I am being a completely lazy bastard today and just posting a link to an old but quality article from Zompist.com. Mark Rosenfelder, in his piece When do people learn languages?, busts several myths and provides a number of thought-provoking examples of situations in which people do and do not learn languages. And yes, there isn't a lick of Japanese here, but the principles are very applicable and I think you'll get a motivational kick out of it. My favourite part:
Why do children learn languages well, when even adults who want to learn them have trouble with them? Innate abilities aside, children have a number of powerful advantages:
- They can devote almost their full time to it. Adults consider half an hour's study a day to be onerous.
- Their motivation is intense. Adults rarely have to spend much of their time in the company of people they need to talk to but can't; children can get very little of what they want without learning language(s).
- Their peers are nastier. Embarrassment is a prime motivating factor for human beings (I owe this insight to Marvin Minsky's The Society of Mind, but it was most memorably expressed by David Berlinski (in Black Mischief, p. 129), who noted that of all emotions, from rage to depression to first love, only embarrassment can recur, decades later, with its full original intensity). Dealing with a French waiter is nothing compared with the vicious reception in store for a child who speaks funny.
I don't think the fact that language learning takes time, or that motivation is important are novel to anyone reading this blog but the point about external motivation is very powerful - you learn a language when the alternative is humiliation and embarassment. If you are learning Japanese in a manner in which your pride is never in danger you probably should be.
Check out the full article here.