My long-term Japanese study goals

Last year I made a post asking myself if it’s possible to go from JLPT N5 to N1 in 4 years. I figured it would be possible, but I would need to invest a lot of time (at least 2-3 hours per day). Even going from N5 to N2 in 3 years would mean studying for at least 1-2 hours per day.

This year I decided to pick up Spanish and French again, which meant less time for focused Japanese study sessions. I’m also constantly busy with work and other things, which makes it really hard to do a lot on some days. So my calculation is already a bit off.

And then there’s one thing that I realized during this year, especially in the last few weeks when I was putting in a lot of effort into Japanese:

I don’t want to spend most of my free time studying Japanese for the next 3 years.

I have other languages that I enjoy too. I have other hobbies that I enjoy too. I want to be able to go out and do other things without feeling bad because I don’t study and without feeling the pressure to do more on the weekend then.

I don’t need these JLPT certifications. I don’t plan to work in Japan. I take the JLPT because it gives me structure in my studies and at the end I can get a real evaluation of what I’ve learned. If I get the N1 in 3 years or 5 years or 7 years doesn’t really matter.

What does matter though is that I keep enjoying the journey of learning Japanese. And I’m pretty sure I won’t if I keep studying for 2-3 hours every day and sacrifice other things that I enjoy.

So my current plan is like this:

  • N4 in December 2018 – I already registered for this so of course I’m taking it. There’s also still time to fill the remaining gaps and get more listening practice.
  • N3 in December 2019 – I will give myself a full year to study for the N3. It’s a big jump from N4 to N3 but I think it should be fine. I also already started studying N3 vocab now.
  • N2 in December 2021 – Two full years to study for the N2. I plan to start reading easy manga once I learned the N3 stuff and read a lot in general to get a good reading speed that’s needed for the exam.
  • N1 in December 2023 – Another two full years for the N1. At this point I will try to read novels and basically everything I find interesting.

With this plan I can take it slower with my Japanese studies and I will have more time for other things as well. If needed I will move the N2 and/or N1 even further away. In the end, my goal is not to get the certificates, it’s to learn the language and be able to use it, AND to have fun while studying for it!


Language Goals November 2018

October was a really good month for my language studies, or at least for Japanese. These were my October goals:

Language Goals October 2018 – Results


  • Review N4 grammar (book+notes)
  • Review N4 vocab (Memrise)
  • Review N4 kanji (Memrise, Kanji Study App)
  • Quizzes N4 grammar/kanji/vocab (JPDrills, old JLPT practice tests)
  • Listening practice (N4/N5 material)
  • Reading practice (N4 material)
  • 90 Kanji (Heisig + Kanji Study App)

The preparation for the JLPT N4 went really well in October. I reviewed grammar and collected similar grammar points which I need to have a look at. And I reviewed vocab in Memrise and also collected more words which I don’t know yet but might appear in the test.

I did a very thourough kanji review with the Kanji Study app – my goal was to be able to write all the kanji. While the JLPT doesn’t test you on writing kanji yourself, it really helps differentiating between similar kanji or fake kanji, and just remembering the kanji in general.

I did more listening practice: previous JLPT tests, Japanese podcasts, and when I watched anime I tried to catch as much as I could while reading the subtitles. Overall this was about 1/4 of my study time, so not bad.

I also totally fell in love with reading easy Japanese articles and read a lot during the month (almost 21 hours!). I definitely want to keep this up and read a lot more in the future.

And of course I did old JLPT practice tests and used to get more practice. These two things really help to actually use the grammar, vocab and kanji in context, and see where I still have problems.

The only goal I didn’t achieve was the Heisig kanji goal, but I came very close. My goal was to learn 90 new kanji. I learned 70 new kanji and I’m now at 1970.

Additionally I started studying N3 vocab and learned 254 cards on Memrise.

Overall I studied for over 89 hours!! That’s 40 hours more than last month, wow! Overall that’s 2.9 hours per day on average and I’m very happy with it.



  • Spanish novel (A2 level)
  • Watch Youtube videos
  • Listening practice (podcasts etc.)

I’m still not done with the novel. For some reason I feel like I need to really sit down to read it, so it never happens because when I sit down to study something, it’s Japanese. I did some other reading in Spanish though, so at least there was some reading.

I watched several youtube videos, so I would say I reached my goal here. I watched those videos without subtitles, so I would say it also counts as listening practice, but I didn’t do any additional listening practice like I had planned to.


  • Watch Youtube videos
  • Listen to songs

I watched a few videos but not enough to say I achieved the goal here… But I overachieved the song goal. I’m listening to French songs basically everywhere because I really love them at the moment. Additionally I also started doing lessons on Duolingo again (just reviewing old stuff for now).


I didn’t do anything for Irish in October and around mid-October I decided to drop it. I just can’t invest into dabbling at the moment, even if it’s very light dabbling. I need the time for my other languages and if I only look at it a bit, the words and grammar just don’t stick so it’s a waste of time.


This month I participated in the Language Jam, a short challenge where you study a new language for just one weekend. My target language was Tagalog! It was a fun weekend and I wrote a blog post about my experience with it.

Language Goals November 2018

I will focus on my 3 main languages only (no dabbling). Japanese will be my main focus (at least 80%), Spanish and French my secondary focus.


  • Review N4 grammar (book+notes)
  • Review N4 vocab (Memrise)
  • Review N4 kanji (Memrise, Kanji Study App)
  • Quizzes N4 grammar/kanji/vocab (JPDrills, old JLPT practice tests)
  • Listening practice (N4/N5 material)
  • Reading practice (N4 material)
  • 72 Kanji (Heisig + Kanji Study App)
  • N3 vocabulary (Memrise, 350 new cards)

These are amost the same goals as in October. There is only 1 month left to study for the JLPT, so my main focus will be reviewing/practicing N4 stuff.

Additionally I will learn 72 new kanji with Heisig. Then I will actually be done with the book! There are later editions with some additional kanji but I looked at them and they seem to be a bit random to me, so I will not learn them immediately.

I will also continue learning N3 vocabulary. My goal will be 350 cards on Memrise, that’s about 10 per day, which should be fine.


  • Spanish novel (A2 level)
  • Watch Youtube videos
  • Duolingo reviews
  • Duolingo stories (Set 2)

I want to start doing a bit more for Spanish in November. I want to finally finish the novel I’m reading and supplement it a bit with some Duolingo stories. I already did Set 1 of the stories a long time ago so I’m starting with Set 2 now. These are 10 short stories, which should be fine.

I’m removing the listening goal for now because I probably won’t have time for it and I will get a lot of listening by watching youtube videos.


  • Listen to songs
  • Duolingo reviews

This month I want to start going back to French a bit. For this I will do some Duolingo reviews. I found out they published yet another new skill tree so there are now tons of new beginner lessons. I will review them by testing out of all of them. They are so easy for me I rarely get something wrong, but it’s still a good practice for now. Additionally I will continue listening to French songs.

21DVC- 21 Days Vocabulary Challenge

On October 8th, I watched a video from Fingtam about a new challenge – Learn vocabulary for 21 days (#21DVC)! The goal of the challenge was to study vocabularly regularly for 21 days, to make it into a habit.

I already use Memrise every day to study vocabulary, so it’s already a habit for me to do this. But I thought I would use this challenge to finally start studying vocab for the JLPT N3. I kept putting it off, because I thought I should focus more on N4 stuff and because the N3 words looked so much harder and often boring.

I took one of the JLPT N3 Vocab decks on Memrise (I already picked some decks a while ago but never started them). In the beginning it was very hard for me. The words were sooo boring and some of them just didn’t seem to stick. I also had some technical issues with Memrise, which made me not want to study a lot. I still did my 5 minutes every day though.

And after about 2 weeks something happened: The words kept being hard and boring, but I felt like it went much better now. I could also resolve my technical issues which helped a lot with my overall motivation to do something.

On October 28th I finished the 21 days and here is the result:


I consistently studied for 21 days and learned a total of 244 new words, which is 11.6 words per day on average. This is pretty good, considering that during the first ~2 weeks I learned maybe 5 new words per day (or none when I only reviewed cards). I got much more active during the last week and I hope I can keep it up like this.

Overall I’m very happy I joined the challenge! It pushed me to finally start studying the N3 vocab and I realized that I really needed to start studying it now if I want to take the test next year.

Focusing on what’s most important

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my language learning. My main problem is that I don’t have a lot of time for language learning – and yet I want to learn so many languages.

I’ve tried different strategies – focusing on just one language, doing 2-3 languages at the same time, dabbling in other languages inbetween. I don’t think I’ve found the perfect solution for me yet, but I do think it’s important to try different things to figure out what’s best for one personally.

Trying many different approaches also means failing a lot but I think that’s important too. It helps learn what works and what doesn’t, and especially it helps learn what’s really important for you.

I’m currently at a point where I believe it’s best to focus on what’s most important. I want to learn a lot of languages, but I clearly can’t do it all at once so I need to prioritize.

One thing that I’ve learned in the past is that having a good reason is the key to learning languages. If I don’t have a good enough reason to learn a specific language I lose motivation quickly. And while it’s fun to dabble in other languages, it doesn’t help me with my main languages.

I have a lot of languages on my list which I’d like to explore more, but I realized that at the moment I don’t have a good enough reason to learn them. So picking them up won’t do me any good. This is also why I’m dropping Irish now.

I’ve decided to stick with my 3 main languages (Japanese, Spanish, French) and bring them to an advanced level before I start any other language projects. I can already see myself changing my opinion in a few weeks or months and starting another language…

The reason is that these 3 languages are the most important to me. I love them all a lot and I really have a lot of reasons for why I want to be able to speak them.

I’m still thinking about how to divide my attention so that I don’t neglect any of these 3 languages too much. My primary focus will definitely stay on Japanese because I still plan on taking all the JLPT levels. But I need to make some room to also do more Spanish and French. So I might come up with some goals for them for the next month and just see how it goes. Failing is allowed and encouraged to find the best way for me to learn them all.

Language Jam #2 – Tagalog

The Language Jam is a challenge where you get a randomly chosen language you have never studied before and study it for one weekend. Unfortunately I missed the first language jam because I didn’t have time, but this time I participated!

And the language I was assigned to was… Tagalog!


My initial thoughts

To be honest, when I opened the website and saw which language I got, I was a bit disappointed. I think I was secretly hoping I would get a language that I have some interest in but never had the time or motivation to study. For a little while I was even considering taking the alternative language, which was Romanian. I have a Romanian friend so it would have been cool to learn the language a bit.

But then I started reading a bit about Tagalog and I realized two things:

  1. Tagalog is a super interesting language! I knew absolutely nothing about it before but after reading a bit about it I became really, really interested in it. For example, I didn’t expect it to be so influenced by Spanish and as a learner of Spanish this is really interesting for me. Another intresting thing for me is the code-switching with English. I found a very interesting video on youtube about it.
  2. I can study the languages I’m interested in anytime. But this challenge actually gave me the chance to discover a language I had never had in mind and now I’m extremely grateful for this!!

The preparation phase

You’re given a few days to find resources and prepare for the challenge. I first went to Duolingo, but had to learn that they don’t have Tagalog yet. So I simply googled a bit and found some websites. I also checked Youtube and found quite a few videos.

Since Tagalog doesn’t use a different script I didn’t have to learn that in advance. I checked some videos on pronunciation and found it quite easy so I didn’t do much here in advance either.

The weekend (Oct 19-21) & my resources

There are a few things that I learned in my first language jam. It’s not enough to just google some resources. I wasted a lot of time trying to learn with some of the resources but it just didn’t work for me and I had to switch and start all over again.

These are the resources that I used:

Learn Tagalog Language with Master Ling > I found this app in the app store (Android, not sure if it exists for iOS) and liked it because it has a very similar teaching style as Duolingo. The first lesson was also great. But in the second lesson I had to learn random numbers like 14 and 25, when I didn’t even know the numbers from 1 to 10! And then I saw that most of the lessons are actually locked behind a paywall, so I stopped using the app. > I didn’t want to register so I used their Youtube channel. I watched some videos about greetings and introducing yourself. I liked how they were made but got annoyed by the repetitive “this is all for this lecture, next time we will see xyz” over and over in the same video. They really could have removed them when putting all their short videos together in the longer ones. But maybe that’s on purpose so people get annoyed and just use the website? On a different note, if you’re interested in Filipino vs. Tagalog, check this Wikipedia article. > They have three courses with a lot of lessons, but since they were not free I didn’t use them. What I found really helpful though were their free learning videos. They teach you the pronunciation and some basic grammar. They also have a free grammar section where I spent a lot of time just reading up a lot of interesting things about the language! > This was my favorite resource! They have a course with 13 lessons for free. The course is based on audio and they also provide a free transcript for each lesson. What I liked most about it was that they made you repeat the things they said and broke down longer words into shorter parts, which helped a lot. It was so much fun speaking along with them!

After the challenge

Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to study Tagalog, but I had a lot of fun doing it! Overall I’m really happy I took part in the challenge and especially that I got the chance to study a language I had never thought about studying before. This was definitely great.

I fell in love with the Tagalog language. The way they speak it sounds like a super cool and super fun language. And I had so much fun speaking it (I was really glad I found audio based courses). The language is really interesting and I’d love to explore it more one day. I’m not sure if I will ever really try to learn Tagalog to be conversationally fluent (I’d need more motivation for that) but at least I want to learn a bit more about the structure and language in general.