Study 2 hours a day. Get your Anki reviews down to 0 in the morning. Watch at least one J-drama. Read at least one manga chapter. We create these types of Japanese daily goals that we want to become ingrained habits. Once they are habits, the path to fluency is simpler and your study life is so much easier. But that’s only one part of the equation, because good habits like these are easily broken.
A good study habit takes a long time to acquire. The first few days may be the easiest (because you have that initial habit-creation energy), but from there on out you reach a series of danger zones that threaten the existence of those good habits. Even once you have a good habit, there remains a chance that it will not last.
The focus on the above types of Japanese study habits is high, and important. But it’s just as important (if not more) to also focus on removing bad habits that would interfere with your studying. You know the typical offenders:
- Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime
These shave off hours of your available time, and make it harder to achieve your Japanese dreams. Regardless of how many good habits you are working on forming, all it takes is one bad habit binge to destroy them. This is why I think it is more important to focus on the bad first.
What would happen if you limited or stopped some or all of the above? Your free time would explode. You wouldn’t even know what to do with it, because you’ve been spending your free time on it up till now. One of the hard parts of breaking habits like these is that if you don’t have something that takes up that free time that is now created, it’s easy to fall back into those habits.
Well you’re in luck. You have Japanese, and Japanese would be happy to fill those newly empty time slots.
Make sure to actually fill in a bad habit with Japanese
A danger in removing one bad habit, and trying to fill it up with Japanese, is sometimes it might just end up with another bad habit in its place. It’s great that you are spending less time on Netflix, but not so great that you are spending more time on Instagram.
The solution is to limit or remove multiple bad habits. You don’t need to completely banish them from your life (for example, saying I will never watch English TV again). You just need to create and adhere to limits you set. Though depending on your personality, it may just be easier to remove them completely. In my case, I could never just watch one episode of a Netflix show. So rather than try to fight tempting addictions, I just got rid of things one at a time that got in the way of my studying.
Bad and good habit exchanges
One of the top strategies around creating Japanese habits is to cleverly exchange them with bad habits. The most successful Japanese learners do this well. Turn habits you do in English into their Japanese counterpart. Only watch Japanese Netflix. Only read Japanese tweets. Only watch Japanese YouTubers. It takes plenty of adjusting, but can be even more powerful than just attempting to extinguish your bad habits.
But I can’t live without English (insert any time-waster you do in English)!
Yes you can. You didn’t always need to do it in the past. And you won’t want to do it after it’s gone from your life. Assess your typical day, and see what you can replace with the Japanese version.
In the beginning, it’s going to feel like a weak replacement that “just isn’t the same.” An English TV binge will feel completely different than a Japanese TV binge, especially when you are still at an early level. But things will change, and eventually it will feel as natural as your original habit. This is a great place to be in.
Your bad habits turned to Japanese success
What are some bad habits you removed or replaced (with a J-version) that really transformed your Japanese study world for the better?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.