Living in Japan was the best way to learn Japanese. The pressure of language school, with its daily homework and at-least-weekly tests; the daily need and opportunity to use what I was learning in class — these things helped me stay motivated and focused on the task.
Since returning to Canada in December, I’ve been wanting to keep up with my Japanese studies but finding it hard to stay motivated. But some recent events and conversations have reminded me of the importance of continuing to work at my Japanese, even — or perhaps especially — while I’m away from Japan.
Now, I could go out and invest in some expensive new study materials. I even had a church offer to buy me a fairly expensive software-based course. But I decided I would be better off to actually use the stuff I already have, rather than wasting loads of money on yet another study aid that is probably intended for absolute beginners (which I am not) anyway.
I’ve come to realize that the thing I’ve been missing is a routine. It’s amazing how a lack of productivity in any area can often be solved by simply making specific tasks a regular routine.
I’m just getting started with my new study routine, but having a plan and making it public are also helpful keys to success. So here’s a rundown of my new routine for studying Japanese. Five days a week, at least 2 hours a day, I’m using what I’ve got and focusing on four main areas:
1. Vocabulary — using my iPod touch and Japanese Flip.
2. Kanji — using my Nintendo DS and this kanji-practice game (which I’d only recommend if you already have some basic reading/writing skills, as it’s actually intended for Japanese people and therefore has no English at all).
3. Reading — using Japanese manga (comics). Right now I’m reading a kids comic, Doraemon, but I have some others that are geared towards a teen / young adult audience. I’m working my way up to them.
Along with the reading and kanji studies, I make use of a great — and free — Japanese dictionary app for my iPod touch, called Kotoba.
5. Real-life — I’ve been keeping in touch with Japanese friends via email and Facebook, and that’s been super helpful. I’ve also got a couple of Japanese friends right here in my own hometown. I’m hoping to make better use of the local connections, and continue to keep in touch with those back in Japan.
Routines: Super important. Super helpful. Super hard to get into. But now that’s public, I guess I should get to it. Wish me luck.