Kickstart Your Japanese

Become a Time Hacker

In the first two posts in this series we looked at what things interest you the most and how to record vocabulary intelligently. Now’s the time to start combining these things. 

In the first two posts in this series we looked at what things interest you the most and how to record vocabulary intelligently. Now’s the time to start combining these things. 

Gathering Awesome Materials

The first stage is to gather materials. Pull out your list of “likes” from the last article. This is the bit that needs a concerted effort. You need to gather things that you can listen to, watch or read in as many different and flexible formats as possible.

We’re not talking about textbooks or traditional study material here – this is all about creating a Japanese immersion environment with authentic Japanese material. It all has to be things that you’re genuinely interested in – not children’s cartoons because someone else said so!

Spend an afternoon in Kinokunioya or on Amazon/iTunes and use your list to make some creative choices that excite you.

  • Movies
  • Audio books
  • Learn Japanese Podcasts
  • YouTube channels (Tip: create a Japanese playlist.)
  • Podcasts in Japanese (Tip: use Google Translate to generate your search term and then search for that in iTunes)
  • Books (Tip: instructional books on a topic that interests you can be more accessible)
  • Radio stations you can stream online
  • NHK or newspaper home pages for you news fix
  • Set your browser homepage to a Japanese site

Take the time to get these materials in place. Not doing this will trip you up later when you start to put your study schedule together.

When you’ve built a small army of Japanese resources, it’s time to look at how to use them.

Creating An Immersion Environment

You’re going to create an immersion environment, where as much as possible of what you do in your free time is in Japanese, sticking closely to your interests at all times. This probably won’t come naturally at first – you’ll have to replace activities that you’re used to doing with Japanese equivalents.

There are 16 useful hours in a day, and you only work for half of them. With this approach, working in an English-speaking environment is no longer an excuse!

Here is the kind of thing I might have done on a very productive day in Tokyo:

7:30 am: Wake Up. Spend 5 minutes revising flashcards on my SRS app.
7:40 am: Shower. Write out the hiragana alphabet in my mind, one by one. 
7:50 am: Getting dressed. Play an episode of a Japanese podcast as I get ready.
8:10 am: Breakfast in Doutor. Play a YouTube video from my Japanese playlist on my iPad.
8:30 am: Commute. Listen again to yesterday’s podcast to revise, or read a book chapter.
12:30 pm: Lunch. Enter any interesting vocabulary that I might have missed during the morning into my flashcard app. Eat lunch in peace then read a few pages of Japanese Words to Understand the Japanese Mind. It’s not an easy book, but because I’m interested in it, I keep going! (Get the hint?) Enter a few new words from the book into my SRS app.
3:00 pm: Coffee break. A quick flashcard session.
5:25 pm: Waiting for the train. Another flashcard session – this vocab is really starting to stick!
5:30 pm: Commute. I listen again to the podcast episode from this morning. Once is never enough!
6:30 pm: Gym. I listen to an interview from SBS Japanese. If it’s a rest day, then I’ll arrange to spend an hour chatting with an informal tutor on iTalki.com.
7:00 pm: Dinner. I catch up on the news in simplified Japanese with NHK News Web Easy. New vocabulary goes into my SRS app.
7:30 pm: Time to chill. But I keep it in Japanese with a movie or the latest drama.
9:30 pm: Before Bed. Another quick flashcard session to really hammer it home!
9:45 pm: Bed. I re-read the pages of 日本人の心がわかる日本語 that I read at lunch.

Over To You

These are the tools, but the next part is up to you. Take this schedule as inspiration and make it your own. It’s not boring because you chose the topics. It’s not hard because you’ve already found the materials. 

In the next article, we’re going to look at how to hack your speaking skills!