It has been 18 months since I first developed interest in Japanese and decided to picked up. In that span of one and a half years, I’ve immersed myself in the language of the Land of the Rising Sun. I’ve listened to countless hours of Japanese music and radios, read mangas the way they are written, watched animes after animes, handcopied song lyrics, plowed through my Anki reps, and have actually visited Japan once and wrote a brief travelogue on it.
It has not been a smooth sailing. Heck, even the title of this post sounds hard. “…reasons I’m not quitting” sounds like this whole thing has been one hell of an endeavor. But in fact it’s not difficult. It takes quite some effort, especially in the beginning, but it is not difficult. 18 months in and I am still just as passionate and curious as the day I started learning. It may come down to the methods, materials, or maybe I just approach it with the proper mindset, or perhaps a combination of these things. I’m not really sure. But what I’m sure is that I won’t be stopping anytime soon.
1. It has become a part of me
I believe that immersion combined with repetition is the best way to learn a language. It’s how children learn their mother tounge. They are plunged straight in, and slowly picked up words that are most common and most useful to their surroundings (forget the intimidating 1000 Most Common Phrases List). And so that’s what I did. I played Japanese radios in the background while exercising. I ‘read’ manga in raw Japanese instead reading them translated (it was more like flipping through a picture book though). I focused on the small things, little tweaks that could better integrate Japanese to my life. After 18 months, it has become a part of my daily life. It has become quite well integrated that it is more of a hassle to scrape it all away. Kind of like brushing your teeth; it has became so ingrained that it would take concious effort to _not_ brush your teeth. It is, put simply, already a habit.
2. I am enjoying it
Having assimilated quite a few words, I’m now at the phase where I can start reading and hearing real Japanese. This is where the fun begins. I did not wait until I can, say, comfortably scan a newspaper. That’s a big no-no, that’s way too long. Instead, I jumped in at the first opportunity. Manga, animes, NHK shows, anything that made moved and/or made sounds, anything at all, I coached myself to devour it all. With this approach I lose the hand-holding familiarity of graded lessons. It’s scary at first, but I ended up gaining a lot more in enjoyment and fun. Part of it comes from my attitude towards the materials. If it ain’t fun, skip it; but never stop consuming. The rest of the enjoyment, well, comes from the simple fact that textbooks were never meant to entertain. They are made specifically to teach something. What most don’t realize is that entertainment can also fill that goal, occasionally (as is the case with language learning) with much more success.
So what’s next?
I am pretty thrilled at the results this 18 months had brought me, and am not regretting all those time spent drowning in Japanese. The Japanese language has become a part of me that I cherish. This, I think, is my biggest accomplishment, for it allows me to learn almost automatically. I no longer have to think about studying, it just… happens.
Next would be fluency. Or is it? The way I see it, next is just another page of yonkoma, another episode of anime waiting to be watched. Next is now, and I’m letting fluency take care of itself. After all the fun I’m having, I’m most certainly not quiting anytime soon.