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Keeping a Foreign-Language Diary (1): How to Keep a Diary in Japanese

text: Lee Jin-sun

Do you keep a daily diary? When I was first studying Japanese, I kept a Japanese diary for about a year. In a year, with the help of the diary practice, I was able to write Japanese smoothly. In this article, I will introduce how I came to keep a diary in Japanese, as well as specific methods for diary writing.

How I came to write a diary in Japanese

As a high school student, I spent a year studying in Hiroshima. When I came to Japan, I could only read hiragana. I was to spend a year in Japan without knowing the language. On my first day in Hiroshima, my host mother gave me a notebook and suggested that I keep a daily diary, which she would check for me. From that day, I spent a year writing a Japanese diary.

What you need

First, get yourself a notebook that you can use as a diary, along with a dictionary. Beginners may want to use a wide-ruled notebook. That is because, when you are not used to writing kanji, keeping them small can be difficult. Moreover, larger characters are easier to read, which is more convenient for review later on. As you get more used to keeping a diary, you can also try using a narrow-ruled notebook.

How to keep a diary in your target language

First, open the notebook and think back on what you did today. Then think about what you want to write.

Have you thought about something? Then you’re ready to write in your target language diary!

You can structure your entries with the date (month, day, day of the week), the weather (sunny, rain, snow, etc.), an objective account of what happened that day, and a subjective account of your thoughts and feelings about it.

Methods and precautions for diary writing are as follows.

  1. Do your best to write in Japanese while using a dictionary. For words or expressions that you can’t work out even with the dictionary, first write them down in your native language; after you finish your diary entry, look them up online or ask your Japanese teacher or a friend.
  2. For new words and phrases, add furigana pronunciation and make marginal notes on the meaning (in your native language). Try to practice these words and expressions daily.
  3. Instead of directly translating expressions from your native language, seek out and practice those used by native speakers.
  4. It’s important to stick with it for the long term. Your entries can be short, but try to write every day.

After you finish your diary entries

Show your diary to other Japanese language learners, teachers, or native speakers. It doesn’t matter if a different person checks it every day! Someone new to you can check it too; for very personal entries, ask someone you trust.

Lee Jin-sun

Osaka University Graduate School of Language and Culture Master’s Course 1st Year. I love learning languages. Languages give me a sense of the culture and identity of the people who use them.