恒心: Cultivating steadiness and constancy

It would seem for me that learning Japanese is all about fun and video games. Though I wish this were the case, in actuality video games are a pleasurable aside in my daily struggle to understand the language.

I credit most of my learning and retention to the flashcard program Anki which I began using as an aid for James Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji—which I did start because of a video game.

I’ve never been very disciplined. I can’t maintain a steady yoga practice. I have trouble sticking to routines of any sort unless they involve morning coffee and the threat of a caffeine headache. And yet I began reading RTK every day, visiting the Reviewing the Kanji site to help with stories for the Kanji, and writing out the kanji every day. That was a year and a half ago. I still review the Kanji every day.

I think I was able to stick with the flashcards initially out of fear. There are a mountain of flashcards just waiting for you to turn your back on them so they can all be due at once and crush your studying spirit. The RTK deck alone holds over 3,000 (though there are 2042 in the first book. The rest are from book 3 which I have not yet started.) Some days even though I had been studying faithfully, there were over 200 slippery characters waiting to be tested. Some days it took me hours to complete.

Offering up a truth, I should probably mention that I am a housewife (主婦) without children so I have more time to study than most. Offering up another: that doesn’t mean I want to spend my entire day embroiled in a battle with flashcards.

Initially fear can be a great motivator. Each day you run screaming from the threat of your flash cards overtaking you and devouring you whole. After a little while you get kinda tired of running and screaming. You begin to maybe dislike the flash cards. You begin to maybe resent the flash cards and question their efficacy. I mean seriously how many times does one have to write out the kanji for apologize 謝 before remembering it?

This is a dangerous crossroads to reach. You risk either giving up after having invested so much time and effort into learning, or continuing forth as an embittered curmudgeon soullessly doing your cards just to do them.

That last one is me on most days. But I came to a revelation recently. And it sounds kinda hokey, and shockingly easy. But for me it’s not. Maybe you’re one of those sunshine and rainbows people. I’m not. So, the revelation: change your motivation. Don’t show up to your cards every day because you’re afraid of them. Show up to your cards every day because you love them. You love the language and they are your lifeline to understanding it—oh wait there’s that desperation theme creeping in again…

I’ve branched out from just doing flashcards from RTK. I have a myriad of decks that I do each and every day. Some days I review over 500 cards. That can either be a whole lot of fear, or a whole lot of fuzzy kittens. My point is that you choose how you view your flash cards, and whether to resent them, embrace them, or give up on them entirely. It’s all in your hands. And all you have to ask yourself is: “What’s my motivation?”

One thought on “恒心: Cultivating steadiness and constancy

  1. The kanji in the title is read as koushin. and it translates to steadiness or constancy. If I were going to get a tattoo of kanji. I’d get that one…until I meet another I like better.

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