How long did it take you to feel competent?

Essentially the title.

Ive been learning Japanese for about two years now, as consistently as adult life can allow. I passed the N5 in December and have kept trudging along ever since. However, ive started to feel really frustrated lately wondering (worrying) if Im studying the best way I could be. If theres a way I could do things more “efficiently”. I know Japanese isnt a race, but it does make me worry.

How long did it take you to reach the point youre at now? Did you ever worry youd never reach your current point? Any advice? Thank you!


Still waiting to feel competent.


I’m incompetent in general, but I guess if I could retool it to mean when could I start using the language I was learning I think it was around the 2nd or 3rd year of studying. I had made a habit of reading/listening to something in Japanese on top of my studies whether or not it was comprehensible. If it was comprehensible I would stick with it and keep going and if it got too hard drop and repeat.

Building the habit is the hardest part but once you build up the endurance it becomes more and more seemless. I watched the Edge of Tomorrow on Saturday realizing that was the first time I watched a movie in English in quite some time, since I fill up my time with dramas, anime, movies in Japanese now.

This video gives some great incite on the process and how to get where you’re going.


Thank you! I study for probably about two hours everyday, not counting rest days, so I do feel like I have the endurance down, its just feeling a bit dumb thats getting to me I suppose!

It took me about 6000 hours focused at reading to feel competent with written Japanese.

After almost 2 years in Japan (after those 6000 hours) using Japanese for probably 97-99% of all communication I have some days where I feel competent in speaking and some days where I don’t. Depends on a few factors.

Still don’t feel competent listening.

No, not really. If other people could do it so can I. That’s how I always felt and still do.

You get out what you put in. First, think really hard about if what you want to get out is going to be worth what it requires to be put in. Then, if it is, focus on maximizing how much you put in. Set time aside, build habits, cut wasted time, make studying more relevant and enjoyable to you, remove distractions from your environment, etc.


The Dunning-Kruger effect is a real thing that you will experience multiple times. The part of that chart that goes up (Mt. Stupid) actually happens multiple times on the climb up to getting good. So don’t be discouraged. I have hit like 3 or 4 peaks of Mt. Stupid this year alone.


Very true. It’s a series of “wow I suck”, “oh, now I got it”, “wait no I still sucked all along”, “oh this time I’ve got it”, “wait, no…”


My man Leebo giving us all hope

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As somebody who is less goal-focused than you, the thing I would emphasise from that list is that studying should be enjoyable. You’re going to spend an awful lot of time studying, so it needs to be a hobby that you overall enjoy (even if it has its slightly tedious aspects) and which includes its own little rewards and motivations. If you like the process then the question of how far away the nominal goal is becomes less important.


Thats almost the exact message I left at the end of my long video! Stop worrying about how far away the end goal is and enjoy the process.

I actually don’t really set goals myself, nor do I consider myself goal focused really. All of those things listed actually helped me enjoy the process more, either by taking away a negative or adding some positive. What I specifically meant with “make studying more relevant and enjoyable to you” was more along the lines of “consume content and lessons more compelling to you”.

EDIT: Relevant pieces of the video

if you enjoy learning japanese every day if you enjoy waking up every day (and doing japanese), then i think you’re you’re doing the right thing. You know, if you’re not enjoying a book drop the book read a different book. It doesn’t matter, a book is a book. If you’re not enjoying the show you’re watching drop it watch a different show. If you want to watch something else drop it, it doesn’t matter, just do what you want to do and you’ll get there. It’s not about the amount of books finished it’s not about the amount of shows watched you know it’s about how much time you put into it, so maximize your your enjoyment and you’ll be maximizing your learning

i mean it’s it’s a long journey and if you got your eyes focused on the end the whole time you’re gonna have a very very rough time. Have fun seriously just have like literally just have fun. Try to understand as many sentences as you can and you will look back and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.


I love that video, my favorite quote: “don’t sweat it too much is what I’m trying to say, it will all clear itself up very very quickly”
“… over the course of three years” :smile:

Keep at it OP, it will come!


9 years here.


21 years :slight_smile:


Felt competent for a few weeks after passing N1 until succumbing back to the general feeling of incompetency.


In my experience learning languages, you can burn out by going to fast, but also by going too slow. There’s a critical mass of knowledge you need to know before you reach a point where you can really enjoy the language, and for a language like Japanese (from the point of view of a westerner) this milestone will require probably around 1000 to 2000 hours of active study.

You’ve been studying 2h daily for two years and just got the N5 in December? Can you explain what your routine looks like because that seems wild to me. We’re talking about ~1500h of study in two years, that should get you somewhere around N3 normally.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad about it but I think that either your study routine is really inefficient, or you have some psychological barrier that prevents you from unleashing your proper aptitude. At this point you really should be able to consume simple Japanese content and use that for immersion.

Jumping from textbooks to “real” content is always daunting, and you always feel useless early on, but it really pays of if you stick with it.

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for me it has been the last 6 months. That’s when I put my time into immersion and not only seeing Japanese now as a study but as a medium to get to where I want (knowledge, information, reading etc).

But I also consider myself still early, I still need a long long way to feel confident for a concrete vocab building.

Very competent at not feeling competent in anything I think I should know or be able to do.

I do Duolingo and Wanikani for the most part. I do realize this is inefficient and I’m moving towards more holistic studying methods like native sources, listening to native podcasts and textbook work.

Honestly on further examination I think I may start substituing Duolingo for Renshuu and more intensive output with textbook work.

I recommend dropping Duolingo :slight_smile:
You could try Genki, ToKiniAndy covers each the lesson and then there’s a nice website to do the exercises, with those two combined there’s almost no use for having the book itself :sweat_smile: