“If you know the why, you can live any how.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

German philosopher (1844 ‒ 1900)

I’ve previously written about the importance of having a strong, meaty WHY in language learning, a driving purpose that will push you through the inevitable trials and tribulations that accompany any learning adventure. We all have days we don’t feel like putting in the time, when we want to just lay on the couch and watch shows in English on Netflix instead of Japanese, and tell our iTalki tutor we’re sick.

What I have not been clear enough about is that this “why” needn’t be something extrinsic or practical. In fact, intrinsic and emotional WHYs are often far more motivating and sustainable.

Sure, many people learn Japanese to expand their professional opportunities, increase their income, or enable communication with Japanese customers, spouses, relatives, or the server at a Tokyo izakaya (居酒屋, いざかや, “a traditional Japanese bar”). These are all perfectly valid reasons to pursue conversational.

But many people are motivated by far more personal, internal reasons that they may feel embarrassed to share and would never think of putting on a résumé. And that’s totally okay! All that matters is that your WHY motivates you day in and day out. Nobody else needs to know your real purpose.

  • Perhaps you’re simply fascinated by Japanese culture and history and love reading about Bushidō (武士道, ぶしどう, “the samurai code of chivalry”). Great!
  • Maybe you want to read manga (漫画, まんが, “comic books”) without a dictionary or watch anime (アニメ, “Japanese animation”) without subtitles. Golden!
  • Or maybe you just love the way the language sounds and enjoy how it feels to produce Japanese words in your mouth. That works, too!

Whatever your reasons, the key is to make sure they are clearly defined in your mind so you can remember what you’re aiming at as you go about your daily learning activities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing).

This focus helps increase consistency and discipline by keeping your eyes on what you want most over just what you want now.

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