Japanese study tips: train time to your advantage

When you’re in Tokyo, immersed in Japanese all the time, it’s natural to be swept away on the current of novelty and excitement that surrounds you. But riding the waves on its own won’t bring you the language mastery you’re there for. KCP faculty members are known for their willingness to help you learn and work with any confusion you have; but you need to kick your mind into gear.

The secret is to use your time well. Here is a collection of ideas and suggestions from other KCP students.

Memorization

Your most basic tool is memorization: Japanese involves LOTS of it. But memorization takes time, in small, steady increments, every day. How do you work it in?

  • If you don’t know Japanese yet, wake up your memory muscles by learning basic kana on our kana page. You might try for complete mastering and recall of one practice sheet each day, reviewing the previous sheets as well. This builds stamina.
  • As you memorize each day’s new characters, visualize situations to use them right away, and do so.
  • Make flash cards and study them on the train during your commutes—an excellent way to turn those commutes into productive time.
  • Get a study buddy and test each other.
  • Don’t plan on cramming. Cramming is not a strategy; it’s an avoidance tactic, and it seldom works, especially when memorizing a large amount of material.

Work and Play

  • Build time in to your daily schedule—2 to 4 hours—for homework and study. Probably best to do it at the same time each day.
  • Know your priorities for your current activity, and don’t get sidetracked.
  • For best retention of material and best study attitude, break up those 4 hours into two chunks, with an hour or so of lively recreation in between. A walk to (or in) a park or place to eat with friends can make all the difference. Exercise really helps too.
  • Light-hearted fun with friends or host family when not studying, make the study go better. There are several parks near KCP, and many others (and shrines, stores, museums, eateries) in Tokyo alone.

Spare Time

  • Arrange to see some of Tokyo (and the surrounding region) on your own or with friends. Getting out of town is wonderful for gaining perspective.
  • Choose your friends well. You’re all in this together; if you have friends who share your study priorities, it’s a win-win.
  • Each day, make a point of using the Japanese you just learned to those you deal with in shops, etc.

Struggling

  • If you’re not getting it, or falling behind, tell your teacher or student coordinator. Everyone is very eager to help you.
  • KCP’s small-group sessions outside of class are the perfect places to hone your mastery of what got taught in class or work on your own sticking points.
  • So your brain will perform at its peak, get enough sleep!

Results

If you can make these ideas personal to you and follow them not only will you shift your Japanese into high gear; in learning to sustain your focus, you will have gained a skill that will help you throughout your life.