Staying motivated while studying Japanese

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Hey everyone! It’s been almost 7 months since I’ve lived in Tokyo and after an intensive session of INTENSIVE (get it?) Japanese, I’m beginning to feel a little burnt out. So this week I want to talk about tips on maintaining your motivation when studying Japanese, or any foreign language for that matter.

I’m currently enrolled in J7 (the last level of Japanese here at ICU), so most of these tips will be done outside of my usual classwork. With the JLPT N2 test coming up in July, it’s time to start hitting the books again.

A haiku, written by yours truly. It says, “I like fish. What should I do? I have no money” (I’ll be quitting my day job to write haikus soon)

Speak to Natives 

My first recommendation to studying Japanese is to interact with native speakers. Since coming to the International Christian University, I’ve had a language partner that I regularly meet up with at least twice a week. Our sessions usually last about an hour to an hour and a half, with the time evenly split between Japanese and English.

Although I live in Japan, I surprisingly found it difficult to communicate fully in Japanese, the reason being that I am studying at a university where many of the students are extremely proficient in English. This, with a combination of my shyness to use another language, has been a barrier for me, so having a friend I can practice with has done numbers for my proficiency level.


If you are unable to find native speakers to meet with or unable to take Japanese in a traditional classroom setting, I would recommend that you try out italki. This platform connects you with teachers/native speakers in your preferred language and the sessions are done through Skype. It is extremely affordable with each hour long class being about $8-20, so if you prefer online classes, this may be right for you.

I haven’t had a lesson with my sensei in a while due to how hectic my last semester was, but I plan on regularly scheduling classes with her when I return back to Ohio.

Listening to variety shows/J-dramas 

Although I haven’t had much time to do this, many of my friends have started to watch Japanese variety shows in order to further immerse themselves in their studies. It’s interesting, there are real Japanese commentators, and a lot of the time, there are words that are typed out on the screen to further emphasis funny or interesting things that are happening during the show. A lot of colloquial terms are used on the show, so it’s great for listening practice!

Sorry for creepily cropping out the sensei’s faces, but this is an example of how you can select your teacher based on rate, level in Japanese, and availability.

Noticed that I didn’t put anime on this list. I recently started watching anime while eating my lunch in the dorm kitchen. Whenever my friends would walk by, they would burst out laughing and start mocking the characters on the show. It wasn’t malicious or anything like that, it was just the fact that the characters themselves sounded unnatural.

It’s not to say that watching anime won’t increase your comprehension level! It’s just good to know that the way Japanese is used in anime may not be a good indicator of what normal everyday people say.

Signing up for the JLPT (Japanese Language proficiency test) 

For anyone who has been following my blog for the past months, you’ll know that I recently passed the JLPT N3 test. I wrote a blog about how I studied for the test and I plan on using the same method in order to prepare for the next level.

The test played a tremendous role in keeping me motivated to study Japanese. Being that the test is only offered twice a year in Japan and once in the US, this pushed me to study harder in order to meet that deadline. Through my studies, I learned lots of new grammar points along with Kanji, some of which I ended up learned a few months later in my more advanced classes! It was nice to feel a little more prepared than some of my peers and this kept me going as the amount of coursework increased.

In conclusion, these are just some of the ways I’ve tried to keep myself accountable for studying Japanese, but I think the most crucial tip is to find a hobby that is related to your interests in order to make it fun. I tried sitting down with a textbook to memorize character by character, but in the end, I found out that this wasn’t the best method for me and that’s okay!

Hope you guys found this helpful and I’ll see you next time!