1. Know your motivation
This might sound obvious however many people start learning a foreign language without any idea of what or how they will use it for.
Understating your motivation is a requirement for anyone who wants to fulfilled and effective in learning a foreign language. It is the driving force to keep you moving forward and enriching your learning experience. If you don't have a good reason to learn a foreign language, it is less likely to stay motived.
Are you planning a trip to Japan and simply wanting to be able to take shinkansen bullet trains or order street food? Are you learning Japanese because you are fascinated by the Japanese culture, anime, manga or music and wanting to delve in further? Are you looking to work for a Japanese company or start a new life in Japan? Are you wanting to be able to converse with Japanese family members and friends to establish deeper relationships?
Finding your real motivation is certainly a key to keep you excited for a long period of time and avoid burnout eventually.
2. Find a learning partner
The idea of a learning partner is similar to have a workout partner. It will push both of you to try a little harder. Your learning partner’s encouragement to keep going can be a big boost to your motivation, particularly when you are doing it tough or feel like giving up.
Attending a class is normally easy to find someone to learn the language with you. Also, both of you will have the common topics from the class to practice and speak with each other.
3. Conversation with native speaker
While speaking is the skill most people wish to be good at, it is also the skill they practice the least.
The best way to practice your speaking skills is to find an opportunity to communicate with a native speaker, ideally one-on-one and face-to-face. This is not just a great chance to put the vocabularies you have learned in practice, but also a great opportunity to practice the accent, intonation and correct pronunciation. Furthermore, it is a perfect chance to learn more about the foreign culture.
It is far more motivated to communicate with a live person in front of you than a book or audio program on your computer.
4. Expose to the foreign language as much as possible As we all learn to listen to our native language before we can speak, no wonder many people agree the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in the foreign environment and fully expose the language.
While it is not realistic for most of us to move to a foreign country just for learning the language, there are still ways you can create a language rich environment to master the language.
· TV shows – lots of Japanese TV shows are conversational, casual, and easy to understand, such as SMAPxSMAP or Kuwazu girai (Food you don’t eat and you don’t like). Try to catch a phrase and repeat is a fun to learn Japanese.
· Manga/Anime – Manga and anime are relatively short compared to movies if you like to finish watching something in one go. And they are easier to start with as the sentences are normally easier and shorter. Even just try to find letters you can read is quite fun.
· Movies – choose a Japanese movie that you are interested in and simply turn on the subtitles and enjoy watching the movies. You may also try to memorise some catchy phrases.
· Music – put on any Japanese music you like and don't worry about knowing all the lyrics. Even as a background music will get you become familiar with the language.
5. Make it fun and interesting
“The only way a kid is going to practice is if its total fun for him…and it was for me” -Wayne Gretzky
It doesn't take long to discover that kids could learn faster than adults. The key to learn as quick as kids may be simply to take on certain childlike attitudes: a desire to play in the language.
Below is an example to learn Hiragana with a kid song.
The other way to make learning a foreign language fun is to link your personal interests to the language.
If you are interested in cooking, you can look up the Japanese recipes. If you are a fan of music, you can find some Japanese songs to listen to. If making friends recharges you, you may find a Japanese meetup to connect with people. If you are fascinated with Japanese culture, you may like to attend some Japanese festivals or cultural workshops.
Here is hiragana writing crafty way.
6. Practice regularly
Have you heard about forgetting curve? Study shows humans forget approximately 50 percent of what they learn within an hour and an average of 70 percent within 24 hours. (https://intelalearning.wordpress.com/2018/07/19/learning-myth-1-ebbinghaus-forgetting-curve/)
This brings the importance to practice the language regular. Below are some ideas gathered from different foreign language learners.
· Schedule study time into your calendar like how you schedule your appointment – by doing so, you are more likely to set the time aside to study.
· Use what you have learned - if you have learned the word りんご(apple), you can try to teach your friends or family the word even they are not learning Japanese. Alternatively, you can simply say that in your head when you see apples at grocery store.
· Review frequently – you don't have to sit at your desk for an hour to review what you have learned and tried to remember everything. The key is frequently review what you have learned even just for 5 or 10 minutes.
· Set small and simple goals – instead of setting a goal to become fluent speaker in 6 months, take baby steps by learning 1 word a day or 1 hiragana a day. People tend to be more content and motivated if they achieve their goals. And when looking back, you will be amazed how much distance you have covered.