Eventually you’re going to graduate. You’re not going to be in Japanese class forever. And since you already know how to survive the classroom, you need to know what to do afterwards. So what do you do once you don’t have a schedule or classmates or teachers or homework!? Is it possible to maintain your learning and continue to grow in the language? Of course it is, but it’s not always easy. Making the transition is easy for some and hard for others. Here are some ways to make that transition as painless as possible.
Make a Schedule and Stick to It
One big advantage of being in actual Japanese classes is that you have to be in class and learning for a certain amount of time each week at set blocks of time on a consistent schedule. This makes it easy to get yourself into a routine and not fall behind with your learning. When you’re on your own, you have to impose these guidelines on yourself.
The best way to do this is to decide how much you want to study each week and what time of the day you want to do it. Maybe you want to study every other day for an hour before bed. Perhaps you want to study thirty minutes each day after work. Whatever your preference may be, it’s important that you stick to it, make it a habit, and fall into that routine. If worse comes to worst and you miss a day, make it up. You’d have to make up a Japanese class if you missed one, so do the same thing here.
Even better would be if you could model your schedule after what you’re already used to from the Japanese classes. If you had them every day at a certain time, try and keep doing it at that same time after you graduate. If you have a job that gets in the way, that’s too bad but you can just move the lessons around. The important part is that you don’t fall out of your classroom routine. The longer you wait to make the switch from classroom routine to self-study routine, the more difficult it’ll be getting back into it.
Ideally you’d want to move right from classroom to self-study with no downtime. Take the motivation from your classroom learning and apply it to self-study. Don’t get lazy. The longer you wait to make the transition the more difficult it will be.
Make it Fun
Most likely your Japanese classes weren’t all that fun. Maybe they were. I’m sure part of the fun was actually getting to interact with other students in class and talking in Japanese with the teacher. Well, now you’re on your own. How to make fun?
There are tons of ways to make it fun and we’ve already written about a lot of them. You can study with dramas, variety shows, and even with anime. There is a lot of media out there and I’m sure you can find something out there to really sink your teeth into and motivate yourself with.
Start up something like TextFugu, WaniKani, or just anything that works for you. Having some sort of guidelines and plan for your learning is always good. Structure is very useful. Some people do better without much structure but I’d think after having classroom learning classes you have a pretty good idea of what study and learning methods work best for you. Find something you enjoy and stick with it. The best method is the method that works for you.
Study and Speak with Others
Like I said, you’re not in the classroom anymore so your human interactions in Japanese are now zero. Probably. Maybe you’re lucky and have a real life Japanese friend to practice with. Unfortunately not all of us can be that lucky. If you want to improve your conversational Japanese abilities, you need to practice conversation (duh).
To do this, you can either get together with old friends from your Japanese classes and talk together in Japanese or discuss the finer points of the language if you’re into that sort of thing. Make use of your friends and ask them questions and help each other out!
Another great option is to find yourself a real life Japanese practice partner. You’ll probably have better luck finding one online and most likely they’ll want to practice their English in exchange for helping you with your Japanese. This seems like a pretty fair trade and you’ll make a new friend out of it so it’s a good deal.
Depending on if you want to improve your written or spoken Japanese (or both) you can find a Japanese pal and exchange emails, messages, or Skype. There are lots of options and plenty of language learners out there who would be happy to help you out. All you gotta do it look for them.
Remember Why You Started This Journey
You started learning Japanese for a reason and there’s a reason you’re continuing to learn even after the classroom. Whatever that reason is, keep it in mind. Set a goal for yourself and don’t give up until you get there. And then once you reach that goal, set another, more lofty goal for yourself and don’t stop until you achieve that as well.
It’s much easier to stay motivated when you realize how what you are currently doing is helping you move towards your goal. If you want to be able to read the text in video games and manga, realize that struggling through Manga for Illiterate Babies Vol. 1, no matter how frustratingly embarrassing, is helping you move towards your end goal. Eventually all your hand work will pay off and you’ll come back to Manga for Illiterate Babies Vol. 1 and be amazed at how much progress you’ve made.
Keep track of where you are, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get yourself there. If you find yourself struggling or at a plateau, switch things up a bit, ask friends for advice, something, anything! Just don’t give up. You are capable of achieving your goals and the only one standing in your way is you.
So tell me, do you have any other tips for making the transition from classroom study to self-study? Anything in particular you struggled with yourself? How did you overcome it?