Do you find the idea of memorizing words and grammar rules to be boring? I do too! So let me tell you how to learn Japanese the fun way so that you actually look forward to your study time each day.
I’m not advocating one particular book or course, but rather what you can do yourself to turn your work, into play.
But did you actually know that your brain learns better when it is having fun? Let’s take a look at that first, and then move on to the methods.
Is It Important To Make Learning Enjoyable?
When you are bored, your mind begins to wander. Your focus go out the window and you procrastinate on doing the work that has to be done.
In fact, if you find learning Japanese to be a bore, then it’s probably not the right foreign language for you to learn.
If on the other hand you have fun while learning it, then you’ll want to keep coming back for more. It will be easier for you to stay committed and consistent in your studies.
And you’re much more likely to venture into more Japanese material during your free time, which will then add to your knowledge of the language.
If you want to get scientific on the matter, then making it fun is actually a necessity:
“Brain research suggests that fun is not just beneficial to learning but, by many reports, required for authentic learning and long-term memory.” [source]
When you put your brain into an optimal state like enjoyment, then “It increases dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen!” all of which help you to learn faster and remember longer.
Out of the two ways that people learn information, one is a lot easier to make fun than the other. But let’s take a look at both of them first.
The Two Primary Ways People Learn
Generally speaking, people learn Japanese by using either Intensive Learning or Extensive Learning (or both!).
Intensive learning is what you would consider your “core study time” where you are primarily focused on learning a small amount of material 100%.
This is the method that’s used by textbooks, online courses, classrooms, private tutors, and so on.
The goal is to take Japanese and present it to you in a way that you fully comprehend all the nouns, their cultural connotations, and whatever function the grammar is performing.
Unfortunately there is not a lot that you can do to make intensive learning a lot of fun, except perhaps by picking better sources that teach the language. In other words, you try to find the least boring material to use.
The fun part really comes into play with the other type of learning:
Extensive learning is basically anytime you are watching anime, reading manga, playing video games and are doing it with the goal of enjoyment.
You won’t fully understand everything that’s said, but you will probably be able to get the gist if you pick material that is appropriate for your current skill level.
What happens is that you listen to the dialog and certain words that you’ve learned through intensive study POP OUT at you and you think “Hey, I know that word!”
It’s a great feeling and really motivates you to spend even more time in intensive study so that when you come back to the extensive stuff you understand even more.
It’s what’s known as a “virtuous cycle” where you study intensively, then you experience native material that uses what you’ve learned, and you are then excited to go back and learn even more through intensive materials.
But there are a few ways to make extensive learning more fun that will make you want to engage in them for their own sake.
Making Language Learning Fun By Using Variety
Just reading Japanese textbooks gets boring fast. So what would happen if you threw some Japanese manga in the mix? Might that make it a little more exciting to practice reading?
Or maybe you need to improve your listening comprehension so you are listening to an audio Japanese course. Well to have fun while leveling up your ear skills, you could watch an episode of anime each night before going to bed!
So in conjunction with your main study materials, you want to have some fun (extensive) sources that you can use as well.
But if you only ever read the same Japanese light novel, then chances are you will get bored pretty soon.
So the two primary ways that you can keep your learning experience fun is:
- Using lots of different mediums for extensive learning.
- Exploring lots of different genres within each medium.
Makes sense, right?
Let’s go into a little more depth for each:
#1 – So instead of only using a single medium, you would want to assembly a list of several things like:
- Light novels
- Live action movies
- Video games
- Japanese friends
- Audio Books
This way you not only get all sorts of different kinds of practice, but you can always be using one at any given time.
Don’t feel like reading today? Watch an anime instead!
Tired of being a spectator? Jump into a video game and make those choices yourself!
You don’t need to be involved in every possible medium of material, but picking a few different ones would be a good idea.
#2 – Of course you have to then decide the particular manga or show to watch. I advise you pick something that interests you. Something that you would naturally want to watch or read in if it were in English.
This isn’t the typical advice, as most people will tell you to pick a genre that is close to reality (like romance, slice of life, etc.) because the words used those particular ones will be common words that you will find useful in real life.
I totally agree with those strong points. I actually think it’s a really smart way to go about it.
But what if you’re not really into that sort of thing? Or what if you are, but you’ve already watched ten slice of life anime shows? Then you run the risk of becoming bored, which (as we know) is a killer when it comes to learning.
So instead, I say pick things that you find fun and interesting and let that feeling of excitement motivate you to learn even more Japanese.
You might not use all those samurai/ninja specific words in the real world, but you will use them again in other samurai/ninja stuff.
Plus there are all those other words and grammar structures that are universally used (in all manga/anime) no matter what genre you dive into.
Recommended Resources Based On Skill Category
Of course not all extensive materials are created equal. Some are more beneficial for reading, and some for listening. You will probably want to experiment around until you find what works best for you.
Here are some thoughts on each one of the main four areas:
Reading: manga, light novels, magazines, anime w/subtitles, movies w/subtitles, video games w/subtitles.
Writing: If you write your own short stories, or in a diary, that could work. You could also turn a Japanese friend into a pen pal and write letters to them. Otherwise you might just practice writing by copying down a word or phrase you saw in an anime/book/game that you want to remember.
Speaking: Japanese friends, anything from “reading” above as long as you read out loud. Anything from “listening” below as long as you practice The Shadowing Technique with it.
Listening: anime, movies, audio books, Japanese friends, video games w/voice acting, music.
Obviously a single item can be useful for several categories. Even more so when you incorporate outside techniques such as Shadowing.
Keep The Focus On Having Fun
When it comes to learning Japanese the fun way, expectations play a key role.
If you watch an anime and expect to learn and understand everything, you will probably be frustrated and have a bad time.
But if you tell yourself to just understand what you can, and let the rest fall where it may, then your mindset will be in the right place for you to enjoy whatever it is you’re consuming.
Trust me, you can have a hell of a lot of fun with Japanese stuff even when you only know a few of the words!
Now it’s up to you to use these strategies to have fun while getting better at Japanese.
Then tell me what works for you! I’d love to hear your feedback on how you have fun with Japanese.
Leave a comment and let me know!