Accuracy Crisis

You read the title. I’m sure this has happened to many of us. My accuracy has plummeted, despite my schedule remaining largely unchanged (even becoming more frequent) over the last few… years? I’m going to brainstorm some reasons why this might be happening for me and hopefully you guys can weigh in with your own experiences and help me find my way out of this. This might be a long post.

A bit of background about me:
I’ve been studying for about 4.5 years and doing WaniKani for about 3, all the while working full time and pursuing other time-consuming interests. I have a private lesson once a week and am just about to start my fifth textbook, みんなの日本語中級2. I have little trouble learning grammar, and thanks to wanikani my reading level is usually slightly ahead of the book, so I’m able to get by without investing much extra time into studying vocab for the book. Back in the olden days there was a pretty large Japanese community in my city and I made a fair few friends and went out and spoke to people a reasonable amount. I’m pretty shy though, and usually hesitate to take risks in conversation. Lately I’ve been having almost zero conversation outside my lessons, and don’t really spend much time reading, writing, listening or speaking. I have a Japanese girlfriend but we’ve been separated due to COVID for about 7 months. We also speak in English most of the time and for some reason I’ve always found myself hesitant to talk in Japanese with her.
Anyway, back to the study issue…

Wrong loops
I’ve noticed a phenomenon where certain pairs of kanji or words, usually similar looking or sharing a reading, frequently get conflated with each other in my brain. I’ll see the kanji, remember that it’s one that I often mistake for another one, then assume my initial answer is wrong, and change it to the other one, which turns out to be wrong. This experience seems to reinforce the ‘wrong loop’ and make it more likely to happen next time. Sometimes this goes on for long enough that they both get shoved down to the lowest rung and become increasingly likely to appear in close proximity, allowing me to pay greater attention to the differences and correct the problem. But this is happening more and more often lately, with items that weren’t initially a problem.

Self doubt
Do you ever have the experience of seeing a kanji, hearing the reading in your head automatically, but assuming you’re wrong and guessing something else? That happens to me quite a lot, and it’s hard to work around because I also am often wrong in my initial reaction. But I still notice a recurring pattern where I think “ah I knew it was that!” after getting something wrong.

Overly rigid schedule
I’m a very orderly person. I rarely deviate from my routine, particularly in the morning, and don’t allow for much extra time than I need to. When I do my reviews I try to get through them as fast as possible, hoping I can enter a flow state and finish the session without too much memory strain. I rarely stop to reassess a mnemonic or a reading when I get something wrong, just quickly glance at the highlighted words and hope I remember better next time. Very rarely I’ll go through my critical condition items and try to pay some more attention to them but I’d say that doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

Wandering mind
The flip side of the previous point for me is, if I don’t try to race through reviews, I’ll pause on something after drawing a blank, and my mind will start to wander. I’m an over-thinker at the best of times, and I have no issue conjuring up another problem to ponder at any given moment. When I’m at my worst I’ll even switch tabs and watch a youtube video or something, but I don’t even need a distraction to get distracted most of the time. It seems to me that my mind just doesn’t want to focus on this more than it has to.

Motivation vs discipline
I was lucky, perhaps, when I first started, to absorb the wisdom that discipline is more reliable than motivation in the long run, and if you can train yourself to be self-disciplined then you will be able to make it through the slumps in motivation. That certainly has helped, and I have had my share of slumps over the years, but I think this one might be particularly bad.

You know whenever you talk to a Japanese person, they almost invariably ask “why are you learning Japanese?” Well I’ve never managed to come up with a good answer. I’ll usually wade through some of the more typical reasons like being into anime, Japanese culture, music, desire to meet new people, you know the usual stuff. And while all that is certainly true to an extent, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to the core motivation for this endeavour. I do remember learning that the older we get the harder it becomes to learn a new language, particularly within the domain of phonetics, so I thought If I’m going to do this, the sooner the better. I always envied bilingual people, and was very introverted and somewhat socially anxious at the time, and I thought this might be a way to overcome those hesitations.

Why am I even doing this?
I don’t have clear goals involving Japanese. I vaguely wanted to move there and work, but I’m lucky enough to have a good career in my hometown and moving to Japan wouldn’t necessarily be a wise move for me. However that’s not to say I couldn’t make it work, especially now that so much of the workforce has been mobilised due to COVID. I could hypothetically continue freelancing while living in Japan. It would be a challenge though, and I am quite comfortable in my current environment. Maybe that’s the problem.

I think the biggest reason I’m still doing this is that I don’t want to admit defeat. I want to achieve fluency, and be able to read at a native level, yet paradoxically I don’t have much interest in speaking or reading. Maybe this is an ego thing. Maybe it would all be a waste of time if I never did anything with it. Maybe I’m still holding on to a hope that my motivation will return and I will resume studying with enthusiasm and actually enjoying it, rather than this current pattern of doing WaniKani with as little effort as possible, showing up to class every week, doing the bare minimum amount of homework, and immediately running off to the next thing.

I can see that something needs to change here. I need to intervene and reassess. I didn’t really expect that my accuracy dropping would lead to an existential crisis, but here we are. This might be too long and scattered for anyone to make sense of, but hopefully some of you can relate to some of these experiences and share anything you might have done that helped, or even just weigh in with your own thoughts. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your replies.

Jim

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Hey Jimbo, sounds like you’ve been doing some reflecting! Here are a couple of my thoughts:

Do you use scripts? Maybe this one can help you get out of the loop. It makes a guess on what word you might have confused it with, and puts a couple options right on the screen for you, so you don’t have to wait until both end up in apprentice.
[Userscript] ConfusionGuesser

How about setting aside some time to look at the items you got wrong on the summary page? The following script keeps track of all wrong answers until you delete the history. You could have a look at your troubling items at the end of the day, instead of just during reviews.
[Userscript] Wrong of the Day

Me neither :sweat_smile:. My main inspiration was just to challenge myself at a time where I wasn’t being challenged at all. I watched a Japanese movie, and the love for the language ignited. Now I continue mostly because it’s still challenging, and because I managed to find a good group of people to practice with. My social network was not so big before I started. I also managed to make a couple good Japanese friends, and meet my boyfriend through learning the language.

It would seem you are right at that (upper) intermediate level where it’s hard to see progress. With Minna you’re mostly learning grammar points that look the same as previous ones, just with a slightly different nuance. It’s all very formal and bookish, and unless you start reading newspapers and professional essays, good luck encountering some of them in the wild.

You say you have a Japanese girlfriend. How about you start texting to her in Japanese? The bar might be a little lower than speaking, because you have time to think about the grammar. It might add another layer to your relationship if she feels free to express her thoughts in her native language to you. I’m not sure how serious you are about her, but being able to speak with her family, might help as well. I’m assuming she and her family live in Japan and speak mostly Japanese at home.

I’ll leave it at this for now.

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I recognize myself in what you call “wrong loops” and “self doubt”. I also have trouble at times to believe in my first guess, not to mention struggle with interference of other items when reviewing.

I think you’ve taken an important step here by identified what your problems are.

You can intentionally break habits like the wrong loop and your self doubt, just by being aware of them. The next step is to force yourself to answer the first reading that pops into your mind and to not overthink it. (and perhaps not as often make those mistakes).

But, you might also have to do more leech training and work on that more intensely. I’ve found the Item Inspector paired with the Self-study Quiz to be very helpful with this. As well as the Leech Trainer that targets that pesky interference of similar looking items.

I wish you the best of luck getting to grips with these issues and get back to your old accuracy. :slight_smile:

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Wow, I couldn’t even get through one. :joy:

I’d consider this the crux of your issue. You have to start getting out the textbook world to real content and actual Japanese. Just reading about grammar won’t really internalize it in your head. Vocab won’t stick unless you keep enforcing it. With your WK level and your background, you are more than enough ready for books etc. If you haven’t ventured outside of textbooks, it’s gonna be hard, but worth it.

Try to really hard find something that interests you. Frankly, I don’t see how you can achieve the kind of fluency you are describing unless you make it a habit and a lifestyle.

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Bro this sounds like a spitting image of me it’s kind of insane.

except the gf part feelsbadman

I am absolutely in a slump and have been for a while. It actually felt like from one day to the next, my brain decided to forget everything (exaggerating) or just generally struggle with every review; even the ones that felt so simple.

I’m doing everything I can to just push through it. It feels 100% lack of motivation driven in that as my motivation decreased to essentially zero to learn right now, the accuracy dropped instantly.

I’m gonna take a break after level 30, in not leveling anymore, but just maybe a day or two or three or four months where I see if I can get my brain to start picking things back up with more ease. 'Cause I absolutely do almost everything you said in your post, with the second guessing, to the switching tabs 'cause one review took longer than one second to click in my brain (that’s how I found this thread lol).

Anyway, I’m hypothesizing, but I think reading helps with accuracy, not just because you’re reinforcing what you’re learning, but I think your brain gets used to seeing the text and bringing up that part of the memory easier. Maybe that sounds obvious, idk, but I’mma try reading again and see how my accuracy goes.

Anyway gl. Keep going, tho. 'Cause I absolutely resonate with that lack of motivation meaning just stopping altogether, and I have plenty of holes in my review history where I did stop altogether, but I’mma keep pushing regardless of how long it takes to get back into the smooth accuracy.

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So, I’m a beginner here and in Japanese in general (though I’m also studying Chinese at an intermediate level now), I think from the beginning I’m trying to make it clear to myself that I have no “reason” to learn Japanese or any other language, in the same way I don’t have any reason to pursue any of my other useless hobbies, other than the fact that I… enjoy doing them? It’s okay to not have super clear goals.

I, too, have this vague idea of moving to Japan someday and living life there. It’s all just a somewhat romanticized fantasy in my head, in a way. The truth is that moving to Japan and speaking Japanese fluently won’t necessarily change your life for the better. It’s just a different life–an unfamiliar one that will in fact take much struggle and hardship to adapt to. If you feel the need to run from your current life, maybe there’s something there to assess. I think this video by Dogen helped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR-RZmos2o8

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I’ve experienced many of the same problems (“wrong loops”, “self doubt”, etc.). The main difference is that I don’t try to just rush through the reviews any more (I did do that early on).

Nowadays, whenever I get a review wrong and I mixed it up with a different word or kanji, I’ll look up the word I confused it with in order to reinforce the difference. Occasionally, I’ll do this even when I get the review right if I had trouble remembering the difference and just guessed right. It means reviews sometimes take longer to get through, but I think it pays off in the long run.

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Thanks for all the replies everyone! Reassuring to know others have experienced similar things.

@Saida Thanks for the script suggestions, might try out Wrong of the Day and see how that goes. ConfusionGuesser looks too confusing for me, ironically.

@morteasd I definitely need to start actually reading. It’s funny whenever I do read something, like some subtitles or a news article I’m like “whoa I can read that!” which is encouraging. Just need to make the time to do it more often.

@kurseddragon hope you can push through man. I think i’m with you on taking a break, although I might just hold off on lessons for a while and just smash out reviews.

@tzjiang1I love that Dogen video! I feel like he finally articulated what I and I’m sure manay others were thinking about this topic. And yeah I’m definitely wary of romanticizing Japanese life, and I certainly don’t want to become an English teacher. I also don’t have a university degree which rules out a few of the easier to get jobs. Really depends on my career and my relationship at this point (and covid i suppose). If I can make it work then great but if not I’m not gonna lose too much sleep over it.

@l_l I see where you’re coming from. I think I’m gonna have to bite the bullet and accept the fact that reviews need to be done properly. Perhaps the ‘accuracy crisis’ (clickbait title in hindsight lol) is the result of the corners I cut catching up to me.

Thanks again everyone, this really is a great forum, you’re all so friendly and encouraging. I ought to start participating more. On that note, I hope this reply isn’t too chaotic, not sure if this is the best way of replying to everyone at once. But either way, thanks a bunch.

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