A good way to start off the new year: let’s tell you why your New Years resolution will fail, and all your efforts to become fluent will be futile. Is this the first negative article on this site? Is this a sign of bad things to come? Am I going to tear you down? Come on. Would I do that? No . . . but you need to hear this.
1. You don’t really want it bad enough
Motivation is an absolute vital source of continuing studying when times get tough. You’ll need it to get through every low you face (and oh there will be a lot). So ask yourself the following:
Why are you learning Japanese?
If your answer sounds something vague and ambiguous like:
“It seems like it’ll be useful in business.”
“Japan has an interesting culture.”
“I want to visit and live in Japan some day.”
“I had to choose a language at school and it seemed like fun.”
You are in for a lot trouble in the long run. You need firm and specific reasons that will push you through hell and back.
2. You are stubborn and refuse to listen to others’ advice and study methods
For every good study method out there (*hint here *hint), there are a dozen bad ones (*hint here *hint). It may be nice to hold an ideal view that there are no wrong ways to learn a language. But this is wrong. Let’s fix it to reality.
There are no wrong ways to learn a language.
There are no wrong ways to slightly improve in a language, but there are plenty of wrong ways to get good at it in an efficient, fast, and fun manner.
And I know how much you love the thought of working hard to merely slightly improve in Japanese . Every bad method you refuse to give up on slows down your progress and drains your motivation. Admit you were wrong on a method you used, accept the time loss, and move on. Also, listen to the people out there that have done this all before you. They can often provide some pretty good advice.
3. You aren’t devoting enough time
If you already hear the voice in the back of your head start to whimper “I just don’t have any free time,” then fluency is not for you, and it never will be. We all have busy lives. While everyone has different obstacles and commitments, we make free time for what is truly important to us.
If you are only putting aside a few hours a week to Japanese, this is a pretty good sign that Japanese is not that important to you.
4. You don’t actually like Japanese culture
Have you ever had the following conversation:
Q: Why are you studying Japanese?
A: I love Japanese culture.
Q: Oh yeah, what about it?
A. Oh . . . the food. And the history. And the technology.
Nice, but you don’t need the language for these things. To get good at Japanese you are going to eventually have to use native Japanese material.
Have you ever found yourself making an overly broad ignorant statement like:
“All Japanese TV is terrible.”
“Japanese movies are all boring and low budget.”
“Japanese books are over dramatic.”
“Japanese people are shallow and never express what they are thinking”
“Japanese music is dull and lacks inspiration”
The more you complain about the culture, the less you probably want to use it and understand it. If this dislike turns into negativity towards Japan/Japanese in general, than you might as well give up at this point (though you probably will be happy to do so).
I’d like to see this list expanded in the comments section. What major reasons have you seen that you think prevent people from ever becoming fluent in Japanese?