How To Learn Japanese In 30 Days


Even though I’ve been living here for nearly ten months, doing bits and pieces of Japanese study, lately I feel like I’ve hit a wall of sorts. I’m just not making as much progress as I was at the start. I usually pick up one new word a day, mostly from my students. That sounds good, but 365 words per year? That’s pathetic.


I’ve been making all sorts of excuses – Japanese is too hard, I’m too old, I’m not smart enough, Japanese babies are special… etc. etc. But really, I’m just lazy. There’s no magic cure for illiteracy. I just need to do some freaking work. 


So, I’ve decided to go all US military on this goddamn language and beat it into submission using every weapon I’ve got. Shock and awe! Attack! Blitzkreig! (Not US, but whatever, it fits.)


I’m going to execute a 30-day invasion on Japanese. Every day for 30 days I’m going to do some serious work. Apparently 30 days is long enough to establish a good habit, while short enough not to be too scary. Every day for a year? Yikes. Every day for a month? Still kind of eeep but manageable. 


The Challenge

30 days of Japanese (language)-thrashing.


The Method

  • Learn at least 10 new kanji per day. 
  • Do all required SRS repetitions for kanji.
  • Max out SRS repetitions for the kana.
  • Do one chapter per day of a vocab/grammar textbook.
  • Listen with concentration to at least 30 minutes of adult spoken Japanese per day.


The Weapons

  • Kana – embarrassing as it is, my kana recall is far from perfect. I use iKnow.
  • Vocab/grammar – I’m using the book Minna no Nihongo. This book is entirely in Japanese. There is no English whatsoever. There is a translation/grammatical notes book available, which I have. I’m not endorsing this book, I have no idea if it’s any better or worse than others out there, but I got this one for free. Free! That’s why I use it. 
  • Spoken Japanese – I listen to children speaking Japanese for five hours a day. Even though I’m actively trying to figure out what they’re saying, they’re speaking kiddie Japanese. This isn’t really good enough. I also listen to adult Japanese while I’m driving around or doing household chores – the radio, online tv, stuff from youtube. I’m not really concentrating though, it filters in and out. 

Listening with concentration is different, I’m really trying to figure out what they’re saying, hunting for words I recognise. Right now I’m watching a Japanese TV show called Kimi wa Petto. It’s based on a really popular manga comic and was made in 2003. I’ve already watched the series (10 1-hour episodes) on youtube with the subtitles on, so I know what’s going on. I don’t have a copy of this without the subtitles, so I put the subtitled version on, and then minimize the screen. I tend to watch the same 10-minute clip 2 or 3 times in a row. Each time I pick up more words and figure out more patterns. I also watch whatever movies I can get my hands on. Previous favorites have included The Incredibles and Mean Girls. I must have listened to The Incredibles 50 times (mostly while doing other things).


The Support

  • I read at least one “motivational” blog post per day. Mostly I read Steve Pavlina. This guy is one of the most popular personal development blog writers in the world. I think he’s great. Some of his posts veer into new-agey spirituality, but I just ignore those bits and stick to motivation/time management/productivity. It really helps.


I’m posting all this stuff here partly to help other people and partly as a public declaration. I’m going to do this. If I don’t do it, I’ll… well… be ashamed. 


Wish me luck!



Oh, did I say learn Japanese in 30 days? Sorry, I meant FOR 30 days.


2 Responses

  1. […] How To Learn Japanese In 30 Days […]

  2. […] Posted on June 15, 2009 by mayinjapan My 30 days of Japanese project isn’t going too well. It got rudely interrupted by a 2-day hangover last weekend. I have come […]

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