Why are you Studying Japanese?

You want to be fluent in Japanese. You crave it. You don’t just want to be okay or good, you want to be great. Mastery of Japanese only becomes a reality if you know what you want. What you want, and your goals, feed your motivation.

Why Are You Studying Japanese - Setting Your Goals

Without motivation, you die a horrible Japanese learner’s death, usually quite early on (2-3 months in?). There is no continue button or extra lives. You are done. Probably moving onto something else, which is not going to be anywhere near as amazing as Japanese.

Motivation sounds obvious. You don’t need me telling you to get motivated. You probably are motivated . . . for now. Motivation is a resource that is consumed quickly. You may have all the motivation in the world right now at the start, but watch as it slowly starts to wither away. This is normal. This is bad. And you need to prevent this from happening.

You don’t know what you want unless you think about it. And even when you think about it, thoughts are fleeting, and Japanese will last way longer than that. You need to keep track of your goals, from the very beginning. The big dreams. The small dreams. And everything in between. This is not a “save for later” step that you can skip and deal with it when you have more time. You won’t have more time.

Creating Motivation - Why are you Studying Japanese 2

I recommend creating a motivation/goal chart that you look at often.  You need to remind yourself why you are working so hard. This should be an ever evolving and updated work. Even if you think you know why you are motivated, you need to write it down.

This is crucial for when you have those bad days, bad weeks, bad months, where you are ready to throw it all away.  You can’t rely on what is in your mind for motivation when your mind is currently held hostage by negativity and the thought of giving up.

Motivation is split into two types: 1) General motivation  (what generally makes learning Japanese so great) and 2) Specific motivation (what makes becoming fluent in Japanese worthwhile for you).

General Motivation

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1.Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world (only slightly trailing behind China now)

2.Japan has some of the largest companies in the world.

3.Japan is a world leader in technology and innovation.

4.Japan is a massive importer of foreign goods.

5.Japanese is a gateway language to Chinese

6.Learning about Japan introduces you to other Asian countries

7.Most in your country don’t speak fluent Japanese

8.Immersing in a foreign culture with fluent Japanese gives you better understanding and pride of your own culture

9.Japanese literature is ranked as some of the best in the world in both quantity and quality, and only a very small percentage ever gets translated into English

10.Japanese TV and movies are often just as good as any Western TV.

11.Japanese are the top users of the internet

12.Japan is another world, and one that you only get to truly experience w/fluency in the language.

13.Japanese people are attractive (fashion and caring about appearance add a lot)

14.Japan is a big trendsetter.

15.Many Western companies have offices in Japan now, and almost any major Japanese company has offices in the West

16.Japan has an extremely rich and old culture, history, and beauty

17.Japanese is the center of Anime, Manga, and Video Games,

18.Your resume/CV will stand out regardless of whether the company has any use for a Japanese speaking employee

19.It’s just generally impressive, you can show off to family members, friends, and members of the opposite sex (ha)Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world (only slightly trailing behind China now).

  1.  Japan has some of the largest companies in the world.
  2. Japan is a world leader in technology and innovation.
  3. Japan is a massive importer of foreign goods.
  4. Japanese is a gateway language to Chinese.
  5. Learning about Japan introduces you to other Asian countries.
  6. Japanese sets you apart since most people in your country don’t speak fluent Japanese.
  7. Immersing in a foreign culture gives you a better understanding and pride of your own culture.
  8. Japanese literature is ranked as some of the best in the world in both quantity and quality, and only a very small percentage ever gets translated into English.
  9. Japanese TV and movies are amazing.
  10. Japanese people are some of the top users of the internet.
  11. Japan is really another world, and to experience it to the fullest, you need fluency in the language.
  12. Japanese people are quite attractive (caring about fashion and appearance contributes a lot)
  13. Japan is a big trendsetter.
  14. Many Western companies have offices in Japan now.
  15. Japan has extremely rich and old culture, history, and beauty.
  16. Japan is the center of Anime, Manga, and Video Games.
  17. Your resume/CV will stand out regardless of whether the company you are applying to has any use for a Japanese speaking employee.
  18. It’s just generally impressive to family members, friends, or members of the opposite sex.
  19. Becoming fluent in Japanese will actually make you smarter and a better problem solver.
  20. Being fluent in Japanese increases your ability to do general multi-tasking, since the brain does it on a subconscious level when switching between languages.
  21. Being fluent in a foreign language prevents all kinds of neurological diseases as you get older (ex. Alzheimer’s)
  22. Japanese music is extremely diverse and just plain excellent.

Specific Motivation

Creating Motivation - Why are you Studying Japanese 5

Below are 12 questions which you should know, or eventually know the answer to. They all go towards your “why you are studying Japanese” and turn that ambiguous image in your mind into something you can actually work towards. Your goals and dreams will change and develop several times throughout the months and years. Let them evolve.

These are questions to be answered with absolute honesty. They are only for you. The truer you can be to yourself, the better you know yourself, and the better you have a chance of survival.

Ask Yourself

Why Are You Studying Japanese - Setting Your Goals 2

  1. What do you like about Japanese (the culture, the people, and the language)?
  2. What specifically do you want to be able to do with Japanese ability?
  3. What do you want to be able to do with your Japanese ability in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years?
  4. What skills in Japanese are most important to you out of reading, writing, listening, and speaking?
  5. How long are you prepared to study before you can start enjoying “fun” Japanese material?
  6. How long are you prepared to study till you become fluent in Japanese?
  7. How many hours a day are you prepared to study?
  8. How are you going to make time in your life for Japanese to be an important part of it?
  9. Do you want Japanese to be a part of your career (what type of career)?
  10. Do you want to live in Japan (where and when)?
  11. What do you think you’d be missing out on if you didn’t learn Japanese?
  12. How do you think fluency in Japanese will change your life?

Take your time in thinking about these

This isn’t something that you are going to know all the answers to instantly, and most of these will take a lot of time and thought. These go to the core of who you are and what you want to accomplish. But they are powerful questions you will eventually need to answer.

Know thyself, Know Japanese. Or something like that.

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


Why are you Studying Japanese? — 19 Comments

  1. My motivation is my family. My uncle (but really he is my cousin but he is 50) has a wife who is japanese and he has lived in Japan for 15 years because of the army. He told me that if I pay for the plane ticket he will take me to Japan. So I wanna be some what fluent before I go.

  2. My motivations for learning this great language, is that I love Japanese pop culture (anime, manga, video games etc.), Japanese people seem to be incredibly nice people to me and I’d love to make lots of friends, also like you mentioned Japanese music is excellent. Another motivation is that I’d like to live in Japan for a while.

  3. My motivation was first the prospect of gaining greater understanding of my world and the amazing Japan-experience. It then transformed into a goal to transform myself and become a better person. Then, I met my currently girlfriend in Japan and my motivations changed again to creating an incredibly interesting lifestyle in East Asia. Everyday, visualize and believe you can do it. Surround yourself with can-do-people and never lose sight of your goals!

  4. I want to learn Japanese because its just different then what a lot of people would pick as a second or even 3rd language. I know it will look great on resume and surprise people when you say “Yes I speak Japanese” and then proving your statement by speaking it. I also love it because I love the Japanese art. The old classic Japanese painting, I love them and as a artist myself I’m in aww of the art work. I will like to also learn more about the culture and be able to experience what Japan has to offer, like curtain books and movies that will never be in english and even if it was I would pick up the Japanese version just because I could. I would love to set this goal to be proud of myself and just knowing that I accomplished a difficult goal. That it was worth all the hard work and that it will be something I could use for the rest of my life.

  5. “You probably are motivated . . . for now. Motivation is a resource that is voraciously consumed at an incredible pace.”

    I wouldn’t say it’s the motivation that’s being consumed. Rather, it’s the drive that’s caused by the motivation. The motivation is constant; it doesn’t change. Perhaps it even grows larger, because you find more things you want to do in Japanese. But drive is different. It’s want makes you excited every day to learn Japanese. Sometimes, other hobbies get in the way of the drive (which is what happens to me). Other times, discouragement does (happened to me after taking the JLPT).

    For me, what fires up my drive is reminding myself what I enjoy to do in Japanese (like understanding a drama or anime). As I described in my recent blog post (http://isitpossible.posterous.com/adding-oil), I regularly need to add oil to my fire. So while some people need to see the short-term and long-term goals that motivate them, that only motivates me a little. It’s the now that keeps me going. Using the Japanese I know now to have fun.

  6. Before I really used to need motivation. Not anymore though. Now I have a japanese environment every waking hour, and have been watching the tv show from Ayumi Hamasaki (favorite singer) and have been learning a lot. Also I LOVE the japanese language, I can’t see myself doing a job not related with the japanese language in the future.

    Now I’m on summer vacations finally, and will start downloading dramas with japanese subs again (like I used to like in october), but now I know I will understand quite a lot more. I can’t wait!

    Btw, I made a similar post on my blog.

  7. Still waiting and hoping for part two!! :D
    Thank you for the excellent blog.
    Although unrelated to this: I just visited China and bought a TV-series I thought had Japanese dub. but as it turned out only had Japanese sub. I watched it anyway and the subs really made a difference. When I accidentally turned them off I could hardly recognize the show! It just shows how focused you are on the subs and why you really should TURN OFF the ones not in your target language. As for the TV-show I would have prefered the Japanese dub and then without subs altogheter, but this way it feels like I still got some reading practice. I know I did in fact! :)

  8. Great list, Adshap. I’ve just discovered your blog and am very impressed with your content. It would be great to interview you for the Foreign Language Mastery podcast sometime if you’re interested.

  9. We are so fortunate to have the internet and technology now that makes learning so much easier. Being thirty something I remember how hard it was to get anything to read in Japanese at all, and it was not uncommon for looking up a single kanji to take 15 minutes or more. Since the advent of the iPod/iPhone and a content filled internet, thus far I feel naturally motivated by what feels like lightning speed learning this year compared to studying in my misspent youth. As I can understand more, I just want to become better.

  10. Pingback: Motivation: Day 1 | itsukanippon

  11. To answer honestly:
    -Don’t particularly like culture or people, just the media.
    -Enjoy Japanese media raw, specifically those which are region isolated.
    -In 1 year I plan (more like have) to give JLPT N1 (another big part of my motivation). Also play some games and watch anime subbed.
    -Reading and Listening. If I am asked to pick one, I’d say Listening.
    -I think I’d be able to enjoy everything I want within 1 year (goal is 6 months to reach ~11000 cards, then 6 months for practice and immersion). If I can’t make it to that number in an year,I will drop Japanese and move on to Spanish xD.
    -As many hours it takes…jk, I spend ~2 hours in Anki and making cards and 1-2 hours during immersion. So 3-4 hours/day sounds manageable.
    -I have substituted all my English media for Japanese ones(except Last Week Tonight and Daily Show). After some time, I’ll mix and match stuff for most enjoyment.
    – I am thinking of doing translation work on the side. I’ll start with fan-translations to get more experience. Just an idea though.
    -No. Maybe. Never crossed my mind.

  12. I think not knowing how to answer 3, 5, or 6 contribute a lot to my perpetual Japanese stagnation. Probably 7 as well. I’ve never been good at gauging my own progress, so I couldn’t realistically estimate how long or in what way I could achieve a fluency goal. That leads to me getting confused and eventually tapering off most Japanese contact for a few months until I start back up and repeat the cycle again.

    I can answer all the other questions, though!

  13. honestly going back to flash cards and the same crap that had me hating learning to spell in english as a kid to my whole out look on school and studing i have set myself to because of what i went threw in school make learning hard as all hell… and no idea how to change this habbit and not feel stupid studying…

  14. -Initially just Video Games and Anime, but I’ve since come to enjoy lots of other aspects, especially talking to people and really just finding it fun to learn.
    -Play games without waiting for localization. Help bridge the gap between Western and JP games and gamers. Appreciate media in its original form. See the world from a different perspective.
    -In the near future, just a lot of the stuff in the previous answer. After a couple more years, I’d like to be able to write well enough that it’s not obvious I’m a foreigner, and speak well enough that I can hold conversations comfortably.
    -Reading, as I think it’s the most efficient way to unlock all the other skills.
    -Already done. I’d say I started having fun in less than 6 months, though I was still pretty limited in what I could do. Now as I’m getting closer to 1.5 years, I can enjoy a much broader range of materials, including the story-heavy RPGs that got me excited to learn in the first place.
    -Pretty much indefinitely. I anticipate I’ll reach a level that could be considered “fluent” in another 1-2 years, but even then I don’t plan to stop improving.
    -Initially I was doing 2-3 hours/day mostly in Anki. I still average ~2-3 hours a day, but nowadays just 30-45m of that is “study” and the rest is active immersion – games etc.
    -I’ve mostly just substituted things I was already doing in English for Japanese equivalents. I’m also lucky to have a very understanding wife XD
    -Yes. I work in the game industry, and I’d love to interact with Japanese-speaking fans in an official capacity. In the more distant future, maybe I’ll even try my hand at working on one of those JRPGs I’m so fond of =)
    -I don’t have enough familiarity with the country to say for sure. At the very least, I want to go visit and explore.
    -Some excellent games, some wonderful friends, and really a whole world of fascinating things and people that’s only accessible with Japanese proficiency.
    -Not sure yet, besides what I said above, but I’m sure I have plenty of fun surprises to look forward to.

  15. 1. Anime, manga, and most aspects of the culture. I love the blend of old and new you find in the culture.
    2. My top priority is to understand media, but having conversations is important as well.
    3. Reading at a native(ish) level in 3 years I guess
    4. Listening
    5. Eh, I’m enjoying it now. A long way to go, but I am content at this temporary Japanese level.
    6. However long it takes, I can’t imagine stopping now even if it took 10 years.
    7. Maybe 7 for now, though I’d say it’s mostly 3 hours on average.
    8. By inserting Japanese anywhere in my life I can.
    9. In my career? If I’m only so lucky.
    10. Yes, though I need to spend enough time there to find out for sure though. I don’t care where, and probably right after college.
    11. That cannot be comprehended.
    12. I will find a connection to a people and culture truly wonderful. In so doing, I will gain new understanding of life. If that’s not life changing…

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