Discouragement

If it makes you feel any better, I’ve been trying to learn Japanese since meeting my wife in 2007. I’ve visited Japan numerous times. I’ve lived here since mid-2020.

Over those 15 years, I’ve tried mobile apps, videos, Pimsleur’s, Rosetta Stone, Italki tutoring, Genki, physical flashcards (various publishers), and Anki.

I can still barely interact with a clerk at a convenience store. I can barely make myself understood to my mother-in-law, and even then I have to drag out Google Translate to convey even simple concepts like where my wife is.

It feels like my brain just doesn’t absorb the information because it’s so impenatrable and I haven’t found the magic key that starts to unlock it for me. I got really hung up on trying to figure out how to conjugate verbs (I learned both German and French in high school and was convinced for so long that there was a conspiracy to keep the “I, You, He/She/It, We, You All, They” conjugation charts for Japanese verbs hidden).

I did find an Android app called KanjiSenpai years ago, and have made at least three attempts to get into it (restarting from 0 each time), but unlike WaniKani, it didn’t force you to learn the on and kun variations for each term, so I didn’t start to pick up any patterns, and would eventually run out of steam.

I feel like WaniKani is the first time that things are starting to click in my head and I feel like I can engage a little bit with the signs I see on the streets. I’ve also started using Bunpro, although it’s a little less streamlined, and requires more effort, so I don’t always feel like going over to it.

Anyway, my point is…I see people here who say they’ve become ~30% fluent after a year and I just shrug. I have a full-time job and a family, as well as a lot of other interests. So I’m not going to beat myself up for the pace I’m proceeding at. Learning Japanese was never a priority in my life until I realized I might be moving here more-or-less permanently.

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I recommend bunpro. You’re at a high enough level where you can go ahead and start to learn the N5 grammer without much issue. Personally, I don’t like studying from a textbook and prefer the automated SRS method. I tried Genki and tried to incorporate it into my day, but sitting down at a desk and reading from a book, learning a new grammar topic, practicing a few times, and not really visiting it again didn’t really help me much.

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Sorry to hear you are struggling! I’ve tried over 3 different multi-year periods of my life to learn Japanese. I end up getting stuck every time. This despite being traditionally considered “smart” (I was top of my class at Stanford University) and having become quite converaational in several other languages in far less time. Japanese is, simply put, hard for me to learn. Maybe you are having a similar discovery.

The vast majority of English speakers fail to learn any second language to any even remotely useful degree. An even smaller number take up Japanese, which is considered the hardest lamguage for English speakers. Even among those that do, many fail to learn more than a handful of kanji. What you are attempting to do is extremely rare. You can kinda think of everyone on this forum as already an elite language learner. Only ambitious people do wanikani. I’d say everyone here is already in roughly in the top 2% of English-speaking language learners. The people here are the best of the best!

Maybe you aren’t the fastest learner here, but who cares if you are in the top 1% or top 2%? You are here and you are trying. It even sounds like you are making progress. Which is better than some, including even myself. I took a break about 3 weeks ago. Maybe I’ll pick it back up, but you already beat me (I made it level 6 before I took a break)

Hope this helps! Your frustration is understandable! I’d say the ONLY way to learn Japanese is to embrace confusion, frustration, and a feeling of imcompetence. If you can do that and still enjoy it, you will grow. It’s just the nature of doing something as hard as Japanese. And, of course, immersion if you can makes learning language 10-100x faster.

You are among friends here… good luck!

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I know this isn’t your point and not trying to be difficult but is this actually true. I mean i’m sure it’s up there but I’ve heard Mandarin is far harder for native English speakers. At least the sounds in Japanese are the same as ours.

I may not be the person who posted that, but I do have some insight.

As far as language rankings go for native English speakers, one common ranking referred to is the U.S. Army language categories. There are four of them, from easiest to hardest.

Category I - Contains mostly the Romance languages, like Spanish, Italian, French, etc.
Category II - Contains languages like German or Indonesian
Category III - Contains many languages spoken in Africa or the Middle East
Category IV - Contains languages like Arabic, Mandarin, Korean, and yes, Japanese.

Whether it’s the hardest or not, well…

Most websites and rankings, both research and popular, do suggest Mandarin is nearly unanimously voted as the most difficult. Though, Japanese is nearly always in the Top 5.

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I used to feel that way too. There are a lot of people who are more knowledgeable than me. There are a lot of people who are more talented than me. There are a lot of people who are much more hardworking than me. Accepting all this was hard at first, but then I realized: so what?

I’m studying Japanese for myself. I’m not in a race, I’m not in a contest. I take what I can. Maybe, I will never be able to become fluent in Japanese. But I always can make myself a bit better.
I am already able to read

and listen to

https://nihongoconteppei.com/

This is not much, but it’s certainly better than nothing. I’m doing this for myself and, clumsy cat that I am, I can still make some purrogress :cat2:

So, don’t worry about others – do it for yourself. And if someone would start shaming you – they would be wrong and would deserve to be hissed at and scratched and bitten by cats! :cat2:

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This may be my favorite level up graph I’ve seen. Take it slow, have fun, enjoy the progress you made and don’t quit. You’ve gone so far and you’ve had times when things just didn’t work out but you came back and kept going. I think that what you’re doing is very healthy. Maybe you could be more consistent leveling up once every three weeks but honestly just doing a bit at a time is what is most important.

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This one is my graph, I’m not as far along but I’m just having fun with it and going along a level every week to two weeks. I’d like to be consistent but also focus more on additional fun things like reading and grammar. We’ll see how things go.

Join some of the reading challenges. I think that having fun in those chill communities could be good for you. Also, just go listen to this song and chillax: タイニーリトル・アジアンタム - YouTube

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I’m a little surprised no one is mentioning Hungarian - I always thought that it was up there in top 2 competing with Mandarin in terms of learning difficulty for foreigners. Perhaps I am wrong :sweat_smile: If anyone more knowledgeable on the matter has better insight please do correct me. But yes, I thought it would be up there because the grammar is just insanely complex.

In the music from Encanto: “We don’t talk about Hungarian”. Or at least I don’t, as my opinions for it can widely differ from others. (I find it fascinating, though.) :wink:

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But nobody quite as nice as you!

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Aah. I forgot to remark my view on the overall subject:

I’ve found that in the Japanese-language learning community, the competitive learners seem to be far more vocal and far more competitive than the competitive learners in other languages I’ve studied. Thus, it’s extremely easy to feel behind or discouraged when one compares themselves against others. This is true for anything, but especially Japanese.

For some reason, Japanese seems to attract very competitive people, as well as those who are just interested in the language. So, you’re bound to come across people who are further along than you, but this happens in native languages, too. You could always view this as an opportunity, also, if they’re willing to work with you.

Of course, most important, I think is: Are you better off now than you were last week? Then, you’re progressing, and if it’s the right speed for you and your goals/intent, that’s all that I think matters.

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Yeah I hear it’s up there too…My grandfather spoke Hungarian and my Grandmother German and she just referred to it as “that crazy beschissen language your grandfather speaks”.

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This will take some explanation… I always did reviews… I never stopped or gave up… This was due to leechy hell… updated…

edit.....been a very long work day but here's the reason the plot looks like it does....

Basically didn’t go as fast as many but because the SRS interval timings for me are far from ideal…everything from guru2 recycles…I started my learning journey ~3.5 years ago knowing nothing…(wish I had started when I was younger and had a good memory)…

So I would always do my reviews everyday but some days were kind of heavy with leeches and others were ok…I kept my app items around 100 trying to manage but what ended up happening is I’d fail guru2, master which would eventually just churn in circles … cluttering up the appr items…and enl just drops to guru2 and then fail that again and ultimately my apprentice que was 80% leeches and doing reviews where you are just failing really s*cks!!! I’m not the only one with the leech issues and for the love all things holy if WK would finally build something to actually manage leeches PROPERLY BUILT IN not scripts or extra study bs… an actual proper way to manage them… anyway…until that changes I don’t recommend this platform to new kanji learners anymore… don’t want anyone else to suffer. If I didn’t have a lifetime account I would have quit long ago and used anki. In any case…

I’m currently using BP about halfway through N3 ish and been using Italki for speaking practice, been through genki and about 1/3 the way through the B1 Marugoto book with my sensei…nice to be intermediate but also painful and going slow because of career and life but I study every day and try to keep reading etc…

for those that like accuracy stats
Wanikani Statistics (castux.github.io)

but when I finally found these stats (there is a thread somewhere in the forums)…proved what I had been feeling is the intervals for guru2, master, enl are too long for me…anything 70% or less really kinds of screws you on SRS…you’ll just churn and churn and feed the leeches (at least that’s my experience)…

so the reason my plot looks like it does is this…

around level 9 I really was dying with the leeches taking up all the apprentice slots and getting so many fails during reviews was beyond discouraging and fully demoting making me with I had never used WK to begin with (Anki let’s you adjust the interval timings based on accuracy - can’t say it would have been better but I suspect it would have!)…

so trying to do 2-2.5 week level ups SLOW compared to “everyone else” right… at least that’s how it feels… so at 9 and 16 I paused and did NO new lessons just reviews grinding out leechy death hell…trying to learn the stupid words that I keep forgetting even today still it’s a problem…would get things to enl and they fall right back to guru2 and cycle…ugh… anyway

after getting things to master/enl level started doing new lessons but because the master/enl fall back down would fill 60-80 of 100 apprentice items with leeches making me lose my mind…

so then every 5 levels or so would just build up leeches stop and doing new lessons just reviews and work them off again…it literally has been a hellish effort and the amount of time i’ve wasted because of the lack of any leech management is beyond ridiculous… (just letting the srs do it’s thing is the dumbest thing ever hahaha you have to see it just BEFORE you forget it not AFTER! or it doesn’t work)

so after doing this for quite a while I took and averaged out everything looking at the no of days over a longer higher level periods and found that with the depressing stopping and working on leeches for 3 months each time…if I went at about 40-45 days per level maybe the leeches wouldn’t be able to accumulate faster than I could try to work them off…sort of try to allow the 2-4 cycles through enl w/o any leech management and my craptastic memory (started this at level 30)

it remains to be seen if it is going to actually work but I did notice a longer level in there 35…but so far seems like 40-45 day level ups is doable…

Daily Lessons…

I don’t do lessons every day…creates too many freaking leeches…
Now what I do is go lessons based on the next days reviews (from the original script before wk added their own)…My average reviews are 70-74% … so I assume a fail rate of 30% and try to keep the next days reviews less than 100…Depending on how many reviews I’ve done by 9-10am…and the remainder to do for the day I take 30% and add it to the next days total reviews …and if there is room I’ll add some lessons…don’t generally add more than 10 a day when I do…

I’ve tried to average this out but with so many leeches churning and the various times differnet items have gone around…I just keep the next day review numbers 100 or less… so if the next day reviews are say 55 and the reviews remaining at 10am are 70, 70*0.3 = 21 + 55 = 76 (yes add reviews)
if the next day was 75 and the reviews remaining at 10am are 70…then 21+75 = 96 (nope no reviews to add)…It’s not perfect and assumes 30% failure…but it seems to have flattened my level ups to 40-45 days…

My only prayers of going faster are 3…that I know of…

1-WK finally listens to those of us in leech hell actual builds a leech manager
2- I start using the reorder script to prioritize kanji over vocab (haven’t decided to do this yet but getting more irritated that I have to look up kanji by radicals and it’s been 3 years already where many other ways I’d at least know most of the readings by now)…
3) rfindley gets some neat awesome leech manager/scripts going that works w/o doing anything beyond just reviews… (something is the works but haven’t seen anything yet)…

that’s the long story and why the plots look like they do…I have never reset and do my reviews every day !!! Never stop doing reviews…no matter what…SRS will drown you…

There is one week in Aug 2019 (didn’t mention)…was camping for a week (yes you can go to places by 4x4 that have no cell/internet…it’s nice!! ) but pre flaming durtles app…so that’s the only gap in reviews and I used vacation mode…but I don’t feel like it counts because…what else could someone do w/o any internet access and no app :man_shrugging:

Oh lastly…no need to make suggestions, I’ve tried just about everything (and no im not doing it wrong…people love to assume…haha) …all the extra study scripts, leech scripts…nothing has really worked…so this is just the reality and I’ll just keep going for now … at least it’s still forward!

So if anyone feels discouraged but it’s not as bad as this leechy death hell…then don’t worry too much :slight_smile: could be worse!!

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Please do, this sounds like a good story.

Okay finally returned and caught up on everything. Ahah Im sorry I can’t really reply to everything but thank you guys so much I was smiling reading through it. The main take aways I got was I have a poor frame of reference with everything here and given the amount of prior experience ive had (0) I’m doing really well and I shouldn’t really be comparing anyway. I totally should branch out and change some habits a bit. Uh and japan hard.

Ahah probably phrasing tjat awkwardly but aa. Seriously tho really appreciate everything and all the personal anecdotes and everything and just aa. I’m feeling a lot better about things now and like I have a much better sense of perspective.

So i guess one thing im a little confused on is that it seemed like a lot of things were telling me im doing too much but also i should be doing all of these other things too and like… That doesn’t seem to math. Uh so like exactly what should i be doing to both improve my wanikani experience and also learn this fabled grammar i keep hearing about without like… drowning from all of the extra work?

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So, primarily I think you want to identify why it is you’re spending the amount of time per day on WK that you are because it shouldn’t be THAT long. I don’t know if you’re getting swarmed with repeat reviews (maybe worth checking your overall accuracy on wkstats or something) or if you spend unusually long with lessons or what. But hopefully you can identify a way to get more things done more efficiently in a similar time frame, perhaps cutting down lessons as I mentioned previously, which may see you still level at the same pace or even faster, if it helps your retention. Hopefully you can work smarter, not harder, y’know?

If nothing works, even if you have to slow down the pace that you level on WK, I’d still recommend it because you want to make time to balance your grammar learning more (of course, I see you’re not lifetime so there is the financial aspect and it’s understandable if you want to speed up on WK for that reason).

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My tip, do fewer lessons, take your time, have fun. If you take 2 weeks a lesson and become a grammar beast while completing Wanikani in 2 years, that’s better than becoming a Kanji Klutz in one year.

Also per Peterson: “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who others are today.”

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The idea with WaniKani is that you shouldn’t be taking 5 minutes trying to learn a word, you should look at it and go, ok. Then when you get it on a review, you also shouldn’t take 5 minutes trying to remember what it means or its reading, you should look at it and go, it’s X. Then get it right or wrong and move on. That’s what the system is built for, imo.

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Actually I feel you. We’re probably in the same boat here. From my perspective, considering how long it took to learn English, I have no doubts about the amount of work and time it would take to learn Japanese.
It’s completely different from my mother tongue (Ukrainian), as well as Russian and English.
Fortunately, nowadays there’re much more high-quality resources and content, which simplify language acquisition a lot.
I’ve decided to start this time with Refold framework as a basis and used Tofugu guides for Katakana, Hiragana and WaniKani as a part of Stage 0. A couple of days ago I’ve begun learning grammar using Tae Kim guide, but just in case I’m going to rely on Genki as a fallback solution:) We’ll see how it goes.
Of course using SRS is paramount and way more efficient than the old-school vocabularies, so I’ve already started adding into Anki some of the common kana-only words that are encountered here and there.
In my opinion after reaching level 10 on WaniKani, it makes sense to devote about two-four weeks to learning grammar and then add reading activities to the daily routine. I’d say that Refold underestimates a role of grammar a bit, so it makes sense to spend slightly more time on it and as a result massively improve the percent of comprehensible input in language immersion.
This is my first post, so I hope it’ll provide at least some useful information:)

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