I feel like I hit a wall

I feel like my progress is flatlined. Through wanikani I am acquiring new vocab and new kanji. That learning progress is okay. I mean, before, when I watch youtube videos I felt the progress. At first I was hearing random speech with strange exclamations. After a while, I started to recognize some patterns. Like masu. omoimasu. kedo. Not much. As my vocab is getting better with wanikani and watching youtube videos everyday, I started to grasp more words. But context wise, I am not progressing. I still can’t understand as a whole. When watching without subtitles I have hard time to understand, but with english or turkish subtitles I can catch words and sentence structures better. That is not the way I want because I feel like subtitles are hampering my recognization skill. Dilemna is this, if I open subtitles, I understand context, recognize patterns but brain refuses to learn recognization (furigana disease, if you use furigana learning kanji hampers), if I close subtitles, I spend my energy to catch the context which improves my brain recognization, but it hampers my understanding due to lack of context. Japanese subtitles is another wall to overcome which is I am on WK right now. I can read NHK Easy News. Sometimes I struggle. I have completed Tim Kae Grammar. Watching one Misa Sensei video per day at least. Still I feel like I hit a wall. I have started to study Japanese on 2018 June. Now, I have changed my phone, tablet and PC language to Japanese. I am wondering how will it go…

I am open to suggestions… Btw English is not my primary language. I have been actively using it since 1992. I know I spent a lot of time with English. So I am thinking I am okay with English. I am willing to do it with Japanese too. As I feel like hit a wall in Japanese, so I have started to study Korean now.

PS: I started Korean because on April - May I will be visiting South Korea and Japan for total of 6 weeks. I think a little Korean will help me.


Still. I admire your passion in learning Japanese.

I haven’t finished tae kim yet. Irregularly watch Misa sensei.

And I find your way to distill your learning process interesting. Insert the antagonist meme character of The Jedis here.

It’s okay my English is imperfect too. Good luck on your Korean adventure nyaa.


Have you considered using visual novels and the like? I find games quite useful as a sort of halfway point for building up to videos because often you can stop to take time to process what you’ve heard, and - particularly with visual novels - ask it to repeat a line you didn’t quite get.

I feel like with videos the pressure is not just to understand it, but to understand it at a natural pace, which is going to be frustrating if you can’t do that yet, but it’s largely a matter of practice more than knowledge. With a lot of games, you can go at your own pace, and take your time over it while you build up the skill towards understanding faster.

Increasingly it seems Japanese games are being distributed in the West with Japanese audio and text, too, so it’s becoming more common that you can play a game with English subtitles, and then try it again without them.


You are amazing! I recognize the discouragement; language acquisition is never a straight upward line but rather rolling hills and valleys that gradually, overall, move up.

Do you talk to humans? This is how we learn best. If you don’t have native speakers around you, look for opportunities to skype with some (or discord or whatever). And the gold standard of course is talking with a teacher who can introduce patterns intelligently, making progress much faster than random convos or YouTubes.

So yeah wow, you’re my hero nonetheless, such strong progress and such passion! :trophy::muscle::sunglasses:


@Oshin thanks for your support. :slight_smile:. I hope I can be fluent in Japanese and later in Korean.

@thegooseking Can you suggest visual novel games? If game is available in steam then it is better for me. I couldn’t find a game for my tastes.

@Clippership Unfortunately I don’t speak with humans. I tried Tandem app which is nice app for finding natives, my problem is I don’t like to talk much even in my native language. Especially I got bored easily with daily chit chat. I just don’t know what to talk about. I am quiet type.


It’s common to hit plateaus when learning, especially a language like Japanese that’s very different from one’s native language. It’s really difficult to listen and understand natives speaking at full pace when we’re still struggling to remember grammar patterns and analyzing every sentence. (That’s my experience at least, I’ve definitely been there) You said you’ve been studying since June 2018 which is good, but it’s only been about a year or so. I think if you stick with it, your comprehension will get better with time. It took me many years of letting grammar sink in and listening and listening even though I didn’t understand everything, just to get to the point where I’m at, and I still only understand about 70% at best. And a big leap for me was when I stopped worrying about how much I understood and just let my mind take in what it could, which is an experience you’ve probably had before when learning English. I think it just takes a lot of time. Don’t think of grammar as a one-and-done deal - you have to keep studying grammar and even going over stuff you already know until it starts to become natural. If you keep at it I think you’ll do fine.


You’re at about the same spot I was when I hit my first plateau after starting WaniKani. The main difference is that you’ve studied more grammar than I had at that point. You’re doing great! Something that helped me was switching up some of my learning methods. I watched more YouTube videos about Japanese language and about travel in Japan. (Because my husband and I are planning a trip there next year for our 20th wedding anniversary.) I picked up a book of fairy tales in Japanese and have been reading through those. I also use Bunpro for grammar, and it links to many different sites that have helpful material to learn in different ways. I also paced myself a bit more on my lessons so that I didn’t get too overwhelmed by my review queue.

It might help break your block if you think about why you’re studying Japanese. What do you love about the language? Is there a goal you have in learning? Try to find material that focuses on whatever that is for you. Or find articles or videos in Japanese that focus on topics you’re interested in. If you’ve been doing the same thing over and over, sometimes you just need something fun to keep you moving forward.


I find that more often than not, the humble individual who says “English is not my first language” is usually one who speaks it and writes it far better than the majority of native English speakers, lol.

Plateaus are normal in learning. I think it’s something like your brain telling you that, in it’s beginner mentality, there’s nothing new or interesting to learn… but then, out of the repetition, consistency and boredom you start to realize something new that you didn’t notice before. You catch patterns that didnt look like patterns before. You create memory associations that make so much darn sense that you can’t believe you didn’t think of it before. Your mentality will no longer be in that advanced beginner mindset, but the early intermediate mindset.

Fast forward, more plateaus and more shocking revelations.

What’s important is that you stay consistent, and to help with the plateaus try to add the occasional new resource to your studies. Hire a tutor for 60 days, search online for a chat buddy to practice with, start a [friendly] competition with someone that has the same goals as you, etc.

One thing I will say, something that bugs me too about subtitles, the subtitles for most anime and games are there to help you understand simple AND complex topics/dialogue. When you only recognize a word here or there, that’s a good thing! I imagine there are children in Japan who play games that contain Kanji/words that they have to look up in a dictionary because THEY don’t know either. My point is, the more complex the dialogue the less I expect to understand at my current stage - I don’t beat myself up over it and neither should you. I think you’re doing good so far based off of what you’ve said of your routine, hang in there!


You’ve barely scratched the surface of the language. You can’t expect to understand context while watching native content without any subtitles with barely over a year of study. Give it some time. Japanese will probably be a lot harder than English was for you. The fact that you’ve already managed to get this far is pretty incredible. Most people I know who studied Japanese without SRS took years before they could begin reading anything. Some people take months on 仮名 alone.

This will be a lifelong journey.


I highly recommend Higurashi no Naku Koro ni or Umineko no Naku Koro ni! They are both on Steam, are completely amazing stories in their own right, and they make it incredibly easy to toggle between Japanese and English. the only downside might be that they don’t have voice acting, but there are patches online that can add voice acting to both. Higurashi might be a better starting point, as Umineko can get quite complex in its writing.


Have you noticed how kids love to watch the exact same movie a dozen times? Do that with a japanese movie or series. Do you have access to netflix or something equivalent where you can watch a japanese series with japanese subtitles? Start with english/turkish subtitles, then with japanese subtitles, then without subtitles, and then with just audio (get it in mp3 format and listen to it in bed). Don’t overwhelm your brain with variety, watching a lot of different things. Overwhelm your brain with repetition, watching the same thing many, many times.


I feel like everyone hits that wall sooner or later, and it isn’t a bad thing. It tends to come up just as you’re going from pre-intermediate to intermediate/advanced, and I feel like it’s a good sign that it’s time to change up the way you’re learning.

I would advise trying out Read Real Japanese. There’s both an essays collections as well as a fiction collection. They helped me push through that wall.

Just keep in mind why you’re learning Japanese, and have fun doing so. Good luck, friend!


This is a really terrific idea. I did that in high school and college with French, and it helped so much.



@nanobite I am interested in Japanese and Korean because I like watching J-Drama and K-Drama. They are focusing on human characters more when compared to western counterparts. I said why not learn japanese. As I am watching these, also watching variety shows, I said I should learn these languages. If I know these languages, while watching them, I won’t be lost in translation. My biggest driver is just to know the language actually.

@shabayon It seems you are right. At the moment, my brain says that, “this is not useful anymore”, “i need different thing to learn and move forward”. and problem is that, the stuff that my brain got bored is not completed stuff yet. A tutor would fast forward process. But it is hard to find a good tutor. Also I am not sure that I should fast forward yet. I think at the moment it is better to continue as what I am doing now.

@xelael I agree with you that this is a lifelong journey, which english had been for me. I am planning to use Japanese rest of my life, and I want to learn Korean along with these. I just want it to progress chotto faster.

@Keriaku I bought Higurashi no Kaku Koro ni Chapter 1. I will give it a try. If I like the game, I am planning to buy rest of it.

@andresanchez Yes. You are right. That’s why children are absorbing everything like a sponge. When I was a child, I was watching Superman over and over again on betamax. She is telling a story that, once I started to sleep naked every night. At first she didn’t understand why I was doing this. Then my grandmother saw me watching Superman, and in the opening screen, superman comes naked from outer space. My grandmother said to my mother that he wants to be superman. Then they hided tape and after a while they say I stopped sleeping naked. :joy: But nowadays, it is hard to watch me something once more again. For example I love Lord of the Rings, but I had seen it once. I can only watch again If I had completely forgotten it. It seems I have to overcome this habit of me. Only repetitive listening task that I do is, listening to NHK News podcast. They post hourly news on podcast. So they read same news again and again whole day. When driving the car, actually I am listening to same news again anda again. Hence I can’t understand fully, It seems to be different to me. Only the parts I understand for sure is, economy and weather forecast. Like he is telling something about topix index or usd parity rate but what it is I don’t know. Or which city is going to be clear weather cloudy raining snowing and how many degrees will it be.

@Elbereth00 these hard copies are very expensive for me. When shipping included it prices goes to roof. Kindle versions are more convenient for me. But there isn’t much. I try to read free books at gutenberg. It is very hard to find japanese ebooks. I try to buy second hand japanese books in my country. It costs around 1$ 2$. Still ebook is more convenient because of instant lookup.


Like other messages have said, I think hitting a plateau is normal. You learn at a very rapid rate when you’re taking in everything new, grammar, characters, phrases, words, etc. But at some point your rate of improvement slows down a lot and it’s just about consistent slow studying over the long term.

I’ve studied Japanese for about 5 years now, I often feel like I’m not improving much but when I look back I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know even just 6 months ago.

Your habits sound good, but just like a diet/exercise plan (or any lifestyle change) if you try too hard then you’ll probably burn out and give up. It’s not a race, make sure you’re steadily learning and enjoying yourself and you’ll be fine :slight_smile: Maybe even just taking a short break for a few days will make you feel like you want to learn again


i’ve been trying to learn japanese for like 4 years at this point, and i still cant understand a show without subs either lol
im almost certain at this point that it would all go away if i just got out of my comfort zone and went and tried to talk to actual people with my shitty japanese
but i never do
i hope you dont make the same mistake


LOL, cute story. You are addicted to novelty. Don’t be. Or focus on the novelty of understanding the japanese a little better with each new repetition.

Mistake? It’s not like you don’t have another chance to go to Japan!
I did a study abroad in Japan and I definitely wasn’t as good at pronunciation and natural speech as I thought I was, but over the course of it I learned a lot without even realizing it.

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i dont have the resources to travel unfortunately, and i dont know if i ever will
but i have been debating over whether to get an online tutor which is probably going to be the next best thing

Gotcha, I’ve been considering an online tutor too but I’m not sure