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Jul 19, 2011

Do Not Wait for Japanese

Waiting is the greatest foe of a language learner, which is why I hate to see so many people putting off learning Japanese until after they deal with more important things. The problem with this is that those more important things will never be dealt with - as soon as one is completed three more take its place. These people would love to learn Japanese, but they're just so busy with those important things. Unfortunately, the people who wait until there aren't any more important things to do are doomed to never learn Japanese. They'll wait and wait, but always find something else more important to do. So what should these people who want to learn Japanese do? It's simple really.

Make Japanese the most important thing.

Make Japanese the first thing you do in the morning and be sure you come in contact with it every single day. Just because it's the most important thing on your priority list doesn't mean that you have to drop everything else and only work on learning Japanese - it just means that no matter what happens you'll spend time in Japanese each day. Make the other important things in your life wait five minutes while you learn Japanese. Put Japanese first and keep it close. You don't have to change your life completely to begin learning Japanese, you just need to make it easier to come in contact with the language.

Another grave danger that prospective learners face is waiting to be ready. These learners constantly wait to take the next step: to learn the kana or the kanji, to read their first manga, to watch their first drama, etc. They think that if they just keep waiting they'll eventually be ready and capable of tackling anything without effort. Unfortunately for these learners, they will never be ready. No matter how long you wait to take that next step, you're going to face some difficulty in adjusting to new material. There is no magical point where you are ready and can tackle it all. You're going to struggle and make mistakes, but you'll learn so much more for the effort.

So forget about being ready, because you never will be. And if you'll never be ready, then what makes tomorrow a better day for getting started than today? Nothing. So why wait? You've got things you want to do with Japanese, so why make yourself wait for them? Don't be afraid of the things you want and put them off until after you've exhausted everything else – because I can guarantee that you'll only exhaust yourself. Chase after the things you want and take hold of them with both hands. You might have some difficulty, but you'll appreciate the reward so much more for it.

So no matter where you are in your journey to learn Japanese....

Stop Waiting.

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  1. Right now sentences seem to be pretty awkward for me. Maybe because I'm just starting and because I have some sentences with multiple words I'm learning rather than just 1 word. It's only been a few days, but a lot of my sentences are only partially learned. That isn't to say I'm not making progress with them, just still getting stuck on them. ほとほと困るだよ・・・・

    I've been thinking about maybe just reviewing more frequently. Should I lower my daily kanji review amount (at 25) and instead use some extra time to add a second round of sentence review in my day? Of course, I know it's really best to stick with what I'm more comfortable with, just asking if you think it'd be a wise idea to do this.

    And I'm still at the " cat...the CAT THE CAT IN THE HAT" phase for a majority of the sentences, but I some I breeze through rather nicely.

  2. Ah, not to know this off topic or anything. Throwing in that waiting really does prevent people from learning. It's hard at first to take that step into something new like your first manga, but it will only get easier if you try; not if you put it off until later and magically expect it to all make sense at a certain point.

  3. It sounds like your main problem is learning multiple words at once. It's pretty hard not to be learning more than one word at a time when you've just begun, so this is really just another part of starting out. As long as you're making progress with the sentences, you're doing good. Should you ever stop making progress with a sentence and get stuck on it every single time, then just delete it. It's not like that word exists only in that one sentence, so if you can't learn it right now for some reason, then just put it off until the next time you meet it.

    With that said, try to keep the sentences and vocabulary simple at first. Short sentences that focus on a single new word will be much easier to get down than a longer sentence with multiple new words. In addition to shorter sentences, simple and common words will really help. Learning the most basic words first will give you a really strong foundation to build from. (Going to make a post about good words to learn first, which might help you out some)

    Finally, it sounds to me like you're doing a great job. If you're working on learning sentences with multiple new words in them, then they're going to take several times longer to get down (and be several times harder to keep down!). Don't sweat it if you keep coming back to the same sentence and find that you forgot a word, because you're guaranteed to forget words - that's why you use an SRS! Just keep trying and keep reviewing your sentences whenever Anki says they're ready and you'll master the words eventually.

    As for cutting back on kanji reviews, definitely do not do that. I reviewed at least 50 kanji a day for probably a year or more after I'd finished learning them. Not that you have to review as many as I did, or that you necessarily have to keep reviewing for as long as I did, but you're going to need to keep reviewing for a while in order to remember them.

  4. I get what you're saying and totally agree in most cases. But things aren't always as simple, it isn't just the time that it takes to do the practice but the amount of information it ends up being, and how much strain on your mental capacity for learning it costs you. After learning your brain should still be throwing the new information around your head for a while which is good for learning as tomorrow you will probably magically feel a lot more comfortable with something that was a real problem the day before.

    On the other hand if you really do have to use that capacity for learning something else then learning a new language can be counter productive as your head jumbles up the information. So stuff like languages can be really distracting...

    In my case I have to learn six years of mathematics in about four weeks, only three weeks of which remain. I really don't have the spare capacity to be learning anything else, and pretty much willingly accept the cost and damage of dropping everything else for the time being.

    I'll pick it up, along with other stuff to broaden my skillset sometime in late August. Japanese will probably end up taking some level of priority as I figure out how viable and economically strenuous a C81 trip will be.

  5. I actually started learning Japanese several years ago, but then school became too much and I had to wait with it. (I studied on my free time, there's no interest in the language over here, and the schools "can't afford" getting teachers or anything anyway.) I had to put it off for so long that I forgot most of what I had learned. So yeah, waiting is bad.