Studying Japanese With a Full-Time Job

Joanna Kosinska on

[Guest Blog Post] Eli Wood is a freelance content writer from Massachusetts. Eli studied and tutored Japanese throughout college and now helps businesses grow by using the right words. You can connect with Eli on LinkedIn or visit their website.

Learning Japanese can be pretty intimidating all on its own, but when you add working full time into the mix, the challenge might feel impossible. It takes a little more work when you get home, tired and ready to sit in front of the TV for a couple of hours, but it’s definitely not impossible. I work full time in a job that has absolutely nothing to do with Japanese language or culture, and I’ve recently gotten back to studying seriously.

Let me share a few tips with you on how to study consistently while you’re working! All of these come from my own experience, so if they don’t precisely fit what you do, maybe you can tweak them to work for you.

Use your spare time

Do you have a few minutes on break or between tasks? I have literally studied Japanese on my phone in the bathroom at work. I’ve studied while cooking dinner. I’ve studied while waiting for my girlfriend to get ready for bed. Five minutes of review time is better than nothing, so if you have it, use it.

Download some apps

There are a couple apps I’ve found really helpful in learning Japanese. The one I like best is LingoDeer. It’s easy to use, you can test out of lessons depending on your level, and you can practice reading, listening, and speaking. The lessons are quick, but you can learn vocabulary and sentence structure without having to think too hard. Keep in mind that apps aren’t a substitute for lengthier studies or immersion, and they won’t make you fluent on their own. However, they’re great if you can’t always devote hours to studying. (While you’re at it, add Japanese to your phone or laptop keyboard!)

Listen to audio CDs or podcasts

Do you have a long commute? Do you drive for a living? Pop in a CD or hook up your phone so you can listen to some Japanese audio. Even if you don’t understand everything (or anything), you’re training your ears to pick up Japanese sounds. Not all learning is conscious learning, and listening to native Japanese speakers will attune you to the natural sound of the language. You’ll improve your pronunciation, too! Listen to Japanese podcasts, songs, anime drama tracks (my personal favorites)… anything helps!

Carry your studies with you

Keep a little notebook on hand to practice writing kanji. Download Japanese audio tracks onto your phone. Use apps. Read Japanese light novels. I sometimes have a lot of down time at my job, so I carry my Genki textbook with me and pull it out if I know if I won’t be too busy for the next hour. If you can keep your studies in your pocket, it makes it a whole lot easier to use them on the go.

Practice speaking

Use your Japanese and be proud of it! Speak to your friends and family in Japanese, even if they don’t understand it. My brother studies Spanish, and for years he’s been speaking it to my entire family (none of us speak ANY Spanish, by the way). A couple months ago, he sent my mom and me an email written entirely in Spanish. Neither of us could read it, but it’s about him practicing, not us understanding it (though if you can find a language partner, that’s super awesome). To yourself in public if you have to!

Do what inspires you

If you don’t have a lot of time, you don’t want to waste all of it slogging through textbooks trying to wrap your head around that new grammar pattern. You might have to do some of that, but when you don’t have a ton of time, you have to find a way to keep your interest. Find a way to incorporate Japanese into your daily life in a way you enjoy and you’ll find it easier to stick to it. Me, I love reading and translation, so I try to get a hold of Japanese novels and manga to translate. I also transcribed an episode of an anime to translate that, and I already learned some new words!

Set goals

This is a tricky one because it might help some people and intimidate others. As weird as it seems, I’m motivated by exams. My own personal goal is to take the JLPT N5 exam by the end of this year. I took it in college, but then I didn’t study Japanese at all for four years. So my new goal is to take it again and do better than the first time. Maybe your goal is to translate one chapter of a book in a month. Maybe it’s to learn 20 new vocab words in a week. Maybe it’s just to pick up your book every day. It doesn’t matter what it is, but if goals and benchmarks help you, set them.

Just start

This is the most important part. If you take nothing else away from this post, take this. If you don’t start, you get nowhere. Five minutes are better than zero minutes. Oneminute is better than zero minutes. If you learn one new word every day, that’s 365 new words at the end of the year, and isn’t that a big difference in your new vocabulary? The absolute worst thing you can do is nothing. Doing something small will show you that you do have time for this after all!

Take these tips and run with them! They’re only a few in a plethora of possibilities, so let them spark ideas and new methods for you. Studying while working full time can be hard, but you can do it. Do you have your own study tips or experiences? Share them with us in the comments!

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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