The Language of Japan

I wanted to write a really interesting and profound post for the Japan Blog Matsuri, but every year I forget about it, miss the deadline, or can’t think of anything for the theme, so I’m just going to write this post anyway – believe it or not, I began the draft of this post for Tae Kim’s Japan Blog Matsuri all the way back in 2008!

Orthographic Projection of Japan (green) and i...

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About three years ago I moved back to the States after living in Japan for 3 years.  In those three years my language learning went in fits and starts and now that I am back I am afraid of losing all the progress I made.  So, one of my goals has been to maintain and even increase my Japanese proficiency while living in the US.

How does one achieve that goal?  Well I know a lot of people have done it before me (look at All Japanese All The Time), but the thing that is essential is discipline and desire.  This is true of achieving any goal – you have to want it and you have work toward it constantly.

When I first returned from Japan, I had just passed a milestone in my language learning.  In my last year there, I was working at the Board of Education for the prefecture and visiting special needs schools that didn’t have full time native English speaking teachers – both situations where my use of English was limited and I need to push myself to speak Japanese more and more.  This was in contrast to the high school I used to teach at, which had some very good English teachers who were very comfortable using English.  This meant that at the high school, I communicated primarily in English and my language growth was slow.  In my last year there, I had established the foundations of the language, had a fair amount of vocabulary, and was forced to speak it everyday.  This meant that I saw an exponential increase in the rate of my improvements that I hadn’t seen before.  I was understanding more and more and becoming more comfortable with speaking and understanding.

That meant that when I moved back to the USA, I still felt that forward momentum.  Combined with the fact that I was initially unemployed and had a lot of free time, I jumped into hardcore Japanese studies as soon as I got back.  I was working through grammar, doing my Anki SRS repetitions, and watching a lot of Japanese TV.  My Japanese continued to improve.

Now, here I am two years later, and I lost that motivation along the way.  I got too busy, I lost my good habits of studying regularly, and my attention was captured by other things.  I can tell that now I have lost much of the progress that I made.   But, to progress, I think one cannot get caught up in what they did or did not do in the past; they can only begin progressing again from where they are at the moment.  So, for progress, in language or anything else, you move forward from your current moment in constant, steady steps – starting now.


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