Discouraged

I have to talk about this feeling if I’m going to get through this and succeed.
Right now, I feel defeated. To me, the Japanese language seems to be as broken as a language could reasonably be before people would knuckle down and fix it. Like an old rust heap car that is hanging on by a thread.
My dream of living in Japan feels threatened.
Here’s why.
Kanji already have multiple pronunciations, and then they’re in vocab words that are an exception and now you need a mnemonic for the specific words they’re in.
In English, there are 26 letters with multiple pronunciations and it depends on what word they’re in but the rules aren’t broken very often. In Japanese, there are THOUSANDS of symbols and the rules apply significantly less often.
If you did some math, aren’t the possible permutations exponentially higher, and with more frequent rule-breaking, doesn’t this mean that the amount of costly memorization you have to do is many times greater than for English? Exponentially greater?

Is it really as broken as I’m making it out to be?
I know English is supposedly hard to learn, but this looks much worse. I don’t know.

11 Likes

First of all well done for getting started and getting to Level 10.

Secondly at times of despair along the learning journey (which we all encounter, myself on a regular basis!) its important to be kind to yourself and go easy on yourself. Japanese is an incredibly different language to English (presuming that English is your mother tongue) and represents many obstacles to overcome.

I see you mention about living in Japan. Unless working to a dealine, then maybe start making minor goals instead that are easier to obtain for example; Do 10 new lessons today, do all my reviews, study a couple of grammar points/look at a textbook for 30 mins.

If you make incorrect answers, which is part of the learning process, than see it as a good thing. Its a chance to see those words and kanji again and allow them another opportunity to sink in which will only help right? Just be patient, show up everyday and try to take a breath and enjoy the process even when things seem to be tricker than normal and good luck!

37 Likes

That is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you very much! :pray:

8 Likes

Just as in other languages, the languages’s sounds can be combined in thousands different ways to get thousands of different words. In that way it can actually be nice in japanese because if you dont know the word by itself, you can often easily remember through the kanji and their limited pronounciation options. So for me it sometimes can feel even easier than in western languages, bc if i dont know a word in one of those languages then i can maybe think hard for a minute or so but then i gotta give up and look it up.
Here 1. if i dont remember the japanese word (as in, pronounciation) for it then maybe the kanji’s common pronounciations ring a bell and make me remember it or 2. if i hear the japanese word and cant remember what it means then sometimes you can link the parts of the word to some possible kanji with that pronounciation and somehow piece it together.

Yeah you kinda have to remember 2 things instead of one (kanji, pronounciation) for each word, but apart from the fact that these 2 things are intertwined its also a chance - if you dont remember the first you always have another chance to remember the other and through that remember the first :smiley:

Either way, if you feel discouraged maybe finish only some of your essentials (finish reviews e.g.) and then take the day off. No one can learn a language without having some discouraged days, and often taking a break, not forcing new info into your brain and sleeping it off can help a ton!

9 Likes

I had a similar dream. Not a specific plan but more like an idea “would be nice trying to live in Japan”.

I kept learning Japanese, but not because of this dream, only because I enjoyed the process. In truth there’re many foreigners who barely know any Japanese living in Japan, so it’s not really a blocker.

And years later I got a chance to move to Tokyo for a few months. It felt rewarding, like all the studying actually paid off.

So in terms of motivation for studying, focus on the things you like and you’ll find the things you have to do more manageable.

8 Likes

there are 7 ways to pronounce -ough in English, don’t forget

18 Likes

Is that sough?

7 Likes

So, it is difficult for native English speakers, largely because the two languages are not related and (unlike learning French, for example) there’s no helpful links between words in your own language and the one you’re learning. And yes, the writing system is more complicated than most. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible: it’s just more work.

Some things that do help:

  • kana spellings were reformed after WW2, so if you see a word in kana you know how it is pronounced
  • most kanji have two readings, and exceptions with non standard pronunciation are rare (I sometimes feel like WK can give a misleading impression here, because large numbers of readings and exceptions are more likely with the very common kanji that you get taught first, and my impression is that WK also likes to teach the exceptions up front. Most kanji aren’t like that.)
  • for many kanji one part of the character is a hint to pronunciation and another a hint towards area of meaning, so they’re not purely arbitrary
  • you don’t need to learn the whole writing system and multiple thousand kanji to start being able to practically use and have fun with the language. Don’t try to treat learning kanji like learning the alphabet or hiragana, as a hurdle you have to clear before doing anything else
  • as you start learning and using the language, you encounter words and kanji in natural contexts, which helps your brain to remember them better and makes it much less of an exercise in pure abstract memorisation than doing WK reviews

Learning Japanese is a long haul effort, so you need to enjoy the journey of learning it, or you’ll quit. Shorter term plans and targets are probably more motivating than distant ones.

Also, if you have an aim of living in Japan some day, remember that most fluent non Japanese people don’t live in Japan because they’re really good at Japanese – they’re really good at Japanese because they live in Japan! Perfection is not a visa requirement :slight_smile:

16 Likes

I do not nough.

Hmmm…

21 Likes

Your worries about the language is how I see the Chinese language. But one thing separates my views on Japanese and Chinese. I like like the one (it’s Japanese. Surprise, surprise) and don’t care about the other. And while I’m not actively studying Japanese, I’m having fun consuming Japanese content every now and then.

Oh yes, the numbers are definitely scary to look at, but at the end of the day, not all of those are utilised on a daily basis, and not everything is needed to live properly. Maybe focus on the fundamentals. You’d be surprised how much progress you’ll get when you have a good foundation. Others have already provided valuable feedback above.

But if I’m reading deeply into your woes, you may want to go back to understanding your “why” of learning Japanese. I hope you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself.

Cheers!

6 Likes

I’d say after a certain point learning vocab is just automatical when you know the kanji, as in no “costly memorization” which you referred to. I dunno about a good example for level 10… 花火 maybe? But personally, recently I encountered a “new” word in WK and realized it’s been ages since I know it, just because its meaning was so naturally given to me via immersion that I practically learned it before I studied it.

The word is 魔法使い (wizard) and it really descends to 魔法 (magic)+使い (use), and the first part is 魔+法 which is really just “magic/demon” + “laws”. Both the meaning and the reading are exactly what you expect it to be after summing all the parts.

And a lot of words really just work that way.

Heck, sometimes reading complicated words in Japanese is actually easier than in English, because in English you pull it from obscure Latin/Greek stems. Like where does “etymology” even come from? Ah, you mean 語源学? (language + source + study)

I think I once even heard a joke about that (the one with an English and a Japanese student). Let someone else cite it, because I don’t remember how it goes exactly (and my Internet connection is under the weather today)

Even with stuff that didn’t make sense at first, you start to notice patterns. Like how 月 to the left of kanji like 脇 or 肢 hints a body part, almost always. Or all the different rendakus in readings.

I’m not gonna say that everything is logical, but what isn’t, still can be explained with history and/or some etymology. But I’d say around 70% of stuff just makes sense like that (even if at first it feels like it doesn’t)

Anyway hope it helps :slightly_smiling_face: I’m not very good with giving emotional advice, and other people in the posts above already gave a lot of solid advice. So I just tried to explain how I see this.

13 Likes

OP

I dont blame you, if the language and its complications does not interest, forcing it wont change things you in the end.

I studied 1 year in Seoul for my major, and in parallel, the first 4 months I did intensive Korean Language (monday to friday 4 hours every morning!) in the end I couldn’t continue because it was too boring and the pronunciation was hell IMO

So I quit and came back to study Japanese, which I dont see any problem with pronunciation like hellish korean and I just patiently, with IMMERSION, I go step by step increasing my vocab.

5 Likes

I agree 100%. After several years’ study, I am finding the same thing. The patterns start to make sense. But it did take a few years for me to start seeing these patterns. Now a lot of measnings are becoming almost obvious whnen I first see the kanji.

5 Likes

I know 4 languages to a reasonable level of fluency (I hope to make Japanese the fifth), here’s what I’ll tell you: every language is a mess, they’re just a mess in different ways. I suspect that there must be a biological limit behind it, eventually if a language becomes too complicated and arbitrary it becomes too much for even natives to remember and organically some things become unused or regularized.

Japanese is like a poorly balanced videogame where the first boss is way too hard. It will take a while to overcome this hurdle, but if you do you’ll find that things do get easier afterwards.

My general advice for language learning is this: just shut up and walk.

Like, just stop thinking about it. Language learning is not about motivation, motivation won’t carry you every single day over the years you’ll need to master Japanese. Motivation is irrelevant. It’s all about discipline. You take one step, and then another, and then another until you reach the destination.

Millions and millions of people have managed to learn Japanese, and they all went through what you’re going through right now. This isn’t abnormal. It’s not even interesting.

I can guarantee you that you will succeed. It’s impossible to fail at language learning. You don’t have to be smart or anything. You just have to take one step, and then another step, and then another step…

So shut up and keep walking. Not because you want to, but because you have decided to. You can’t fail, you can only give up.

29 Likes

it sounds like you’ve left unconscious incompetence and entered the next stage, conscious incompetence :slight_smile: but that’s great, cause it means you’re learning and improving! The first step to learning is understanding how far you have to go.

In regards to kanji, you don’t need to know thousands right now. I have ~500 burned and can manage my intermediate textbook with only having to use a dictionary now and then. There’s also an internal logic to Japanese similar to latin pre/suffixes in English, as Ceuteum pointed out - even if you don’t know the word itself, you can work out things like 図書館 just by knowing the individual kanji. Just keep going, and you’ll find that you will improve.

12 Likes

This is such good advice for anyone on here. Thank you!

1 Like

You know how in some jrpgs you start the game and it all goes great and then you defeat the big boss just to realize that it was not really the final boss just a mirage and there’s a big world outside of your little village - your adventure just started, the grind begins? Well - it looks like you’ve reached that point in your journey, and it’s not just child play anymore.
The thing is, when the hero is being told they’re the hero of they’re story, it comes with a lot of mini quests and mini bosses, and lots of rewards along the way. Learning a new language is kinda like a jrpg. You need to take it one quest at a time. Yes there’s that final boss you need to defeat in order to save the world from confusion and eternal darkness, but the game wouldn’t be fun without the journey and fighting the final boss over and over again (in this case it’s the entire Japanese language) will only lead you to feel Discouraged. So the mini bosses, which are the final boss minions (I mean com’n there’s always a connection there), are the skills and the building blocks of the skills you need to learn. Breaking it all down into digestible levels, like the way people choose to use the JLPT as a way to handle their short terms goals, a specific app, a tutor or a book, can prevent that feeling that it is all too much.

It also takes time and you might need to slow down? Your abstract is too abstract for your brain. Living in japan doesn’t spell (pardon the pun) short term goals. The more specific your goal is, the better your brain will react to it. It might sound weird but when it comes to the survival part in your brain you already got a language that gets you food on the table. Learning a new language that not only doesn’t get you better food at the present moment and on top of it completely contradicts the well established true and tried grammar patterns you use effortlessly for decades, well - that part of your brain thinks it’s a total waste of energy. And that’s where discipline comes into the picture. But it doesn’t mean you have to suffer. If there’s something you’re good at and enjoy use it as a short term goal, learn how to talk about something you’re really passionate about, for instance, or if that’s too boring, take the practical route and break down what you’re doing in a week, and learn how to say it in Japanese. Idk, getting your car annual maintenance check up - can you do this in Japanese? Making a salad, whatever. Focus on it for a week, or a month see where it gets ya.
It’s also important to remember that Wanikani is just a supplementary unforgiving app not your main goal, don’t let it’s punish and reward system mess with your mind, tame it.

4 Likes

Japanese Writing/Reading is broken, yes. The natives I speak with often have to look up kanji to write it down. That is just the nature of the beast, it is not a big deal for most of the material they have to deal with. You look up words as you need them.
Speaking/Listening is by contrast much easier. Grammar is simple compared to English. You can make it difficult and ambiguous of course, but asking for clarification should help solve most issues.
I pity any European language native trying to learn Japanese reading and writing, and I also pity any native Japanese trying to learn English.

Anyway, to give you my own perspective, Japanese was a big, big wall at first. It really seemed impossible to me. There is a certain point at which it gets much easier. But it takes a while to get past that wall. I am by no means perfect, but even the IT recruiters I have spoken with here think I have an N1 after a conversation. My point is that you just keep it up. It takes 2000~3000 hours of study to get to a decent enough level if your native language is English. It is a big time investment.

7 Likes

I think you are underestimating how complicated English is! Take a look at this PDF with phonics rules. The letter “u” can have five different pronunciations, to say nothing of when the letter u shows up in combinations like “ough”! https://www.phonicsinternational.com/Pronunciation%20Guide%20for%20English.pdf

And there is of course that famous “pronunciation poem” that can really drive it home. The Chaos - Gerard Nolst Trenité

Languages are complicated beasts. No matter what language you choose, learning a language is like learning how to live every facet of life differently.

English is one of the harder ones even though there are only 44 sounds and 26 letters. So if you can learn English, I’d say Japanese is doable too. Keep at it and remember that the best native speakers spend their entire lives learning a language and still don’t learn it all entirely. In English we have spelling bees, in Japan they have the Kanji Kentei. In both cases a native speaker of English or Japanese could spend years studying for their language’s challenge and still fail!

Have some grace for yourself and acknowledge how far you have come when starting from zero. :slight_smile:

11 Likes

This is honestly one of the most interesting parts of Japanese and Chinese languages to me. I read a book about Chinese writing (Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern by Jing Tsu) and the thing that stood out to me is just how incredibly difficult the writing system has made technological advancements like the telegraph, the typewriter, and typing and displaying characters on computers. Even today, it causes issues, and there are yearly meetings with experts from China, Japan, and other countries, where they argue about Chinese characters and technology. (Imagine if we had meetings to argue about the alphabet twice a year!)

What’s interesting is that the writing system persists despite all the challenges.

10 Likes