Take A Boring Job To Boost Your Japanese — 26 Comments

  1. What kind of job allows that? I always hesr of people doinv ghat, even browsing the internet! during their job, but no one says what job allows you to do that! Ive never had a job that allowed it even if it was tasks that didnt require much brain, just physical work

    • Just about any office job in the U.S. allows this, with two caveats:
      – Discuss very precisely with your supervisor what your workload is. Never fail to accomplish that preset workload.
      – Cubicle walls high enough that people can’t see that you’re sandbagging.

      Technically, you’re supposed to go ask for more work to do. In practice, almost no one does this because there’s strong social pressure from peers not to, since you’d be raising the bar for everyone on the team.

      Every Software Developer on my team at work surfs Facebook or wastes time in other ways. I view that as kind of like a sand trap in golf; I use my beach time (as it’s called) to study Japanese and Computer Science, resulting in even more free time later on as I complete my given tasks faster.

    • Temp data entry jobs where you are pretty much just copying numbers from one place to another, or organizing numbers, is one where I used to see everyone wear headphones.

      And as Gregory says, most office jobs allow it.

      • I wish school would teach you more about jobs… I honestly dont know about any jobs except the big college ones, and then minimum wage jobs like working in retail or restaurant, and I work in retail and even in the backstore you’re not aloud

        • Yes, retail/restaurant usually won’t allow it.

          Usually you can find out about a lot of various office jobs at a site like or Monster.

  2. I’m working at a call center in Ireland and I have my Anki decks on my work computer.
    All day I’m checking vocab and kanji flashcards, thanks to that I could acquire vocab required for JLPT N2 that I’m taking next December.
    During break or lunch I’m even watching some variety shows.

  3. I used to work night shifts in a factory that allowed the use of headphones. This was before I started learning Japanese though. I think that mostly, at least in the UK, it is gonna be manual work and factory jobs that allow headphones.

    • And those are the types of jobs where it’s great to have the mental stimulation through Japanese, and the rewarding goal setting that comes through it.

  4. Childcare is a great job for working Japanese into your day.

    You can leave Japanese audio on in the background (I would avoid inappropriate content…sure the kids don’t understand, but I still would avoid it), or watch parts of Japanese kids films over time and read books in Japanese to the kids. It’s also a great way to expose them to another culture in language while improving your own Japanese.

    With younger kids, they have naps. And with older kids, they have homework (and if you’re a nanny, play dates and extra curricular activities). All of this gives you spare time to work on your Japanese.

    Working in childcare (as a babysitter, nanny and family daycare employee) was great for my Japanese. I taught the girl I nannied how to read kana, so we would read manga together (she loved よつばと!). I would also listen to Japanese in the car whenever we drove places.

    I also have a friend who cleans homes and she’s allowed to listen to things with her headphones. She has used the time to listen to Japanese before as well.

    • I’ve heard you can even sometimes find families (with one or both spouses Japanese) who are looking for a babysitter who is good at Japanese to speak with their child.

      Childcare downtime like you mentioned is a great time to be productive.

      • I have babysat for Japanese American families before, and it’s really nice! One family in which I spoke in Japanese with the kid and her mom and the other family in which I didn’t speak in Japanese with the kids, but I did with the mom. Even with the family in which the kids preferred English, they had TV Japan on and we watched programs in Japanese together.

  5. Well,

    If you want to follow this tip, don’t try to be a mathematician! :D

    I usually expend almost my entire day reading mathematical papers and writing mathematics. When I’m not doing that I’m watching a lecture, talking to my advisor or even giving seminars. So, it’s highly demanding.

    I can use headphones sometimes, but only for passive listening, what isn’t working very well.

    It is being very hard to keep learning every night after a day of hard mental work, and I am learning so slow. Sometimes I need to just review material for weeks without no new knoledge. I feel like it will take forever until I can understand a basic dorama or anime. =(

    • Yeah, I feel you on that. I have a pretty mentally demanding job as well. Not as hard as yours I think, but there are days I come home, look at RTK, go “nope” and immediately close it because I just don’t have it in me at that point to keep thinking so hard.

      I think success comes down to pacing yourself. Try to get more done on your “good” days, and don’t be afraid to take it easy on the “bad” ones. You’ll burn out if you push yourself too hard.

      Out of curiosity, around what “level” are you at now? You may find that you’re able to understand things to the point of enjoying them sooner than you think :)

    • Maybe you need to stop reviewing and keep moving forward. And also stop quantifying your knowledge. Your Japanese will evolve over time. Everything builds upon itself.

      When you get to the point that you keep reviewing things, you’ll never move forward. You’ll just be stuck. Instead, forget about the review and just find new things, because those new things will most likely also contain the things you studied before, exposing you to those concepts in new contexts.

      As for no mental energy after a long day of work, I totally understand that. Could you possibly switch to studying in the morning, on your commute or on weekends? What I would recommend is using your night for fun, minimal energy activities only that expose you to the language concepts you’ve learned and will learn in context. Such as watching an anime. I know you don’t understand anime right now, but exposing yourself to anime will bring you to the point that you can understand.

      It may be that you just don’t have mornings or your commute, etc. to use because you use it for work. If that’s the case, that sounds really tough. Your job is so demanding! If you could think of at least one time in the day you can dedicate to studying that’s not night, like reviewing Anki while drinking coffee, or even whenever you go to the bathroom (weird to say, sorry, but a necessary truth!) and stick to it, it should help. That way you don’t have to push yourself at night and will prevent yourself from burning out.

    • Well, as a mathematician myself I can certainly relate.
      I’d say the closest thing to a “mindless task” I ever get to do jobwise is writing homework solutions and grading exams…

      That said, if you do stick with an immersion routine you should eventually be able to listen to Japanese even while doing math, and indeed I’d say at this point I can do so while doing moderate dificulty math research tasks, such as reading papers or proving minor to medium lemmas.
      It can take a while to get there, and honestly it’s probably better to rely instead on reading as the skill where to get your “confidence boosts” from, since listening progress is so much harder to control or measure, but as long as you keep at it you’ll eventually start seeing very nice progress (I actually wrote an article here precisely about my struggles with getting listening immersion rolling, titled: “Listening immersion doesn’t work for you — Or does it?”)

      As for general tips, like Matt says, knowing how to pace yourself (and, I’d add, good habits) goes a long way towards success. With Anki I found it important to find a level of “new cards per day” that I could stick to no matter what, i.e. whether it was a good day or not. That means I never added more active cards in the good days than I did in the bad ones, and instead used whatever extra time I had by either creating a stockpile of new cards (for the days where I might not have the time to) or by enjoying native material.

      Finally, for all the dificulties that having an academic job implies, you should keep in mind that you do have something most people don’t, which is the ability of mostly being able to make your own schedule.

      • Also, if you find a more gentle listening material, it may help! When I’m focusing on something, I can’t listen to just normal Japanese TV. It’s way too distracting.

        Maybe something like would be less distracting. The Japanese is very simple. There are small breaks with nice music in between and programming 24/7. It’s really nice to listen to.

        • I’d pretty much echo Rachel’s suggestion about morning studying. I don’t know your situation, but on my bus ride into work, I can get 150-250 Anki cards studied before I even sit down with a coffee to review my morning defect list at work. I’d always commuted by car before, but the bus is worth it for just the extra study time. The buses are really good where I am though. I wouldn’t have suggested buses when I was in college in Baton Rouge — good way to get stabbed or mugged.

    • Just to add to what everyone else is saying, keeping that passive listening simple and fun (material you know well, can easily tune in and out, can enjoy the background music, and brings a smile) can make it a lot easier to keep going with it.

      • Thank you very much for your tips. Some of them apply to me, like studying in the bathroom (I already do that) or waking up earlier (usually very hard to do, and when I do I end up going sooner to the university…) to learn more Japanese.

        What I’m trying to do is to rip the audio from some drama or anime I just watched and listen during the day. But it is hard to get it right, most time I have audio that is too distracting.

        Again, thank you very much for the tips. :)

  6. If you live in any kind of country-type area where you are un-supervised manual labor…clean the manure while jamming to “Back Number” or paint houses while shadowing or doing audio courses like Pimsleur.

  7. When I was still in college, I had a lot of trouble making time for Anki simply because my experience there was so demanding. While I technically had plenty of time to study Japanese, I was just so stressed from my classes, my job, and my social commitments to do much aside from crash or goof off when I had the chance to. I find that not having to worry about classes and having 4 hours each week to do boring computer work was the best thing that happened to my Japanese studies.

    • Anki is mentally exhausting, which is why when many people try to fit it into a busy school schedule, it usually needs to come in early in the morning before classes start.

      Great to hear that you were finally able to get around to it and get the benefit of being able to turn 4 hours of boring computer work into 4 hours of exciting Anki work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>