How Many Hours Should I Study Japanese A Day?

how many

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.

Low
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.

Mid
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.”

High
Level 50-60: 6-7 hours
Level 60-70: 5-6 hours
– As you reach higher levels your hours can start to decline.

Very High
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.


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Adam

Adam

(Adshap) - Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading wild and thrilling (at least he thinks so) information about Japan and the Japanese language to the rest of the world.

Comments

How Many Hours Should I Study Japanese A Day? — 26 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post. My rule is “as many hours as I feel like, and always do my anki reviews.” This only works because I don’t have any time-based goals, but your timeline post made me curious.

    There is one point you make that I would go a different direction with: avoiding burnout in the early stages. I think the beginning energy shouldn’t be stifled: it can jump start studying making studying more fun, as you put it–and for me at least, intentionally slowing myself down can also be frustrating, and paradoxically lead to burnout-like effects. I’m sure it’s a bad idea to expect yourself to spend too much time on Japanese at that point, but if someone feels like spending more I think they should go ahead. As long as they don’t do it by increasing the new anki cards per day number; then they’ll have to keep up with too many reviews on the days they don’t have that energy.

    • I fully agree. If you have the energy in the beginning, you definitely should go all out from the start. And thanks for the comment that inspired this post!

  2. I’ve got the immersion part down, but I still have to get my Anki routine in. All semester, I never touched it. Finally, I decided to make it more obvious, so I moved the exe to my desktop. I’ve used it a couple of times for JSL since then, but still haven’t done kanji. Granted I was in my finals, but if there’s some sort of routine, even busy schedules like finals won’t get in the way. I just need to set in that routine. I’m on my fourth year of learning Japanese and I’m still going in SRS phases where I’ll do it for a couple of months and then stop for awhile.

  3. this is from India hai for all
    you can easily study more than twelve hours a day. All this is possible only by doing yoga. yes its real you use to study twelve hours a day. believe me you can make it please try it

  4. This is a great post!

    I’m leaving for Japan soon for a conference, but have been studying like a madman in preparation. I thought my 8-hour days were too much, so this is comforting!

    For the record, I commute 2 hours each way every day, so that’s 4 hours of active study right there–mostly vocab/kanji review and memorisation. I read Doraemon, my saviour, for about an hour on and off in the evening, watch another hour of Doraemon episodes, and spend two hours working through various textbooks. I’m amazed at how quickly my understanding of manga etc. has increased and how understanding what I hear is almost effortless now. Still, I don’t think I could keep this up for much more than the two months I’ve been doing it for. New vocab makes my brain hurt!

  5. I’d say I’m about level 4 (450 kanji but 10 sentences) and after seeing this post I decided to time how much I did.. and in one week I did 70 hours of passive and 10-11 hours of active (of course, I was doing passive during those active hours so that means I did a total of 70 hours of japanese, not 80-81).. quite a bit more than the 2-3 hours a day recommended haha

  6. When the English TV shows I watch are on, I put an earphone in and listen to Japanese while watching TV. So I don’t miss out on my TV shows and I’m improving my Japanese.
    Thanks for this website! It’s truly amazing. I use this alongside AJATT.

  7. Hello, I am still level 1-3, and have been active studying Anki 1 hour per day over 1 month. I have just discovered from this site “passive” learning and I want to get started. I need help finding passive material to listen to and watch. I don’t know where to look, what easy Japanese books to read, and other stuff mentioned here.

    1. Should I listen/watch funny things, cultural things, science fiction, slice-of-life type things? What is easiest for a beginner to pick up on?

    2. Do you recommend chatting online on Japanese chat programs as a type of study? Under what type of study is that considered?

    • Check the recommendations menu at the top of this site.

      Chat is fine. It falls under writing and reading. I would hold off on chat until you reach an intermediate level.

  8. Hi with the immersion, for example above you put an “example” for a 7hr day.

    I’d say I do most of that, however sometimes it overlaps. You say 1hr doing anki then 4 hrs above listening. Though I always have an endless playlist (well 17 days long) of podcasts playing while I study anki each day (which tends to take 3hrs for me each day).

  9. Is it possible to pass the JLPT 1/2 by doing three hours of passive learning and two hours of active learning while I take Japanese class of three hours a week during three years?

    Note: I have never taken Japanese in my life.

    • @Adel

      To pass the old JLPT 1. (Dont know about the new ones), an average university student needs to put in about 900 hours of active studying.

      There is about 27 weeks of active studying per university year. (If you take away exam weeks, starting lesson each semester and holidays). This gives 80 hours of lessons/ year.

      If you study at home 2 hours per day, 350 days a year (Then you got 1 day/month where you can skip studying – christmas etc ). That is 700 hours/ year.

      Passive studying gives maybe 10 % of what active studying gives = 0.1 * 350 *3 = 105 hours /year.

      In all this means you COULD do JLPT 1 in ONE year. However, this means a lot of you studying has to be targeted specifically at passing JLPT 1. To pass it in 2 or 3 years is a better goal, as you can focus more on learning what YOU enjoy learning. :)

  10. I tried this really fun app “Japanese” from MindSnacks. They have atleast 8 languages plus S.A.T., U.S. History, and Kids’ Vocab.
    It has actually helped me a bit more with my Japanese. I can read the hiragana ^o^
    but the kanji kills me. (T~T)
    I know that with the kanji I will most likely have to do flashcards. I know that words they don’t have in Japanese they use the english and pronounce it in Japanese! Like sweater?! ‘セーター’ (T~T)
    Then kanji and hiragana are used together…Oh! Flashcards here I come! ^0^

  11. I guess I’m crazy… at times I’ll do 8 hours easily in a day… Yes total dork but hey I created passive income online selling psychic readings to people through affiliate marketing… I can do what ever I want ^_^ HAH! It’s pretty epic… I’ve also purchased and torrented a few good resources and now I’m to the point where I have no idea where to start or focus… At least I’m still focusing Japanese though… Crazy part though is I’m also studying how to day trade by this crazy dude name Timothy Sykes .. so I’ll do like 4 hours there and the rest of the day on Japanese!!

    I like the immersion part of all this, I watch the news on http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wjj-tv that’s pretty cool! Great site I’ll be saving this in my goodie bag! WORD!!!!!!!

    • Hey the more time the better. People who love Japanese often try to pour as much time as they can into it.

  12. Hey I just have a small question here. Say you commute 2 hours a day (while listening to japanese audio) and do anki for 1 hour during those commute, does that count as 3 hours in your example or would that still be 2 hours? Just curious as to how it’s all added up :)

    • That would count as 3 hours. Passive hours (listening on a commute) are always figured in to the daily equation.

      • Alright thanks :) I think I’m ready for my 3rd tackle at japanese, this time avoiding burnout by knowing my limit and going slowly but surely (and have reasonable goals, not “reach level 65 by this time next year” haha)

          • Yes I have thanks :) I’ve reset my RtK deck even though I had already finished it; I had let it pile up to 1500 reviews… so reset it, kept the stories, but Ill go back through it much slower especially since Ive already done it. Also changed the format so it feels like a different deck haha. And this time, I will write them out too because for my goals I need to be able to write. I also deleted my genki deck and got your jalup 1000, so starting up fresh!

  13. I have been working in japanese industries since 2012 and teaching japanese for 10 years but due that my classes were basic level i my level decrease.
    I Read japanese and listen to japanese conversations daily and i listen to music, dramas or some shadowing audios, but something is clocking me, specially at talking

    What can i do about this?

    Thanks

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