How to overcome the existential dread of learning Japanese?

So, I guess the title is a big melodramatic, but I was hoping someone could help me out. I’m extremely green when it comes to Japanese. I’ve got kana down pretty well, I’ve made a few Japanese friends who are learning English that help me out some, and I’ve started delving into grammar and Kanji in the past little while.

My only problem is how easy it is to be discouraged when seeing how relatively little I’ve progressed in the grand scheme of things. I feel like I’m not devoting enough time to practicing or I’ve started too late (I’m 24). Does anyone have any sort of advice for keeping myself from panicking or worrying too much about stuff like this while I’m learning? Thanks in advance.

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I started (formally at least) a good deal older than you, so being 24 is definitely not too late!


It’s flippin’ slow, and that’s just how it is, basically? I get a bit sad sometimes how little I’ve accomplished at this point – 5-6 years into studying (if you can call what I do “studying”) Japanese, and precious little to show for it. But then again, I had no specific goal in mind when I started, so I can’t get too upset about my lack of progress when I have no endpoint.

I guess it depends what your reasons and goals are. If it’s just for fun, then it’s not a waste of time even if you progress really slowly, you know? If you have a specific goal in mind or a reason you want to be at a certain point in your learning within a specific time span, and you are not progressing on track with that goal, then reevaluate not how much time you study or whether you started too late, but whether you are studying the right things in the best way for yourself.

We all learn differently, at different speeds, and for different reasons, so it’s not as if there’s a single “right” way or a pace that you need to keep up to.


Step 1.) Stop acting like you’re old when you’re not.


I feel your pain - I started two years ago (and older than you are now) with the goal of being conversationally fluent within one year. of course, that didn’t happen, haha, but do a little at a time and eventually you’ll get there =)


^^Someone posted this picture recently and I thought it fits the situation =P


I’ve been learning Japanese for 2 and a half years now, and for about a year of that I made virtually no progress despite studying every day of that. You will naturally have periods of little noticeable progress, but as long as you keep your spirits high, you’ll be able to push past that. You are still much younger than so many people who start learning Japanese (or any language really). A lot of people talk about it, but don’t start actually doing it until decades later, if at all.

Just remember to value each milestone and achievement, and be happy that you’re actually doing it.


I don’t think age should really come into it ! if you are passionate about learning, and most importantly CAN STICK WITH ! then you will improve. Learning a language is hard, especially when that language is built on different foundations.

I sometimes have moments where i realise the true size of the challenge - but it doesn’t help to think about how far you have to go to get fluent - think more about how far you have come since you started.


The Journey of 1000 miles, begins with one step :wink:

(or summed up perfectly in meme form by @rmizuno) ha)

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Seconded !! haha. i’m 30 - so if you have no hope, where does that leave me :rofl:

You are never too old to learn something new.

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I also started after college and self studying at 24. My advice?

Step 1 - Join WaniKani and get going. (looks like you are bought in at this point) Seriously, SRS makes leaps and bounds really fast, and the level system lets you see your progress more visually.

Step 2 - Start simple, jumping in over my head is the #1 discouraging thing for me. I can’t read yet, even many “simple” or “easy” sentences. So I’m starting with something like Tae Kim that gives me basic phrases and grammar constructs. Things shorter than sentences and working my way up.

It’s slow going, but I’m doing this “on the side” and “for fun”, so I just have to remember that there are no deadlines, and if I keep at it, I’ll know what I want to know eventually. Sometimes, I recognize symbols on food items at the store and this gives me a small win.


Fluency city isn’t a place you will arrive at on a certain date. The journey is far more subtle and gradual than that, but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy small victories along the way. Enjoy the trip!


Soylent green is the answer

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The best time to start is ten years ago. The second best time is now. :blush:


I started when I was more than ten years younger than you, and I’ve been doing it for some years now. I can still understand almost squat. But I’m still studying and I find myself understanding more and more.

In the beginning it’s going to feel slow as heck, but keep on learning and it will be easier to see and understand the progress you’re actually making. This is where it gets more fun to study.

If you’re making progress at all you aren’t wasting time. It’s important that you enjoy the learning process. Don’t force yourself and burn out, that would be tragic.


I totally understand how you’re feeling! I’m 25 and only really started studying the language last year (university kept me away for a few years). I already had a grasp of the basics along a small amount of mixed vocab that I had picked up over time. The very beginnings of my learning felt like the slowest, but now that I’ve worked at it more I am seeing bits of progress quite regularly. You’ve already got an excellent resource with your Japanese friends! So really just persist for a bit longer and you will see improvements. Keep your end goal in mind, picture being fluent one day knowing that it will happen in time. always look at how far you’ve come rather than how far you’ve yet to go.

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You may a lot older than me ( I’m 12 and a half), but you’re actually younger than a lot of users I know on this site. I can name quite a few in their 30s and upper 20s, so there’s no reason to worry about your age. They’re making plenty of progress, so there’s no reason you can’t too!

But that segways into my next point: progress. If you are devoting time and incrementally improving, no matter how small that increment may be, then you don’t need to worry. If you can’t dedicate a lot of time to japanese for whatever reason, I understand how “finishing” learning can feel far away. But rest assured none of us are ever finished, we are on this journey indefinitely.

Simply ask yourself if you would rather know that “relatively little” amount you’ve progressed or know nothing at all. Obviously, you would rather know it, right? You’ll be able to ask yourself that question again, year after year. If you don’t give up, that “relatively little” amount wont be so relatively little anymore.

I always enjoy when people talk about how discouraged they are by their slow/small improvements in japanese. This is because my favorite japanese saying happens to be related to exactly that:
Even dust can become a mountain when piled up.


give up or commit to yourself

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This value changes depending on context and time of day.

On topic, it’s a feeling you’re just going to have to get used to. It’ll always be there, but as long as you try to target something just a little more difficult each day and follow along with your study methods (whether that’s WaniKani, a class, or something else), those tiny difficult things you can tackle will start to grow into random sentences, then simple conversations, and then things like the number of pages you can handle in manga, little by little.

Eventually, what you can do will make the worries about what you can’t do feel really inconsequential. And if you get used to dealing with it early on, it can become a motivator to help you find the next challenge or figure out what you need to work on.

Yeah in an hour I think he’ll be about 12.5001 years old.


Why are you learning Japanese? Is it something that’s required of you for a serious purpose? If not, there’s an answer to all your scary questions: have fun.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but learning a language is a journey. You’ve started too late for what? (You kind of lost me on that one.) There isn’t really a rush to get wherever you’re imagining you have to be in a certain period of time. Satisfy your curiosity and enjoy yourself. Learning a language isn’t like studying for an exam, it’s more like learning to walk. It’s something that becomes a part of you.

If you honestly feel like you’re putting in effort and seeing no results, re-examine your routine. Do you have a structure, how are you combining your study of various language skills, etc. This forum has a ton of resources that can help you with deciding what to use. Start here, maybe.

Just don’t make this a chore, or a race, because you’ll lose motivation. Have fun :upside_down_face:


I used to also always think it’s impossible for me to learn a language. I learned English when I was a kid and convinced myself that I could only do so because I was a kid, but now I’m too late.

But you’re doing it, right? As long as you continue doing it, you’ll get there eventually. Of course it’s not that simple, but as long as you stay involved, you can’t fail.