Can You Learn Japanese Simply By Having Fun?

The concept sounds so beautiful: Achieve success in the massive and challenging goal of learning Japanese in nothing but a pleasurable and enjoyable way. We’ve all heard of “Mr. All-Fun Learner.” You may have even talked with him directly. Here is his usual speech: “Yeah man, I learned Japanese just from watching TV (or insert any other form of entertainment). If you have fun, you learn, and that’s all you need!”

Can You Learn Japanese Simply By Having Fun 2

Excellent. What could be more appealing than this guy. And he is often convincing because his Japanese is pretty freaking good. He must know what he’s talking about. If he can do it, so can anyone.

Well sorry Mr. All-Fun Learner. You sir are a liar.

Sort of . . .

People that make the above statements aren’t really lying, they are oversimplifying for the sake of reaching the core of what they did the most of in their studies. How do I know this?

Because I am a close relative of Mr. All-Fun Learner. Don’t worry, I don’t ever go as extreme as the above. But I have had the following conversation multiple times:

Question I’ve been asked 1327 times:

How did you learn Japanese and become fluent? 

My answer:

Through TV, movies, books, comedy, manga, anime, and other forms of entertainment.

Which sounds like:

I learned just by having fun!

So why didn’t I just say the following?

“I learned through native entertainment and using an advanced online spaced repetition system known as Anki, where you input sentences from textbooks and other study resources and learn them over time on ever expanding intervals while at the same time creating a constant passive immersion environment on my Ipod to match my active studying and using a book that categorizes all kanji through user created stories, keywords and breaking apart of radicals . . .”

Because it’s long, confusing, will result in follow up questions and require much further explanation. Now do you think I want to do this to every person that asks me this question?

I don’t believe my answer is necessarily deceptive because most of my learning and mastering of the language came from entertainment. Yes in the beginning, I spent a good amount of time on Anki with beginner textbooks and RTK (and still continue to use Anki reviewing and inputting new sentences even now), which isn’t included in my statement. But in the long scheme of things, these represent a small fraction of the time that was spent on becoming fluent. I would say 90-95% of my time was spent on entertainment. This isn’t to say that 5-10% is minor, considering over the years that 5-10% equates probably close to 500-1000 hours of non-entertainment study time.

So let me try to make it as clear as possible:

You can’t learn Japanese solely by having fun

Oh I can already feel a few comments coming below stating that this is bullshit and wrong, since this is exactly what they did. Before you write your comment up please do some flashback analysis of everything you did to become fluent. Don’t just recall the huge majority of everything that you did. And also, you might want to wait till the end of this post series as the concept of fun is key to grasp before understanding why I am making this statement. And then you can criticize all you want. Of course this is my opinion and there are exceptions to everything and I hate overgeneralizing.

But this is just the tip of this issue and one that I feel is developing and has an ever growing need for full explanation on this site and sites where immersion and fun are central roles. Don’t worry, there is a positive message to get out of all of this and tactics to follow.

I hope I haven’t destroyed all your ambitions of one never ending roller-coaster ride of fun on your path to Japanese fluency. Pure fun like this just doesn’t exist. But don’t get depressed just yet. Pure fun isn’t as powerful as real fun. I’ll try not to get too philosophical on the subject but think about it like this:

Fun is only fun because it isn’t always fun

Can You Learn Japanese Simply By Having Fun 3

Question: which video game sounds more appealing to you?

1. As soon as you start the game and build a character, you instantly get all the items, abilities, skills, and levels with no challenges, and just breeze through every stage, area, and boss until the end.

2. When you start the game and build your character you start off weak and inexperienced. It takes time, with struggles, defeats, setbacks, victories and wins, newly acquired skills, items and levels.

Have you ever played a video game in god mode after finishing the game? How long was god mode fun for? Can you imagine just buying the game and only playing in god mode?

This mentality will save you again and again, mitigating frustration that inevitably awaits.

Not a video game fan (and you are on this site?) and want something more concrete? Think about people out their who love their jobs (they are out there). Regardless of how much fun their job is to them, do you think that there is no work? Do you think that they just have one giant smile on their face that disturbingly never fades? Do you think a pro basketball player who absolutely loves the game really enjoys practicing 1000 + free throw shots a day, every day, for years?

Now that we’ve got this down, it’s time to face an unfortunate truth:

There are some people who hate Anki and/or RTK

No!!! That is like hating new born kittens right? But it is true. And I think you all can already envision the number one reason for hating it.

“It isn’t fun. It is boring. It is a chore.

And what happens when you aren’t having fun but think you should be? You search for something else. Another program. Another website. Another tool. Anything that you will find more enjoyable. And so your quest takes you from detour to detour, all in the search for this unobtainable “master Japanese while having fun.” Lost time, lost dreams, bad Japanese.

You don’t like Anki or RTK, or at least you don’t find it enjoyable and fun? Does this leave you in a predicament of wanting to use the ultimate weapons but at the same time avoiding them? Well you aren’t alone, as this comment (which was also the inspiration for this series) on a previous post shows.

So the final task in conquering the fun equation is how to effectively and strategically match fun and work to achieve success.

Can You Learn Japanese Simply By Having Fun 4

Focus on the Results

As I’ve already mentioned, you don’t grind for hours to level in a video game because you like repetitive actions where nothing new or exciting happens. You do it to get new items, experience points, to level up, and enjoy the game more. You are focused on results.

Don’t endlessly grind

Focusing on results are important. However, don’t go overboard. Would you enjoy playing a game that was nothing but grinding and leveling followed by more grinding and leveling. Without the fun quests, dungeons, towns and interaction you would give up quickly.

Don’t save everything fun for later

Some people like to think “I’ll just work my ass off now and will have fun later.” Unfortunately, many of these people never get to this later. Balance is your friend.

The balance formula:

Fun + Work = Fun + Success

Mini-victories make work more fun

Enjoy small wins. Enjoy remembering new words and kanji. Enjoy being able to say things that you couldn’t say before. These small rewards produce pleasure and provide a fun aspect to the actual hard work itself.

Use your initial Japanese burst wisely

When you first starting Japanese you are in the honeymoon phase. Everything you do with Japanese is fun and exciting because it is all new. Most learning tools are fun. Probably even Rosetta stone. Use this euphoric time to get as much work out as possible.

Exercise Maximum Fun Efficiency

For beginning to intermediate levels, things that should be fun will feel like work. There is nothing more painful than trying to read books you can’t understand or watch TV that makes no sense. Your best plan of attack is to increase their fun capacity in whatever way you can. A few ideas:

– Music is enjoyable without understanding Japanese.
– Listen/watch videos you have already seen in English before you started studying Japanese.
– Read books you have read before in English.
– Read manga where the pictures alone are enough to tell the story.
– Watch videos where the dialogue is fairly irrelevant.
– Use easier native material.

Keep that urge to understand

I once wrote a post on how studying makes studying more enjoyable. Not understanding media that you really want to understand is primary motivation and having it constantly in your face has immeasurable benefits.

More fun?

What have some of you found to make things fun when there is little to be found?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

Can You Learn Japanese Simply By Having Fun? — 38 Comments

  1. I’m looking forward to hearing your definition of what fun is and what makes something fun or not (if that is what you are writing about in the next article). I think it’s interesting that, at least for me, what is fun can change from day to day depending on how rested and motivated I am. Take RTK for example; Some days I’m looking forward to doing the reviews and making up new stories and I’m having fun doing it, whereas other days when I am tired and unmotivated it’s the last thing I want to do and I have to force myself getting it done.

    • Some people find RTK and Anki amusing, and that’s great. I’m not one of them though. There are definently many ways to define fun. And one can argue, “Well, Anki is fun!” to defend the immersion method’s spin on having fun while studying, but in the end it’s still work. However, even though I don’t always find that work “fun”, I still find it exhilarating and therapeutic. It’s not something I find boring though, just at times tiring.

      While other methods may have ways to learn a language that are literally boring. Take for instance Pimsleur. I tried it for a couple weeks many years ago, and it quickly got incredibly boring. At first, I actually really liked it. However, as I kept going with it, the pace of the CD was just so slow, the lack of background sound eerie and the voice of the narrators dreary. That’s the difference between work that is exhilarating, hard and tiring and work that is just boring. So in a way, yes, the immersion method does emphasize fun and can be more entertaining. But it doesn’t mean it’s not hard work. And for some, taking apart native materials to learn from or being in their immersion environment when they don’t understand anything may even be boring, because everyone has their own feelings they perceive as they go through the motions.

  2. Thank you for writing this post. I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of what you have to say because a series like this would have a saved me a lot of time and frustration had I read it when I started years ago.

    I definitely agree that just fun isn’t enough. At least not in the way that most people learning their first language probably think of when they start learning Japanese. I actually find most things related to language learning more fun than watching TV at this point, but TV was the main thing I latched onto for the first few years and it was very ineffective without more significant investments of time in an SRS, etc.

  3. “Yeah man, I learned Japanese just from watching TV (or insert any other form of entertainment). If you have fun, you learn, and that’s all you need!”

    Sounds like AJATT -_-.

    • Although AJATT may give off the message if you don’t actually read everything that you can learn with all fun, if you actually read pretty much every post, you’d see there are a lot of posts about mental tools, getting the right mindset, etc.

      There are also posts talking about how to deal with the intermediate levels, or the intermediate blues or whatever, overcoming burnout, etc.

      So no, he doesn’t just talk about learning ONLY using fun, he talks about using fun for most of it. He talks about Kanji and sentences, burnout, losing motivation too, you know, the work aspect of it.

      Now I’d just like to ask, did you actually take the time to read the site thoroughly or did you just glance through it?

      • “Now I’d just like to ask, did you actually take the time to read the site thoroughly or did you just glance through it?”

        I’d just like to ask, is that a purely rhetorical question designed to aggravate?

        Now, I’ll grant I know very little about ajatt, but googling the website gives you the following self description:
        “A comprehensive method for self-teaching Japanese (or any other language) quickly, enjoyably, and to native-level fluency — all before ever visiting the country.”

        Not much about “hard work” mentioned there. It may well be true that the website also contains all kind of posts about the difficulties, but that’s a bit like pointing out that drug commercials will list side-effects in small print at the bottom.
        If, as it seems suggested to me by the complaints, ajatt promotes itself primarily as easy and enjoyable and sweeps the hardship to less visible posts, is it any surprise that some people would complain?

        Compare this with the framing present here in JLUP: here the pervasive metaphor is that of a RPG journey, which I would say makes it much clearer that some of it will be though: that there will be grinding amongst the satisfaction and achievement.

        Instead of just lambasting people who have negative opinions of that which you support, I find it better to actually at least attempt to understand where they are coming from.

        • Listen, I’m not here to cause any problems, but I have some things to say about your response.

          You openly admit to know not very much about AJATT, yet you proceed to make assumptions about it?

          I’ve been on both AJATT and JALUP for a quite long time, and visit both frequently, so I’m not taking any sides here, since both are pretty similar. It’s like comparing Advil and Tylenol, different names for the same cause.

          Also, considering you just made an opinion based off a sentence description from a google search, I’d like to respond to that too.

          Essentially you are judging a book by its cover. Of course for the “slogan” of a website, it’s going to be something like that. People can go everywhere and read and hear that learning japanese is hard and impossible to ever become good, Kanji is hard, etc. It’s littered all over the internet and in ignorant people’s minds. However, isn’t it great to see “learning japanese can be fun, and you can get good too.” rather than seeing “Learning Japanese can be fun but it’s hard too and you can get discouraged and lose motivation.” What’s better to read?

          The slogan of a website is to just attract viewers, since it is impossible to summarize several hundred articles into 1 sentence. The slogan will attract viewers so THEN they will actually read the whole site, so then that is where they can find out about the entire truth of learning Japanese. But since you openly admitted you know very little about the website you are making assumptions about, I suggest you look a little deeper past a sentence description of the website.

          Once again, like I said I am not taking sides that AJATT or JALUP is better, again the Advil and Tylenol example, and I’ve read both sites from “cover to cover” essentially, and both are good and just have different views of the same thing, So don’t get the idea that I am just an AJATT crusader.

          • You simply keep missing my point. I’ll try to illustrate it more clearly with this quote:

            “However, isn’t it great to see “learning japanese can be fun, and you can get good too.” rather than seeing “Learning Japanese can be fun but it’s hard too and you can get discouraged and lose motivation.” What’s better to read?”

            You assumption seems to be that everyone must choose the same option as you. Arguably your choice of phrasing is a bit self serving, as it it possible to say exactly the same thing for the second option without sounding so negative (e.g., by simply reversing the sentence), but even so, plenty of people actually would prefer the second option, and I’m probably one of them (though I tend to ignore slogans).

            But I have to point out that I’m not taking sides between the websites, because, honestly, I don’t care. What prompted me to answer you was the fact that you were lambasting someone for feeling a certain way without seemingly first trying to understand why they might even fell that way. My issue (like a great deal of what tends to interest me) is a meta level one.

  4. Here’s the deal, considering both AJATT & JALUP are pretty much the same method, it looks negatively on you to dismiss it after admittedly reading just the google description and not the site in depth. AJATT & JALUP both are perhaps the best and Most comprehensive out there. Being admittedly (allegedly) Khat’s relative, it’s a shame you two are not working together for the greater good. This would be a longer rant but typing on a cell is tiring.

    • @Alberto Do you mean you think Khat and Adshap should work together, or those two commenters? I don’t want to get into this fight about AJATT and JALUP, but just because two bloggers have a similar idea in mind doesn’t mean it’s a shame that they aren’t working together, as if they are at arms or something. Because I don’t really see that. It’s just two different guys giving advice on the immersion method, and there are lots of other people out on the internet doing the same thing, such as the guy from Hacking Chinese, and so on. People can choose which blogs they want to follow, and that’s fine. There doesn’t need to be any war created over it.

  5. @Rachel, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for pointing out I essentially put my foot in my mouth by mixing up all that in my head. Part of my rant (as I called it) was for (mostly) directed at @uvauva. I now believe that the proper way to express it was like @ライトニング did. Specially the comparison between Tylenol/Panadol and AJATT/JALUP.

    To Adshap I must give the benefit of the doubt and wait for his next installment. The post did rub me the wrong way at an emotional level. I felt it incongruous primarily because I’ve seen both methods to differ only in cosmetics, or so I feel. Yes it might be wishful thinking on my part but seeing a collaboration between Adshap and Khatzumoto would be very interesting indeed.

    Oh well, I should keep away from a keyboard given the results.

    Please accept my apologies all involved.

  6. The study needs to be there, but at the same time, there needs to be the fun aspects or else the study will mean nothing, and fall apart.

    I have been playing a great number of games and listening to a ton of songs, and reading a ton of manga, but without the actual process of adding sentences into anki and studying/reviewing them, progress would grind to a halt. I wouldn’t be finding what I studied in what I play with, meaning play would be less fun because I wouldn’t be seeing my learning progress firsthand, and without seeing the progress it would become frustrating to continue the immersion because I would feel stuck, as if I was not progressing.

    At the same time, without the fun immersion, I would quickly tire of the study, because, again, progress would be hard or imposable to see. I wouldn’t feel like I am learning anything because I couldn’t see how my progress is allowing me to read and understand real Japanese.

    It takes a special combination of both study and fun play time for a language to really sink in, in a way that doesn’t make you want to tear your hair out.

  7. This is so true. People get better at things through adversity, setbacks and obstacles. They challenge us to work harder. We enjoy the goals we finally reach so much more, and we grow stronger and better. Reminds me of the theme from the first Matrix movie. When things were too easy, people were miserable. Adversity had to be built into the experiences.

  8. I am having high hopes for this series :) It appears to be aimed at my level.
    I’m grinding away my kanji as well as doing some sentences. However, I’m not at the point where the “fun” begins. Sure, RTK can be enjoyable at times, but when you’re exhausted from a day of work and class… it’s hard to get through (and I confess, I do skip days here and there.)

    I’ve tried doing some reading – but it’s so tedious that it’s not fun. I’ve tried watching shows without subtitles – but understand only fragments here and there. The only thing I’ve managed is to actively listen while using subtitles – but I feel like I’m cheating. Even though I do learn from it…
    I’d love to find a “fun” activity for the noob :)

    • “I’ve tried doing some reading – but it’s so tedious that it’s not fun.”

      It’s probably hard to find anything you’d really be interested in reading before finishing at least RTK and the J-E stage…

      Maybe there are other people who can give you some resources that can allow you some genuinely japanese enjoyment, but in this early stages it’s likely to be just nuggets here and there.

      My perspective when doing those stages was that I had to make sure I was advancing at a pace I felt I could actually live with. For instance, something like 6 months for RTK might have a fairly light daily load of Kanji, but that also means it has a much much higher cost in terms of motivation.
      So something I’d suggest first of all is to look at your daily pace with RTK and at what’s the estimate for when you should finish it. It that something you can live with? Then great. Does it look a bit too far away? Then maybe consider increasing your daily load by 1 or 2 cards. It might not seem like much day by day, but you’ll be saving days, if not weeks, in the future.
      By the way, implicit in this is the fact that you should give yourself a specific daily goal, a constant number of Kanji you want to go through everyday single day. Fix that number and try to keep it as best as you can unless you get REALLY (and I mean REALLY, not just a little) overwhelmed. A solid routine is much more powerful than wild spikes here and there because it is self motivating: eventually you will feel genuinely obliged to keep with it: an obligation of your lazy present self not to waste all the hard work the persevering past yous put in. :P

      Another thing to take into account about avoiding those days when you are too exhausted (which you must avoid as much as possible, if you want a steady routine), is that the earlier in the day you do your reviews the easier they are. You just have much more mental energy, fail less, and generally feel better about the all process. So if you have, say, anki on your smarthphone, just go ahead and sneak in as much “early day” reviews as you possibly can.

      • Unfortunately, on my very busy days I’m up at 5:30am and am busy until 9:30pm. (Full days of work + class.)
        I have been shoving my Japanese in my break times whenever I can. Which makes my kanji progression sporadic. My schedule is a two week cycle – so for two weeks I can do 20 kanji per day no problem. And then for two weeks I struggle to do 5-10 kanji per day. I’ve not even calculated how long it’ll take… I don’t want to see the date and become demotivated :P

        But, I shall try to shove in some RTK earlier in the day when I can. I have noticed when I study my Anki at 10pm it can get really frustrating as I start confusing keywords (“wait, was that admonish or chastise?”). If you’re trying to do this though… when do you study new kanji? I’ve been doing the new stuff on my lunch break and then anki when I get home before bed. Should I study new stuff before I sleep so the new kanji in my deck is a review of last night’s information?

        I also have a two hour period of mindless work where my hands are busy, so I end up watching a movie then. But with subtitles. I do make a point to listen to what is being said. However, since everything seems to say subtitles are bad, I feel guilty for doing so. I’d like to hear if there’s a good technique to get the most out of watching a sub. Right now I just try to listen and then read the subs. I get all happy when I was right about what was said. Every once in a while I’ll repeat a word or phrase in my head. Either due to a new word, new conjugation of a verb or a new grammar format. Though for some reason, I’m always repeating はやく no matter how often I hear it.

        I don’t have a smart phone (I cannot justify over $500 per year on one at this point in time), but I am getting a tablet (Nexus 10) soon. Which I hope will help me shove in additional 5-minute study sessions through the day :) Including during class. Shhhh.

        • “If you’re trying to do this though… when do you study new kanji? I’ve been doing the new stuff on my lunch break and then anki when I get home before bed. Should I study new stuff before I sleep so the new kanji in my deck is a review of last night’s information?”

          I might try flipping them a bit, yes. I found that reviews suffer less from being done in small disjoint chunks than learning Kanji does. You sort of want to learn new Kanji in as big a “block” as you can, because the stories and the shapes feed and reinforce one another. That’s sort of the great advantage of learning Kanji the RTK way…

          “My schedule is a two week cycle – so for two weeks I can do 20 kanji per day no problem. And then for two weeks I struggle to do 5-10 kanji per day. I’ve not even calculated how long it’ll take… I don’t want to see the date and become demotivated :P”

          Ok, so that means you definitely can’t have a fixed number of Kanji all the time. But you can have a fixed number on working weeks, and a fixed number on non working weeks. This gives you much clearer goals, and that itself is a sort of motivation to achieve them. Then, you can calculate your estimate for when you expect to finish, and maybe be a little disheartened. But you can actually turn that demotivating deadline into a motivation! Just calculate how much time you’ll be saving if you just do a single extra new Kanji each day. Gain motivation by thinking of the time you are saving yourself, rather than the time you have left!

          As for the whole subtitle business, I’m actually not the one who can help. I’ve basically eschewed listening for the most part in the year I’ve spent learning japanese so far. Since my primary goal really was reading anyway, I ended up dropping listening in favor of absolute adherence to my Anki reviews because listening with a small vocabulary is super frustrating. Now that I actually have a more decent vocabulary I’m starting to listen again.
          Note that this may have set me back a little on that count, so I’m not exactly recommending you do this. In fact, you certainly seem to have a setup that encourages listening more than mine, so I’d say you should keep doing it.

  9. “Can you imagine just buying the game and only playing in god mode?”

    Aren’t there entire genres of game pretty much dedicated to this?

    • While it is true that I haven’t played many recent video games in the past years, I have never come across a game where you immediately have everything maxed out right from the beginning while at the same time there being absolutely no challenge, no way to lose, and nothing but instant victory.

      I would though be curious to know if this genre does exist out there and what exactly is the mentality of the players.

  10. I’m one of those people who strongly dislikes using RTK and Anki. I quit using RTK about 2 years ago and get burnt out on Anki very quickly.
    For my style of learning, RTK and Anki are not ‘ultimate weapons’. RTK didn’t help me at all, and Anki a lot of time feels like a time drain that turns my brain into a sieve.
    Textbooks, extensive reading and learning kanji through vocabulary work far better for me. My comprehension improves when I’m studying grammar from textbooks and gathering vocab from novels.
    JALUP is a great resource, has a lot of helpful tips and is a source of encouragement (you convinced me that J-J definitions can be very useful) but it is disheartening to see RTK and Anki pushed as the only way to learn with the inference that your Japanese will be bad if you don’t use them. This is an attitude I see frequently on the online Japanese learning community and there seems to be strong discouragement to try out different methods.
    I understand that your method is based around RTK and Anki and that they’ve worked for a lot of people. But it just doesn’t seem like the best advice to tell people to ignore their feelings about a method and insist that they keep using them even though they might not be effective for them.

    • It is true on this site that I constantly push for Anki and RTK use. And it is also true that this “fun” series is to help people who want to use the 2 but are struggling because they are finding them boring.

      However, I never discourage people from using other methods. The part about being careful about constantly searching for new methods isn’t to attack people who don’t use the above two, but to warn people to avoid the search looking for the perfectly fun tool.

      Check out this post which reflects my view:

      http://japaneselevelup.com/2011/11/13/mapping-out-your-strategy-guide/

  11. One other tip for maximizing fun at beginning to intermediate levels: find easier media. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize this, but some manga/books/TV/movies are much, much easier than others. I had good luck with よつばと! for manga and ダーリンは外国人 for a movie (it also has exact subs, which is another good way to make things easier). I’ve also found that dubbed movies/TV are generally easier to understand (probably because the voice actors are better at enunciating and it’s recorded in a studio?), but unfortunately the subs are never exact.

      • Ooog…I totally agree. I love the Manga and the movie idea, but there have got to be fluent Gaijin who can also act…My first time watching that movie, I was in tears because the story was beautiful…but on repeat watchings I started to notice how much I hated the acting of one of the most important characters…Especially horrible is when he is supposed to show any level of emotion besides bemused…

    • I do agree that doing stuff below your level is a good idea (Watching 電車男 the drama version, the Japanese was so easy I understood 90% at least), but I think there can be draw backs, such as thinking you are better than you are.

      Somebody might get the impression they are better than they are, which is dangerous. I think watching stuff above your level is just as good because the only way to get better at it is to actually watch it.

      Same goes for reading, while now I can read most books enough to understand plot, storyline, specific details and etc, advice books and wikipedia articles without difficulty, there is still room for improvement.

      Because if the stuff is way above you, there are so many things you can learn from it :)

  12. I’m really enjoying this series of posts – I think it is important to point out that learning a language can be tough and disheartening and feel very much devoid of what many would consider fun. It keeps bringing me back to something I learned in school. Most of my friends in college were music education majors, and while I never understood any of their music jargon about scales and tones and periods in music history, we did have a lot of good conversations about learning. The thing that stuck with me the most came from a professor of theirs that would begin class every day by prompting a definition from the class. “What is education?” he would ask. “What is music?” That sort of idea.

    Which brings me (surprise!) to his definition of fun. The definition that they decided on, after a class period worth of discussion, was something along the lines of “an activity that is neither too hard nor too easy”. It is the “flow” concept that is the core to many video games – as you have indirectly referenced in your analogy to video games in this series (Love it! This website so speaks my language X3). Like in video games, fun requires some sort of challenge for a task to remain interesting and not get boring, but at the same time it can’t be too difficult or it becomes too frustrating. I’ve read articles on flow online in connection to video games (totally google it! So interesting) and I believe that somewhere in the history of AJATT there was a post on it as well in relation to learning Japanese (too long ago for me to go searching for it, and I’m probably going to rehash some of his ideas, sorry ^^;).

    I think it is this definition of fun that really gets at me when I am studying. When working with native material for immersion it can be really hard to find material that gets at that sweet point. When you start out as a beginner, a text book is fun because you’re so excited, but native material is so dauntingly difficult that it becomes frustrating and very un-fun. There are kid’s books, but as mentioned already on the site, they either become easy quickly or are hard in weird ways – because they’re targeted at Japanese children who can already speak the language. Then there are Japanese graded readers, but I haven’t had luck with those either. They are supposed to be in varying levels based on difficulty, but because of the random vocabulary I have attained with the self-study immersion method a lot of the vocab it expected me to know or not know didn’t match up with my Japanese lexicon. It missed my narrow band of fun between hard and easy by defining words I knew already and skipping the ones I didn’t.

    In my opinion, the very nature of learning by native-material immersion is /by this definition/ un-fun for the beginner and intermediate, because of the difficulty in locating native material at your level. There is very little that will be at that nice sweet spot in the beginning. You really just have to push through it and celebrate all of the little victories that you have of “oh I recognized a word!” or “oh my gosh I learned that grammar form yesterday!” instead of focusing on what you don’t know. You can also learn to enjoy immersion from a different perspective and do things like enjoy the awesome cinematography of the film you can’t understand, or the funny voices in the anime even though you don’t know exactly what they are saying. All of the tips from part three of the series are right on for this goal. And the fun will come! Japanese becomes more fun as you go because :
    A. You are more likely to find material that is understandable yet challenging off the bat
    B. If you don’t find that material right away you have more Japanese tools at your disposal to find more (Though now it’s easier than ever! Yay Nayugen!)
    C. Your fun starts being derived not only from the satisfaction of understanding Japanese, but also from the entertainment of the source material, which can be pretty darn entertaining. :D

    In conclusion, it’d be really, really awesome to find a way to systematically grade all native material to skill level, because in a perfect world, that would make Japanese fun all the time. But for now, keep looking for material that fits you, and if it is too boring or too hard, either try to find something else or push through it for next time. Every tiny thing you learn is one more step towards the Japanese fun that awaits. :D
    (Sorry for the potential TL:DR, fun and learning are both topics that are way too interesting for me. ^^;)

    • “In conclusion, it’d be really, really awesome to find a way to systematically grade all native material to skill level, because in a perfect world, that would make Japanese fun all the time”

      That”s one of the major driving forces behind nayugen.com. All native material is ranked by skill level.

  13. I like a lot of these tips. Just wanted to add that since learning is much more fun (or pleasurable) than reviewing, sprinting all out at the start often leads people to run right into a wall (of reviews) that they never get past.

    I’d advise pushing back the honeymoon phase as long as possible. Play with the language a little. Don’t commit. Learn just a few words. Some hiragana. Then learn some more. Think carefully about whether it’s something you really want to commit to–not with all of your time for a few months but with some of your time for years. But keep on learning a few words, so few that it never becomes a duty, or something you “must” do.

    I think the longer you can flirt with a language (or any subject) like this, and then the more seriously you commit, the more likely the honeymoon turns into a long and rewarding marriage.

    On the flip side, the quicker people get into honeymoon periods, and the more they “grind” out in them, the quicker it seems, they burn out–and move on to some other subject or language (for, again, another short time).

  14. One thing that I have found really helpful in getting through the RTK grind so far (not done yet though, still got a 1000 left :P) is something called the Pomodoro Technique.

    The basic idea of the Pomodoro Technique is that you set a timer to 25 minutes, and then you start working on the task you want to complete. One such period of 25 minutes is called a Pomodoro (tomato in Italian).

    During a Pomodoro the goal is to focus 100% on the task at hand and to eliminate all possible distractions. Once the 25 minutes are up you put a mark on a piece of paper to indicate that you have completed the Pomodoro and then you take a 5 minute break. Every 4 Pomodoros you take a longer break of 20 minutes or more.

    There is more to the Pomodoro Technique but that is the gist of it. You can read more about it here: http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/

    Now, the reason why I think it’s so helpful is because 25 minutes seem to be about the limit that I can focus on any given task. After that point I usually start to think about something else or look for distractions in the environment and then my productivity drops drastically. Using the Pomodoro Technique you can prevent this from happening by disconnecting from the task and taking a break right when you start to lose focus.

    Another reason why I love the Pomodoro Technique is that you get a sense of accomplishment every time you finish one, because you know that you spent the last 25 minutes being as productive as possible, and in addition to that you are rewarded with a 5 minute break. Therefore even the most boring tasks can become much more manageable when you break them up in this way.

  15. I can’t agree more, but I’m doing only fun. My equation is fun x fun = fun. I have had no balance lately. I haven’t done my Anki reviews for a week. It’s a good job I don’t have many cards in my deck. All I have done is sit down at my computer and watching dramas and listening to music. At least I’m still learning.

  16. Honestly, I think learning Japanese is nearly all about attitude. It is especially so when it comes to having fun and learning at the same time. My point being is just this — Japanese absolutely will not be enjoyable all of the time. For me it has been difficult and boring and hard numerous times. RTK was not fun. Learning grammar was not fun. Enjoying native material which requires me to pull out my dictionary every sentence and focusing absolutely all of the time is often tough and hard work. Enjoying shows where I don’t understand anything isn’t also something I would generally classify as fun, at least not on a comparable level to other things.

    But there is satisfaction in all of those things, and to add to that — it really doesn’t have to be boring all of the time. I’ve managed to have fun a lot by just varying what I do. I pull a sentence from an episode of an anime there, a sentence from an article there, a sentence from that Japanese batsu game Gaki no Tsukai, and the likes.

    This is especially so in the beginning. Everything will be hard and go slowly, but if you pull enough sentences and the likes from things that catches your attention, you will eventually be able to chip away at harder things.

    If you want to watch anime but want to understand it as well, do this trick — watch something you already watched before in English, but in Japanese. Don’t want to analyze every word and learn it — aka you want to enjoy yourself and not just study like crazy? Then don’t, and just catch a word whenever it fancies you. Don’t go overboard, but don’t be too lazy either.

    I think you need to combine the two for the optimal form of study, honestly. Having somewhat fun, but still learning at the same time. The trick I mentioned just before is something I’ve done and has kept me both motivated and given me a lot of energy, and on top of that, I’ve learnt a lot as well. It’s akin to balancing it out instead of going on full power all of the time. I used to get tired easily because I was always focusing, and it was really hard. Thanks to things like this, I can just learn words I really care about and I can last for a lot, lot longer than I did before.

    I guess what I’m trying to say in this messy post is that, we’re not robots, I don’t think that the optimal way of studying for us is memorizing a vocabulary sheet of a hundred words per day — because even if you could do it for long time, it’s not stable in the long run. Learning Japanese is a long journey — and in my opinion, something that you should make sure to run in a pace that makes you go forward, but still have energy in the middle.

    Finding these small pockets of fun, having a positive attitude and trying to have fun, is something I really consider vital to my Japanese studies these days.

    PS: I can’t recommend comedy enough, to be honest. Because it’s instant reward, and you don’t have to understand things perfectly with a lot of humor, and on top of that you can learn at the same time. The best part if you ask me is that things are exaggerated and the likes, in such a way that it’s easy to get the scenes into memory — which is perfect when adding things like sentences on Anki. It reinforces the sentences and makes it easier to remember.

  17. For me it is often a phenomena I like to call “delayed fun”, whilst I may not be exactly having ‘fun’ at the exact time whilst I am doing RTK (although I don’t loth it like some people seem to), every time I learn a new kanji its like a tiny morale boost. And then when I recognise a kanji in some native media and I get the meaning correct, for me thats the fun part.

    Slogging away through my anki reviews may not be fun, but when I recognise a sentence when watching a movie, thats where the fun kicks in.

    Its like driving to an amusement park, yeah it might not be fun physically driving there. But if you don’t drive your never get to the amusement park where all the fun is.

  18. And hello again!
    The Link to Rosetta Stone here seems to have died a while ago. Please note!

    Best Regards for the third time now :D

    P.S. I also couldn´t find any Rosetta Stone titled articles here :(

    • Yeah, Rosetta Stone really isn’t exactly a popular learning tool. I’ve never used it, none of the writers here have, so there isn’t really much to talk about.

      I know you mentioned before that you are using the German RTK. You might want to check out the German Jalup Beginner that was just released. Author Snisa put a ton of work into it, as he really wanted to expand the Japanese tools available to the German population.

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