What's your motivation to keep studying Japanese?

I have been interested in Japan for 20 years and formally studied Japanese for eight years through high school and college. I have also visited Japan five times. I love Japan! But after graduation, I assumed that my language ability had peaked. I got distracted and stopped studying Japanese for a while. Life goes on. Although I was involved in Japanese cultural clubs and met Japanese friends, I would just speak in English most of the time. No big deal, it’s just easier that way.

A few months ago I just got back from Japan with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for learning Japanese. I was suffering from jetlag when I got home and created a WaniKani account. At first, I thought it might motivate me to keep learning Japanese, instead of wasting time on games or apps on my phone. And it’s really fun!

But it also got me thinking about the process of studying languages. I wanted to share some inspirational words for anyone at any point in their Japanese study.

Learning a foreign language is a lifelong journey which is worth the effort. Technically, you could visit Japan and have a nice time without knowing kanji. You can experience Japanese culture and meet interesting people without speaking Japanese. You can also eat sushi without knowing the ingredients, or watch anime with English subtitles. But I am more interested in the alternative – engage in a difficult task, make your brain sweat a little, enhance your ability to understand people on a deeper level, set goals, and keep learning every day. There will be a moment when you get the chance to meet someone or so somewhere that inspires you. You make a connection, share an experience, build a relationship, or learn something new, and you won’t regret your time spent learning Japanese.

I understand that it’s easy to quit studying Japanese. It’s difficult. You may feel defeated and give up without proper motivation, goals, and rewards. But it’s worth the effort. So take time to figure out what works for you!

Once you start this journey, you might join a club, travel to Japan, work overseas, or make a new friend. It can change a person’s life. It can enhance friendships and lead to fantastic opportunities. That’s why I keep studying Japanese after all of these years (with minimal progress). And that’s why I’m curious… what’s your motivation?


I’ll plagiarize share the words of wisdom of the folks at WaniKani:

こんにちは Kazzeon、

I wanted to take a moment not to wish you a happy [your holiday or not-holiday of choice here], but instead ask you a question: Are you a student of Japanese? A Japanese learner? A 日本語 student? And, how are you even supposed to know or figure that out?

Like everything we do here at WaniKani, the answer is super simple. That doesn’t mean it’s not difficult, though.

Your identity––that’s the thing that makes you… you!––has nothing to do with what you do at work or school. If you’re a plumber from 9am-5pm, that doesn’t mean your identity is “being a plumber.” Instead, your true identity is the one that exists after 5pm and before 9am. What do you do when you’re not doing the things you have to do every day? Do you watch TV? Play with your kids? Peruse Facebook? Volunteer at the hospital? Work on your tennis serve?

It’s easy to be judgmental and say what’s good and what’s not, but that’s not what I’m here to do. I just want you to think about the following question: “who am I after work and school are done?” (Because, that’s who you are!) And, if that answer isn’t satisfactory, think “who do I want to be?” The simple answer is to just do that thing when you don’t have to do that thing and you will eventually become it. Simple, but hard.

If your answer is “I want to become someone who studies Japanese” (with the future-goal of adding the identity of “someone who is fluent in Japanese” to your repertoire), then we can actually help. Like any other answer, it’s simple: Just study Japanese when you don’t have to study Japanese. Do your WaniKani Lessons and Reviews without fail, every day. Even on Christmas, Crabsmas, Festivus, and/or New Years. You can bet that even on those most special of days, Stephen King will be writing, Lebron James will be working on his free throws, and President Trump will be watching TV.

Aside from that, there are no days off when it comes to the degradation of your memory and skill. The only way to not lose to this unending and unfeeling current is to do your Reviews when they arrive.

On that happy note, I hope you have/had a Merry [insert a holiday here]. But, while you’re doing that you need to be “a student of Japanese” and do your reviews. You only have one chance to make progress every single day.


I like (perhaps even love) being someone who studies Japanese.

At first I was interested in the language, besides being interested in learning in general.

As I learned, I noticed that I could help people via learning, by teaching them what it had taken me hours and hours to understand in an easier, more concise way.

I also like being useful, and what better way to be useful than being who I want to be.

As time passed, I managed one of my goals, which was to graduate from my Japanese learning school and passing the N4 (tough, but doable (for me at the time)), and now I’m working towards my next goal of becoming a Japanese teacher.

To be the teacher I fortunately had most of the time, and the one I didn’t have at times.

It’s still a long way to go, and even though I no longer read as much manga as I used to, or watch as much anime as I used to, when I do, I look back at how different my life is now because of starting this language learning adventure, that started with a “Why not?”

TL;DR (and in general a summary):
I want to be known as “that guy who knows Japanese and is always helping people out”.
And I still have most of the way to go. :wink:

PS: Motivation comes and goes, but you just have to keep on trucking, knowing that what matters is not tomorrow, or the day after, but what you’ll have accomplished as you look back one day and think,


I receive incomprehensible emails all the time.


I never had a clear reason for studying Japanese. Somehow Japanese has been present in various types of media that I have been consuming since a young age. I am somewhere around 2 years of intense self-studying and as one would expect, the interactions with Japanese people are few but they are golden.

Luckily, however, I recently ended up in a workplace where there is a Japanese person who I can chat with and it is a wonderful sensation to be able to understand and converse with someone in their native tongue. Due to it being a rare hobby, conversations naturally go to various interesting places and there is a different depth to our work relationship I believe.

These sort of interactions and opportunities are so valuable to me and they inspire me to try even harder and harder since who knows what lies ahead.


I initially started studying Japanese to keep from getting the “family curse” of dementia. Everyone in my family over 80 had dementia, and I decided I was NOT going to get it if I could help it. So I know that studying languages is supposed to be good for your brain, and wanted a language as different from English as possible. So I chose Japanese, and noticed that I am remembering things so much better. No more “senior moments” like I used to have. Then I realized I LOVE Japanese, so I will keep on studying until I die, I suppose. Anyway, I’m having lots of fun, and the infrequent times I get to actually speak with a Japanese person is so much fun and really motivating.


It isn’t helping me much with that, I’d say. :sweat_smile:

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When I studied back in high school and college, it was just a more interesting selection for a foreign language option (though I also got to do a summer study abroad in Yokohama and loved it).

Years later, going into JET, I knew from the start I wanted to focus on Japanese-learning (having forgotten much of the intermediate material I learned in college), but it was still just as a hobby, I suppose. I figured if I could pass N3 and understand some native media, that would be enough. That quickly changed.

I suppose now that I’ve passed N1, I can be more open about the fact that for about the past year, it’s been my firm goal to pair it up with my advanced writing degree and work in translation. So, yeah, this train isn’t stopping. I love learning Japanese, and also love translating (especially given English and Japanese’s dissimilarities), as a separate but related activity. Still have hella imposter syndrome though, and need to get my production up closer to my level of comprehension.


Wait are we supposed to have motivation and goals?

Oh crap you guys I might be doing this wrong


Every day, I consume Japanese media. Manga, anime, music, Japanese youtubers, even english-speaking youtubers who live in Japan. It’s in front of me all the time, and eventually, I got to a point where I was just like ‘Ok, it’s time. I need to understand this.’ It was kind of spontaneous. So I decided to start learning.

And now, every day, when I listen to and read Japanese media, I understand more–little by little. Maybe it’s just a character, word, or piece of grammar here or there–but every time I experience that, it’s like a mini-eureka. It’s so rewarding. Same as when I learn a word that I knew in spoken Japanese.

A great example of this was 弓矢. I knew the song ’紅蓮の弓矢’, and I knew that the translation had something to do with bows and arrows, but when I learned 弓矢, my mind was blown because I’d seen it used before. It’s little things like that that keep me motivated day-to-day.

Long term, I think it’d be awesome to be a translator, even just part time. Or to one day travel to Japan, see the sights, experience the culture, all that good stuff. Maybe even work there.


I don’t have any strict motivation, it’s just a habit of mine these days to go to Wanikani all the time.

My original reasons for learning Japanese were to understand Japanese videos and websites and to interact with Japanese people I followed on some websites.

Then there’s the side effect of looking cool.


It took about six months for me to notice any change.

I started. I’m gonna finish.

(I get that you can’t finish learning a language but I mean I’m going to stick with it because it’s become part of my life by now. I’d also be upset constantly if I gave up and would regret “wasting all those years”, and that doesn’t sound fun.)


Must be that I’ve been studying for 5 and a half years, then. :wink:

I’ve started going back.

Ignoring the fact that I started to learn Japanese because of work, I really want to read 三島由紀夫 (Yukio Mishima) in raw weabness. I’m halfway through his bibliography in Translated English.

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I hope you’re also bodybuilding as you do that.

For me decision to start learning Japanese was made mainly because of how much anime I watched and Japanese songs I listened to. I think that was the primary reason back then, maybe 6 years ago or so, but also back then I just thought that hiragana looked cool, so basically after learning hiragana I dropped japanese learning for a while. Then I was in my senior high school year, had to choose my future (choose wisely, they said, lol). So I chose to study something with biology. At first entered Animal Science, didn’t like the program, decided to transfer to genetics, was telling to myself that I will start liking it eventually, but still hated it and didn’t want to study anymore. Then I remembered, that in high school I was interested in Japanese. So I took some classes as a side kick to my genetics bachelor, and decided. I AM GOING TO DROP OUT from genetics and enroll to japanology studies. That’s exactly what happened to years ago. Now I am fresh third year japanology student, who spends his days in Tsukuba, Japan, as an exchange student.

As for motivation, I really had some bumps in my japanology studies as well, but I would say that studying language gives me motivation by just studying it. Why? Because every new word you learn, every new grammatical rule or what not, you can actually use it immediatelly, and notice the progress. And the type of progress I can notice immediatelly is what keeps me motivated. Also, passed JLPT N3 test this summer, aiming for N2 this winter, while I am still in Japan, so I guess it also keeps me motivated!

P.S. Just leveled up to lvl13 on WK, spent 126 days or so on lvl12 :slight_smile:

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I hope so too. :smile:

I found one of the most resources to keep up your motivation is to have in your contact list in your phone really good japanese people that doesn’t speak anything in your language (or english, if it’s not your mother language). Everything else, you can experience them in almost same level in your language (there are good translators out there), you can read stories, watch tv shows with subtitles, but you cannot experience native relationships.

Another good point is when you travel to Japan, (first time I went, I didn’t have a clue about japanese, I could’nt read or understand anything, even the easiest kanji or hiragana, but I can say is one of the most favourite travels of all my life), when you go to Japan (if you never been, I wish you visit as soon as possible) you can experience it in a deeper level, in another way.

Another point for me is, in the future, to find hidden gems -manga, games- that have not been translated to our language.

One language, one life. To know a language is a huge open window to another form of culture. It doesn’t enrich our life, it’s almost like another new life.

And finally for me, when I visit to Japan, to be able to speak with beautiful japanese ladies in their tongue, priceless :sparkles:


My motivation I guess, is knowing there is so much more to learn, and knowing that I am making good progress. Now on my way to N2. Initial impetus to start learning was that I needed to do something to exercise my brain. I felt like my intellect was dying or something. And then I saw Kimi no na ha, looked around for a decent classroom in my country, and realized there was a Japanese speaker hidden inside me all along. The language just fits me, so I feel like I can’t stop learning it.

SO much! Even though studies have been going well, I feel like I am always going to feel like an imposter.


My motivation is that I really like it! It’s as simple as that. I love the sound and rythm of the Japansese language, and would love to be able to speak fluently one day.
Also it’s fun! I love the feeling of my braincells getting in motion when I have to grasp unusual concepts that do not exist in my own language, it’s so stimulating and makes me feel alive.
The only thing I dreaded when I started to learn Japanese was actually the writing - I’m not a visual person.
First I struggled with hiragana and katakana - and then I stumbled upon WaniKani to learn Kanji, and thank the Crabigator for that, because it has made learning Kanji super fun for me until now.
I just hope I won’t burn out as I see it can happen sometimes, so I try to keep a nice and steady rythm, and hope for the best :crossed_fingers: