Major Project Maintenance: Coming to terms with study burnout, reassessing and strengthening habits

Last week I posted a video blog demonstrating my study process. Thanks to anyone who sat through it and ignored the painful off-sync of the audio and the video. If you couldn’t bear it ;), essentially this was the process I have been using:

Using ANKI, a smart-flashcard program to:

1) Study a Japanese sentence pattern deck of 1000+ sentences, slowly rolled out at 10 new sentences/day. At this point I’d be close to 450 sentences because in the beginning I was working at 20 sentences/day due to the fact that some were familiar already.

2) Studying Japanese verbs nouns and adjectives, visually represented in the Japanese language as kanji. I would likely be in the upwards of +300 kanji now. I am going slower with kanji because they are proving more difficult to recall, and also because the sentence deck, which correlates with the kanji, hasn’t caught up to the kanji I am at yet, which makes retention of these kanji more difficult.

Now, this process typically takes me roughly 45 minutes to an hour to do, and I can do it by finding time here and there, then whatever wasn’t accomplished during the day, I do before bed. The problem is, I am finding it harder and harder to motivate myself to get to it during those breaks during the day, so I am usually stuck with a big block at the end of the day. Which is not always the best, especially when you’ve been working all day on work and school work, and you’d sooner just hang out, or more importantly, sleep.

I’m jealous of my students who have embraced the use of Duolingo to learn French. The big draw for them has been the experience points and other goodies, and especially the ability to compete and share progress with their friends and classmates. I have kids who have always caused trouble just to get out of French class, working through their weekend to make sure their experience for the week is higher than their last week. Unreal. One student even figured out a ‘hack’, in that if he re does the same level, he continues to get easy experience. I congratulated him, then quizzed him on some of the vocabulary he had been working on in this ‘hacked’ level, and he knew every word. He used to rip up worksheets in frustration. Now he’s tied for class leader.

I am very excited for the day when Duolingo beta’s it’s Japanese, but that seems to be at least 6 months away. I would love to be able to work with another community of learners, to help support, and motivate my Japanese language development.

Which is what I aim to do.

1) Join a community. Done. I’ve signed up for the Japanese Google+ community. Scrolling through the recent posts on the community, it looks as though there’s going to be a lot of motivating material, as well as an opportunity to practice the language with others.

2) Immerse myself. I love podcasts. When I have a chance to run, or are heading somewhere, I am often listening to a podcast. Right now, SERIAL, a new podcast put on by radio and podcast veterans This American Life, is the biggest draw. However, if I want to really make language stick, I’ve got to switch up the English for the Japanese. Doing a little bit of research, I came across a great thread where a lot of Japanese language learners have shared their favorite Japanese podcasts. The Podcast Thread

Then there’s Youtube. Youtube has been hailed by many online Japanese language learners as a great way to recognize and retain what you already know of the language. Looking around, it isn’t too difficult to find many Japanese vloggers, who offer quick bursts of language and content, which is easy to rewatch if necessary. I found a helpful set of vloggers compiled already by, which look promising. Youtube Japanese video blogs

3) Study like it’s a video game. One of the best websites I’ve found on Japanese language proficiency has been This website was the one that advised using ANKI, and outlined what I have been doing to study thus far. This was also the website where I was able to purchase the ANKI decks, making it much easier to just get started learning, rather than going through the trouble of developing content for my flashcards.

XPNAVI – Screenshot. This will help track progress made in studying Japanese.

One part of the program I hadn’t used in the beginning was XPNAVI, a program created by that tracks your daily study, and provides experience points, which begin to culminate. Adam, the creator of the site, recommends adding incentives to experience rankings. So, for example, at 5000 points, you can go see a movie, go out for dinner, or any other incentives that will help keep you motivated. the XPNAVI is essentially a glorified spreadsheet, but in the same way my students get motivated with Duolingo’s experience, so too could this help with motivation.

4) Make it Personal. When I first started this challenge, I did it so that I might be able to talk more with my friends and family in Japan. I also thought that I might start speaking more in Japanese with my wife (who is Japanese). Since September, I haven’t used a lot of the Japanese I have learned with my wife. Why? Well, it’s mainly due to the fact that having two kids, a full time job, and taking two masters classes takes up ALL my time, and my wife also shares a very hectic schedule. So, we don’t really talk too much, save for the essentials, which usually needs to be done quick. So working through how to say something in another language can be agonizingly slow and annoying for both parties when a milk bottle has spilled all over the carpet, and you need someone to hold the baby while you run to get some paper towels.

That said, using Skype might be a good idea. When I head to Japan in December, I’m looking forward to spending time with some friends I haven’t seen in ages. We’ve mainly spent our relationship conversing in broken English, so why not even the playing field and speak in Japanese instead? Perhaps Skyping with them and planning out what we are going to do together in Japanese might be a great way to put my studies into action.

All these added dimensions to my language proficiency have done little in the way of streamlining my study process, and have in fact bloated it tremendously. Perhaps, it’s better to set my ANKI deck to 5 new sentences a day, and using the available time to immerse myself further. I’m hoping this will get the spark back in my study, so I can keep at it. Any suggestions would be great!


8 thoughts on “Major Project Maintenance: Coming to terms with study burnout, reassessing and strengthening habits

  1. Sounds like you have embraced the language acquisition as much as the analysis of process. The level to which you explore your experience is impressive. Well done!

  2. Kids are funny! Turn something into a game and it becomes fun! I am learning a ton from youtube for my digital project, but I never thought about joining a Googleplus community! Thanks for the idea!

  3. Impressive journey so far!! The idea of Skyping with your friends in Japan to plan your trip is a great idea too. You will be well on your way to communicating effectively when December comes. Good for you!

  4. Great post – I love the different ways that you are learning, and it sounds like you are making progress. I know that your video experience didn’t quite go as planned, but it would be helpful to include some short videos in your weekly updates, even if it’s just you practicing saying some words. Also, have you created category page? I see that you have your posts categorized, but they would be easier to find if they had their own page.

    1. Thanks Katia, I have an iPad now at my disposal, and was going to try and use that for the upcoming videos. Since I updated to Yosemite my computer has not been very cooperative; it’s slowing me down! 😉

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