Playing With Japanese Study Time

I want you to think back to the best video game you ever played. The one you played into the night, and for a few weeks or months was a serious interference to other life activity. Got it? For me, it was Starcraft many years ago. And we all know you can’t just put your life on hold because you are heavily addicted to a game.

So you often watch the clock, knowing that you have other things to do.

And you set yourself a time limit. You have 3 hours to play. Then you gotta do homework, or study for a test, or go to work, or spend time with family.

Every time you look at the clock, your available game time vanishes right before your non-believing eyes. You started with 3 hours and there are now only 30 minutes left. Thought you still have 20 minutes? You have about 30 seconds. Thought you can get one last kill in? You are now 10 minutes late.

Now let’s switch to what it looks like when you are studying Japanese with methods that aren’t suited for you, using boring materials, and not finding what sparks your inner excitement.

You plan to study for 3 hours. After 20 minutes you feel like you have studied for an hour but look at the clock to see how only 20 minutes have passed. You look again and again, seeing the time slowly crawling by. Eventually you get to the last minute (you have been checking quite often) and you finally breathe a sigh of relief.

You know the video game situation is ideal.

The next time you study, I want you to see which you are closer to.

Do you check:

1. How much time available is left


2. How much time you have to go before you can stop

Obvious hint. You want and need to get as close to number one as possible.

I know, I know, video games are nothing but fun, addicting, and no work at all. Studying is studying after all.

Stop thinking like this. You can find what is fun, what’s interesting to you, and ways to enjoy even the harder unpleasant grinding.

When you finally make this transition, life will be good.

Do you check out how much time you have left, or how much time you have to continue for? What allowed you to achieve the transition?

Related posts:

The following two tabs change content below.


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


Playing With Japanese Study Time — 11 Comments

  1. I did this today while designing an entertaining training. I was so engrossed, I set my timer so I’d get up and stretch. After the hour was up, I didn’t get up and stretch. Instead, I set the timer for another 30 minutes. The time flew by. Engrossing work can be so much fun, you don’t want it to end. Great post!

  2. So…how do you make studying that fun? I mean, if we’re talking SRS, I’m assuming the answer is picking entertaining source material. But what about before you’re to that point? What about when you’re still in the doldrums of the Genki sentences or, even worse, RTK?

    • Sateg and Kreeb below do a great job in answering this question.

      Some posts for reference on the mindset:

      And some posts for making Anki more enjoyable:

      Really the key is:

      1) Try to make the “boring” study more fun in whatever small ways you can
      2) Always focus on what you are getting out of the “boring” study. You don’t spend hours grinding to level up a character in an RPG because it is fun. It’s the same mindset. You do it because what you get out of it.
      3) Always mix grinding with fun activities. Any RPG with all training and no quests/story = a boring RPG.

    • In addition to everything Adshap said there’s no reason you should ever exist solely in the Genki or RTK stages. Both of those stages go a lot faster if you make time for native materials while you are doing them.

      Many video games can be played in Japanese even if you have 0% comprehension. The text of Mario games is almost all hiragana and 90% of it is flavor. The button icons will be enough information to teach you all of the necessary moves.

      Both manga and anime are extremely visual and can also provide entertainment with no comprehension. You’ll also find plenty of your RTK kanji there which is useful for recognizing it in the wild. (My personal poison was actually famitsu and fashion magazines so if manga isn’t your thing then pick up magazines that interest you.)

      Obviously there’s no way around the fact that as a beginner 90% of your study time should be your SRS and textbooks, but that other 10% is still important because it represents the goal, the endgame of Japanese, and it’s the source of continued motivation.

  3. The key that got me through RTK and the kanji phase in general was accompanying the SRS with that activity that you can’t put down, obviously it can’t be video games but music or TV/Movies works great. When I was a kid I used to read One Piece in english so when I stared studying Japanese many years later I needed media to watch and listen to. I proceded to watch every episode of one piece in Japanese until I was caught up with the anime. All those hours of Japanese input and all of my studying that I just wanted to go on forever.

    • Great advice. It really is powerful when you can take something from before you started studying Japanese (and is probably a reason for wanting to study Japanese) and use it as a motivating force once you begin studying.

  4. I just sat down a while ago to add some sentences into Anki and clean up some marked cards, and I said to myself, “Just do half an hour’s worth”. When I checked the clock and took a break to read JALUP for a minute, I realised I’d overshot by about 40 minutes.

    When you’re playing a game, the greatest enjoyment comes when you’re “in the zone” – when the game is pushing the difficulty level just above that of your ability. If it’s too easy or too hard, the player loses interest. Either that or the exploration and storyline are so compelling you can’t tear yourself away.

    When studying Japanese, finding that zone is the key to ending clock watching. I’m pretty sure there are posts about this somewhere on here…

    • Well said. Once you can get into the zone, you can repeat this over and over again. The people who are successful with Anki are the ones who have found out how to get themselves into that zone.

      Great to hear that Anki is going so well for you Kreeb.

  5. Not to be a suck-up, but your Beginner 1000 sentence deck is doing this for me right now. Some of the sentences are just ambiguous or casual enough (omitting some words, particles, etc.) that I have to puzzle a little to figure them out, but I still have everything I need to work it out, especially since you tend to come at the same concept from a few angles. Compared to tediously copying and pasting sentences that I’ve already looked over from a (boring) textbook, it’s actually a lot of fun. I keep finding myself increasing the new card limit in Anki because I want to find out what comes next, since each card has a new little nugget of Japanese waiting for me.

    • I’m really happy to hear that the challenging puzzle aspect of the decks gives them same game-like features. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *