In studying a language, the key to unlocking our full learning potential lies not only in the content we engage with but also in the way we approach the learning process. Have you ever noticed that you seem to grasp concepts more effortlessly when you’re genuinely intrigued or enjoying the material? There’s a fascinating interplay between motivation, enjoyment, and the intricate workings of the brain that significantly impacts our ability to learn and retain information.

Our brains function more effectively, and our understanding deepens when we’re motivated and enjoying what we are learning. This means that if you attend a dry, boring or frustrating Japanese class, you are less likely to retain the vocabulary, grammar rules or kanji knowledge from the lesson.

When we have fun in class, several factors come into play that enhances our brain function and deepens our learning. They are:

Release of Neurotransmitters:

Motivation and enjoyment trigger the release of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the brain. Dopamine is associated with reward and pleasure. When we find something enjoyable or rewarding, our brain releases dopamine, which strengthens neural connections and facilitates learning.

When it comes to learning Japanese, the release of neurotransmitters takes centre stage when tackling challenging kanji characters. Imagine the satisfaction and surge of dopamine as you successfully decipher intricate symbols, reinforcing your motivation to succeed in Japanese learning.

Emotional Engagement:

Positive emotions associated with motivation and enjoyment enhance our overall emotional engagement with the learning material. Emotion is closely linked to memory, and emotionally charged experiences are more likely to be stored and recalled. After all, you probably don’t remember what you studied in school in August 1998, but you might remember that time in 1999 when your school won the national soccer championship and you were playing on the team. That’s due to the myriad of emotions you experienced that day, from nervousness and fear to excitement and jubilation!

Learning Japanese is not just a linguistic endeavour; it’s an emotional journey. Whether you’re captivated by the poetic beauty of haikus or enamoured with the cultural richness embedded in each word, your emotional engagement with the language creates lasting connections that extend beyond grammar rules and vocabulary lists. Also if you make friends with others in the class, you will feel more emotionally connected to what you are learning and you will be less likely to mentally check out.

Increased Attention and Focus:

Motivation directs our attention and helps us maintain focus on the task at hand. When we are interested and motivated, we are more likely to pay attention to details, leading to better understanding and retention of information.

You might be motivated to please your teacher, impress your friends or family, look good in front of classmates, to use the language at work, or to pass a test. Whatever your motivation, if your goals are clear in your mind, your focus will sharpen.

Activation of the Hippocampus:

The hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory, is more active when we are motivated and engaged. This increased activity contributes to the encoding of new information into long-term memory.

Visualizing your journey through the bustling streets of Tokyo or imagining the serene landscapes of the countryside that you’ve seen on social media activates the hippocampus. As you associate Japanese with these vivid mental images, the hippocampus aids in solidifying your grasp of what you are learning.

Curiosity and Intrinsic Motivation:

Intrinsic motivation, which comes from within, is often associated with a genuine interest or curiosity about the subject matter. Curiosity stimulates exploration and a deeper understanding of concepts, leading to more profound learning.

Intrinsic motivation in learning Japanese often stems from a profound curiosity about Japan’s rich history and contemporary pop culture. Your genuine interest fuels the exploration of linguistic intricacies, driving you to uncover the meaning behind idiomatic expressions and delve into the etymology of kanji characters. And after all, a whole new world opens up when we can read and understand what’s around us.

Positive Feedback Loop:

Success and progress in learning often lead to positive reinforcement, creating a feedback loop that reinforces motivation. As we experience success and see the results of our efforts, our motivation increases, promoting further learning.

Celebrating small victories, like successfully navigating a conversation with a native speaker, creates a positive feedback loop. The sense of accomplishment fuels your motivation to conquer more linguistic challenges, creating a cycle of continuous improvement and deepening understanding. Taking a Japanese class is a good way to receive positive feedback from a native, unbiased teacher who will praise your success, and provide feedback for your weak points. Receiving positive feedback will make you feel more motivated to keep trying hard, and give you more confidence in using Japanese.

Reduction of Stress:

Enjoyable learning experiences can reduce stress and anxiety. When stress is minimized, cognitive functions, such as memory and problem-solving, tend to operate more effectively.

The more Japanese you learn, the more confident you will be in your daily life, reducing your stress. And if you choose to study in a friendly class with other students at your level, you will be able to have fun while learning and making mistakes together.

Creativity and Flexible Thinking:

Enjoyable learning environments often encourage creativity and flexible thinking. When individuals feel free to explore ideas and approaches, they are more likely to develop a deeper understanding and find innovative solutions to problems.

Some language schools want you to rote learn grammar structures, simply inserting one or two of your own words in a memorised sentence. This is not great for your learning, and it is better if you choose a school that encourages creative answers, deviating from the taught structure and attempting more complicated answers – even if they are completely wrong! It’s fine because your brain is engaged and taking things in.

Social Interaction and Collaboration:

Learning in a social context, where collaboration and positive interactions occur, can enhance motivation. Social engagement activates areas of the brain associated with social cognition and can contribute to a richer learning experience.

Joining a Japanese group class adds a social dimension to your Japanese study. Collaborative efforts with fellow learners or native speakers not only enhance your linguistic abilities but also contribute to a more enjoyable and culturally immersive experience.

These factors are the reasons why motivation and enjoyment create a positive learning environment by influencing neurotransmitter release, emotional engagement, attention, and memory processes. This, in turn, fosters a deeper understanding of the material and a more effective learning experience.

If you want to take a Japanese class which is enjoyable and engaging in order to improve your learning in the ways mentioned above, TLS has two classes that are perfect for this purpose.

1. Speak Japanese Over Tea

This is a morning class held every Tuesday and Friday and is both a social classroom where you can meet new friends and a language program.

2. Japanese Breakthrough Evening Class –

This is a beginner Japanese class held after working time, for people wanting to learn basic N5/N4 level Japanese.

Both of these courses teach practical language skills in combination with teaching you about Japanese culture and how it influenced the language you are learning that day.

There are many events held throughout the year which students are invited to, and lots of chances to network or meet new friends.

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