I like to think of this as one of the top ranking questions among those eager to learn Japanese. The other related question, “how long does it take to learn Japanese,” I’ve already answered. But after writing that post, I realized that while you’ve attained your answer down to months and years, you want the details. The glorious details down to the hours. After all, long term is nice to know, but short term is reality within your grasp.
And the answer is?
As many hours as you possibly can. How about that for an annoying answer. You’re looking for a number aren’t you? A number in which you can gauge yourself, and allows you to adjust accordingly. But does a specific, helpful number actually exist? Every single person studying Japanese lives a different life, with different jobs, different schedules and different needs.
Well tell me, how many hours is “as many hours as you possibly can?”
Still trying to get that number? The first step in finding out the answer specific to you is learning to master the use of time in your daily life. The next step is to jam Japanese into every single opening that presents itself, every single day. This brings you to the immersion method, which I’ve discussed in numerous posts.
Is that all?
If I ended this post here, you’d have exactly what every other blog and article on the subject has ever covered. A vague “do as much as you can, within the best of your abilities.” While the intention is good, I think I should finally give you what you actually came to this post to find out: a freaking number!
If you want to achieve the year estimate I’ve provided you to become fluent in the specific skills I’ve listed, I will break down the daily hour number by level. These are estimates. If you can do more, you definitely should. If you can’t do this much, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to.
Level 1-10: 2-3 hours.
Level 10-20: 4-5 hours
– Hours should be lower in the beginning, because you don’t want to do too much, too soon, causing burnout, and ultimate quick and painful failure.
Level 20-30: 5-6 hours
Level 30-40: 6-7 hours
Level 40-50: 7-8 hours
– Hours in the mid levels are more enjoyable and easier to maintain. These are the hours that turn you from “getting by in Japanese” to “getting awesome in Japanese.”
Level 50-60: 6-7 hours
Level 60-70: 5-6 hours
– As you reach higher levels your hours can start to decline.
Level 70+: You’ll just know, and to be honest, you just won’t care (I had to put in at least one ambiguous answer into this post.)
You crazy? Who has these kind of hours?
Before you hit the X button closing out this page dismissing me as an idealist who is asking too much, please remember that these hours consist of passive + active learning.
A sample 7 hour day:
4 hours: listening to Japanese dramas on your Ipod while commuting to and from work, eating breakfast/dinner, cleaning, on your lunch break, using the toilet, taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting dressed, walking the dog, working out at the gym, staring at the wall, reading japaneselevelup.com.
1.5 hours: sitting down and watching 2 TV shows
1 hour: doing Anki reviews + 10 new Anki entries.
30 minutes: reading a manga.
Passive? I’ve heard from many forums that this doesn’t work…
Some people refuse to believe the concept of passive learning. Stop listening to these people. Stop going to forums where they argue this. It works. It just does. You can either trust me or not. Myself and many others are living proof of its benefits.
What makes passive learning work?
You must combine it with Anki (or another form of active learning). Anki and immersion are the most suited mates you will ever see. Please note that I don’t believe sole immersion will do the job. Frustration will set in and the effects are tenuous. But combine Anki and immersion and you will have created a beautiful harmony that will result in pure excellence.
Just put in the hours
Finally, keep in mind that every hour extra in every day you spend on Japanese brings you that much closer to getting to fully feast in the rewards that mastering Japanese has awaiting for you. And boy is it a grand feast.