7 unorthodox ways to study Japanese

Hello there! So you want to learn (or practise) Japanese? No matter what level you are it takes a lot of discipline and drive to stay on course for this never-ending journey. If you are like me and not enrolled in any kind of formal classes and have the attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo; then I think this post can help. Here are 7 unorthodox ways to study Japanese.

unorthodox ways to study Japanese

1. Start a Twitter thread

Twitter is a microblogging social media platform that can serve many purposes. Maybe you use it for jokes/memes, keeping up with news, following your favourite fandom or promoting your business or brand. What about using it to study Japanese? Not in the normal way of only following accounts that tweet kanji, grammar tips, videos etc… (like @Kantaji), but how about tweeting your twitter thread with whatever you are studying/practising? Vocabulary? Grammar? Practice sentences? Whatever it is start your own Twitter thread – I started my own that I update as I go through the Unko Kanji Drill books and its fun to update, review and also interact with other Japanese language learners via the thread.

2. Put Japanese learning stuff EVERYWHERE

Flashcards are cool and all but have you tried putting Japanese grammar, kanji and vocabulary in places you frequent or spend a lot of time in your home? Change your computer wallpaper to Kanji? Add new Japanese target grammar to your fridge door, laying in bed looking at the ceiling? That’s a good place for some vocabulary! Waiting in traffic? Read that light novel you have been putting off checking out. Sitting on the toilet? Put down your phone (eww by the way) and look at that hiragana/katakana chart you *will* put on the wall after reading this.

3. Talk to your smart speaker in Japanese

Smart speakers are all the rage. I am currently testing Alexa via an Amazon Echo Flex. I bought it in Japan so it defaulted to Japanese and after struggling to set it up then finding it so easy to switch to English afterwards I had a light bulb moment. Why not speak to my AI companion in Japanese to practice? I am sure this could work for Google, Siri and others, right? Ask your AI friend the weather in Japanese, count to ten, play a song, trivia etc. The possibilities are endless and switching back and forth from Japanese to English (at least for Alexa) is a simple as flipping a toggle in a smartphone app. Let me know if you’d like a video/post all about the questions I scream at Alexa from time to time so you can talk to your own smart speaker in Japanese.

4. Watch an episode of your favourite series in Japanese

Streaming services are now competing to win the anime-loving hearts (and wallets) of millennials. This means a wide variety of anime series new and old are available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video etc. Why not watch (or rewatch) an episode of your favourite series in Japanese? The aim is not to be translating and understanding every spoken word in real-time (I had to learn to stop trying to do that the hard way) but the let sounds of Japanese, “wash over you”; so to speak, while seeing just how much you can deduce from following what is on screen. Then re-watch the episode in English and see how much you understood. I recommend Aggretsuko for something adult-friendly and hilarious or and Pokemon Journeys which has really simple Japanese aimed at children.

5. Start a Japanese Journal

Keeping a diary in Japanese might not be thought of as one of the unorthodox ways to study Japanese. I am surprised more language learners don’t do this. Admittedly I only started my Japanese diary a few months ago and still don’t do as good a job as I want to updating it. This colour-coded blueprint for my own Japanese language journal is based on what I saw at Yattatachi. I have Kanji in pencil, grammar in gold, vocab in blue, reading practice in grey with reviewing and practice tests in pink. Start your own language journal and share it with me on Twitter @Jamaipanese. Let’s inspire and share with each other.

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6. Listen to Children’s songs

Continuing my not-very-original philosophy of learning Japanese as Japanese children do is the suggestion that you listen to Japanese children songs. It’s insane the amount of children songs in Japanese that are available. It helps that Japanese kids have a literal army of characters they grow up with from Crayon Shinchan to Doraemon to Anpanman to Pokemon and more! Children song albums regularly sell well in Japan too, so search around and you can find some real gems. Songs like Rocket Penguin are what I sing and dance to when I want to connect with my inner Japanese 5 year old (please keep that secret between us). YouTube, Spotify and Amazon music has so many selections – ask me for suggestions! Unorthodox ways to study Japanese have never been more embarrassing.

7. Talk to yourself in the mirror

So many Japanese learners (myself included) hit a ceiling and plateau after a while because we generally fail to use the Japanese you are studying in real-life situations. We love to write the sentences, listen to all the things etc but when we actually open our mouths in a natural setting to use the language we often freeze up because our brain is like “What the…., whatz this hen thing thou wanteth watashi to doeth ka? I’m going to confuse you now.” My suggestion? Talk to yourself (in the mirror). Get your brain used to processing and exporting Japanese verbally. Take it a step further and record yourself, then shiver as you listen to your own voice.

Thank you for reading 7 unorthodox ways to study Japanese

Maybe the entries on this list aren’t that strange? How is your Japanese (or any foreign language) journey going? Personally I REALLY feel like I am starting to make some progress again after progressing then regressing over and over again over the years as I study Japanese on and off again. Leave a comment below or tweet me @Jamaipanese and if you found this post helpful and read this far please subscribe to my YouTube channel. Cheers!

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