Do I Need To Go To Nihongo Rehab?

By Donnie | Articles

I am a little disappointed in myself these days. I’ve been so incredibly busy that I have once again fallen off the old Japanese study horse. For some reason, I have really been struggling to get back to my normal study routine. I remember when I first got to Japan, I studied as hard as I could, as often as I could, because I knew so little. Being frustrated with not knowing even the basics really lit my studying fuse. The danger I face right now is complacency. I really feel like I’m beginning to rest on my laurels. I know wholeheartedly that my Japanese is far from perfect, but because I know enough to get through my day-to-day routine, I haven’t been challenging myself to learn new and more varied Japanese structures, vocabulary and the like. It’s a real problem for me and it’s not a good feeling.

Well, what’s the solution? Is there like a nihongo rehab clinic I can check myself into after falling off the study horse again? If so, where is it located, because I’ll be the first one in line, LOL.

Is the answer getting a Japanese girlfriend? I’m not so sure that it is. First, I have to successfully get a Japanese woman to date me. I’ve exhausted all my options: giving compliments, being subtle, being direct, being extra friendly, winking creepily, tasers, ether, cholorofor…I’m kidding…I’m kidding! I don’t think getting a date in Japan is rocket science, but how effective that date/relationship is going to be in enhancing your Japanese…THAT’s the big question. There are quite a few Japanese women that I’ve come across who are interested in learning English, so dating could end up being a way to use more Japenglish (or should I say Englanese) that I would like to.

There are a quite a few methods that I think would be effective: honestly clearing time in my schedule to sit my a** down and study, watching more Japanese TV to rekindle my interest, making more, male Japanese friends, going back to karate (truthfully I haven’t been going lately), etc.. I know what it boils down to is me deciding to change the way I’m doing things, creating some habits and making them stick. I know it’s a change I have to make and I know it’s no more complicated than that. It’s the same as the person who wants to lose weight. It’s not as hard as it seems, but because old habits can be persistent mother freakers, the challenge can seem larger than what it is. I’m guessing a similar concept with my Japanese studies and my, severely, off-kilter schedule.

This time I actually need some inspiration from you guys. For those of you readers who are study warriors (regardless of the subject matter), what methods do you use to get yourself through those troughs and plateaus that plague so many of us. Leaving your ideas in the comments section below would be much appreciated.


Donald Ash

p.s.- I believe the root of my problem is that I have one too many irons in the fire right now and something’s just gotta give, because I don’t have the time to even do the stuff I really enjoy (exercising regularly, karate, cooking balanced meals). It’s a vicious cycle, and I don’t like where it’s going.

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  • Nanami

    Hmm.. Well, there are a few ways. Having a Japanese girlfriend may not help improve your language directly through her–but it may provide the motivation to improve your ability. -laughs- I think that has more to do with it than anything, because no matter what you will still be using conversational language even then. You could get the same results by going out with friends too (might be less wallet intensive)!

    When I’ve been studying and I notice I’ve started slacking off from something important here’s what I do. I devote a little bit of time (like maybe 20 minutes) a couple of times a week outside of where I normally studied to sit down and focus on it. When it comes to language that time unit is very effective as well. Or studying while doing other things… like when I take my car to the wal-mart tire center today because they busted my alignment when they put new tires on monday.. >_> I’ll probably have several hours worth of time that I can spend either staring at the walls or reading for class.

    I was really behind in my Japanese too until lately. My level is horrible. My assigned language partner doesn’t want to talk about anything if she even gets in touch with me (Her favorite hobby is drinking lol) so I’m pretty much out on my own with my studies. I sat down and made small palm-sized flash cards of every single noun/adjective/etc we had used so far that wasn’t a particle or a # besides the basic ones. It took me two days for two chapters and I have a new one to start on now. However, I now know those words very, very well lol.

    If you have an iPod or anything you can try downloading podcasts on a subject you like to listen to while you are on the commute. Grab a good book and read it (then send it my way since I’m a bibliophile).

    And another tried and true way.. is teaching someone who knows less than you what you know. You’ll find that you have to go do more homework and you beef up on what you already know! And it can be fun and silly if you’re doing it with a friend.

    I dunno if any of that would help you, but those are things I do. I have a fairly good retention of what I know.. but I don’t get to practice at all here hardly other than my Japanese classmates who are overly pleased by simple things like remembering to say Konbonwa or to put the o- in front of genki desu ka, when I want to be polite. I just wish I knew more conversational topics. I don’t think I need to know how to say “Kono noto sanzen en desu.” too much. Or at least I hope my conversations would be a lil more elaborate lol.

    Good luck on your studies! I’ll be rooting for you!

    • Donald Ash

      Those are great tips, Captain Namnams. I’m starting to get back on the horse for all kinds of stuff lately. It’s not necessarily easy, but I do need to use some of my down time more effectively (like you mentioned at the car shop). On the train, I am notorious for just listening to music…turning my brain into ipod goo. But, I’m back on my grind now. Time to start making some small tweaks that will turn in habits down the line. Thanks for the cheers, Nanami. Game on!

  • Petaris

    Hi Donald,

    I know what your talking about. With so much going on and so many other commitments my Japanese studies are basically non-existent these days. Finding the time is the hard thing, but at least your exposed to it everyday, I know that must help. I have a hard time remembering but the times when we are back in Japan I pick things up and retain them much better because I need to use them. 🙂

  • for me, it took getting married to get serious. then having a child!

    while i was preggie…i completed watching over 20 dif jdramas

    it helped w/my listening a LOT.

    but hm…best idea: make j friends who do not speak a word of english.

    being here so long, i am wary of any who wants to be my friend.

    its like WHAT DO YOU WANT?

    so now i speak in japanese w/someone when they approach me and wanna learn english

    if they stick around, i will speak half/half…so we both benefit. but until then, i keep the english down……..until i am sure they are not sticking around just for that.

    i know men who used women for japanese and it sucks. but hmm…it happens.

    i am sure u can find a nice girl. want me to introduce one? i know a great girl….hee hee. u have to be christian though. b/c she is looking for a fellow christian


    • Donald Ash

      You’re just a jack of all trades aren’t you? I didn’t know you were a matchmaker, too LOL 🙂
      Thanks for posting Vivan, you always have good stuff to say. I’m just sorry I’m replying so late…busy as a bee lately. How are you?

  • Kurt

    Donald…..c’mon now! Discipline! Yeah, it’s not easy. My intermediate class here in the states just started again and sometimes it’s a challenge to sit down and get into it. But I noticed if I get started, within minutes I’m really into it. Just like karate class (which my son and I used to do before I became old and broken.) If you’d like I’ll challenge you to a kanji competition. Be warned, I’m up to about 100 now. Not much of a dent in the 2000 I need, right?

    • Donald Ash

      I may have take you up on that kanji challenge one of these days. Thanks for the words of encouragement. You ROCK!!

  • miyuki

    – having Japanese friends ( who do not speak English)
    – having a girlfriend who does not speak any other languages than Japanese ( co worker advice)
    -watch a lot of Japanese movie/ drama with Japanese substitles
    but I would say speaking speaking speakimg this is the best way for learning new words and increase ur level

    ps: I am still speaking Japanese like tarzan… me Tarzan you Jane

    wish me good luck 😉

    • Donald Ash

      Nice advice Miyuki. Somedays I feel like speaking like Tarzan would be an improvement for me, LOL. I’m going to keep at it, though 🙂

  • Anthony

    Hi Don!

    Great writing as usual! I can certainly relate to falling off the Nihongo horse, but I’ve managed to develop a few habits that make sure that I can at least cling to the saddle when times are tough. Perhaps they’ll help you too.

    As mentioned above, train time is study time. If you have a smartphone, there are tons of apps (games included) that can help you keep in touch with the language every day. Personally, I like catching words off of advertisements (or from conversations) and putting them into Flashcards Deluxe on my iphone. Making my own flashcards is more motivating and relevant than using a set that someone else made.

    I’m sure you have already thought of (or tried this), but having a tutor or joining a class has also helped me. Whenever I feel lazy about studying, I just think about how disappointed my teacher will be. If I were in a class, I wouldn’t want to fall behind my classmates. These feelings will usually, at the minimum, force me to get through my homework. If for some reason, (e.g. too many irons in the fire) I don’t manage to do my homework, at least having a set lesson will guarantee that I do a minimal amount of Japanese every week.

    Lastly, doing all of your text messaging in Japanese is a practical way to indirectly study Japanese every day. Forcing myself to send and receive messages in Japanese has really helped my Kanji, vocabulary, and grammar improve over the years (ever so gradually). Often, I’ll receive a message that I can’t understand, but I’ll resist the urge to respond immediately, take it home, translate it and then do my best to reply.

    Combining the above techniques will usually net about five automatic hours of “study” time per week. Of course, if time and motivation allow, additional dedicated study could easily double this amount. I’m nowhere near fluent (I’ll be lucky if I pass N3 this December), but I can say that I’ve watched my Japanese improve over the last three years. I can read, say, and do things in Japanese that I couldn’t even imagine doing when I first arrived here.

    Anyways, sorry for the long-winded post. You’ve probably considered much of this, but I just thought I’d share anyway (I think about this kind of thing a lot). Take care!


  • Kayla

    If you really want to challenge yourself, why not start reading more in Japanese. That way you not only improve upon comprehending kanji but you might learn some news words and interesting ways to use them.

    Japanese poetry is lovely and if you have time maybe settling down for a good poetry session might help as well.

    • Donald Ash

      Great advice. I’ve definitely been doing a lot more reading lately, and it ABSOLUTELY helps. Thanks again, Kayla.

  • Ai

    I happen to own a nihongo rehab clinic. You are welcome any time : D

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