How NOT to study Japanese

A very lovely lady named Demy made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She wanted to hear what were my trials and tribulations while learning the Japanese language. Since this topic is close to my heart, I thought I’d write a whole freakin post about it. I know most of my readers would probably doze off to this one, but you get the chance of seeing me in horrible pain and agony, so stick around if you’d like!
Let me know, what are your best ways for learning and memorizing effectively? And for those who are fluent in Japanese, I would love to hear your advice and thoughts on it!
How Not to Study Japanese 
(spoken by a true procrastinator)

Japanese language

For me, the Japanese language is like an exclusive, unreachable hot guy (think Hugh Jackman)… You have an urge to reach out for it, you’re willing to do the hard work, pretend you like sports, make your boobs bigger, you’re fully invested and yet, the hot guy continues to be as distant as ever. This is how I feel about Japanese.

When I first stared learning, I was happy and buzzing with confidence. I learned a few simple sentences, then a few basic grammar rules, some new words, 10 kanji and thought “Yay, this is easy!“. Yup! As easy as performing surgery on a bumble bee!
After 8 months of buying textbooks, scribbling kanji and talking to myself in Japanese I can happily say I know nothing and I’m proud of it. The first step to learning Japanese is to admit defeat right from the start. Admit it’s going to suck, admit you’re going to suck and keep at it, until you bleed out kanji characters from your eyeballs! Reach for the hot guy, even though there is a big chance he might turn you down.

With this said, I must mention one more thing as well. Even though it’s hard, it’s not that hard! If I have to count all the hours I have put into studying Japanese, they’re not very much, but I’ve learned so many things – which if placed into the whole picture amount to nothing – but still, it’s progress! It’s surprising how much I’ve learned, while still being a lazy fuck. Basically my whole study routine can be summarized into this:

study graph

How I do it
(I have no idea what I’m doing) 

1. リスニング, or how to make listening enjoyable.

Bulgarian language has a fairly similar pronunciation as the Japanese one, so I didn’t have much difficulties with it. But listening gives insight on a lot more. When I was a little potato, I used to stay glued to the TV, devouring every English cartoon show. I didn’t understand anything, but after months of constant exposure to English, you start to pick up things. You recognize meaning of words, you make connections and you remember them way more easily, instead of just reading them from a textbook.

I do watch anime now, but I watch adult anime (not hentai), which means there are lots of technical terms and くそ!  So it’s not helping very much. A good place to start it watching movies. But a favorite of mine is listening to Japanese radio talk shows. There’s nothing better than drinking your coffee to the sounds of Japanese screaming: “Dozo yoroshiku onegai shimasu!!!!!!
I found lots of Japanese entertainment and news shows on this site. Most of them, you can listen directly through the site. My all time favorite is Day Catch, it puts my mind to ease…

Japanese movies I really liked: 

2.Location, location, location… Reading, reading, reading! 

I hate reading! Every single fucking time I sit to read a simple Japanese text, I start sweating, my heart rate increases and my breathing intensifies. I have all the classic body signals for when you’re about to get laid, except, while the body is prepping up for fun times, all it gets are these weird squiggly stuff! What is this treachery! 
Reading helps me immensely for practicing grammar as well. The thing about grammar is, that when I learn the rules from my textbook, I remember them for like 5 seconds and puff they’re gone.
Actual Keit question:
-What were those adjective thingies, when you glue a くて form to them and they turn into other adjective thingies???
-Teacher: ……
Yes, I’m super smart… That’s why I need reading, so after the millionth time I encounter a “te” form sentence, my brain would think: “Heeeeey, wait a minute, I see a pattern here!“. Stupid brain…

3. Reading + Kanji = Depression

The White Rabbit Press flashcards deck is enormously helpful, for studying Kanji at home. I got mine second hand, but you can find them on their site as well. I keep my cards in a little box from Ikea, so my cats don’t pee on them. (sigh) Best thing about the deck is they give you 6 words composed of a particular kanji, which does miracles to my degenerated brain!

One way to practice kanji is learning the stroke order and writing them a thousand times. This didn’t help me that much and after the 150th kanji I was already overwhelmed and started to mess them up. Memorizing the radicals is a great step too, but not life saving. I suck at memorizing, so again, reading comes to the rescue! 
There are many sites out there, which use furigana (they write the hiragana reading of the kanji as well as the kanji), but I prefer to read without their help. It’s much more painful and depressing, but worth it. I found out a lot of people are using Japanese Children Stories, but I didn’t like them at all. The stories were boring, repetitive and there were barely any kanji. So I searched for blogs and I found two awesome ones: Japanese Teachers BlogNippon Talk. I usually proceed like this:

  1. Read the text without furigana
  2. Read the text with furigana
  3. Understand nothing!!!
  4. Read the translation
  5. Read the Japanese text again. 

If I want to practice just kanji, if say, I’m in our crime-scene looking subway or waiting at the bus stop with crazy people, I use the phone app Ja Sensei. It’s free and it has an awesome kanji list with all the meanings, you can practice writing them and quiz yourself as well. 

In conclusion, perhaps the easiest way to learn Japanese is to enjoy it. Life is filled with boring and hard tasks and we usually invent all kinds of mechanisms to avoid them or to make the process even worse than it already is. But when you love something, when you enjoy it, even if sometimes the steps are annoying and hard, everything gradually falls into place and you will soon start to appreciate your little victories more and more! 
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14 thoughts on “How NOT to study Japanese”

  1. *fangirling moment* THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU OHMYGOSH I'M SO HAPPY I CAN'T EVEN!!!! *fangirling moment /over*

    Thanks so much for this post! I've been waiting for this, because I really just want somebody to tell me that they too struggle with Japanese.
    "For me, the Japanese language is like an exclusive, unreachable hot guy (think Hugh Jackman)… You have an urge to reach out for it, you're willing to do the hard work, pretend you like sports, make your boobs bigger, you're fully invested and yet, the hot guy continues to be as distant as ever." <—THIS. Exactly this. You put into words what I've been thinking the last months -.-' In the beginning, I thought that Japanese was OK… Not super easy, but not super hard either. I mean, I'm learning Russian at the same time, and to me, Russian is 100 times more difficult than Japanese, even if it looks like my mother language, Greek. Of course, I changed my mind when I started learning or trying to learn anyways, kanji. My mind just can't memorize them. Muri muri..
    Thanks so so much for all these helpful links, I'm definitely going to use everything and download the app you said. Everything seems to be super helpful. You motivate me to keep studying, even if I'm a super lazy person O_O
    Domo arigato, beautiful lady <3 😀

  2. Well, I just wrote a long comment about learning Japanese and then Blogger crashed and I lost it. Bummer.
    So now it's going to be shorter! I'm learning Japanese too, but not doing any kanji yet. It's all speaking & listing, hiragana & katakana so far! Though I am in the process of learning lots of different て form conjucations. It's a challenge, but I just take my text book with me to work a lot, and read on my commute. I like the idea of listening to Japanese radio though! Thanks for that.

  3. Those flash cards look so fucking fancy, bro! Awesome! I actually made my own and I STILL have them all in several shoe boxes. Haha. For me, the act of writing things down helps me commit the information to memory, so I do everything by hand. I agree that focus is really important (and it's hard to stay focused!). As long as you study in short intervals, you should be OK! You don't want to burn out! <3

    I highly recommend the anime "Lain," if you haven't seen it, yet. It's a real mind fuck. I've watched it four or five times all the way through because (a) I love the story, (b) it's good Japanese practice, though the topic covered is such that the vocabulary is pretty hard and (c) while I said I loved the story, I didn't say shit about actually understanding it. Haha. It's so complex that there's a point where you start to feel as if you know what's going on and then all of a sudden you don't. And this is why I will probably keep watching Lain forever. ;D

    Other recommendations: Samurai 7, Full Metal Alchemist and Monster

    – Anna

  4. Hahahahahahaha you do so watch Hentai! And that "about to get laid" thing is called your fight or flight response, kicking in when you feel the stress of Japanese confusion looming! You will get the hot guy my dear because you are fucking gorgeous and smart and funny and everyone knows that being gorgeous, smart and funny helps us to learn languages. Wait….did that make sense?

  5. Ha ha – learning a new language is always hard no matter how you look at it, so you might as well relax and have some fun the way it sounds like you are with Japanese. After all… it's hard! You might as well enjoy it 🙂

  6. I know nothing about the Japanese language but I still read the post and I think you're a brave girl when you study something as complicated just because you want to, not because you have to. I myself have learnt some Italian in addition to English and Russian and I often think I should take those (the Italian ones) learning materials out and repeat the whole learning process. the reality? maybe I will do it when I can go to Italy 😛 I'm not sure if I'm ever going there of course.

    Maikeni blogi – part of me

  7. Haha, this sounds kinda (well to be honest: totally) familiar to me, just in Russian. 🙂
    And procrastination will never disappear out of my life – sometimes I think it even gets worse. =^.^=

    Thanks for this gorgeous post, girl. 🙂

    XX, Sara.

  8. I think Japanese would e a rather intimidating language to learn! I am find with languages that share the same alphabet as English, but when other characters are introduced my head explodes!

    ~Alexis Grace of North On Harper

  9. My story with Russian language was fairly the same… It's been my dream to learn it. I survived two years on Russian filology at the university, couldn't have stand it anymore, but anyway, I left the course because of the sick mood, not the language itself! Russian is still my passion even though it's so hard to learn. And the letters aren't even the hardest thing.
    JSYK, I've been learning Japanese too, although my journey with it ended rather quickly. After years of watching anime and dramas, though, I'm able to watch it all without subtitles and understand everything anyway 8D

  10. OMG!
    You've learned Japanese? I enjoyed reading this article girl! I'd struggled when I first came to the U.S and still do from learning different language! I've decided to blog in English so that I have the perfect excuse to keep using it! Also I can learn a lot of new words, sentences, and idioms while doing that since I always research how to say particular things in English during my write! I feel ya, and please let me know if you need a person to teach you Japanese! Here I am 🙂 GO GIRL!

    AikA, xoxo


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