Turn Your Car Into a Japanese Classroom!

Everyone knows that in order to learn something new, you have to put in regular time and effort. Unfortunately, in today’s busy world, people have a hard time finding time for study. That’s why you should turn your car into a Japanese classroom!

If you think about it, we all spend a lot of time each day in our cars. Many of us drive by ourselves, and it happens with regularity each and every day.

What better time is there to practice Japanese?

Let’s take a look at what “Japanese Drive Time” looks like and the best ways to go about using it.

How Much Time Does the Average Person Spend Driving?

Everyone is a little different depending on their life circumstances.

And one of those areas is how much time we spend in the car each and every day.

No doubt the most common reason people drive around is to get from their house to work in the morning. And then there is the return trip after the day has ended too.

Some people literally have to drive for over an hour just to get to work! Others don’t even have a car and instead take public transportation to get everywhere.

But on average, people in America spend between 1-2 hours driving in their cars each day.

Most of the time they are listening to the news on the radio or some music that they like.

But what if instead of listening to that stuff during drive time, you listened to Japanese? The time spent would add up to the same as two advanced college courses each year, according to the business expert and personal development trainer Brain Tracy.

When you do the math on time spent in the car, you realize that we all spend several hundred hours every year going to and fro!

What this means is that, if you spend regular time in the car, then you no longer get to use the “I don’t have enough time” excuse for learning and practicing Japanese.

What Kind of Japanese Can You Learn While in the Car?

Obviously you’ll need to stick to audio only forms of learning materials!

Keep your eyes on the road (sorry, no reading!) and let your ears and mouth roam free in Japanese.

This means that you’ll be using a CD or MP3 format for the material and you’ll have to rely on just two things to understand the Japanese that you’re receiving:

  1. Your ears
  2. Patterns of speech you already know

The first one is great since most people use their eyes to learn Japanese, when they should be more often using their ears.

It’s totally okay to use your visual abilities when learning to read Japanese, but there are things that only appear in the sound waves of the language that we call “spoken” Japanese. Some things you’ll only really pick up while listening are:

  • Pitch accent
  • Rhythm
  • Sentence flow
  • Intonation – especially with questions
  • Silent vowels in words

It makes sense that, to learn Spoken Japanese, you have to learn from Spoken Japanese, right?

Books can certainly help once you’ve already got a handle on how the language sounds, but if a non-auditory source is your primary method of learning the auditory part of Japanese, then chances are high you will fall back onto your native sound system for Japanese words.

That means your accent is heavy and gets in the way of smooth communication.

The point is, it’s good to hear the Japanese language in order to learn speak it correctly.

What are the Advantages of Learning Japanese During Your Commute?

There are lots of different ways to study Japanese, and doing it in the car has some unique advantages.

For most people, going to work is already a part of their normal day life. So when you add Japanese to that existing routine, learning will also become a daily habit for you.

And a lot of people drive to work by themselves, so it allows you to speak Japanese aloud without disturbing anyone else.

There’s also little to no distractions while taking your daily route to work or school, which means you focus better while learning. Most people are so good at driving anyway, that they don’t really have to think while driving.

I mean, you should always be careful when you’re operating a car, but since you’re going to have something playing over the speakers anyway, it might as well be some Japanese so you can get better, right?

And finally, it forces you to perform on a higher level. Since you’ll be listening to audio courses while you drive, you won’t really be able to pause them when it’s your turn to answer a question in Japanese, or repeat what the native said.

Most people hate this fact since the human brain always tries to provide an answer when it’s asked a question, even if that answer remains silent.

Quite often while learning new Japanese you will need a little time to come up with the correct Japanese answer, and when you can’t pause it, sometimes the audio time limit runs out!

I actually think that this is a very important part of the learning process since it teaches your brain to speed up and play at a higher level.

There are times when you won’t be able to answer before the recording gives the correct phrase. That’s okay. It just means you are in learning mode, and not quite at “already learned this thing” mode.

Should You Focus on Active or Passive Learning Behind the Wheel?

I think that you can certainly do both types of learning while in the car. It will probably change depending on the person, and also change throughout time for each individual.

So if you struggle to find time to learn Japanese every day, then you should use your car as your core study time and use an audio language course that forces you to learn the language actively.

I’ve talked before about a few that are pretty good. If you’re looking for a great Japanese audio course, then check out my reviews of the two below:

  1. Pimsleur Japanese Review
  2. Michel Thomas Japanese Review

You could also listen to Japanese music that has lots of lyrics in it instead of using a course, just so long as you look up the lyrics on the internet and read what they are, and what they mean.

That way you can follow along with the music.

But if you already have a study routine in place at home or wherever, then you might just want to listen to lots and lots of native materials in order to learn the language in a more passive manner.

This kind of immersion is a good thing to have in place since hearing the language all the time will help to improve your pronunciation and comprehension.

Although I don’t recommend that you only use a passive approach to learning Japanese, I think that as a general rule the more Japanese you can put into your brain, the better off you will be.

In all honesty, this is one of those situations where the correct answer is “both”! Use both ways of learning.

Use active learning materials when you can, and passive stuff when you’re too tired to think.

You Don’t Need More Time, You Need to Use the Time You Do Have Better

One of the biggest reasons people aren’t successful with learning Japanese is simply because they haven’t spent enough time with it.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to get more time that the 24 golden hours we are given everyday. That means that you’ll never find time that you can use for language learning.

You’re going to have to make it.

Or you could combine your study time with something else that you already do each day (exactly what we’ve been talking about).

Learning Japanese while in your car is a fantastic way to combine time you are spending already with improving your 日本語 skills.

I hope you enjoyed this article. But more importantly, I hope you put what you’ve learned into practice!

Let me know how you plan on learning Japanese while driving in your car!

Is there a specific course you’re going to use? A song? Comment below!


  • Craig

    I think that learning Japanese while you drive in your car is one of those things that everybody agrees is a good idea, but few actually put into practice. Perhaps we are just a little too entrenched in our existing routines of listening to music or talk radio in the mornings and such. Are there some good ways to build the habit of listening to Japanese in the car?

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