How did Summer Rane learn Japanese?

Summer Rane (Summer Sensei) is a 32 year old American YouTuber and author (and TV personality in Japan) who does English language teaching videos for her large Japanese audience. She is very fluent in Japanese. Summer was born and raised in Seattle and did not have any family or other initial connections to Japan as a child. But she says that she was attracted to the Japanese language and culture from an early age.

In a recent video she offered tips on how to best learn a foreign language based on how she was so successful in learning the Japanese language.

Here are her five top tips:

1.) Don’t be shy to imitate

Immerse yourself in the language – surround yourself with the sounds of the language as much as possible.  And don’t be shy to imitate what you hear.

2.) Balance study of grammar textbooks and exposure to natural language

Summer talks about being obsessed with Japanese and seemingly spending every waking hour immersing herself in the language. She took Japanese class everyday at school and in the evening she studied books and watched Japanese dramas. She emphasises that exposing yourself to the sounds of the language as it is spoken colloquially is critical.

Further on this point, there is also a video of an interesting discussion between Summer and Dogen – another expat in Japan who is extremely proficient in Japanese and who learned it as a foreigner – that is, not within a family situation. In the discussion they talk about the most efficient language acquisition strategies for foreigners and Dogen (only half jokingly) says that watching the same movie over and over again is an idea that worked for him.

3. Seek out all opportunities to practice

Summer talks about her family hosting Japanese exchange students, participating in Japanese speaking competitions and going on Japanese (summer) camps.

4. After learning the basics, go and study and live in the country

Summer enrolled at university in Japan and ended up staying on in Japan for 10 years. She initially taught English there. Obviously living and working in Japan maximized her opportunities to interact with Japanese people and use her Japanese functionally as much as possible.

5. Never give up.

Small steps every day is progress.

Here is video where Summer gives this advice:

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