Scrolling through my feed, I see pictures of well-ordered lives full of job-promotions, exotic holidays and fancy Instagrammed dinners. It makes me think: Why is my life in such a mess?
Our lives on social media present a biased view of reality. We form unrealistic expectations of what we should have accomplished by a certain stage of our lives, and often feel stuck. The clichéd truth is that we can change our goals and priorities at any age. And once we find a path we are convinced is the right one, nothing can stop us!
Here is the story of Thomas who changed the course of his career, and with the help of LinguaLift will soon move to Japan.
Brave new world
Thomas has always been a natural explorer with an interest in many disciplines.
Already before university, Thomas had worked as a gymnastics coach. His foundation degree in digital post-production then pushed him to work with the media. Subsequently employed by a digital media company, he travelled the world working behind the scenes at the Cannes and Toronto film festivals in a job that sounded ideal. After a year, he felt like it was time to move on, and left without any hesitation.
“Quitting my job was a moment when I thought: what now?”, says Thomas.
It’s only by looking back at the changes we made in our lives that we can trace the small steps that brought us to the present. Quitting his job was the first sign that Thomas was starting a new adventure.
Pieces of the puzzle
The long-held wish to visit Japan re-emerged once Thomas’s mind was clear of work concerns. While looking at ways to arrange a trip, he reconnected with a friend who had been teaching English in South Korea for the past four years. “He loved it, and when I learned the same thing was possible in Japan, I thought: ‘I want to do it too!’”, says Thomas.
To become an English teacher in Japan, Thomas needed a bachelor’s degree. The foundation course he had done a few years earlier was not enough, so he decided to go back to university to complete his degree.
Thomas’s life course was now dictated by his goal of moving to Japan.
The plan of moving to Japan didn’t only dictate his return to university, but has led to an overarching strategy reaching across the next few years: “I have a really detailed plan, with a three-year financial forecast of how much I will need to get there.”
The language conundrum
“The decision to move to Japan made me think I should probably know Japanese...otherwise I would be screwed—everyday life might be difficult!”
Meandering around the internet led Thomas to Reddit where the community was speaking about LinguaLift in enthusiastic terms.
Curious, Thomas went on to try the platform himself, and was encouraged by the simplicity of the layout. He noticed that the course employed the principles of deliberate practice: “I enjoyed the way the classes were broken down, and how they always build on what you already know.”
For him, LinguaLift offered a really low-resistance way to build up grammar. And the fact that he could contact the team at any point was also very handy. “You were always impressively quick to respond!”, he told me. Yup, I know, I’m on that chat myself Thomas! 😋
Thomas finished the LinguaLift course in a year and sums up his experience by saying: “It was a godsend to find LinguaLift!”
It’s easy to say “just study for a year and you’ll complete the course”. I was curious to know * exactly how Thomas had managed to persevere*. For him the answer was simple.
“Because I have a clear goal to move to Japan, I never really had a moment when I thought ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ For me this is simply not an option.”
Thomas follows up by adding that even so, he wasn’t always a perfect student. “There were times when I was lax with my learning. I would skip a day and feel like I didn’t make any progress.” His recipe to counteract this sentiment was… not to dwell on the feeling of disappointment, and simply go back to learning the next day!
”With language learning you can get to a point where you don’t feel you’re making any progress. I think you always are, it’s just becomes incremental and harder to spot.”
This is an especially valid comment for those who study on their own and have no other students with whom to compare notes. Instead, Thomas would get a motivational boost from reading new sentences in Japanese, and surprising himself with how much he understood. He also benchmarked his progress against the JLPT N5 vocabulary requirements.
Making progress, one mistake at a time
Meanwhile, Thomas embraced another principle: grit and deliberate practice just going ahead and making mistakes.
“Making mistakes is a good thing. You will always remember when you made a mistake, so you don’t make it again.”
When in doubt, Thomas consulted a grammar book or asked his tutor on LinguaLift. Having tested a few apps, he also used a couple of mobile tools to utilise the free time he had, realising that every five minutes of study time took him a step further towards his dream.
This practice in planning and utilising his time has made it easier for Thomas to fit Japanese studies into his new schedule now that he has to juggle university studies with a part-time job.
“The key is to still be able to find those moments when you actually do have free time. For example, when I’m on breaks at work I just open a dictionary and read a few words.”
The sum of all progress
I wish everyone could echo Thomas in saying: “Learning new things gets me excited and allows me to get back to the rhythm of studying.” Many students need a bit more motivation.
Thomas became aware of the extent of his dedication when he realised how many notes he took. In practising vocabulary, sentences and kanji, he had amassed two whole folders of writing!
An even better indication of his progress was provided when he joined an intermediate speaking class at the beginning of the academic year. Never having done any speaking practice before, he confessed: “I was afraid I wouldn’t know what was going on in class!” The group he joined has been learning together for two years, while Thomas had only one year behind him with no speaking partner. It didn’t take him long to catch up though:
“After six weeks with the group, I learned that as long as you say something with confidence it will sound right. It was only when the teacher pointed out a mistake that my classmates would realise I was wrong; otherwise everyone would be nodding.”
He felt pride and comfort realising that:
“Thanks to the year I spent with LinguaLift, my grammar was on a much higher level than the others’.”
Thomas is aware that language learning is an active process, and what has brought him so far is the fact that he never shies away from challenges. For instance, despite the aura of difficulty surrounding it, he decided to start using kanji:
“Staring at kanji doesn’t help much—you have to use it in writing!”, he told me.
His biggest challenge now is in getting more comfortable with everyday conversations. His inner perfectionist still panics when he hears a new word or phrase, but he knows he needs to build confidence through speaking:
“I need to force myself to speak when I’m here in the UK. If I can’t do it now, how will I be able to do so in Japan?”
For his next challenge, Thomas is planning to take the JLPT N5 exam. “Following that I want to do levels N4 to N1 when I am in Japan. Assuming I get to N1 level!”
Looking at your approach and the progress you’ve made so far, Thomas, we’re sure you will! 😊
I asked Thomas what advice he would give to LinguaLift students starting on their study path, and I’ll leave you with his words:
”Take it one step at a time."
"I had to say it to myself numerous times. Even if it’s just one tiny step forward, the steps will build up: if you learn one word a day, by the end of a year you will have learned 365 words.
Even if you don’t feel like you’re progressing as fast as you want, keep at it, because you are in fact moving forward."