 16 recycling categories. I’d like to talk to people about things like this and whether they feel there’s something uniquely Japanese about these actions.

Japan gets a bad rep in the UK activist scene because of the whale wars of the 70s and 80s, and that film The Cove. I’d like to show a different side of things.

Thank you for being open about that. I had really bad winter depression a few years ago and have to take a lot of proactive steps to reduce my risk of falling into a sad hole for 4 months of the year (which may also be a factor in my loss of motivation here).

Well, I am of course going to keep going. Here’s my to-do list:

  • Make a new vocab book (my old one was a bit haphazard anyway)
  • Look up homesteading, protest, environmental, and craft vocab and use it to make some simple sentences
  • Gather some materials I can use on the bus to work
  • Be kind to myself and remind myself that everyone finds language learning hard from time to time. Slow progress is still progress

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