I have been studying Japanese for so long that I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t need to study too much (unless I have an exam coming up). So I haven’t felt what it’s like to be a beginner in a long time. Then I started learning Korean and my early days of Japanese came flooding back.
When I started learning Japanese it was before the era of smart phones and easy-to-make websites. Which surprisingly enough wasn’t that long ago! I would spend 1 hour a week with a teacher and then would sometimes study on my own and do my homework.
I thought I made good progress at the time but considering it took be over a year to learn hiragana and another to learn katakana… It was not the most effective use of my time. But there’s more to it then that…
Basically my first two years was spent mostly only studying 1 hour a week. This was a TERRIBLE idea. And here’s why…
Why You Shouldn’t Study Only 1 Hour a Week
I don’t know about you but I easily get distracted when I try to sit down for an hour. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, whether it’s reading, in class, driving. After an hour my brain will wander. It’s hard to consciously focus on something 100% for an entire hour.
So you’re probably not actually studying for an hour!
If you do want to study for 1 hour at a time, a good tip is to study for 20 minutes. Then have a 10 minute break. Then study for another 20.
A good way to check how much you study in a certain time is Toggl time tracker. You can keep track of how much time you actually spend doing stuff. Stop the timer if you find yourself getting distracted and see how much time you actually study.
Lack of Repetition
Repetition is incredibly important to learn something long-term. So if you’re only studying 1 hour a week, then there are 6 days you’re not studying.
So by the time the week comes around again, you’ve probably forgotten everything from the previous week’s learning session.
There are numerous studies which highlight the importance of spaced repetition for long term memorization.
Takes Longer to Learn
Let’s say (hypothetically) that you’re studying 1 hour of Japanese a week. Then if it takes 150 hours to learn the basics, it will take you 37.5 months or just over 3 years!!!
If you study at least 30 minutes a day, that’s 3.5 hours of Japanese a week. Which doesn’t seem like much but it builds up.
Studying at least 30 minutes a day means you’ll learn 150 hours worth of Japanese in just 10 months!!!
(I’ve used this formula a lot in the past, but it’s the best way to show how studying little and often benefits you more in the long run.)
Easier to Not Do It
It’s surprisingly easy to say “I’ll just do an hour tomorrow” and then NOT do it.
“I didn’t study an hour this week so I’ll just do 2 hours next week.”
“I can just do it before I go to bed.”
“I have time, I don’t need to do it now.”
“I’ll do it just after I watch this youtube video… and this one… and check my email…”
Yep. It’s REALLY easy to put off studying Japanese, especially if it’s not a regular habit.
You need to turn studying Japanese into a habit that you do in little bits every day. Studying becomes a LOT easier to do when it become a habit. Rather than something you keep putting off until you haven’t done anything in over a month!
Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.
More Effective Ways to Study
At Least 15 Minutes Every Day
I already mentioned how studying a little everyday will work out better in terms of learning the materials faster. But it also encourages you to review regularly, repeat things you’ve recently learned, and get into the habit of studying.
15 minutes ISN’T that much time so you can easily find a regular time in your day to focus on those 15 minutes.
Keeping this at the same time would be better in terms of making studying a habit. I personally prefer studying in the morning, but it’s important to find the time that works best for you.
Too busy to study? Well, you can still find the time. I wrote this article for Business in Japan all about finding the time to study when you’re super busy.
An Extra 30 Minutes Twice a Day At the Weekend
The weekends are normally better in terms of free time. So this is a great chance to squeeze in an extra hour or two of studying to BOOST your Japanese!
Again, don’t study in hour long chunks (distracting, etc). Try and divide it into two-four 30 minute sessions over the weekend. That’ll a bonus of 1-2 hours a week on top of your daily study!
Study on Your Own AND Get a Teacher
Studying regularly on your own is incredibly important to help you learn. But it also helps immensely to work with a teacher once or twice a week.
Especially if you’re really bad at self-discipline. Having someone to keep you accountable is really helpful for many people.
Many teachers offer hour long lessons, but I find these to be mentally exhausting sometimes. I would aim for 45 minutes to 1 hour lesson. Trying to schedule 2 lessons a week rather than 1 will also give you a boost! Especially if you work with 2 different teachers.
Keep Track of How Much You Study
I mentioned this before but using something like Toggl time tracker is a GREAT way to keep you on track. Not only in a single study session, but also in the long run.
You can see how much you’ve studied in a given week and try to work out ways to improve that time spent studying.
Studying regularly is NOT easy. It takes a fair amount of self-discipline and control. But when you do it, you really do reap the rewards.
It’s all about building the amount you study every week. If you study just 15 minutes a day that’s 1.75 hours a week. If you add studying with a Japanese teacher for an hour a week that’s 2.75 hours. Then if you study for 30 minutes twice at the weekend that’s about 4.5 hours a week! Which is 20 hours a month!!!
Keep studying by yourself as well as with a teacher to help boost your learning.
Even if you’re incredibly busy there are times in the day where you can find the time to study.
If you find yourself getting distracted start track the time you spend studying Japanese. It’s also a great motivation boost to see how much you’ve been working in a given time.
My first two years was spent mostly only studying 1 hour a week. This was a TERRIBLE idea. Why? Because after 2 years I had barely learned hiragana and katakana. Practically no kanji. Very little vocabulary and struggled to string a sentence together. It was only after I went to Japan and was studying 3-6 hours a day that I knew the basics and could hold a basic conversation.
I really, really regret not studying more regularly at the beginning. And I’m not exactly studying as regularly as I’m preaching, but I’m getting there. I hope this post helps others get there too!