You Don’t Need to Study Full-Time to Become Fluent — 10 Comments

  1. I’d have to agree with that; I always do a lot more during the week when I work, than during the weekend… until I become TOO busy; just had 10 weeks in a row of overtime and working 6 days, and I just stopped doing ANYTHING other than work and sleep. Now it’s over so I can get back into it but this just proves all 3 situations that you’ve mentioned!

    • I’m glad you are back. It’s tough when you reach one of those truly “time maxed out” patches, and you can’t study Japanese even when you want to.

  2. I know all about this. I think the key is that if you reach a very busy patch to just stop adding as many new cards to your reviews and try to keep up with your reviews the best you can. The past two months for me has been pretty much constantly travelling (I have been at home two weekends during the past two months), and obligations have meant that it is hard to keep up with the reviews. That said, just keeping up with the reviews is doing wonders for the advancement of my Japanese, and I feel more confident than back in the summer, even though I have not added much in the way of new cards.

    We’ll see though, I have a job interview this weekend in Kumamoto, and they expect me to use as much Japanese as possible! Hopefully the jetlag doesn’t kill me (flying to Japan on Friday)! After that, I have a couple of weeks of holiday in Japan, I’m hoping to absorb as much as possible before going back to the work grind.

    • That’s some good advice about just entering that “maintenance mode.”

      Good luck with your interview. Blow them away with your Japanese ability!

  3. Hi Adam,

    I am fluent in Chinese. I spent two years in China studying at least 8 hours a day and talking to friends daily. In six months I was conversing fine and after a year watching news. The second year was more advanced studies like ancient and modern Chinese literature. Later I worked in China as a tech project manager for 2 years fulfilling my dream of using Chinese effectively in the business environment.

    Now, I want to do the same for Japanese. My goal in life has always been to be fluent in two languages. But now I am working 12 hour days and a father or two. I remember living in China and not even thinking in English for six months and forgetting words in English. How can I possibly do this with all that’s going on? Even if I had a full dedicated two hours every day would it be enough? What tried and true approach can a busy working father take to learn Japanese?


    • It sure sounds like the way you learned Chinese is one of the most optimal/fast ways I have heard of for doing so.

      As a husband and father of two my take on your question is that you won’t be able to do what you did for Chinese in Japanese. Your life situation is too different now. Once you accept that though my advice is to find ways to enjoy your Japanese studying. That way when you do have free time you will want to do Japanese and not something else. You will find ways to use every minute you do have to study.

      Basically find ways to enjoy the journey of learning Japanese rather than focusing on the destination of “fluency”. If you do that combined with some of the tools at your disposal here, you will make progress as fast as possible given the situation. Good luck!

    • Honestly 2 hours a day is a LOT of time – this site has users with only 1 hour a day or less, and they still make consistent progress toward fluency at their own pace. That said such a big difference in circumstances also means adjusting your expectations accordingly – you’re probably looking at a timeline in the range of ~3-6 years, but assuming you don’t mind that I think it’s 100% doable.

      Last time you were running a sprint and this time you’re running a marathon, but the distance you have to run is pretty much the same and you’ve already proven you can cover it once before.

    • As Matt said, 2 hours is a lot and nothing to feel bad about. But you can’t expect the same pace as you had with Chinese.

      The best thing you can try to do is fit in Japanese naturally into your currently busy schedule. For example, can you use headphones while working, to listen to Japanese? Is there other down-time you can optimize? Can you watch subtitled anime with your kids? Busy people have to get very creative when creating a language studying schedule.

      But it sounds like you are a very motivated person, so I’m sure you’ll be able to figure something out to meet your new goal.

    • And as laddr said, enjoyment is key. For example, I haven’t really been able to get into light novels because the story isn’t engaging if you only understand 50 to 60 percent. So, my reading practice has been much less than my listening practice for the last 2 years. But that suddenly changed after I bought Zelda breath of the wild for Nintendo Switch very recently. I literally can’t get enough of the game and I read everything, including what I’ve read before. I also take switch screenshots of the writing and then use my phone with goggle translate app to grab the Japanese text easily and email all of it to myself. I then make j-j cards from it.

      The love of this game is spurring me on to read much much more and use anki to study words I don’t know. Interest and love is the key!! Also, your kids may love playing games with you, even Japanese. You could even play something like Mario odyssey with them. (If you like games like me haha)

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