While this may come as a surprise, not everyone spends all their time thinking about and learning Japanese. Some people do other things, think about other things, and the desire to become the best like no one ever was before them isn’t a top priority. They go at their own pace, taking breaks when they feel like it, studying when they feel like it, and are in no rush.
The casual learner
His goal is to learn Japanese, have fun learning it, have fun using it, at whatever speed allows him to keep it enjoyable.
But can the casual learner succeed at becoming fluent in Japanese?
First, the casual learner’s goal isn’t necessarily fluency. It’s more of a hobby. A hobby has to be fun, provide value and an experience to the hobbyist to allow him to continue. As long as this is present, he’s not after the ultimate prize (though I’m sure he wouldn’t mind attaining it).
A lot of his success will come down to the type of goals
Whether you are hardcore or casual, goals will always serve a role. You have to want something out of Japanese, otherwise you wouldn’t be studying it. The size of that something will affect a casual learner’s success.
Small Specific goals
For example, maybe you want to:
– Be able to order Japanese food
– Be able to travel around Japan
– Be able to have simple conversations
– Gain a deeper cultural appreciation
– Understand a little bit about what you are watching, listening to or reading
You can casually work your way towards these over several weeks or months of non-intensive studying.
Large complex goals
It’s when the goals become large that things become tricky.
– Understand anime without subtitles
– Play X game that is only in Japanese
– Get a job using Japanese
These are goals you don’t just walk quickly into.
A casual learner with casual goals is great.
You want to experience the language, the culture and take a few steps getting to know Japan and its media better. Take your time, and experience it like you would any other hobby. It’s when a casual learner decides to set the same goals as a regular learner has that they often run into trouble.
A power learner studies several hours a day.
A regular learner studies a few hours a day.
A casual learner studies a few hours a week.
A few hours a week, even over a number of years, is not going to make you fluent.
The feeling of years (which is really only hundreds of hours when you add it up), just isn’t enough to achieve the major Japanese goals. You can however slowly improve your abilities, and always have the chance to turn up the heat from casual learner to something more.
Being a successful casual learner, or a regular learner, or even a power learner is all about knowing your expectations and what you are putting in to meet those expectations. As long as you are maintaining this balance, studying for any amount of time at any pace has its rewards. It’s only when you skew the two that you are in for a discouraging experience.
Casual learner success stories
Casual learning is appealing to certain people for certain reasons. And over the years, what you can do definitely increases, with the possibility of enjoying things like anime, manga, video games, deeper conversations, etc. to some extent. Given a long enough time, a casual learner will level up and can go far. But it’s a completely different lifestyle (learner-style) and you have to be prepared for that.
For those of you casual learners out there, please leave any experience you have in the comments. It’ll definitely help people who want Japanese as an enjoyable hobby, but don’t need it to be at the forefront of their lives.