Feb 3, 2019

Strategies for Learning Japanese in 2019

Whenever I go home for the holidays, I always get the same question: “Are you fluent in Japanese yet?” And I always have the same answer: “No.” I don’t know what it was, but sometime after my first year in Japan, I lost all inspiration in studying Japanese. Now, I have more time on my hands, I want to actually dedicate 2019 to studying Japanese.

By the end, I’d like to pass the N2, but that’s really a challenge. However, it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was something easy, right? So I’ve put together a strategy for how to incorporate more Japanese into my life this year, and hopefully get my Japanese to a better level than “scraping by.”

Here’s what I plan to do:

1) Watch more Japanese TV and media

Strategies for Learning Japanese in 2019 photo

I finally have cable again, so I should take advantage of that. Even if I’m not paying full attention to it, I figure that having the Japanese on in the background is better than not having it at all. Perhaps I can hear phrasing or even just how the words are meant to be pronounced.

I also want to actively watch more in Japanese. I used to watch Yokai Watch in my first year, and I was happy whenever I could understand what was going on. Thankfully, Netflix has a lot of Japanese shows that I can take advantage of. Rather than watch Terrace House, like everyone else does, I want to watch more children’s shows. I’ve tried Terrace House and found out that I can only understand about half of what’s being said. Most of that is due to not understanding both grammar and vocabulary.

Strategies for Learning Japanese in 2019 photo

(That's more like it!)

Whereas with children’s shows, it’s about 70% understanding, and most of the discrepancies come from not knowing the vocabulary. But this causes me to use the context clues of the show and infer a general meaning.

2) Speak to more Japanese people

Honestly, I should’ve been doing this from the get-go. I live with multiple people who speak both Japanese and English. However, because their English is good, I always default to just speaking in English with them.

In the past, I have had two different friends tell me that they would gladly speak to me in Japanese only. However, I never took them up on that offer because I was ashamed about making a mistake with someone that I knew. Thinking about it now, I realized that they sometimes make mistakes while speaking English (as do I, a native speaker) so making mistakes is nothing to be ashamed of.

3) Actively study Japanese

Strategies for Learning Japanese in 2019 photo

The previous two methods are both pretty passive methods when it comes to learning a language. I’m not saying that the previous methods wouldn’t be helpful, but they won’t get me to an N2 level quickly enough. Of course, the best way to do this is to study.

I have a few Japanese textbooks to use, but the problem is that there are no “perfect textbooks” tailored to exactly your level. Finding something useful can be difficult. Obviously, reviewing lower level points is good, but exclusively reviewing this isn’t going to help me. But, I know if I get an advanced textbook and I don't know anything, it’ll discourage me too.

4) Go to Japanese classes

I recently found out that most cities have Japanese classes. Most of them are free because they’re operated by volunteers at the city, but a few do charge a small fee. However, that fee is still much less than what you would pay taking a traditional class.

With a quick Google search, I found that my ward in Yokohama offers six different Japanese classes. Four of them charge a 500 yen (or less) per month fee, but two are free. Thankfully, the free ones are on weekends, so I can go without worrying about work. I’m not sure if this kind of service is available in all cities, but it doesn’t hurt to Google search, or even head down to your prefectural office to see!

Strategies for Learning Japanese in 2019 photo

(Look, I found this with a quick Google search in English!)


Hopefully, these things will motivate me to up my Japanese skills. Originally, I figured that I wasn’t going to be in Japan forever, so why should I waste my time studying the language? I had that mindset for years. However, what did I do instead? I watched Netflix shows and wasted time on my couch. There are so many wasted hours that I could’ve devoted to learning a new skill.

I hope that 2019 will give me the motivation to study Japanese and get more confident with my speaking skills! I’m excited for the year ahead and the new possibilities that this can open up.



I like petting cats and eating snacks.
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