Should You Learn Japanese Slowly Or Quickly?

fasterSlow and steady isn’t always a good thing in the world of language learning. How many goals have you watched die simply because they were completed too slowly? Yet I hear this from a lot of people that going slower is somehow more of a virtue. But it can be very limiting to assume that going faster is wrong or will create more stress for you.

Learning Japanese faster isn’t wrong, and it doesn’t necessarily create more stress. I find that it actually makes the process more enjoyable. Wouldn’t you want to achieve your goals faster? If going faster makes the process less enjoyable for you, maybe you have the wrong goals to begin with.

One of the biggest objections I’ve heard is that people just don’t have enough time. Of course, nobody has enough time. They’re way too busy, they have too much work to do, or something. I dunno. I’m really busy too, so I can relate. I like to do things. But sometimes you have to take another look at your priorities and decide what’s most important to you.

I used to have a really long list of things I had to do every day. Japanese got a small little piece of the pie graph. But one day I took a step back and saw that a lot of things I was doing just wasn’t as important to me as reaching my Japanese goals. So I cut them back or cut them from the list completely. I’m a big fan of mercilessly cutting back on things that aren’t important to you and spending more time on things that are.

But maybe Japanese isn’t as important to you as other goals you have. That’s fine. Take a look at your priorities and find out what is. Maybe you can step something else up instead.

When I talk about going faster, I’m not really talking about incremental changes. Anybody can make an extra two Anki cards every morning. Think of how you could achieve your Japanese goals twice as fast, three times as fast, five times as fast. It’ll really get you thinking in some new directions.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to spend long hours every day drilling yourself with Japanese. It’s more about thinking differently and focusing yourself. How can you reach your Japanese goals faster?

Give it a try for thirty days. See if you like it. If you want to learn Japanese, it doesn’t have to take ten years to get there. Speed it up! It’ll make a big difference.

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A writer for Japanese Level Up, a part-time graphic designer, and purveyor of fine Japanese art (which consists mostly of anime, manga and weird music). When he's not wasting time in Japanese, you can usually find him making pretty pictures or studying something that sounds interesting.


Should You Learn Japanese Slowly Or Quickly? — 6 Comments

  1. Agreed with this! The only problem I have with going faster is that those anki reviews pile on quickly haha. But yeah, laying down all the things you want to do and seeing how important to you each thing is, is definitely the best way to decide at which speed you go at all these things. For me, I have 3 big goals, and japanese is right in the middle. So it goes without saying that the time I spend on it (compared to how long the goal is) should be in the middle. Would be kinda weird if I spent 2x more time on it than my bigger priority, but would also be weird if I spent 2x less time on it than on my lower priority goal, if that makes sense.

    Sometimes though I do admit that I’m not too sure what’s my real priority. I guess you could say it changes by the week. But I think that’s normal too. I’m going to Japan next week, and when I come back I was planning on doing a system of setting a focus for every two week. For example, first day I’d feel like my priority at the time is japanese; so for my next two weeks I would put more time into japanese. Then after those 2 weeks are done, I re-evaluate my priorities again, and change accordingly, if change is needed. I haven’t tested it out yet but it kind of follows your “try it out for a month” that you said; just half the time really haha.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked the post! Yep, the speed definitely increases exponentially with Anki! :) Of course, more Anki cards isn’t the only way to learn faster.

      I know how you feel about the priorities. :) I have three big, long-term goals right now as well, and they change importance depending on how I’m feeling this week. But I usually find it helps to keep track of which one’s more important to me in the long-term. For me, I may be more motivated and want to spend more time studying Japanese one week, but in the long-term, it’s not more important to me than starting a business. So I usually don’t change the amount of time I spend on each project too often. Well, that’s just what works for me. I don’t know. :)

  2. I agree with this sentiment. For a few months I’ve been observing that the biggest barrier to me having “enough time” was spending 9 hours a day in my job which requires me to work and think in English constantly. So this month I resigned. That may be a bit more drastic than what you were talking about, but I think it’s the right decision. I’m really looking forward to having time next month to finally be able to focus on immersing myself in the language.

  3. Well I think it depends also on how you learn.
    I for example have quiet some time at my hands at the moment and was like “yeah so now lots of Kanji studying and sentences and so on”, so I got the Heisig “Remembering Kanji” the Aniki Deck provided here and hit off with 25 new Kanji each day…
    yeah that was way too fast for me. After two weeks I got totally frustrated, heaving to remember os many new stories and vividely imagining them was something I just couldn’t pull of, each day the number of Kanji I had to review grew because I simply forgot so many and I got totally frustrated. Additionally I work with busuu, copying the exemplary sentences they give into my Anki deck with Kanji (since they don’t use Kanji I often have to check if the kanji I got is actually the right one, so that takes time) and then I still need to review the sentences…
    Sure even after doing all that I still had free time but still I didn’T make my learning progress well, or at least it felt like that. So now I slowed down: 10 new anji each day, as much new sentences as I feel like and at least if feels to me like it works more smoothely and I have less issues in remebering the new stories for the Kanji etc.
    Maybe I’ll try 15 new Kanji each day see if it’s still Ok but for me the stuff I learned needs to sink in. Craming loads in a day makes may brain not taking much in, lots of work is basically lost.
    That’s of course for me, and not necessarily everyone is like that, or there are people who can just deal with more at a time than me, it a very individual thing after all ^^

    • It’s good that you noticed your limitations, I wish I’d recognised the same thing. I constantly tried to do high numbers of kanji including a huge sprint at the end and subsequently forgetting them all and regularly burning out / feeling frustrated. In the end I averaged 5 kanji a day once I finally got it done. So I should have just done that from the start. And even now I have a bunch of them suspended and and re-adding them slowly when I have time. Stick with the 10 if that’s managable, and don’t worry about lowering it either. Getting there is more important than getting there fast or die trying…

      However some days I just don’t have time to sit and do all my reps because of work and other commitments, let alone worry about adding/learning new stuff + immersion. So to keep this comment on-topic, sometimes you really do need to make time, even if you are going at a leisurely pace. :-)

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