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Jan 13, 2013

Challenge Yourself

If you want to learn Japanese, and I mean really learn it, then you have to work at it every day. There's no such thing as a rest day for Japanese, do it every day or don't do it at all.

What's going on? What happened to that nice, friendly Tigoris who told me to be kind to myself and take it easy? I don't like this new guy, he's MEAN!”

I'll admit that it sounds harsh, but it's the truth. In order to make progress anywhere in life - be it learning Japanese, getting a college degree, or losing weight - you have to put in the effort and challenge yourself. That doesn't mean putting yourself into Living Japanese boot camp, but it does mean giving up two of those most treasured past-times: making excuses and settling.

No Excuses

I worked twelve hours today, I'm just too tired to do anything Japanese right now. I'll make it up tomorrow.”

I've got a big exam this week, I should put my Japanese studies on hold until after that's over.”

I really need to study Japanese, but my friends are going out tonight and I want to go with them...skipping one night won't hurt.”

If these sound familiar, then you've got trouble. Skipping one day of Japanese turns into two days, into three days, and before you know it - WHAM! It's been an entire week and your SRS is bursting with reviews and kanji just look like a mass of squiggles. So what can you do?

Never miss a day!

It doesn't matter how much work you've done or how tired you may be - if you want to learn Japanese then you will sit down and study. It could only be for five minutes, but make yourself show up to study. Every. Single. Day.

If you study every day, you're guaranteed success. It doesn't matter how much you study or how you study – as long as you continue to access and use Japanese on a daily basis, you'll keep moving forward. And the great thing is, if you keep moving forward, you'll find yourself wanting to go faster, to go to new places and to achieve new goals.

Simply by staying in contact with learning Japanese, you'll find yourself striving for more!

Never Settle

Well, I can read the kana, but I'm fine with not learning the kanji. Not even Japanese people can understand them, so I don't need to!”

I can read manga with furigana now, and that's good enough. There aren't that many manga without them, right?”

Settling is like quitting, only you convince yourself that you're okay with it. You make great strides and learn so much, but then you decide that you're “okay” with only being half-literate or semi-fluent. Don't kid yourself. Nobody wants to be “passable,” we all want to be amazing! We want to be the best and the greatest! Mediocrity is no fun! Just look at all these exclamation points!

I'm not saying that if you learn Japanese, you need to be a master of the language and know every rule, every nuance, and be perfect at everything. What I AM saying is that you should be honest with yourself about what you want. Do you really want to continue stumbling around every time you speak Japanese? Do you really want to only “kind of” understand what you read? I doubt it.

Stop settling for mediocrity.

If you've learned the kana, then start learning the kanji. If you can read manga with furigana, then start reading manga without furigana – then go read a novel. If you're good at talking about puppies in Japanese, then expand your conversation topics to include kittens, or knitting. Keep challenging yourself to learn and experience new things. Don't stop until you're satisfied.


Yes, knitting. Learn what interests you. So if you can knit up a storm and make a sweater in half an hour, learn about knitting in Japanese. Read about knitting in Japanese. Do something in Japanese every single day and never settle to be mediocre.

So break it down for me, Tigoris:
What's the key to learning Japanese?

The key to learning Japanese is to spend as much time with it as possible. To fill your life with Japanese and live it every single day. Constantly challenge yourself with new things to learn and stop making excuses for why you can't do something. You can do anything.

If you've got a busy schedule, wake up ten minutes earlier and squeeze in some Anki reps. Take along a sheet with a few kanji and practice writing them whenever you get a spare moment during the day. If you ride the bus or train to work/school, bring some manga to read or go to a Japanese news site on your phone. Find every single gap in your day that you can and fill it with Japanese. If you do that, then you will get to where you're going.

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