Learning a New Language: Mini Survival Guide

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On a sled on a turf hill.

So its been a minute since I’ve talked about language. It’s now been about 3 months since coming here and starting to learn Japanese. I still honestly can’t believe my own audacity to come to Japan not knowing much Japanese but its fine because… 

I can confidently say that after 3 months of living in Osaka and studying Japanese, that I can… *drumroll* hold a conversation! This is such an achievement for me and I’m so proud of myself. For the first month or so, I felt so stressed everyday and was honestly so down in the dumps. So many feelings of regret of coming and regretting not studying more beforehand. And then many feelings of not studying enough everyday and that I was falling behind. 

I want to make this post to reassure others, that it indeed is going to get better as you practice day-by-day. Some days will be a lot easier than others. This is something that many people tried to tell me but it didn’t really make me feel any better because I was like “But right now…..!” But yeah, here are some tips and realizations that have helped me 

  1. Try your best to converse as much as possible! Its so scary at first, and I’m still nervous to mess up and say the wrong things. But it really does make a world of a difference to actually say the vocab and grammar that you’re studying and put it in use. If people laugh its okay. If they make fun of you, then thats kinda messed up and maybe don’t talk to them lol. 
  2. Remember that language is a skill, not just a class. This is something that I constantly try to remind myself. That with a skill you are really trying your best to master it so you can use it continuously. Whereas for example, in a history class, I’m just trying to understand and memorize as much as possible. AKA CRAM. This tip is especially handy for me when I’m preparing to study for tests. I’m cramming vocabulary and remind myself that the vocab is not just so I can recall and pass the quiz, but more so I can utilize it in everyday convo.
  3. Surround yourself with good people. What I mean by this is the kind of people that will encourage you to keep going and will listen to you as you try to formulate your words. This has been so important for me to be around people that will not only support me but that I can also learn from along the way. 
  4. Be a good listener. Don’t tune out just because you expect to not understand. Don’t be afraid to ask what something means. If its not the right time to be doing that, I usually write down the word and look it up later. This has been great for me in learning everyday vocab, especially because dictionaries will give you a bunch of different translations for the same word. This has helped me navigate what is more commonly used. Also, I’ve heard that in order to learn a new word, you have to forget it at least 5 times, I don’t know if this is true but interesting to think about haha. 
  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Literally all of these tips are just me talking to me but oh so very important. (I’m sorry if these are all obvious tips) It’s going to be embarrassing when you say something and mess up but I truly think that the only person thats going to remember and be really thinking about it is yourself. So save yourself the late at night existential crisis. Its cool! Don’t worry about it!
  6. Watch Terrace House lol. Or really any reality TV show in your target language. Terrace House is perfect because you see how everyday young people talk and interact, unscripted. Its also just an incredibly calming and entertaining show. 10/10 would recommend.