I wrote these down in my notebook for myself one day long ago, and I thought I would share the wisdom for anyone who is interested in taking beginner’s Japanese at the college level. They have worked for me, so I hope they work for any other curious budding Japanologists as well. Some of them are general study tips, but all are applicable to Japanese:
1. Keep all course notes in one notebook, and colour code them by using different pens for each class. That way there’s no risk of you forgetting the notebook you need for class A because you brought the one for class B, which you have for tomorrow.
2. If you want, use shorthand and abbreviations in your note taking, so you save space. Make sure the abbreviations are easily understood, or keep a legend of them in your notebook somewhere easy to find, like the front or the back.
3. Practice writing your Kanji on any surface which is writeable. Do it on the sand at the beach, cut them out of construction paper, buy yourself a Buddha Board, scratch it into the snow using a gloved hand, paint it, make them out of sculpey iii clay. If you do this enough with each kanji, they will commit to your memory.
4. Keep a diary in Japanese, write letters to people in Japanese, compose poems in Japanese, write stories in Japanese, learn to think in Japanese. If you have pets, talk to them in Japanese. If you don’t have pets, pick a painting or a photo in your house of a person and talk to them in Japanese.
5. After a long (More than two hours) study period, take a break by going on a brisk walk around the neighbourhood. This will help your memory, believe it or not. If it’s too dark or you are not comfortable walking out, then take a nap.
6. When studying, read everything twice. The first time skim, the second time absorb completely, take in every word. This helps develop a more complete idea of what is being said, and prevents premature translation.
7. Underline important information, but not excessively. A significant word or two will do.
8. Online kanji exercises are helpful, but they are no substitute for actually writing them out.