I’ve been learning Japanese for almost twenty years. Wow. When I write it like that I feel bad for not being truly fluent. I’m conversational and can hold my own, but even without appearances there is little chance I’ll be mistaken as a native speaker. Which is a shame, but there it is. I never quite know to look at my language ability as a sign of progress, or a sign of lack of progress.
But, to take it as a positive, I want to look at some advice I got near the beginning of my language learning.
When it comes to practice or learning, the more obstacles there are, the easier it is to quit.
Basically, we can try and force ourselves into making new patterns in our lives, but if it sucks, we’ll stop. When it came to language learning, the idea was that very few people actually enjoy sitting down with a textbook and just cramming language. It is easy to say that is what you’ll do, but the drop off rate is quite high.
So, rather than making learning the language a chore, figure out what it is you enjoy and do it in that language. Like music? Listen to some in your target language and try and memorize or translate the lyrics. Like TV or movies? Get to watching! Making studying part of something you already like can have a higher retention rate that just studying alone.
I like to take that theory and run with it in other areas. For example, I do like writing and world building. But, to be honest, recording all the ins and outs of location and character descriptions can feel just like boring homework. Except, I’m also a nerd that likes pens and notebooks.
If I’m filling out a blank page with ink about a character, I enjoy it. I don’t know why. Even choosing the right ink for a section gives me a little sense of joy.
I know. It might not make sense. A paper notebook can’t be altered, which makes it less searchable than a digital document which can be hyperlinked or just keyword searched. But the notebook adds joy, so it gets done. Believe it or not.
And that’s the thing. There are so many ways of doing things, and some of those ways are “smarter” than others. But no matter how smart a task is, if you don’t really enjoy it, then you’re less likely to follow through.
So, be it writing, music, or language learning, if you are having trouble sticking with your routine, take a look at how you are approaching your chosen hobby. Is there a way to make it more enjoyable, even if more enjoyable is less efficient? If so, jump for the enjoyment.
Getting it done by a long road is far more efficient than stalling out on a direct route.
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