How to overcome the existential dread of learning Japanese?

Thank you for your answer. I had just been thinking about some stuff, so that comment drew my attention.

@Raionus explained it better than I could, but a proper goal should have a start and an end, and when you finish it you make a new one. Goals are the means by which you can fulfil your dreams and aspirations.

As an example, maybe once a week or so I’ll meet a Japanese person who tells me that their lifelong dream is to ‘speak English’ and they’ve been trying to learn for 5, 10, 25 (in one case 65) years but it’s too hard and they can’t do it. What I usually do is ask them to do a self introduction in English. After they do that, I’ll say something like “Great, you did it!” and they’ll object and say what it is they really want to do (like visit Canada or read a Beatrix Potter book), and at that point we can start thinking about what they should do for that.

A dream without goals is unachievable, and you probably won’t achieve your goals unless you think about how you’re going to do it.


You didn’t start too late. You can learn every language at any age if you are motivated. You can even learn a native pronunciation if you want. You do not learn it as naturally as a child but it’s always possible if you try hard.

I’m 46 (the oldest here?!:smile:). I started learning Japanese last summer for a Haiku art project. WaniKani a bit later about November because it was clear very soon that you cannot make a decent progress without reading properly. Because of WK I can suddenly read and understand a lot of words I have never seen before although I’m only level 18. It motivates me a lot! I was really surprised, WK works! So don’t give up even it’s sometimes hard to keep on going.

There was an age poll a while back if anyone is interested:


I won’t read all the answers, sorry for if someone said that.
But quality of practice is the most important thing. If you do what you always do you get what you always get. You always need to position yourself a little out of comfort zone, and do something slightly harder.

And you always need to find a balance between theory and practice. You can’t learn by just theory, you can’t learn a language by just doing textbooks. You need to immerse yourself, read, listen, understand. But you need that theory to guide your practice.

Basically is this:
1 - Try to learn a new concept.
2 - Practice that concept until you are feeling concept.
3 - Repeat.

A practical example: Learn some basic grammar and vocabulary (with something like Genki or Lingodeer), then try to read a basic manga, make sentence cards for the words that you don’t know by heart and put them on anki.

Keep doing this until you can read basic mangas, after that, step up to a harder thing.

Languages take a long time, especially when it’s one that’s so drastically different than your own. They take dedication, but setbacks shouldn’t stop you either-- just like any other hobby. If you get sick or injured and have to pause for a few months, then you’d just start again when you can.

Japanese is (going to be) my third language. The second I learned through an intense language course through my job. But what helped me out a lot was finding TV shows that I could stand, which eventually got me good enough to understand songs, and then radio shows. It helped in Korean that a lot of shows have something like captions on the screen, showing me what the words looked like, in case I misheard. I think Japanese shows do a similar thing. The problem I’m having now is that I’m not interested in anime (not that I’ve tried many), and I don’t know how to find good Japanese shows (i.e. not cheesy dramas). Anyway, this method might not be the best for you, but I would try it. I gave this advice to a lot of my co-workers learning Korean, and none of them ever took it, but I ended up with consistently good scores each year, while a lot of them struggled.

And finally, why would you think 24 is too late? Do you really think every bi-/multi-lingual person in the world knew their second language before 24? Even 60 is not too late. It’d just be much slower at that age, but still worth it, I think.

A lot of this anxiety comes from not having a specific goal and a even more specific plan. What helped me was shooting for the JLPT. With a very clear goal to aim for, the pestering uncertainties of how I’ll manage to achieve my goals went away, because now I have a real structure in my studies (rather than something too broad and unspecific like “I want to be able to read Japanese”). So for now, only worry about passing the n5.

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Probably you should make sure you are having fun learning right now, and enjoying learning japanese. The journey is long you know.

I’m sure the end goal that brought you into japanese in the first place its the most fun you can think of, but the whole process it’s fill with little milestones that you can enjoy as well. First of all try to immerse yourself as soon as possible , so every effort you make when studying has a valuable meaning when exposed to actual japanese content.

Watch a show… take the english out from time to time… oh… you catch a phrase, maybe a couple… maybe english its not that necessary after all. Too dificcult?, change the show… an easier one. Too hard still? Read a book… a manga perhaps, よつばと! maybe… Not quite there yet?.. a graded reader perhaps (I can tell from experience that with 500 vocab and the grammar contained in the first half of Genki one you’ll be able to read the Level 0 of those).

Anyway I hope you catch the idea, seek for these little pleasurable activities you unlock after some studying. Make yourself those material perhaps. You can pick the very first 5’ of your favorite show, maybe look for it in animelon… and work your way (assisted with the website in this case) too understanding, even if only 5’… it will be highly rewarding.

Fun with the language won’t come as a package in the mail one day, so don’t expect sudden change in your state of mind.
Reaching level 60 in WK or JLPT 1 it’s not any measure of enjoyment or guarantee you’ll enjoy japanese any bit more, so don’t expect that to happen for trying to have some fun.

And if you can’t find enjoyment with any activity now, or after being done with the very basics (I mean like 500 words, 5-6 chapters of any given grammar book)… then I’m sorry to tell you… It should be fun… you should maybe reconsider why you would wan’t to learn a language like japanese (that is hardly needed by anyone living outside of Japan).

ANyway, my 2 cents on that.

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At 24, car insurance companies still see you as a kid…just saying.

I know someone who is around 5 years older than me (I am 25) who took around 10 years from learning simple phrases such as お元気ですか to passing the N1 level exam. He studied it at university, including a year in Japan, and even lived in Japan working as a JET teacher for two years. He now studies a masters in linguistics with a research focus on how native English speakers remember kanji.
The point is, it takes times, a lot of time.
But it helps if you set yourself up small goals, with a bigger target in mind. Goal by goal you will build up. I have been learning for roughly one year (as I have taken lots of breaks), and even though I am not magically fluent yet, I still appreciate how far I have come.
It also really helps to find Japanese speakers online and converse with them, it forces you to read, think and write in Japanese.
And heaven knows there is no better teacher than experience and practice.

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