In a recent post on the Language Learning Forums an interesting theory is being discussed. The idea is that it doesn’t matter what materials you use to learn a language, all that matters is time. In other words, you can use any method, it doesn’t matter what, but as long as you do it you will learn Japanese. I note that somewhere through the original poster changed his or her tune and started saying that method does matter (it has to be material that was intended for natives of the language, i.e. movies, books, etc) – Way to hurt your argument. I found this highly amusing that they are arguing one thing and saying another. Never the less, is time all you need?
Time is an important factor when learning a language. For instance, many people ask “How long will it take me to learn Japanese?” My favourite answer to that is: “Exact (sic) 5.37011 years. Adjust up or down based on high school GPA” – from Japan Guide.
Time is also important because without spending any time on learning Japanese, well, you aren’t going to learn it. But, can you use any method at all and eventually you will know Japanese? Are all the different ways of learning Japanese essentially the same in terms of how much you learn an hour and therefore people need to stop worrying about the how and just do?
I would argue that time is important in that the more time you have the more opportunity you have to learn more. However, there are more effective ways of using your time. For instance, if I was to watch Japanese TV programs and read Japanese magazines, I would probably eventually learn to understand Japanese. But for me, these are very slow methods indeed. Instead, if I learn the grammar of Japanese through a text book (for me it needs to be in written form) I can learn a lot more in a smaller amount of time (and then watch TV shows to reinforce what I have learnt!).
Perhaps if we all had an infinite amount of time to learn a language it wouldn’t matter, but a lot of people only have a certain amount a time a day that they can dedicate to their studies. So while time is an important factor, it isn’t the only factor.
Is there a secret method that will enable you to understand Japanese completely within a small amount of time? Not without some effort on your part. There are many variables when learning a language, such as what experience you have in similar languages and what particular learning styles you learn best with. To put it simply, there are methods out there that are better for you than other ones.
To find the right one, you will have to discover how you learn best and seek out these methods. I recommend you use a range of techniques for effective learning and to compliment what you have learnt elsewhere. It also stops things from getting stale – when you feel you have had enough of one method you can move onto another seamlessly.
Many programs and gurus talk about using materials that you find fun. This is good advice in that it keeps you motivated and time can fly by without feeling like you are learning. However, fun activities may not be the most effective ways to learn. So while you are having fun you may plateau or move at a slow pace – two things that may entice you to give up even though you are having fun.
The thing many methods forget to tell you is that learning Japanese is work. It doesn’t have to be hard work, but it is work. If your ideal way of learning is through grammar – well, I think we can all agree that grammar in itself isn’t fun. However, perhaps you can find a way to make the boring bits fun.
Perhaps you find fun in challenging yourself, to see how much you can learn in an hour, for example, excites you. Setting challenges can be an effective way to study. It is a type of goal setting, and seeing if you can work to your arbitrary goals. Your mind is focused on learning and less likely to get distracted, and when you meet your goals and exceed them, that can be very satisfying.
Another way is to balance out the “boring yet necessary” bits with fun. One way I do this is to set myself a goal to reach, and once I have reached it I get to watch a TV show, for example. The boring bits will make you appreciate the fun bits all the more, and motivate you to work hard for your reward. It also pays off when you find you can hear/read etc. what you have just learnt in your reward – knowing you have made progress is a great feeling.
To sum up:
Time is an important factor when learning Japanese, however it is possible to waste time on ineffective learning methods.
Discover how you learn best and utilise this information to learn at your optimum pace. Use a range of materials to keep you interested and to compliment what you have learnt in other places.
Having fun while learning is a great motivation factor (to keep you continuing your studies and not give up) however it can also be a poor use of your time. I recommend trying to find a balance between the boring and fun bits – and believe me you don’t remember the boring bits when you are understanding a chunk of real Japanese.
What are your thoughts?
What are your thoughts on people’s quests to find the magical method to learn Japanese quickly and painlessly? Should people just work on learning Japanese instead of worrying about how to go about it, or should people take some time to consider what methods they should use? Leave a response in the comments!
Tagslearning japanese, materials, method, textbook, time, tv