How I learnt English by myself being Japanese

inductor profile image Kohei Ota Updated on ・4 min read

About this post

I believe there are some people who want to learn another language and it can be so varied. English, Spanish, French, Korean, Chinese... Yes, there are too many to count.

Today I want to share how I learnt English from the level I could not even say this simple sentence "I am 19 years old." to the level that I can contribute an OSS community as an interpreter, though not simultaneously.

I said Japanese just 'cause Japanese and English are very different and what I basically want to say by this is it's not too late to try if you could not deal with a language very well when you were young.

Who are you?

I am not a great person. Just a native Japanese speaker who likes eating and tinkering with computers.

You must have been to a good college/university

I did not even go to a university. I went to a science college thing which is like a technical high school and college combined. It's a special type of school even in my country so I don't really know how to describe this but I was just a slacker as I dropped out anyway :)

So how did you do this?

I don't actually think methods really matter. But you need some of these mindsets.

Have a short-term goals and long-term goals.

You need an object when you try to aim at something. Making an effort for nothing particularly is not very efficient and you should have something realistically possible.
Think of yourself what you want to do in the future with using the target language and if you want to do it, you need to keep trying.

Short-term goals are very important to make yourself keep trying. Long-term goals can be really boring sometimes simply because it takes so much time. Setting short-term goals that can be archived possible makes you feel better whenever you make the achievement and can be a good sign to show you are actually improving. Short-term goals are something like "memorizing 100 words", "passing some level of an exam" and "being able to say some silly jokes in the language".

Long-term goals are very important to make yourself not get easily "satisfied" with yourself. If you want to be really good at something you should just keep making an effort no matter how you're told you're good. Surprise yourself in the next few years with the effort you will have made :)

Know the difference between holding conversations and reading/writing technical/business sentences

Honestly I am the best at speaking in English and my writing is frigging bad. I could use to express how bad I am at writing but not for now ;P I can write stupid things on IRC, enjoy sitcom without subtitles, say lame jokes to my Aussie girlfriend and even have a serious/huge argument with her.
Even so, I cannot write completely "natural" English like a native speaker because I am lacking of vocabulary and practice. You need to practice literally every day to be really good at language. No matter what. It is really hard to be a complete bilingual without knowing those languages from childhood.

I know a lot of Japanese people who can comprehend English articles. But mostly they translate into Japanese in their brain and break it down slowly to understand. They can write enough good English to tell what they want to say in E-mails too but can't talk a lot including daily conversation because they have not practiced a lot.

In my opinion, all of the language skills; reading, writing, listening, speaking, are separated but strongly related at the same time. If you want to be good in general, you have to practice all of them evenly.

Do not mind your mistakes too much, but care a bit.

A lot of people say "I'm afraid of making mistakes." but it will hold you back when you want to improve. Fake confidence can be a really strong weapon sometimes because you can pretend you are so sure about what you're saying.
Think of a man who's making a speech, without confident, his voice would be so low and with his mumbling you can't hear it.

But don't rely on the "fake" confidence too much. It does not mean you don't have to make an effort. You have to know you need to keep trying while you don't look like so.

Enjoy what you are doing

Language is just a tool. You use it to express yourself, enjoy contents from other culture, understand the culture and share ideas to/from the world. It is not just your goal and more, what really matters is what you want to do with the tool.

This is what I have been doing to learn English for these seven years. I didn't have anyone correct this so this is purely my "English". I'm sorry if I wrote something wrong. But I hope everyone will understand this and learn something from this post.

Thank you for reading.

Kohei Ota

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inductor profile

Kohei Ota


Solutions Architect at Hewlett Packard Enterprise CNCF Ambassador Docker / Kubernetes


Editor guide

Hi Kohei,

another thing that helped me a lot was consuming tv shows and movies in English especially to improve understanding and sometimes fixing pronunciation.

ps. I would love to learn Japanese at some point in my life :-P


Hi rhymes,

Watching videos in English is "a method" which was not the main topic on this article but I did that too and believe it helps you a lot to with understanding English and learning the pronunciation :)


Congratulations by the way ✌🏾✌🏾✌🏾