One of the common themes you hear from language teachers is that the process of acquiring a new language should be fun. Today I want to talk about how to have fun while learning Japanese.
There are actually some scientific reasons why this is a good idea for learning the language. But besides that, there is also some common sense that can be applied as well.
Once I’ve explained both of those reasons for incorporating fun into the process, I’ll talk about how you can do it immediately, even with the same materials you already have!
The secret has to do with something inside yourself that’s not necessarily dependent on the books and courses you use.
The Scientific Reason
Your brain is an incredibly complex thing. Tons of research has been done over the last couple of decades, and there is still a long way to go before we fully understand everything about it.
But some of the research has shown that different moods release different chemicals in the brain, which change not only the way we feel, but also the way that we learn.
When you’re in a state of stress, anxiety, or boredom your brain enters into a state where “…information is blocked from entering the brain’s areas of higher cognitive memory consolidation and storage.”
Meaning that your efforts for learning Japanese in this condition are either completely wasted, or only minimally effective at best.
On the flip side of things, when a person experiences fun and pleasure while learning, the brain releases the kinds of chemicals that promote the stimulation of memory.
If you want to read the full report, check out the article linked above. Otherwise, let’s continue on!
The Common Sense Reason
Think about yourself when you are engaged in an activity that you truly enjoy. What are some of the mental and physical conditions that are typical, that are also helpful when learning new information?
Here are some of the things that I’ve notices:
- Increased focus and attention.
- Long stretches of time spent engaged in the activity.
- The formation of habits by doing it consistently day after day.
- The desire to improve and get better at the task.
- A positive attitude towards the endeavor.
We can basically conclude that when you do what you love, you will naturally do the sorts of things that are required to attain a high level of proficiency.
That’s one of the reasons why, almost always, the best performers in any field of life Love what they do.
There’s nothing worse than spending hours on end doing what you hate, and nothing better than doing what you love.
Change Your Attitude About The Study Materials
One of the common complaints I hear about some of the more effective study methods like SRS and Mass Sentences, is that they are “boring ways” to learn the language.
At first I thought that perhaps the problem was in the methods themselves, until I did a little more research and talked with people who actually really enjoy learning these ways.
What I came to the realization of is that an individual’s attitude towards a method of learning has an inordinate influence on their perception of enjoyment while engaged in the activity.
This shouldn’t be so surprising when we realize that you can have two separate people do the same thing, such as read a particular book or watch a show, and one will love it while the other thought it was lame.
So how can we change this so that you enjoy the study method you use?
I think one of the ways is to keep your mind focused on the positives and the end results.
Just like the person who starts lifting weights to get a better looking body might not enjoy working out at first, once you’ve established the habit and begin to taste the rewards of your efforts, you start to associate pleasure with the method.
After a while, you actually begin to look forward to engaging in it every day!
But the only change that occurs is your personal perspective on the matter.
If at first you find it hard to focus on the positive, then simply keep your mind neutral. Refuse to dwell on anything boring about the method, and allow yourself to eventually find one or two good things about it that will help you to start liking it more.
I mentioned that seeing some results can help, and I’d like to go into depth on it in this next part.
Engage In Native Level Materials
One of the ways to accelerate your progress is by having a goal that you’re working towards. To put it a little differently, you need to know “what you want to do with the Japanese language” once you’ve attained some skill with it.
That could be watching anime in Japanese with no subtitles, reading native materials that haven’t been translated into English, or making friends with Japanese people.
Once you’ve reached an intermediate level or higher in Japanese you should be engaging with some form of native material on a fairly regular basis.
This is partly to “check in” and see how well you’re progressing with Japanese.
But it’s also because there will be these moments where you fully comprehend the material and you become super excited at how far you’ve come with Japanese!
At first it’s usually just a word or two, but eventually it will be a full sentence and then an entire scene. When these moments happen, it’s like finding a secret doorway to another world – The world of Japanese!
You’re energy levels and excitement skyrocket and you feel like you’re performing some sort of magic!
It’s basically like being “in the zone” when you’re doing really well at a game of any sort.
This feeling becomes like a sort of “high” that you want to experience again and again, and then when you go back to your core study methods, you engage in them full-on because you know the reward is on the other side of the work.
What About “Fun” Apps For Learning?
Lately there have been a lot of games and apps that have come out in the marketplace that promote having fun while learning a new language.
I think this is great since people are realizing the importance of enjoying the journey towards fluency, but sometimes they can get a little carried away.
There is a fine line between actually learning a language, and simply being busy by playing a game with another language.
Really it comes down to a matter of time spent. Did you play a game and learn 10 new words in an hour? That might be okay, but more effective methods could teach you 20 or 30 new words within that same time frame.
In cases like these, it might be a better idea to use a more intensive method and make the process enjoyable through keeping the right attitude and then seeing the results when you engage with native materials.
Regardless, I think it’s better to use any method than no method.
What do you think?