Motivation to study Japanese is a tricky thing. It comes in waves, sometimes you’re ready and raring to go, while other times you just can’t be bothered.

Learning a language like Japanese is a long-term commitment that can take years and years and years. Which makes keeping motivated difficult.


There are two-types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic.

Extrinsic (or external) motivation is any external force keeping you motivated. This might be treating yourself to a fun reward (like chocolate or buying a new book) or possible negative outcomes (like failing a test).

Intrinsic (or internal) motivation is when you want to do something for its own sake. You are motivated by something inside you, whether that’s because you’re passionate about the thing or you just love to learn.

Extrinsic motivation is best used for short-term goals, while intrinsic motivation is more useful for long term ones.

But what motivates you depends on you, and this motivation can change at any time. Thus, it’s useful to know about different motivation techniques so that you can find what works best for you.

Man getting fired up motivation to study Japanese


Extrinsic Motivation Tools and Techniques

These are tools or techniques you can use to keep yourself motivated for short and medium-term goals. These can help you get motivated for regular study tasks, and help turn Japanese study into a habit.


Time Trackers, Streaks, and Stats

Many people find tracking their study stats to be a great motivator. The action of ticking off a streak checkmark, or watching the numbers on a stats chart tick up can be really motivating.

Some people track how many words or kanji they study in a given period, while others track words or pages of books read, or even just general study time. One isn’t better than any other, the trick is finding the metric that motivates you.

Stats can be tracked in programs like Excel, or there are some apps and websites that track them for you.

  • Toggl (time tracker)
  • Yeolpumta (time tracker for studying)
  • Natively (tracks page/words read stats for Japanese books)

These language apps will track your streaks (how many days in a row you’ve studied):

Unfortunately breaking a streak or getting low stats can be demotivating and easily trip up your momentum. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens, just start up again and keep going!



Rewards are good for short-term goals as they can be fun little motivators to encourage finishing a task.

Treat yourself to a snack, like chocolate, or buy yourself something nice, like getting that new book you’ve been eyeing.

The only problem with rewards is that the appeal can quickly wear off if you keep using the same reward over and over. Keep it fresh with new exciting rewards.



Fear can be a good external motivator for some, and there’s nothing worse than the fear of failure…or the excitement of success! An exam provides both of these.

For Japanese there is the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) which is held once or twice a year (depending on where you live), but there are also other exams such as the Kanji Kentei, or Japanese Business Test.

Exams and tests can be great motivators for some or nerve-wracking demotivators for others. There’s no need to force yourself to do an exam you don’t need to do if it demotivates you.

woman taking an exam motivation to study Japanese

Using the Language

There’s nothing more motivating than using what you’re learning!

Playing games, reading manga, watching anime or movies or YouTube, etc. Having fun with the language is a reward in and of itself.

Don’t feel left out ff you’re still a beginner. Try out graded readers, podcasts and YouTube channels for beginners, and even easy manga.

Starting to use the language more frequently can be very difficult at first, but you’ll soon get to a point where it feels rewarding, even if it’s hard.


Social Media

Sharing your study progress and engaging with other people online can be a great motivator.

Social media platforms like Instagram or BlueSky, or Japanese learning community forums like reddit, WaniKani, and LearnNatively are filled with fellow learners. These are great places to share your progress and see other peoples’ progress as well!

People also often share tips and advice, or recommendations for books and resources. Seeing what other people are doing and engaging with them is a great way to get pumped about studying.

SNS motivation to study Japanese

Study Buddy

Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to study when you’re doing it by yourself. This is where a study buddy comes in handy!

Your study buddy could be a close friend who is also studying Japanese. Try asking them to study with you in the library or at a café. Even if you don’t study in the same place, it can be motivating to know you’re going through the same trials as someone else.

Similarly, you can find communities online who have study sessions where they go on Discord chat and study. No one needs to speak or show their face, but it’s a good way to have study with others without needing them to be physically present. (Of course, make sure it’s a safe community and do no engage with strangers who ask you for things online.)


Scheduled Teacher/Language Exchange

Having regular classes with a teacher or language exchange partner is another great way to keep motivated. Structured time slots form a routine that help build study habits.

This also means you get short weekly goals of practicing the new words/grammar from the previous lessons and homework.


Structure and Discipline

Some people struggle with external motivators and prefer strict discipline to keep them on-track. These are the people who say motivation is pointless, but I think structure and discipline is how they keep motivated (whether they admit it or not).

If you’re the type who only stays on tasks with structure and discipline then it might be worth exploring your own structured study plan. You can even ask others about their daily study routine and adapt their routines to what works for you.

Diligently studying motivation to study Japanese


Intrinsic Motivation Tools and Techniques

These are tools or techniques you can use to keep you motivated for medium or long-term goals. These can help you get motivated again after a slump, or help you maintain your drive to learn Japanese in the long run.


Your Goal(s)

What is your ultimate goal? What do you want to do with Japanese? Do want to be able to read manga or novels? Watch anime without subtitles? Talk to people about games?

What is your medium-term goals? Do you want to have read one manga by the end of the year? Or watch a few episodes of anime without subtitles this month? Or join a Japanese forum for gaming?

Knowing what your goal is and thinking about how to achieve over the long-term and medium-term can be good motivators. Imagine yourself as future you achieving the things you want to achieve.

This can be a particularly helpful technique if you haven’t studied for a while and want to get back into it.


The Joy of Learning

Sometimes even the act of learning Japanese as a hobby is motivating enough to keep it up.

Especially if you can see notable improvements over time. Did you struggle with a manga? Read it again after a couple months of study and see how you’ve improved. You did that.

Enjoying stats motivation to study Japanese

Not Wanting to Fail

I often say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, but sometimes that can be a good motivator. I’ve known lots of people who studied Japanese in college and then stopped when they graduated, losing all the skills they had spent years building. The desire to not be like them keeps me studying, even after passing the JLPT N1.


Look Back on Where You Came From

Learning a language is like a marathon…actually, it’s more like a hike. The start is quite gradual, but it gets tougher and rockier the higher you climb. But no matter where you are on the hike, looking back at how far you’ve come can be a pretty amazing feeling.

Climbing a mountain motivation to study Japanese


My Motivation

I like to keep very loose medium and long-term goals, but concrete short-term goals. Structure is good for me, but don’t like the pressure of feeling “I have to do this.” so I try to study in my free time but not to the point where I feel burned out.

I know myself well enough that I can give myself realistic daily and weekly study goals to work toward, such as “learn 10 new words and review 50 this week” or “study Anki 30 minutes a day”. My goals are easy to achieve and make sure I don’t let myself feel demotivated if I don’t achieve my daily or weekly goal. I also adjust my weekly goals depending on my schedule and how I’m feeling.

I also do a lot of extensive reading. Reading novels and non-fiction is a reward in and of itself for me. It’s nice to look back at how many books I’ve read over a few months or the year. And looking at all the books I want to read makes me want to read more.

I also have two teachers (for Korean) who I study with once or twice a week. This helps keep me studying on a regular basis, and I find it motivating to feel myself improve with every lesson.

I personally don’t like streaks or tracking my stats, but I started tracking my study time this year. It’s surprisingly motivating, although I remember a time where it really wasn’t motivating at all.

I’ve been learning Japanese for a long time and what motivated me changed over the years. I also didn’t realise I used such a wide range of motivational techniques until I wrote them all out.


Whether you’ve just started learning, or have been learning Japanese for years, what’s really important is doing what works for you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says (even me!), what’s really important is what it keeps you motivated.


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