When I decided to start preparing for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test this year, for the first time, I had a sense of direction while studying Japanese. I tried to come up with short-term goals on my own, but I struggled to set concrete, realistic expectations of myself. I often found myself racing to fluency, rather than being honest with myself about the work it takes to truly excel in a second language on my own.
Goal 1: Use What I Study
Typically, when I’m learning some new Japanese content, I just absorb it for the moment and forget about it later. Sometimes I study things that I have no idea of how to use, like business Japanese or vocabulary from news articles. Other times, I’m just being lazy about studying. When I consider the factors that have affected how well I’ve retained what I currently know, it all comes down to how often I’ve used those words. This really shouldn’t be news to anyone, not even me, but it’s so easy to set a goal saying “improve my Japanese” and not set a goal that will serve as a stepping stone to getting there.
To accomplish this goal, I will find ways to use everything that I study. I will either make example sentences or scenarios (to talk about) that are based on my own life, or what’s been going on around me. I’ll write these examples in the notebook that I am using to study (grammar or vocabulary). Ideally, I would like to be writing these examples on HelloTalk or HiNative so that they can be corrected.
Goal 2: Improve My Speech
For now, when I speak Japanese, it’s very slow. I’ve been in Japan for a few weeks now and I can’t help but listen closely to how quickly the Japanese people speak. Of course, for them it isn’t a challenge because they’ve been speaking Japanese all their lives. However, I do want to speed up my speech and I want to do a better job at piecing multiple sentences together. I would also like to speak more clearly.
To accomplish this goal, I will read all example sentences that I come across when studying out loud. I will also practice shadowing Japanese conversations. The dialogue for the conversations may come from online sources or applications, such as FluentU or I may decide to take up a short-term subscription to JapanesePod101. Hopefully I can gather the courage to also record myself speaking as well and share it.
Goal 3: Be More Descriptive
I tend to talk using very plain, short, blunt, sentences. I also am used to only talking about things related to myself and Japan (and sometimes my job), but beyond that, my vocabulary is far too limited. To remedy this, I want to begin talking about new topics and being very descriptive. This includes my favorite movie scenes, the stress of searching for a job, and my opinion. I also want to do a better job at describing scenery.
To accomplish this, I’ll have to write more often in my notebook, or online. There’s plenty of topics for me to write about, but i’ll have to remind myself to be descriptive. For example, instead of just saying that an interview caused me stress, I’d rather say something like “the interview caused me a great amount of unbearable stress”.
Goal 4: Be More Organized
Another goal of mine is to do a better job at keeping my study material organized, although I really don’t have very much to organize at the moment. I would like to keep separate notebooks or folders for each subject that I am studying. For digital things, I want to do better at sorting them on my computer.
This will be easiest to accomplish… I think. I’ll just need to make sure I’ve got a designated place in my room to keep everything.
So, those were all of my micro-goals for the next 12 months and I’ll be posting my progress here and on my Instagram of course.
My larger, less specific goals include:
- Finishing the entire N3 and N2 levels of Bunpro
- Finish Nihongo Sou Matome N2 vocabulary, kanji, and reading workbooks
- Get comfortable with spending more time on HelloTalk
- Do a better job at measuring my progress and actually completing the materials I decide to study from.
- I would really like to find creative ways to use what I am learning as well
I think my most important goal is that I use what I am learning constantly. Whether it be journaling, writing stories and dialogues, reading the news or books, etc… I need to use what I am learning if I want to make it stick.