Should You Study Japanese In The Morning Or At Night?
The age old question of when to study during any given day. Which is better for you? Or is there no better?
First, the real answer should be “both.” Both and even more. During the afternoon. And any free moment you get. There should be no simple one tiny time period during the day that you decide is your “Japanese study time” where you check off some box as complete. But I’m talking more about where to put the “heavy studying.” For most people, this comes down to when to do Anki, or kanji, or some major focus task.
The answer is without a doubt: first thing in the morning.
What about personality and the morning person vs. night owl argument you say? This just doesn’t really reflect the reality of the situation. I’m sure there are exceptions, but there is so much science backing up the morning and it produces an even more compelling reason when it comes to language study.
Why should your Japanese start with the rising sun?
Your memory is better in the morning. When your mind is fresh, you get the most efficiency out of it. Using your memory more efficiently is what Anki is all about, and allows it to work more accurately. How many times have you done reviews late, and get annoyed at cards when you should know the answer but don’t?
Human willpower is limited. This isn’t some fancy spiritual talk. This is fact. You can only hold back, restrain yourself, and stay disciplined for so long. Your willpower tank gets depleted throughout the day, and is only refilled through sleep.
Studying Japanese when you have a full tank of willpower makes sure it gets done.
3. You can study more
If you study every morning, you still have the option to study again later at night. If you decide to only study at night, you will never be able to study in addition to that, and there is a chance you may miss out on even that.
4. Enjoy feeling productive before you start your day
Studying routinely every morning makes you feel good. As you then start your day, you know you’ve already accomplished something big. You are working towards your dream. This is a great feeling to have.
5. You have more control
Your schedule throughout the day can be affected by a wide range of inside and outside influences. Other things come up, and get in the way of what you wanted to do later that day. First thing in the morning is very hard to be disrupted, as there is nothing else going on.
6. Avoid pushing things off
It’s very easy at night to push things you have to do off to the following day. Night is close to the following day. It feels closer, with only a little sleep separating you and it. Morning is far from the next day.
No time in the morning?
This is impossible. Regardless of whatever possible situation you are in, you can always wake up earlier. It’s ultimate freedom. And I’m not telling you to just sleep less (which you should absolutely not do). You can just… wait for it… go to sleep earlier. If you had the time to study at night, you can use that time to sleep earlier, and thus wake up early.
Wake up early preaching
No one likes being told “just wake up early.” It feels patronizing, and if you could or wanted to you would. There is nothing inherently wrong with studying at night, and plenty of people do it. But in a competition between the times of day, there is a winner.
Don’t think about it as someone telling you how to live your life. Just ask yourself: do you want to become fluent in Japanese faster or slower. Are you willing to push pride and heavily ingrained habits aside in order to reach your goal faster? That’s up to you. But that anime you want to watch that requires Japanese isn’t going to become understandable by itself.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
I couldn’t agree more with this. My whole life I’ve struggled to get up in the morning, and struggled to get to sleep at night. I used to study in the evening, wrapping up after midnight more often than not.
I found it hard to remember things and just assumed I was getting old and dementia was setting in.
In desperation I tried studying in the morning instead, and it was transformational. I got things done in a third of the time. Things I just couldn’t remember before easily fell into place.
I still struggle. I can maintain the routine for a while, but if there is any kind of disruption I slip out of the habit and it takes a huge effort to get it going again.
If you’re a night owl, please give early mornings a try – I hope it makes a big difference to you too.
I completely agree with this. I too am struggling with getting up early, and a single slip starts the struggle all over again. However when I manage to pull it off the benefits are huge!
Early starters definitely have an advantage on this one, but there is no doubt that the extra effort us night-owls have to put in to get started early is absolutely worth it.
I totally agree with this. I study several times during a day, but I have set a side 1 hour to study every morning before I go to work. This is by the most efficient study time I have and key to getting a good start.
Morning works best for me. A few months ago when I was really into it, I would go to sleep at 8pm and wake up at 5am so I would have enough time in the morning. I would also try to study after work, but a lot of the time I was just too tired. So instead of anki I would just watch unsubbed (and sometimes subbed) tv shows. Sometimes my body would be very tired in the morning, but my mind almost always felt refreshed enough for reps. I can’t say the same for after work.
I’m trying to get back into this schedule, but seeing that I’ve slipped up so much I’m using the gradual approach of waking up and going to sleep a bit earlier every day instead of all at once. I’m usually a cold turkey person but that hasn’t worked lately so I’m trying this other tactic to get back into it <3
Hmm, I guess this is more true than I’ve often care to admit. The further on in the day I study the more meh I tend to become about it.
Meh being the scientific term.
I’m not a “morning person” by any means, but I also have to chime in and agree with this. My favorite (and most productive) days are inevitably the ones where I’ve gotten all my Anki reviews done before even leaving the house.
Then I can just focus on immersion, which is easy to make time for because it’s — y’know — actually fun!
For a second there I was quite excited and determined to start doing this morning study, but then I remembered shift-work. 8hr days, 12.5hr days, 12.5hr nights, nights on call… I am a lazy-procrastinator and master of excuses, but really, it’s not at all easy trying to set up a routine when you do shift work, so I end up doing ‘light’ study and ‘recap’ only.
Does anyone have any tips?
With a crazy work schedule, the best option is to fit in little moments of Japanese wherever you can. 5 minutes here, 5 minutes there. When you can use your headphones while doing work, immerse. If you have a public transport commute, do Anki then. Just gotta work with what you have.
I review Anki cards on my phone everywhere. In the elevator, waiting at a pedestrian crossing, walking to the store, queuing at the store, while cooking, etc. It really adds up during the day and cuts down on how much time I need to sit down and actively review cards. It would be great if they had this in my home town… seriously! :)
You sound just like me haha. Now you just have to go as far as me and read the cards out loud in public places.
Love the pic.
I have begun reading cards out in a very low voice when in public places… Maybe I should just take it one step further and read out loud in my normal voice, not too loud though, as I often do my reviews on the bus and I don’t like disturbing the other passengers. I hate it when people talk on the phone loudly or something like that ^^
Give it a try! I should have clarified, but yes I adjust the volume of my voice depending on where I am. If I’m walking outside, or a crowded and loud place I go normal. Quieter places I’ll talk very low.
Who knows, maybe a Japanese person will hear you and decide to strike up a conversation with you!
Yeah exactly, adapting to your environment have to be the way to go. I’ll definitely give it a try!
About meeting a Japanese person… It both excites me and frightens me at the same time. Since I’m quite shy with strangers even in my own language. Usually I have a hard time starting a conversation with someone I don’t know… Then again, this might let me skip that step entirely by making the other person start the conversation for me. Anyway, I’ll just have to try and see what happens I guess ^_^
I read the cards aloud without actually voicing the sounds. Basically just forming the words with my mouth. This works quite well as I get to practice tongue movements, but it doesn’t bother my surroundings. I am probably a bit too introvert to take it to the next level like Adam :)
Haha, I’d thought about doing reviews in public leading to someone noticing and striking up a conversation. That kinda sounds fun, but I worry what impression they’d get from some of my sillier cards >_>
Silwing: I’ll have to tell the story one day here of how I was reading out loud in a low voice on a crowded train, and some Japanese lady suddenly came out of nowhere and asked me if I was speaking in Japanese. We had a conversation and became good friends after that.
Jesper: I’m actually fairly introverted (despite this site maybe showing the opposite), and it took me some time feeling comfortable to just read out loud like this. But I noticed a lot of people talking out loud in various respects (talking on the phone, practicing a speech, voicing out a message), so I thought it would just fall somewhere into those categories.
Matt: the sillier the card, the better! Then you’ll really have something to talk about.
That sounds like a great story, Adam :D
Being an introvert just means we have to fight harder for some things :) things feeling uncomfortable. My experience is that the more I do a thing the less uncomfortable it feels doing it. So getting myself out there is the way to go..