JLPT BC 40 | Studying Japanese on the Sly

Japanese Studying on the SlyThis August has been an incredibly busy time for me.  I’ve been doing a lot of extra work at the school because one of my co-workers has been out of the office for a few weeks.  So, I’ve had a bigger class load than usual.

Also, it’s summer time and with it comes the usual going out and hanging out on the beach, hiking, and simply getting out and having fun in the blistering heat.  Combine this with being in limbo about whether I passed N2 or not, it’s hard to stay motivated and find time to study sometimes.  So I’ve been looking for other places to study.

Studying on the Sly

I should start off by saying that what I’m about talk about is for entertainment purposes.  Doing some of things might get you yelled out by your boss, punished in some way, fired or shot in some countries.  In other words, don’t follow this advice at all, it’s unsafe and potentially dangerous.  Consult your lawyer before acting on any of the suggestions below too.

Now that all the legal stuff is out of the way, let’s go over how to study while doing some other activity.

It can be incredibly useful to squeeze in a few vocabulary or kanji here and there throughout the day.  You’ll be amazed at how you can, over the course of day, learn a decent chunk of information if you need to.   Some of you work 40 hours a week, or even more, have a commute, have errands to run, and possibly even a family.  So time is incredibly valuable.

That’s why making use of some ‘lost’ time can really help you make progress with your studying.  This is a bit extreme, but some people are extremely busy (myself included).

Work (Study) Opportunities

Now I’m not advocating to simply not work at work and go off into a corner somewhere and study.  You still have a job, and chances are pretty good that you might like to do your job, and that is totally fine, but there are those times at work that you actually aren’t working, you know what I mean?

One obvious place that you aren’t really working is on bathroom breaks.  Whenever nature calls, you can potentially whip out some handy flashcards that you have stashed in your back pocket and go over one real quick.  Repeat them over and over as much as you can and on your way back from the bathroom (and after you wash your hands) give the flashcard one last look to check if you are right.

Another small technique is studying a few cards before work starts and writing something on your hand to remind you of the words or kanji that you were practicing.  Then periodically throughout the day, if you have a bit of free time (waiting for someone, falling asleep in a meeting, taking a sip of coffee) you can take a peek at your hand and see if you can recall the word or kanji that you wrote down.

It will be a struggle to come up with the word, but that’s actually a good thing.  The more you struggle to recall a word and the more ‘rewiring’ of your brain you do, the easier it will be to recall that information in the future.  You can even try to tax your brain by coming with stories or mnemonics for some key words you keep forgetting.  Nobody can see into your brain (yet), so there is no harm in spending some time being imaginative.

If you can’t come up with the word or kanji from the hint you have on your hand, still keep it in your head until you can check the card.  I’ve found this makes it very memorable because you struggled so hard to come up with the word or kanji.

Some Tips

  • Don’t try to do too much.  5 vocabulary words, kanji, or grammar terms is a good goal.  You don’t want to get too distracted from work.
  • Don’t make it too obvious.  Still do your job, but as we all know there are those times when you don’t really need to be doing anything at work.  Those are great times to do a little bit of studying.
  • Practice makes perfect.  Even if you are just mentally going over new grammar, vocab, and kanji at work (without any flashcards).  This is still a big help because you are reviewing the material and reminding your brain that it is important stuff to keep in there.

Make It Happen

Next time you have work, or some other activity keeping you from studying, try out some of these techniques and let me know what you think.  Are they useful?  Annoying? Tell me about it in the comments.
P.S. Would you rather be studying Japanese instead of working?  Then sign up for the JLPT Newsletter.  It’s packed with all sorts of tips, goodies and discounts.

P.S.S.  Did this podcast get you in trouble with your boss? Great! Go tell iTunes about it.  Or if you have comments or suggestions for the podcast, by all means let me know in the comments below or contact me and let me know what I can do to improve the show.  Thanks!

Music by Kevin MacLeod, photo by Gustav H

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