You may or may not have ever considered keeping a diary in Japanese. This is actually a really, really, great way to practice Japanese and learn new things!
It doesn’t matter if you’ve just started or at an advanced level, keeping a diary is great for learning Japanese!
Why Should I Keep a Japanese Diary?
- Improves writing.
- Improves memory.
- Introduces you to new words.
- You use more words relevant to you.
- Practice words you’ve learned.
What Kind of Diary Should I Use?
To be honest, anything that you know you will use on a regular basis. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy (or it could be if you’d prefer that)! But here are some ideas:
I personally really like just normal planners which keep track of what I’m up to and what I’ve done. Ideally ones with the month spread out across 2 pages but you can also get weekly ones which have more space to write in.
I suggest finding a planner that has a lot of note paper at the back. That way you can use the space to make more notes in Japanese.
These are great for people who:
- Don’t want to write walls of text.
- Want to keep track of plans/goals.
Daily Journal / Notebook
Some people prefer daily journals or just plain notebooks to keep diaries in. These will normally have an entire page dedicated to one day and they can be quite thick. But that means plenty of space to write lots for each day!
These are great for people who:
- Like to write a lot
- Enjoy writing daily.
- Need lots of space to write.
A bullet journal is for those that love to be productive and plan everything in advance. Bullet journals are used by people to keep track of tasks, progress on projects etc. They’re more like planners but can be used anyway you like and are great to keep as language journals.
Bullet Journals are great for people who:
- Love to plan everything.
- Write a lot.
- Like to write regularly.
- Prefer a flexible layout.
If you’re not a fan of carrying around a book and writing things down, why not start an online diary or blog?
Blogger is a simple blogging platform.
Lang-8, however, is a place where you can post segments and native Japanese speakers will correct your Japanese! This is great if you want to learn more fast. Lang-8 also keeps track of what days you’ve posted.
Online blogging is great for people who:
- Don’t like carrying books.
- Prefer typing on the computer.
- Want native Japanese people to help correct their Japanese.
What Should I Write?
As a general rule you can write whatever you like. But sometimes it’s not that simple so here are some ideas:
- To-do lists.
- Wish lists.
- What you did during the day.
- New year/3 month resolutions.
- New Japanese words/phrases.
- Your thoughts/feelings/opinion on something.
Tips for Beginners
If you’re a beginner learning Japanese it can be really frustrating not knowing what to write, or feeling like you don’t know how to write something.
First you should never try to directly translate from English into Japanese!
I.e If I want to say “I hung out with my friends” saying “hung out” in Japanese DOESN’T WORK. A simple verb like “to meet” works just as well. So ともだちとあいました (“I met friends”) is a perfectly natural Japanese sentence.
Think of how you would say it in Japanese (and not how you would say it in English then Japanese). Try saying the sentence out loud to hear if it sounds right.
Try not to over-think things and stress yourself out!
Do not worry if you can’t write complex sentences right now! It’s better to practice what you’ve been learning rather than confuse yourself by trying to learn advanced grammar but skipping important beginners grammar. – You need a good foundation to build on top of.
It’s best to keep sentences simple and focus on improving your writing skills, and memory for words you’re learning.
If you’re not sure if a sentence is right I suggest using Lang-8. With Lang-8 you can write posts in Japanese and have native people correct them. They don’t have to be whole essays, even just a sentence is good!
Tips for Intermediate/Advanced
I would give the same advice for intermediate and advanced learners as above. Do not directly translate.
It’s really tempting to over-think things and try to directly translate, but you need to switch your mind to Japanese mode. Try and think in Japanese from the start, rather than thinking in English then trying to turn that into Japanese.
With intermediate and advanced Japanese you have more freedom to write more complex sentences. Especially with JLPT N3+ grammar.
Push yourself to write something a little more complex. Don’t just write about what you did but about how things made you feel. Write about some news you heard (in the news, online, etc) and write what you think of it.
Looking at how you feel/think about current issues can introduce you to not only new vocabulary and kanji. But it also helps you express yourself and keep up to date with current affairs.
I hope this encourages you to write a diary in Japanese! If you do already, what kind of diary do you keep? How has it helped you? Any advice for others looking to start Japanese diaries?