How long have you been studying Japanese? Have you blanked out at all since you started?
Oh, I don't blame you if you’re not such a patient student. I’m a teacher and a learner, as well. So I truly understand how learners must often combat inertia (laziness) when it comes to continuing to improve your language skills.
I believe continuous study and using the language you’ve learned are important to keeping your passion alive for Japanese. But, studying very hard and learning kanji alone is not enough. If you’re not enjoying it, you’ll burn out sooner or later.
So, here are some easy and fun ways to refresh your learning and make it more meaningful.
Enjoy the Japanese culture
I hope you’re enjoying not only the Japanese language but also its culture in its many forms. I’ve met many learners who started studying because they like Japanese pop and traditional culture. Before starting to learn the language, they read cartoons, watched animated series, listened to J-pop, played games, tried on traditional clothes and ate food from Japan.
Here is my favorite cool TV program. (This is an English program, so you can relax and focus on themes.)
The program introduces cool Japanese things, including both traditional views and new trends. You can see the panel of countries; their opinions are fun to listen to.
The broadcast is every Sunday on TV and online.
So, when you’re tired of studying with textbooks, please look back on why you started learning Japanese and start enjoying the language again.
Mysterious or interesting problems?
The Japanese language has some ambiguous expressions, for which normal grammar does not apply. So, the only thing you can try is to get used to knowing how to recognize them in conversations.
The most common ambiguous expression is ii which has a “good” meaning literally, but it can also mean “yes” and “no” in a conversation.
A: Watashi ga paathii no jyumbi wo shimasu. (I will prepare for the party.)
B: Sore wa ii. ( It's good. / No need.)
Most learners worry if they will be able to understand these kinds of phrases correctly when they hear them. How do Japanese people distinguish the meanings? Japanese people catch the tone of their voices, expressions on their faces and the context in which the expression occurs. Understanding the context without words is very difficult for learners who haven't had a lot of experience in Japanese society.
Moreover, there are many homophones (words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins or spelling) in Japanese. When you read sentences in Kanji, you will understand the differences, but when having a conversation, it might be more difficult to understand.
For example, Koo-en can have many meanings:
A public park （公園）
A public performance （公演）
A good performance （好演）
A support （後援）
A lecture （講演）
Actually, there are more than five; I just listed the most common words here.
This also shows how important it is to hear the context in a real conversation. If you’re not living in Japan or working with Japanese people, it can be difficult to get used to. Some learners think it’s really annoying while others think it’s interesting. Even if you’re not the latter, please don't give up and drop out! Below, I suggest a fun TV series which might make you feel relieved and encouraged.
Watch, laugh, learn!
I like comedy very much. So I often watch comedy series for language learning. If you have a DVD with subtitles, it can be a great learning device.
I think you’ll really get a kick out of the series Nihon-jin no shiranai Nihon-go （『日本人の知らない日本語 , 2010） This comedy is set in a Japanese language school in Tokyo. There’s a cute and funky novice teacher and students who come from several countries; they share fun and funny experiences through learning Japanese.
All the students have interesting questions and frustrations about Japanese culture and language. I’m sure you will strongly agree with some of them. Please have fun and laugh about mysterious Japanese life!
After you refresh your brain, it’s time to go back to routine study. But, I believe that taking time out for these kinds of fun breaks enhances your understanding about Japanese language, as well as rejuvenates your learning process.
Article edited by italki Teacher Ilene Springer