Language Learning: Staying Motivated

Note: This post was posted too early (misfire), so I have re-written it and posted again. Apologies for any confusion.

Staying motivated when learning a new language is pretty tough. As readers know, I often struggle with this myself, but a few weeks back I read this helpful article on AJATT.

The key here is to not rely on will-power. Instead, setup your home environment so that you are constantly exposed to the language you want to learn. You don’t have to do all the tips above, but I have done about 4 or 5 of them and it does work. My iPhone is set to Japanese, I tend to watch movies in Japanese (even on the plane), I read Japanese comics, etc. Basically, as AJATT explains, keep your target language constantly “in your face”. The more the merrier.

Lately, I was working on getting Japanese copies of certain Playstation 1 (PSX) games I often play, such as Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 9. I have played Final Fantasy 7 many times, and know the story well, but I would definitely like to play it in Japanese too because I want to know the subtle differences in dialogue. Since my Playstation 1 is from the US, it is the same region-code, NTSC, as the Japanese version, so I can just buy them and play.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work. I got a nice copy of FF7 in Japanese, but found that the PSX has a region-code restriction, and thus I couldn’t play it even though it is the same disc format. I did some research on the web, and there are ways to circumvent this, but I can’t really invest the time or effort right now to do this. I tried a few tricks, but they didn’t work, and I don’t have time right now to really investigate this further.

However, I coincidentally bought the re-make of Final Fantasy 1 for my iPhone after my birthday, and have been playing that a lot. I discovered that the app is bilingual Japanese/English, so if I switch my phone to Japanese (which I often do anyway), the game changes to Japanese dialogue:

FF1 in Japanese

That is a recent screenshot of me playing the game. Here’s another:

FF1 in Japanese2

I have found this overall approach to be helpful. It puts less burden on finding time to study, which is difficult due to my unpredictable schedule, but also allows me to relax and enjoy learning Japanese more, while putting less strain on myself. If you’re just starting a new language, you do have to study the basics, but once you get past that, it’s really helpful to focus less on study, and more on getting daily exposure. This will also help keep you motivated long after study gets boring or tedious because people need to relax sometimes, and why not relax with the language you are learning?

Since I like playing the Final Fantasy series, why not doing it in Japanese? Since I like KPop, why not get some Korean exposure that way? Etc, etc.

I’ve been doing this since I came back from Japan in early September and it’s worked well with Japanese, but I am still struggling to find ways to “relax” with Korean other than music. I would definitely like to get some (simple) reading sources in Korean someday, along with something basic to watch. Korean dramas are an option, but I haven’t really found a drama I am truly motivated to watch (and not because I should watch it for language learning).

Anyhow, the point here is that instead of making “language learning” your primary activity, it makes more sense to make your favorite hobby your primary activity, but just do it in the language you like. You might find yourself learning more than you might think.


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

2 thoughts on “Language Learning: Staying Motivated”

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