If you’re following my Instagram account, you already know that I’m an upper-intermediate learner of Japanese. Currently, I’m studying towards my December goal, which is JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) on the N3 level. After taking it (and, hopefully, passing it) I plan to continue my studies on the N2 level and I will probably take the N2 exam in 2-3 years. Since I’m already a university graduate, I grew to like taking my time with studying because nothing is pressuring me anymore. I don’t need my Japanese for work, university grades or anything. I just looooove the Japanese language and plan to use it when I finally go to Japan for some sightseeing (and *coughs* tons of shopping *coughs*). I also enjoy reading and watching Japanese productions in my spare time.
Since I don’t study formally anymore, I can really make my own choices about my studies, rather than complying with those imposed by a teacher, a lecturer or a boss. If I want to spend more time on a textbook chapter I’m doing, I can. If I want to write pretty notes or flashcards, I can. If I want to stop using my textbook for a while and enjoy a game in Japanese as a part of my studies instead, I can. As a result, I can really take my time with the language and make progress on MY terms and with a pace that brings me both pleasure and satisfaction.
After so many years of studying compulsory and uninteresting subjects at both school and university, and after trying (and dumping) several foreign languages, I began to choose and study languages which I’m interested in and enjoy studying. If I don’t, I simply dump them with no regrets at all (maybe with just a tiny bit of guilt because of how much money I’d spent on materials on that language before I made my final decision whether it’s even worth pursuing or not – it’s a bad habit of mine).
Another language, which I had taken up recently, is Korean. At the moment I’m learning Hangul (the Korean alphabet) and then I’m going to start a coursebook for absolute beginners. My motivation here is as simple as it was when I first decided to learn Japanese – I enjoy Korean dramas and manhwas (the Korean equivalent of Japanese mangas) and I want to understand and enjoy them in the original. I also like the sound of Korean, it creates this fluffy, butterfly-like, feeling in my stomach every time I hear it. The very same thing happens to me with Japanese (nothing beats the strength of this feeling WHEN dealing with the Japanese language, though, it’s just the best, I’m all kicks and giggles EVERY TIME), which makes both of these languages very enjoyable to study and it also works great as a motivator.
There’s one more language which I TRY to study (“try” is a very good word here, since I’m so irregular with studying it) and that is German. I had studied German during my compulsory education, that is throughout primary and high school, so I reached this pre-intermediate level with it, further continued it at university when I had to choose a foreign language as one of the classes. Language classes are mandatory during university studies in Poland, but you get to choose what language you want to learn as a part of your curriculum. I always chose German, since I had already known some of it and I couldn’t choose English since my major was in English.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with German. There were times when I really enjoyed it (especially if I had good teachers or pleasantly looking textbooks – I’m your typical visualiser) and times when I really hated it (especially due to my everlasting lack of ability to comprehend and remember nouns’ gender and German cases, no matter what I did to make them stick). German is the only language I study because I must – I need it for my work purposes. This is also the reason WHY me studying it happens so rarely (even though I really like the textbooks I chose for myself). However, since I do not genuinely enjoy the sound and structure of German, I learned to be very picky with it – I only study and memorise what I absolutely need. I work in tourism, so I pick up and revise vocabulary and structures relevant to my work, like accommodation, rooms and furniture, places in town, tourist attractions, food and restaurants, giving directions and so on. I skip politics, ecology, animals or even topics as simple as family members or school subjects. Because I don’t use that knowledge at work, anyway! So why should I bother learning it?
As for choosing what aspects of a language to learn and what to omit, I plan on writing a separate post on this matter, as I often see people needlessly studying what they DON’T NEED AND DON’T ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT. This is especially true if you’re not bound with a course’s syllabus or any exams – then you really can choose what to study*. Why you should do so – please check out my next post.
* Yet, I do believe it can also be done even when you’re studying a language at school, university or during a course – it just takes a little more work and compromise on your part. How to do so – I’ll also include my past experiments in the next post.