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Nov 25, 2011

Break Free from the School Mindset

When it comes to self-teaching Japanese, many people fall back on their previous experience with teaching and learning to figure out how to go about their business. For instance, the majority of people wanting to self-teach Japanese begin by looking for a textbook to use as the basis for their study. They also set up strict lesson plans for how much they will cover each day and feel satisfied that following the example of their childhood schooling will bring them good results.


If you would be so kind as to look back at the days of your obligatory education, I think you'll recall that the vast majority of the time you only learned the bare minimum that was necessary and then forgot it. Furthermore, without parents, teachers, and the government all pushing you to attend, you probably would have never continued going to school. I realize that many people do enjoy learning and school, but I think we can all admit that there were many days that we didn't want to be there, yet were forced to attend anyways.

With self-teaching, that doesn't happen. If you start feeling like you don't want to “attend school,” then school doesn't happen. Unless you have a support group, nobody is going to be there to push you. You are completely in control of your learning, which means that it's all on YOU to keep yourself wanting to come back. That means no lesson plans, no textbooks, no forcing yourself to eat all of your vegetables before you can have any cake (I use this metaphor too much). With self-teaching, a different approach is needed.

My preferred method for maintaining a healthy self-teaching environment is to hide all of the learning inside of something fun. Instead of sitting down to learn vocabulary, I sit down to read manga. The vocabulary will come with the manga, but the focus is on enjoying the story. The same for watching Japanese TV, chatting with friends in Japanese, or anything else you do - focus on the fun and not on the studying. Despite what we may like to think, we are still very much children inside. What is fun is what gets done, so make learning Japanese as fun as possible.

The important thing to take from this article is that you can't act like a drill instructor. Be gentle with yourself and remember that all things Japanese will move you closer to fluency. Also, if you begin to dread your contact with Japanese, then change things up and just be lazy. Remind yourself of why you want to learn Japanese and perhaps try your hand at some new material that you've been putting off. You have complete control over how you learn, so make your method comfortable for yourself.

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  1. Lately I've been feeling like a drill instructor to myself. I haven't been immersing myself as well, and I've been slacking off on reviews. I think I should get started on some of my backlog and remind myself why I want to learn Japanese.

  2. I have a request, actually. Are there any Japanese websites that you recommend browsing? I only really have 2chan and Akibablog that I visit, and I realize I waste a lot of my time really doing nothing but browsing random websites and realizing I wasted the whole day.

  3. The only one that I really like browsing is NicoNico. Oftentimes I will watch live streams and just enjoy the conversations taking place. You can also watch people play video games, practice music instruments, whatever. It's a good place to pass time in Japanese. I also like looking up recipes in Japanese, so if you're into cooking you could do so too. I typically go on