Successful Learning: How To Self Study Japanese Alone.

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Oh, hey there!

Learning Japanese by yourself?

Yes, it’s possible to do that – millions of people are doing it all over the world. It takes a bit of work but you can truly make Japanese progress alone. I trust you, you’re smart if you’re that self-motivated.

So, here’s a how-to guide on how to self learn Japanese.

A 9 Step Guide on Learning By Yourself.

  • You’re going to learn the right mindset for learning
  • How to succeed and keep going
  • Why others fail
  • Some Japanese learning resources

Self Study Japanese

1. Step 1: What is your reason for learning Japanese?

Why are you learning Japanese? Some people want to live in Japan (strong motivator – needed for daily life). Others need it to speak with family (also very strong). Then there are people that are simply interested in culture, manga, anime and drama.

And finally… those that do it just because they want to.

Some of these reasons are strong motivators. Some are weak. Now, don’t worry. But, people with weak reasons can and do succeed. People with “strong” reasons fail quite often. They tend to forget why they’re learning, get bored and quit. You’ll learn exactly why people quit/fail in Step 2.

But, knowing your reason will:

  • serve as motivation (always remember why you started)
  • serve as a benchmark (have you reached your goal yet?)
  • allow you to see progress (you started with nothing and where are you now?)
  • give you a clear purpose. (for family, friends, anime, personal goal, etc.)

To do now: Write down your reason. Or better yet, leave a comment down below! Keeping your reason in mind will motivate you to keep going. So now, you know how to stay motivated.

  • Next step: How do you avoid quitting? Keep reading.

Step 2: Remember, consistency is important.

A lot of self-learners fail. They start learning, they buy a book, they stick with it for a week… and they begin to fall off. Why?

Many reasons. They get bored. They don’t see progress. They get distracted. Excuse #4. Excuse #5. Whatever. These small reasons are not important. But the biggest reason they fail is that they don’t understand consistency.

Now, I warn you. This part will sound like SELF-HELP preaching. And it is because… there is no one, not me, not the words on this page, no book, no app, no article that will help save you.

Only you can help yourself. I can’t do it for you.

If you truly want to succeed in Japanese, you need to brainwash yourself and understand that….

  • learning Japanese will take consistent time and consistent effort over a long period of time.

Learning Janese Guide: Linguajunkie

If you can’t, you’ll never get good at Japanese. You need to be consistent with learning. Just think about it for a moment…

  • Why do athletes practice consistently?
    • It doesn’t take a day. It takes a long time to get good. Then you have to maintain skill.
  • Why do bodybuilders spend most of their time in the gym?
    • Same as athletes. Serious progress takes a long time.
  • Why do people that eat burgers daily get really fat?
    • They eat burgers consistently.
  • Why are people that started programming at the age of 14 (and never stopped) so good now?
    • They may not have realized it as kids, but because they kept at it, they became good.
  • Why is your favorite singer so good at singing?
    • They’ve been singing since they were 16 and never stopped!

Time. Effort. Over a long period of time.

Some understand consistency. Others were lucky to develop it without thinking about it. This is the case with those that start young. For example, when parents that force their kids to learn piano. The kids keep it at because that’s all they know and they can easily continue. They don’t have to think about consistency. They were raised on it.

So, how do YOU become consistent?

First, I’ll tell you a good story. Then, you’ll learn specific ways in Steps 3 and 5.

An old Zen story: A student came to a Zen Master and said “Please give some wisdom that will help me pay attention.”

So, the old Master wrote “Attention” on a chalkboard. “Is that it?” Asked the student. So, the old Master wrote “Attention” again. “But that’s not wise or profound. Give me something that will shake my mind” whined the student. Again, the old Master wrote “Attention” on a chalkboard.

Attention. Attention. Attention. The student demanded “What does this Attention mean??” “Attention means attention” replied the master.

Moral: In order to pay attention, you must pay practice paying attention.

So, what’s the point of this story? It’s this.

In order to be consistent, you must be… consistent.

See, the student was looking for something “deeper” – that would shake his mind and stir his soul. Intellectual masturbation without any actual results. This is the mistake most learners make. Instead of practicing the damn thing, they go to read about the damn thing. Just like learning Japanese, same goes for acting classes, dancing classes, calligraphy classes, writing classes….

  • through physical practice, you develop the mental habits. Through the physical, you develop the mental.

So, to be consistent, you must practice being consistent. You must make a habit of doing it every day or every 5 days out of the week.

Okay, enough.

Let’s move on.

Step 3: When is the Best Time to Start Learning Japanese?

Yesterday. Last year. Five years ago. And of course, right now.

Everyone that has succeeded, or has seen some Japanese progress, will tell you the same thing — “I wish I started earlier.” That’s because they would have been tons  better thanks to extra time. Remember:

  • learning Japanese will take consistent time and consistent effort over a long period of time.

The next best time to start learning is today. Here’s why. Imagine that learning Japanese is like rolling a snowball. Look at routine #1.

Days Routine #1 Routine #2
Day 1 You roll it and it gets a little bigger – 3 inches in diameter. You roll it and it gets a little bigger – 3 inches in diameter.
Day 2 You roll it – now 3.2 inches in diameter You roll it – now 3.2 inches in diameter
Day 3 You skip this day. You roll it – now 3.4 inches in diameter
Day 4 You roll it – now it’s 3.4 inches in diameter. You roll it – now 3.6 inches in diameter

 Do you see? If you rolled it on day 3 and continued on day 4, you’d be much further ahead. But because you skipped it, you lost 2 things:

  • you LOST day 3’s progress
  • you lost future progress that could be made possible by day 3
    • and you can’t really gain this back

It’s gone now. But you do gain something when you do skip it. You’re now rolling ANOTHER snowball. Instead of practicing Japanese learning and strengthening that habit, you’re now practicing LAZINESS and INCONSISTENCY and you’re getting better at ’em. Like muscles, when you skip your biceps, they will grow weak and what you focus on (doing nothing/being lazy) will get stronger.

Note: This is also a good lesson in consistency.

So, that’s why right now is the best time to start. You can make Japanese progress right now. Then, tomorrow. And if you keep that snowball rolling, the better you get. But, the more you put it off, the more you lose as shown by my sweet snowball example.

If you don’t start now — starting things is a skill to be learned too — you likely never will.

Step 4: How Much Japanese Should You Learn a Day?

Okay, before you get excited, all “rah-rah” and try to spend the next 5 hours cramming, stop.

Do not overwhelm yourself. If you have an app or a learning program, do NOT do all the lessons right now.

  • Learners who steamroll through their first few days fail in the long run.

Learn for just 5-10 minutes and that’s it. When you’re done, celebrate. You might not think that’s enough… but this is a marathon, not a race. Yes, 5 minutes  of study won’t help you get fluent in the next 5 minutes but…

  • it will add up (see step 3) in the long run
  • it will help you become consistent
  • it will strengthen your learning habits (roll that snowball) and make it harder to quit
  • you will then be able to increase your study-time
    • just like in the gym, you start with 5 pound dumbbells, work your way up to 10, 15 and so on.

So, a learn a little bit. Let’s get specific now.

Step 5: Set A Small & Easy Goal Every Month.

Another reason most learners fail — they aim for goals like “I want to be fluent.” Oh yeah? How soon? How will you get there? When they realize they set a goal that they don’t know if they’ll ever reach – because it’s so big and vague – they quit.

Here’s what you do. Set a goal for yourself that is:

  • Small & Easy – why? So you can easily achieve it.
    • example:  learn 100 Japanese words in 1 month.
  • Measurable – why? You’ll know how much you have left to go.
    • example: 100 words is measurable.
  • Has a Deadline – why? You’ll know when to reach it by. Otherwise, you’ll be forever wading through the same learning materials and never making progress.
    • example: if you set for 1 month, make the deadline the end of the month: December 31st.

Doing this will guarantee that 1) your goal is a lot more realistic, 2) you’ll know how much progress you’ve actually made and 3) you’ll be inspired to aim a little higher – and make more progress. In other words, you’ll become consistent.

To do now:

  • Write down your small Japanese goal for the month. Write it down in the comments!

Step 6: Learning Japanese Alone.

Alright, now that you’ve got those crucial concepts in your head, let’s start.

A. The Basics: The Alphabet (Hiragana and Katakana). Honestly, you can learn this all online for free. Forget about kanji until you have these mastered. Or you can get yourself a beginner Japanese textbook to make life easier. (Keep reading for info about textbooks).

  • Here’s what you should do ideally:
    • Learn Hiragana first and then Katakana.
    • Hiragana is one of three Japanese alphabets. How many Hiragana are there? There are 46 letters/characters in total.
    • Katakana is the second kind of alphabet; it has 46 characters and the same sounds as Hiragana. It just looks different. So why do you need Katakana? The Japanese use Katakana for scientific terms and foreign words that have been adopted into Japanese ( coffee: コーヒー, koohii ). So, that’s why you need to know it. No other reason.
    • When will you learn Kanji? Learn Kanji after you’re done with Hiragana and Katakana.
      • You’ll learn it along the way with whatever textbook you go with so don’t worry too much.
    • “If there’s the hiragana, why do we need Kanji?” Good question. Two reasons:
    • 1) Japanese writing has no spaces so imagine reading everything like this – canyoureadthisisitfunforyoudoyoulikeityousickpervert?
    • So, Kanji makes reading faster. With Hiragana alone, you’d have a hard time reading, telling the context and knowing where one word starts and the other ends.
    • No Kanji: わたしはがくせいでがっこうにまいにちいきます。Ouch.
    • With Kanji: 私は学生で学校に毎日に行きます。Much better!
    • 2) There are tons of words that have the same spelling in Japanese. So, if we went with Hiragana, how would you tell the difference? You couldn’t. Kanji though has different symbols and that’s how you know which word is which.

B. Speaking & Listening:  EVERY Japanese learner wants to speak and understand Japanese well. As a self-learner, there’s nothing better than Audio Lessons & Video Lessons – where you can hear, learn and master actual Japanese conversation. You can re-listen as much as you want until you get better. Look for Online Japanese Courses that specialize in this. My suggestion is JapanesePod101.com.

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 6.55.25 PMYou get tons of lessons that get you speaking from Beginner Level and work your way up. Great way to learn at your pace.

Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101

C. Reading & Writing: In order to get these two skills down, get a beginner Japanese textbook. Textbooks are organized to get you learning from knowing NOTHING to learning the alphabet, reading, writing, basic grammar, vocabulary and much more. Having one will be very useful and will serve as a friendly guide into the language. Some suggestions are:

Genki: Recommended & used at most colleges/schools.

Genki Textbook
Genki: Elementary Japanese, Vol. 1

A learner favorite. This has great ratings on Amazon.
TextbookJapanese from Zero: Vol. 1

D. Supplemental Material:  Alright, at this point, we’ve covered the majority of what you’ll need to learn at your pace. Would you need anything else?

  • Grammar
  • Kanji.

The truth is, no matter what textbook you go for, you will learn some grammar and kanji. However, if you’re interested, there are excellent books dedicated to helping you master these. Here are some suggestions below:

But what if you already have some book, learning program or app that you bought? Good. Then use that.

Any start is a good start when you’re a beginner. Worrying about “starting perfect with the BEST THING” and digging through all the available resources will kill your learning.

Too much choice is bad for you. It slows down decision making.

It will slow down or stop your Japanese learning.

If you already have some book, program or app, stick with it. See step 9 about “sticking” with things. Don’t worry about having the BEST possible program or start. Only people looking to fail do that.

Step 8: Bonus Learning Ideas

  • Subscribe to the Japanese Word of the Day
    • Write down the words in your notebook every day.
    • This is an easy way to drill some Japanese and keep your habit going.
  • Get Easy Japanese News by NHK
    • Read the same article 3x in a day for reading practice
    • Copy it out by hand to practice writing
    • Read it out lout for speaking practice
  • Copy out Japanese social media posts from Twitter or Facebook by hand
  • Watch 1 episode of a drama and force yourself to repeat every line

Step 9: What Next? Stay Focused & Finish.

Alright. You have some material to get you going. What’s next? Well, aside from starting to learn…

First of all, remember the first 3 steps and your success is guaranteed.

And just as importantly, stay focused on your learning material and finish it. Finishing it is a good sign that if you can take down one textbook, you can definitely succeed with the language. If you call it quits on a piece of learning material, who’s to say you won’t quit on the language as well? Be a finisher. Don’t quit one and jump to another because “you’re bored.”

Anyone can jump from one thing to the next. Very few finish it to the end. And those are the ones that tend to develop the learning habits to make good Japanese progress.

What do you think?

If you find this helpful, do print it out and keep it by your desk. Steps 1, 2, 3 and 5 are particularly important that most learners never grasp.

Be sure to leave a comment below!

– The Main Junkie

P.S. I highly recommend this for Japanese learners. If you REALLY want to learn to Japanese with effective lessons by real teachers – Sign up for free at JapanesePod101 (click here) and start learning!learn with japanesepod101

 

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