JLPT Journal #6: lack of motivation

It is normal to go through phases of lack of motivation, and if you are studying Japanese for some time, you know that your motivation will come back eventually, even if you don’t actively try to restore it.

This is what happened to me this last two weeks. I was not as motivated to study for the JLPT, but I knew that it would not last, that I would be on track again in no time.

The real problem is not the lack of motivation

The problem is not the motivation in itself, but the fact that I will not review or study during this phase. When the motivation comes back, I have to face another problem: reviews left undone, huge Anki, flashcards that I cannot even remembered having written myself. All my study material looks unfamiliar and far away. Every time I set my eyes on them, I think:

  • It’s been a while since I’ve opened this book.
  • I’ve certainly forgotten half of it if not more.
  • What a shame, I was doing well, but now it feels like I have to start from scratch again.

And if I find the courage to start my reviews again, I keep stumbling across words or grammar that I cannot remember. For the more recent ones, I cannot even remember having studied them before. For the older ones, I am depressed because I have forgotten them although I knew them well before.

After a while, I feel depressed and stop my reviews. I have bad feelings associated with them:

  • Guilt: I have left my books and flashcards untouched for too long.
  • Depreciation: I know that I have forgotten everything anyway, I am not good enough.
  • Discouragement: If you have already left your Anki untouched for some days, you know what I mean.

If this happens, I will feel bad every time I see my study material so I will end up putting them on my shelf, forget about them and decide that I will not take the JLPT after all.

The problem is not a lack of motivation, it is the bad feelings associated with my studies. I am sure that I am not the only one who sometimes have feelings of guilt towards all these study materials I bought or made myself and who end up depressed by it, instead of feeling pushed forward.

To solve it

If you have ever had the same experience, what you must do to solve it is:

  • First of all, accept that there will be times when you are not motivated. It might even last one or two weeks. It is normal and it is not something you should worry about. Your motivation will come back eventually.
  • The most important things is: keep reviewing during this phase. Even if you don’t learn new things, keep reviewing what you have done so far. Adopt a slow pace, but stay in touch with your study material.

More concretely, what you can do is stop learning new words in your SRS, but continue reviewing your deck. If you really don’t feel like studying, you can at least go through your cards and watch the answer immediately. Then decide whether you would have known this word or not.

For grammar, re-read at least the example sentences of the rules you have already learned. If your goal was to review 2 lessons per day, you can only review 1 lesson. In any case, even if you lower the amount of review per day or per week (depending on how you work), open your book and read it, don’t leave it alone.

What I personally do is:

For vocabulary: I study with the 日本語単語スピードマスター. It has a red card that covers the pronunciation and the meaning of the words, which is very useful to review. When I am not motivated, I don’t use the red card, I just re-read the words with their pronunciation and meaning visible.

For grammar: I am using physical flashcards. When I am not motivated, I just read the front and then look at the back immediately. I have not actively recalled the grammar point, but I have read it at least.

If I use my physical flashcards regularly, I feel both proud to have made them and glad to hold them in my hand. On the contrary, if I don’t, I will start feeling guilty towards them or even irritated to have spent so much time creating them for nothing.

If you keep reviewing, even at a slow pace, you will be all set to go forward when your motivation comes back.


People often say that motivation is key, but I think that diligence and assiduousness are even more important. You won’t be able to stay at the top of your motivation every single day, and you cannot really control how you feel. What you can control however is what you do: go sit at your desk, open your book and read it. It is not complicated, you have no excuse. Just make yourself do it, even if you don’t want to. When your motivation comes back, you will be happy to see that you didn’t let everything go astray.

I’m learning Japanese, Korean and Chinese to read detective novels in these languages. I post about my reading progress and language study here. Best way to get in touch is on Mastodon 🙂

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