Studying Japanese can feel like a mission to memorize a million moving parts simultaneously. You put your brain in overdrive and forcibly tell it – REMEMBER! Your brain knows what it’s doing (for the most part), and will abide. But not all memory is equal. Some people just seem to remember things better. What if you aren’t one of these people? With your bad memory, is learning Japanese going to take you 2x, 5x, or 10x the length of time over the average person?
Before we even start worrying about a solution, if you feel you have a bad memory when it comes to Japanese, you should first run down a checklist of all the external factors that can make a memory worse. The three big contenders are:
3. Constant multi-tasking distractions
You don’t need me to give you a “let’s improve our lives” lecture. But if you are only getting 5 hours of sleep a night, and you are complaining about your inability to remember the Japanese you learn, you are doing things wrong.
Learning Japanese is a great way to get your overall life into better shape. People marvel at the efficiency of a SRS (Spaced Repetition System) like Anki or the Jalup App. You know what hurts the efficiency of an SRS the most? A tired mind. Ask yourself this:
If all it cost you was adding an extra hour of sleep a night for a year, and this got you to fluency a year faster, would you do it?
Have you mastered your own memory?
When you first starting studying Japanese, after listening to all the advice here and elsewhere, did you start creating your own strategy guide? Did you spend the time figuring out how you best remember things?
1. Do you repeat out loud all your flash cards?
2. Do you write out all your flash cards?
3. Do you use creative mnemonics?
4. Do you immediately practice what you learn in a real situation?
People react in different ways to the above methods and others. This is why I never say “you absolutely must do this!” However, you should be at least giving them a try. I know some people who have created an entire fictional fantasy world out of Jalup Beginner, with a story and a plot centering around the legendary hero Suzuki. I know other people who like to draw out detailed pictures of all of the flash cards they’ve learned.
There’s no best advice here. You try, fail, repeat, discover what works. If you haven’t spent the time going through this process yet, you aren’t adequately prepared.
No really, my memory is bad
Life isn’t fair. Even under the same circumstances, with the same practice, you won’t be as good as other people. When you’ve tried everything, and you still have trouble remembering things, is all lost?
You have a bad memory. So what.
If you find yourself with a “bad memory,” instead of focusing on what you lack, you focus on what you have.
Maybe it takes you longer to review flash cards and you get them wrong more often than other people. But maybe also you also can sit down at a desk without distraction longer than other people. Maybe you are an extrovert that can easily have Japanese conversations. Maybe you have more money that allows you to hire personal tutors. Maybe you feel alive sitting in a classroom where others would be bored to tears.
You struggle with memory. But what do you excel in that helps fill this hole?
How’s your memory?
Do you feel you have a bad memory when it comes to studying Japanese? Have you found a way to overcome it and still continue towards fluency?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.