How Do I stay Motivated When Learning Japanese?

10 Tips to Keep on Track.

motivated whilst learning Japanese

Motivation is a fickle mistress at the best of times. Constantly having the motivation to learn Japanese is another thing altogether.

You’ll see something online or on tv and have motivation for weeks on end, to become the ultimate Japanese-speaking otaku!

…And then life happens, and sadly that motivation starts flagging, and before you know it, all of those textbooks start getting way too dusty.

But fear not! I’ve been there, done that, and managed to (just about) keep myself motivated throughout the whole thing.

How many hours a day should I spend learning Japanese?

This is a hard question to answer, but I would suggest studying Japanese for at least 1 hour every day to see progression. The most important thing is consistency and repetition, so technically even a shorter time would be ok, but it’s very dependent on your schedule.

Japanese study motivation really comes and goes, so if you set yourself too much of a big goal, you may not keep that repetition up.

Ideally, you’d study all day every day because you’d be in Japan! But just do your best and study for as long as you can comfortably spare each day of the week, and you should do great!

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips to stay motivated when you learn Japanese!

1. It’s dedication, not motivation.

stay motivated learning japanese
Yes, I get it. Dedication sucks sometimes, but it’s the only way forward!

Hands down, the best way to stay motivated whilst learning Japanese is to realise motivation is almost entirely pointless.

Unless learning Japanese is something you have to do for a Job or school, it will always be hard to stay motivated whilst learning any language.

That’s not to say you can’t do certain things to help keep that motivation high, as you’ll see from the list below, but there will be downtimes no matter what.

And that’s totally fine! As long as you understand it from the outset, lacking motivation for learning Japanese is absolutely fine.

Why is it OK to struggle with your motivation when learning Japanese?

Because, like many things in life, to become good at learning something, you need to stay dedicated to your journey no matter how you’re feeling.

Just as someone who trains for the marathon would go running in the rain (Even though they wouldn’t want to), you need to keep studying on those days when you don’t feel like it.

Dedication is doing it day in day out, no matter how you feel. And repeating that for potentially years at a time.

If you can manage that, you’ll be a master of the language in no time!

2. Focus on your own reasons for learning

your reasons for learning japanese
Learn Japanese so you can stare blissfully out of a train window like in an anime movie. What other reason could there be!?

We’ve all got our own reasons for learning Japanese, and occasionally, we just need a little reminding.

It’s easy to get completely bogged down in textbooks and grammar, and forget the main reason you started learning Japanese in the first place.

If you’ve lost your reason for learning Japanese, it’ll become a chore. If it becomes a chore, you’ll either stop doing it altogether or resent every time you sit down to start learning.

My reasons for learning Japanese was to speak to my girlfriends’ family, and finally have a decent conversation with them. Unfortunately, that was around the time Japan closed their borders. I had to remind myself that I would be back at some point, so why not keep studying!

3. Celebrate the small milestones

celebrate small japanese milestone
This little one is checking up on you, making sure you’re celebrating!

This is a huge one.

And especially important if you’re transitioning from a beginner to intermediate level of learning.

The reason for this, is when you very first sit down to study Japanese, I’m pretty sure you’re going to be completely overwhelmed. It’s completely natural and nothing to worry about, but still feels like quite a bit to deal with.

Then, the first big thing you’re likely to achieve is learning both the Hiragana and Katakana script. Once you’ve learnt these, you’ll feel like you’re progressing at an extremely fast rate and that Japanese isn’t so hard after all.

The problem comes when you’ve learnt the basic grammar, the basic vocabulary and scripts, and now you’re moving onto the harder bits.

Kanji being the main culprit for countless people.

You’ll feel like you’re completely stuck, learning one rule only to be taught something different, and getting overwhelmed by the immense amount of grammar just like you were at the very beginning.

This is often a place many people give up, and admittedly, where I’ve given up a few times as well.

The key to feel like you’re continuously progressing and actually getting better is to celebrate the small milestones at every opportunity.

Here are a few examples:

  • Learning Hiragana
  • Learning Katakana
  • Learning vocabulary groups. e.g., body parts, food, transport etc)
  • Understanding and using individual vocabulary rules

It’s a good idea to set your own milestones as everyone will be different. What you might struggle with, others may find easy, and what you may find easy may be extremely hard for others.

Remember, everyone learns at their own pace, so don’t compare yourself to anyone other than yourself.

4. Set up a schedule

set up a japanese learning schedule
There’s no rush with your Japanese learning journey, just be consistent!

One of the best ways to stay motivated whilst learning Japanese is through self accountability, and one of the best ways of doing that, I’ve found, is by setting up a learning schedule.

This will differ greatly from person to person, but the principal is completely the same.

Set some time aside each day, it doesn’t have to be long, and dedicate it to learning.

The key is to set a goal that’s achievable for you each and every day. It’s far better to study Japanese for a shorter period each day than for a long time once a week.

When I started learning Japanese, I chose to use flash cards. They were easy to set up, I could quickly get into them every day, and it wasn’t nearly as in depth as a textbook.

Of course, It’s an excellent idea to mix and match your study material, but flashcards were the base of my practice.

I used Anki and the Japanese core 2000 deck. It included 2000 vocabulary words with accompanying Kanji and listening practice. Highly recommended!

The great thing about Anki is you’ll also be given a chart to show how long in total you’ve studied for and how many days in a row.

It’s a simple and efficient tool, and one I highly suggest beginner Japanese learners use for their daily study.

5. Enjoy downtime as part of your study

japanese study downtime
Downtime doesn’t have to be wasted study time!

Learning a language is all about immersion and repetition, as we’ve already figured out.

Unfortunately, none of us are robots with endless attention spans who don’t need to sleep (…yet…, so having downtime is a great idea.

But there’s also no reason that your downtime can’t be a way for you to stay immersed within the Japanese language.

Whether that’s playing a video game in Japanese, reading some Manga, watching Japanese YouTubers, or watching Japanese films and series on Netflix, it’s a great way to relax whilst not feeling guilty that you should be studying.

…Maybe I have too much downtime… Hmmm.

6. Give it your all

japanese anime city
Learning Japanese is hard, so it’s going to take some doing!

In contrast to the above point, sometimes you’ll have to give studying Japanese your full attention.

That means no distractions, no TV, no music, nothing.

Just you, a textbook, and the Japanese language

It might even seem a bit confronting the first few times you do it, almost as if there’s nowhere to hide.

But it’s this kind of commitment that will seriously pay off in the end. I’m not saying you need to do it each and every day, but it’ll be incredibly beneficial for you to do it more often than not.

So turn off that T.V, yeah I’m looking at you!

7. Immerse yourself in the culture

inflatable japanese octopus

As with any language, immersing yourself in the culture is a fantastic way to speed up your learning and stay motivated.

Don’t just learn the language, learn about Japanese incredibly interesting culture, which isn’t just weird and wacky as most websites would have you believe!

If you’re interested in learning a little more about Japanese culture, I’ve got loads of articles just waiting to be found by you! Take a look here!

Infact, have a click around the whole site. I guarantee you’ll find something that’ll interest you! And if you don’t, email me and I’ll personally write you an article!

8. Find a study buddy

japanese study buddy
If your study buddy likes Japanese snacks, all the better!

Finding a study buddy is a great way to keep yourself accountable, but also has a host of other benefits as well.

When you’re struggling a bit with motivation, your friend will be there to pick you back up again.

Don’t understand a particular Japanese subject? Maybe your study buddy will!

You’ll even find specific study material will cater far better to two people rather than one.

One of the most prominent off all those Japanese textbooks is Genki, which actually work far better with two.

9. Take an online lesson

motivated while learning japanese
Online lessons are the key to staying motivated whilst learning japanese

When things are going a bit slower than usual, or when you just need that extra help and encouragement, speaking to a tutor is often the best way to go.

Yes, it might cost more than you want and be a bit embarrassing at first, but there is absolutely no better way to learn Japanese.

I’ve never had to use an online platform to learn Japanese (lucky enough to have a Japanese girlfriend!) but these are a couple of the best options out there!

  1. italki – Over 1 thousands Japanese tutors, both professional and conversational, with rates as low as $10 an hour (and even lower for the 30-minute trial), you really can’t go wrong taking a lesson or two here!
  2. Preply – With just under 1,000 Japanese tutors, Preply is increasingly becoming a very popular choice for those looking to learn the language. Prices seem extremley cheap, which in one way is great for your wallet, but I worry the tutors are selling themselves short. Either way, the choice is yours, and you could always book the more well-paid tutors anyway!

Even just an hour or two, and you’ll probably realise you’re better than you thought, or at least know exactly what to start learning next!

10. Change up your study material

japanese textbooks
Change things up, but I mean really, can you have too many cool Japanese book!?

It’s going to take a long time to learn Japanese, that’s a fact.

You can either slog away at the same old textbook day after day, month after month, or you can make things fun and mix things up a bit!

For instance, I like to study using Genki flashcards every morning (about 10 new ones a day), and work through Japanese from zero every other day for about an hour.

I also like reading Yotsuba!, which if you’re just beginning to learn Japanese, is a great confidence booster once you have a little vocabulary under your belt!

It’s not much, and I could probably do more, but I’ve found it works for me!

And as my level improves, I’ll upgrade what I’m doing to match how good I am. I’ll normally use my massive list of Japanese learning resources to find which one to get one with once I’ve sufficiently improved.

Everyone I know has been slightly bored whilst studying Japanese at one point or another, and if I had my head buried in a Genki textbook all the time, I think I would be too.


Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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