I’ve recently been going through a lot of new training for a new job that I might be taking on in the coming months. It has consumed a lot of my free time. Piled on top of that, my daughter just started kindergarten which allows me to have more time, but brings on more responsibilities as well. I’ll have to write about that at a later date.
My new job involves doing some computer programming of all things. I should explain that, like a lot of people in Japan that have been here awhile, I wear many hats. I don’t really have a full-time job exactly. I tend to spread my time out between freelance teaching, translation, and blogging.
Well, I’m adding one more hat to my arsenal. It is mostly a good thing because I was, at one point in the distant past, a computer programmer. I love the job, but the industry has completely changed so I need to learn the ropes again. It has been a lot of fun, but has left me with a lot less time.
I haven’t stopped studying Japanese though. I have had a lot less dedicated blocks of ‘Japanese time’ to do my studying, so I have had to resort to more guerrilla tactics to get the job done. This basically involves doing more listening on the walk to work. More impromptu TV watching while eating dinner. Squeezing in little bites here and there.
Making your Studies more Active
The biggest problem I run into is learning fatigue to be honest. Some days I feel like I’m in college again – taking notes, doing constant research, read read read. Of course, this is how the world is moving these days. You have to constantly keep learning or you are going to be left behind.
But, all that learning can really wear people down. And you might find yourself at the end of the day realizing your get-up-go got up and went. This makes it hard to sit down and chug through a listening workbook at the end of the day. You may get started, only to find that 5 minutes in you are thinking about that addictive smartphone game you want to play.
And speaking practice is really good for this, because it forces you to pay attention and respond to the person you are communicating with. So that is the first solution obviously. But, if you are busy and running around all the time, how can you get decent practice in? It usually involves scheduling meet ups with someone and keeping to that schedule, something that I really can’t do anymore.
A good solution for that is HelloTalk, an app I talked about earlier. It allows for asynchronous conversations. It may take a few attempts to find someone you connect with, but once you do, it is a great little chat tool you can use from time to time whenever you have free time to chat with a person.
Activate your Listening
Okay, but maybe you need some serious listening practice and you don’t have the time or energy to go through a listening workbook. You need to be more active about it and there are a wide variety of things you can do in order to make that happen. For instance, you can shadow or do overlapping with some tougher listening you had issues with.
This is what I’ve started to do with FluentU, but it can just as easily be done with JapanesePod101 or any other source of listening material with a script. It is a good way to wind down the night actually. I print out one of the scripts and give it a listen while reading through the script, then go back and try to overlap with the audio or shadow (echo what is in the audio without looking at the script).
Another thing I’ve been trying out is timing myself to try to say it faster and faster. In my opinion, if you can speak at that speed, you can definitely listen at that speed. Also, it doesn’t take a lot of focus. So, if it is the end of the day and you are having a hard time cracking the book open, you can start with it to get yourself in the mood.
And if you are like me, it will get you away from your computer at the end of the night, which will help you sleep better. All those bright screens at night doesn’t help your internal clock, so I’m trying to go more analog in the evening. I haven’t been too lucky with it yet, but I’m trying.
Concentration is Needed Though
This is a good day to day strategy for doing your listening practice more actively, but for the actual test you will have to build up your listening stamina. Being able to concentrate and keep focus for 30 to 60 minutes is a skill you will need to practice, but you can save that for the month leading up to the test or for the weekend, where you will have a better time concentrating to Japanese.
So, how about you? How are your studies going? Are you moving toward your goal? Are you struggling with something?