Part 4: Japanese Learning is Like Fishing: Finding a Nice Reel to Pull that Big One in

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We are coming to a close in the final installment of Japanese Learning is Like Fishing.  If you’ve read each part and have hung onto every word I’ve said so far, I really can’t express how grateful I am for having an awesome audience like you.  So with that being said let’s jump into the last part of the series, Finding a Nice Reel.

For the previous additions please follow the links below.
Part 1: Separate Your Writing System Lines First
Part 2: Words are Your Hooks and Lures
Part 3: Holding Everything Together with a Grammar Rod

So you’ve spent quite a bit of time learning Hiragana and Katakana, and you’ve just begun learning your Kanji. You’ve gone a bit further and have a nice selection of vocab words started. And maybe you’ve even started learning some basic sentence construction and grammar. Great! You’re doing an excellent job and you’re off to a very promising start.

So far you’ve got your line unraveled, you got your lures and hooks picked out, and you’ve got a nice sturdy rod.  Now it’s time to find a reel to start pulling in those big ole-honking behemoth fish.

What I mean by this is that you now have to find a way to put your studies to use.  If all you ever did was study and never found an outlet, then you’d never gain valuable real world experience.  If you never gained that real world experience, there is no possible way to sharpen your skills.  Without a reel, you’ll never be able to bring in the biggest fish in your pond.

“But Mr. Kuma Sensei, I don’t know where to begin what should I do?”

“No fear little Jimmy, I have got the perfect answer for you!”

This is where you have to ask yourself, “What is my reason for studying Japanese? Why am I so interested in the language and what do I hope to accomplish?”

If you’ve read this far, I can safely assume that you already have a keen interest in something Japanese related. But this is where it gets tricky.  Really get detailed about why you want to learn Japanese. I mean really really detailed, and write that shiznit down and tuck it away somewhere. It may seem like an easy question to answer, but honestly, it’s more difficult than you realize.

I’ve been teaching English in Japan for three years now, and every once in a while I’ll ask my students what their interest in studying English is. About 90 percent of the time, I’ll get a hollow stare piercing right through my face.  It’s a freakin difficult question.

The reason why I want you to find the answers to these questions is because whatever your goals are, you’re hopes and dreams for learning Japanese will be your fishing reel, and you’re going to have to use it A LOT!

For example, many people have a strong interest in manga and anime. Hey! I like manga and anime too! Let’s have a beer. Maybe one day you want to be able read manga and anime in Japanese. That’s a nice goal to have. Now take it one step further.

Make a list of some of your favorite manga and anime that you hope to understand 100 percent in Japanese (The longer the list the better! That’s what I always say to everything!). Read and watch anime and constantly update your list by researching about new and exciting ones.

Maybe you don’t like manga and anime all that much, but maybe you have a Japanese boyfriend and/or girlfriend and you want to be able to communicate with them in their native tongue. Well, you better start dating hundreds of other people.

Start making friends with their friends and any other Japanese natives you meet, or join a group. Maybe you’re a bit shy, well there are online sites that connect people around the world to help each other learn a second language.

Maybe you want to become a journalist by pumping out content in both Japanese and your native language. My advice, give up now because that sounds insane. Try starting a blog like journal on Lang-8 and write in your target language as often as possible. Real live Japanese people will actually fix your grammar.

Long story short, whatever your goals are, work towards them by doing it as much as possible. By studying through the things you enjoy, you’ll more likely avoid burning out, which will stop you from giving up all together.

Lastly, constantly update your goals. Many times through my Japanese learning adventure I’ve discovered new interests and goals that have helped me along.  As well, when I had achieved a certain level of “fluency” in one particular goal that I was satisfied with, I crossed it off my list and focused on something else.

Don’t feel as though your interests and goals can’t change along the way.  It’s nice to have a nice straight path that takes us straight to Emerald City, but hey, sometimes we meet the scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion along the way that takes us down different paths.

Whatever you do though, consistency is the key to successfully learning Japanese.

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