Learning a new language once you are already a grown up, is not an easy thing, specially when your mother tongue is so completely different. On the other side of the road I would say. Not much to relate to or compare with.
Let´s start from the beginning; as everything else in life, first you have to have the willing to learn it. But even if you are keen on it (because you are into the culture, or you like languages, or because you are living or working in a Japanese environment) it will still take you a big effort and hours and hours of dedication and practice. It won´t come to you from one day to another like magic. And that is understandable, nothing comes like that. At least, not the challenging things. Not in real life.
So let´s assume that you have the desire, the energy and motivation to go for it. And you have the time, or at least you will make it work.
The next step is finding the right teacher or a good group of colleagues to mix up with and to share similar experiences and struggles are also important. In my case, I am taking private classes with a teacher who is not only my guide in the language, she is also helping me to bring me closer to the Japanese culture and traditions; something that I find extremely interesting and fascinating at the same time.
In regards to the language itself, after 1 year and half of studying, I continue trying without major results, and I continue wondering and asking myself if it's worth it. There are some days when I want to give up, some other better days when I feel I can still achieve it, but most of the days I know that the best way to deeply enjoy the experience in Japan is speaking the language.
Most of the “gaijins”, as the Japanese people call the foreigners, who have been living in Japan for a long time are not able to do it, however, there are many others who do. That gives me hope and gives me the motivation to go on.
The motivation also comes from how much easier everything looks like from that perspective. Which leads me to been able to understand what is happening around you, been able to choose your food in a restaurant and buy the exact products you want to instead of guessing. Been able to pick up your friends jokes, been able to have a pretty regular day as you were in your own country. Situations that we wouldn’t be considering if we were not foreigners, looking like foreigners, behaving like foreigners and speaking a foreign language.
So, as my teacher says, enjoy the little improvements and keep trying. Practise when you go shopping, when you are at a train station, talk with your neighbor or the waitress. Put yourself on the positive side and look back only to see how much you progress.
And as far as myself, I have been wearing big bags since I arrived to Tokyo because most of the time, I do not leave home without my Japanese book. Sometimes I do not even open it, but many others I do. And I read in the subway, while I am having a coffee, while I am waiting for someone or just because I feel is the best investment for my future.
If you are in a similar difficult moment of learning a new language, don´t give up. One day, you will say: I did it! Gambatte!