Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Top 10 Conceptual Mistakes Japanese Learners Make

Getting your head straight to learn Japanese

Once you get over the initial hurdles of learning Japanese you might find yourself in a situation where flawed thinking sets you off on a tangent from your goals. Making sure you have your head screwed on straight is often more about what you choose to ignore rather than what you pay attention too. In this 2nd post of a 3 part series we take a look at erroneous thought.


Top 10 Conceptual Mistakes Japanese Learners Make

These 10 common mistakes could easily apply to any language or be extended to any field of learning. One of the joys of learning a language for yourself is that you are in fact learning how to learn. When you grasp that meta, then there is really no limit to what you can do.

  1. It's difficult to learn Japanese: Yes it is, but no more difficult than any other language. Nothing worthwhile doing is ever easy. Enjoy the process of learning, it's better than nothing. Lesson: Get started now.

  2. You have to find the best method and stick with it: There is no one method that is best. Everyone is different and as you progress some things will work for you better than others. Lesson: Find what works for you and experiment.

  3. You can do it by yourself: I don't know how truthfully I can say I am self taught. Sure I have done the hard yards in selecting the learning material and putting it into practice, but everyone who has cared to speak to me in Japanese has been my teacher. Language is about community, and as you become part of the Japanese speaking community you will find many teachers. Lesson: Keep an open mind because you can't learn in isolation from others.

  4. You know everything there is to know about Japanese: You might as well give up now! Go on, nothing I could say is going to change what you think. Lesson: Keep the beginner's mind.

  5. It is possible to learn Japanese without being interested in the culture: That's like saying it's possible to learn how to surf without getting wet. It doesn't work, and anything you do learn while distracted by this illusion will be a charade. Lesson: Adopt parts of the culture as your own, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

  6. That you won't change in other ways: Not every one becomes a yukata wearing, tea sipping, brush artist and archer, but to think that you won't be changed slightly by the experience of embracing another culture is naive. Sure you may not notice it now, but a couple of years from know you'll be slipping the odd えっと into your sentences. ("etto", is kind of like an English "um"). Lesson: Be open to change and personal growth.

  7. Someone will teach you: Are you waiting for the right teacher? If you don't take responsibility for your learning, no one else will. There is an old Buddhist saying that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Are you ready, primed for learning? Lesson: Be receptive to learning first.

  8. You won't improve: Some times improvement happens more slowly than moss forming, sometimes it comes like a torrent from the skies. The idea is to vary your learning enough to unlock hidden areas of potential. We are all capable of learning a second language, just as we are capable of learning the first. Lesson: Notice the small improvements first, and improve upon them.

  9. You can learn Japanese through reading/watching/listening alone: Every one learns different ways, some by sight, some by sound, and others by movement. It isn't until you hear yourself speak, see yourself talk and feel your mouth make the movements that create speech that you are capable of closing that feedback loop. Lesson: Move into production as soon as humanly possible.

  10. It's enough to learn the spoken language without learning how to read and write: This is only half true. You're not getting the whole story. If you only believe half of what is read and even less of what is said, how can you come to "know" anything? Lesson: You already knew this, because you're reading my blog. Learn to read and you won't have to take my word for it.

I hope you enjoyed that minor rant from me. It wasn't directed at anyone in particular, except maybe the person who thinks none of it really applies to them.

You really have to own your thought patterns, be disciplined in your thinking if you ever want to improve and create. I welcome alternative viewpoints in the comments. Is there somewhere you screwed up along the way? Was there some failed way of thinking that set you back as a beginner? I'm sure someone reading this could benefit from you sharing.

In the next post in this 3 part series we tackle motivation head on.
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