The secret to making the journey to Japanese fluency a snap - missions and markers.

When you advance to intermediate Japanese ability one thing you might miss is short term achievable goals. The path to fluency stretches out endlessly before you - it would be nice to have a few more markers on the way, so you know you're heading in the correct direction. The great thing is - you're free to make these markers yourself!

There are three secrets to making ideal markers:

  1. Short term - no longer than month or you'll struggle.
  2. Achievable - you know what's achievable for you. Reading an entire Japanese book in a month? How about aiming to read one page today - the shorter, the more achievable, the better!
  3. Measurable - "Being fluent"  isn't a goal? How do you measure it? Learning 50 kanji is measurable, reading X pages of manga is measurable, "talking like a native" isn't. You get the idea.

I like to refer to these markers or goals as missions possibly because of some latent desire to be a secret agent that I'm not getting to fulfill in my day to day life :)

A final point to note is that you generally know how you like to study or learn - for instance I quite like to have some written record of what I've done - even if I never look at it again. I tailor my goals to that requirement so that I'll be happy when I'm doing them.

This is a Daruma, in Japan when you make a goal or wish you colour one of the eyes in, when you achieve your goal you colour in the second eye (and then burn it as an offering :D). This picture is from Timothy Takemoto.

Here is my ten day mission - Monolingual Dictionary Mission. For the next ten days I'll look up a Japanese word I come across and read and understand the Japanese definition. If I don't understand it - I'll skip it, there are lots and lots of words I don't know. I want the easiest one possible next!

I've chosen this mission because I want to get better at reading for comprehension and also so I can get use to the way dictionary definitions are written. As a bonus I'll get some more vocab and possibly some grammar.

I'll be using 辞典国語小学 as my dictionary. It's meant for Junior Highschool students so the definitions tend to be to the point and not hard to read. It also has furigana for everything - so no misreadings!

See the post here to see how my ten day mission went.


While doing a mission it's very likely you'll come up with ideas for new goals or challenges. Generally phrased like "I should really be improving [listening / writing / comprehension]" or "I really need to be reading / watching more natural Japanese." That's great, these are great starting places for new challenges but DON'T abandon your current challenge - it should be short term, so stick to it and see it out unless you really can't bare any more and have taken on too much.

What you should do in the meantime is write down a list of new challenges somewhere you can refer to after you've finished your current one. Google Docs is good, or a real life notepad or I like to use Evernote which is like a online notebook.

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