Before you embark on any language learning journey it is vital that you spend some time planning. Without at least a rough idea of your goals and what you need to do to achieve them, you’ll soon find yourself flailing about aimlessly or, worse, giving up completely.
That’s not to say that your plan needs to be super detailed. Nor that you need to stick to your plan no matter what. But at the very least you need a rough idea of where you’re headed and how to get there.
Since everyone has different goals, interests, and time available to study, you need to make a plan that suits you. By all means research how others have achieved similar goals to yours, but try to identify where their methods might not suit you, and adapt.
Here are some tips for making a plan:
- Do some research. There’s advice on this website, and plenty more elsewhere on the internet. Talk to others who have learned or are studying Japanese. Talk to a Japanese teacher. Find out what the Japanese learning journey might involve for you.
- Decide what it is you want to achieve. These are your goals. Try to make them realistic and quantifiable, rather than wishy-washy. Example of wishy-washy goals are ‘learn how to speak Japanese’ or ‘learn kanji’. Better, more concrete goals might be ‘learn to recognise the meaning of 2000 individual kanji’, ‘be able to make myself understood at shops and tourist sites in Japan’, ‘pass N3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency test’, ‘read and understand 90% of a Japanese children’s picture book without a dictionary’ or ‘be able to read all katakana’.
- Prioritize your goals and estimate how long each will take. Are they consecutive, or can you work towards some simultaneously? Decide what you’re going to start with and what your next steps might be. Break large goals down into smaller measurable steps, e.g. ‘learn how to read 10 new hiragana per day’.
- Start working through the early steps of your plan.
- Regularly check your progress and modify your goals if necessary. You may well find that certain tasks take longer than expected, or feel inefficient. Or maybe what you’re doing feels like a chore and you are becoming demotivated. There is absolutely nothing wrong with abandoning your plan and making a new one. If you try to stick with something that’s neither fun nor effective, you’re bound to burn out sooner or later. Keep your Japanese learning interesting. Add some variety, and adapt to maintain your interest.