I am a big believer in goal setting and have an entire section dedicated to creating specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound language learning objectives in my books Master Japanese and Master Mandarin. Why? Because if you don’t know where you want to go, how in the heck can you ever get there? But it’s critical to understand that goals are just the first step to align your compass. Goals alone won’t get you very far on your journey. The real magic is found in the “process”―the collection of daily habits and activities (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) that will inch you closer and closer to your fluency goals over time.
There is a lot to like about language learning apps. They allow you to squeeze in more language learning time throughout your day and allow you to outsource motivation to dopamine-driven “habit loops” that keep you coming back for more every single day. That’s the good news. The bad news? Apps alone will NEVER get you to fluency in Japanese. Read on to see why.
I first started The Language Mastery Show in 2009 as a short-term experiment. My initial goals were: ① To test drive the new medium of podcasting. ② To serve and empower independent language learners. ③ To have a good excuse to meet some of my linguistic heroes. Now eleven years later, I am happy to say that the podcast has exceeded all initial expectations. I’ve reached hundreds of thousands of people, interviewed 50 of the world’s best language learners, and befriended many in real life. Before kicking off Season 3 of The Language Mastery Show next week (launching on Friday, July 24, 2020), I wanted to go back and highlight some of my favorite lessons from the amazing guests that have shared their time and wisdom with us over the years, including polyglots, hyperpolyglots, linguists, professors, teachers, and passionate enthusiasts. I’ve learned countless lessons on how to make my own language learning more fun and effective along the way, and I hope you have gleaned some useful strategies, methods, and resources, too.
A clear purpose is essential in any long-term undertaking like language learning. As Friedrich Nietzsche put it, “If you know the why, you can live any how.” But this WHY needn’t needn’t be something extrinsic or practical. In fact, intrinsic and emotional WHYs are often far more motivating and sustainable. All that matters is that your WHY motivates you day in and day out. Nobody else needs to know your real purpose.
My Japanese language learning journey has been anything but smooth or linear. Sure, I eventually figured out what works best for me, but it took a lot of trial and error. If I were to go back and start learning from scratch, I would certainly do things very differently. And I certainly have done exactly that as I’ve started other languages. At the same time, I am grateful for my missteps as they have proved to be one of the most effective teachers one could ever ask for. As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu legend Carlos Gracie, Jr. put it, “There is no losing . . . You either win or you learn.” I’d now like to share my “trail map” with you and point out my five biggest blunders so you can avoid them on your Japanese journey. You can then save your mistakes for practicing the language itself instead of “wasting” them on selecting your methods, materials, or beliefs.
Nelson Dellis is a memory athlete, 4-time U.S. Memory Champion, a Grandmaster of Memory, a high-altitude mountaineer, author, speaker, and all-around cool dude. He is now on a mission to reach conversational fluency in Dutch in just one year, applying all the memory techniques, mnemonics, and visualization strategies he used to train for memory championships.