So I feel like I’m really feeling this what I’ve heard called an “intermediate plateau”. One of my primary goals is to be able to read Japanese media somewhat smoothly. I just recently finished my first book - a manga called “Noragami”. I’ve also been going through a VN I found on Steam called “Narcissu”. For the past month I’ve been studying 30 words a day from the N3 and N2 decks on Kitsun - 15 a day per deck. I started reading volume 2 of Noragami today and I feel like I’ve made no progress compared to where I was a year ago.
I do know the series is fantasy and has some old and not commonly used vocab, but half the words I look up are at least somewhat common it seems. I feel like I’m doing a lot but I’m not feeling like it’s actually doing anything. Is there anything better I can or should be doing or is this just the way it is for a while until I actually like fully complete like dozens of books or whatever?
I’ve learned like 10-11k words between my website + wanikani. Vanilla’s learned like 14k+ Even Nath learned several thousand on Floflo IIRC, and they started at quite an advanced level. It truly is just a grind to fluency.
I’d abandon the “common word decks” like N3/N2, Core 10k, whatever. Just read a book and learn the words. Different genres and series tend to have similar vocabulary, so as long as you lean towards a particular subject matter you’ll be able to attain an acceptable level of fluency. If you jump genres and mediums constantly, it’s a much harder road. I think having a focus is important and then you can easily branch out later.
20-30 new words a day is a good pace. You can get a couple thousand done a year that way and you can expect to be “pretty good” after a year or two.
Is unknown vocabulary your main obstacle? I know that when I don’t have a good grasp of the grammar in a sentence, it makes looking up words seem more difficult–I’m trying to keep everything in my head in the right place with my tenuous understanding of what’s going on, and fitting in unknowns is extra difficult then.
It sucks to admit but I think you’re right and I just have to dive deep into immersion. I just hate not being able to fully understand things, even at times not understanding at all which happens fairly frequently at my level. Also how do you mean learning 20-30 new words a day if I should be doing so through purely reading? Like just looking them up and hope they stick or should I add them to a SRS deck to get them to really stick better?
I’d say it’s both, but unknown grammar at this point to me is closer to unknown vocab, like for example the most recent one I can remember being かつて. It’s rare that the actual structure confuses me, and when it does more often than not there’s also like 3+ unknown words in the sentence which I think is what makes parsing it more difficult.
My situation for context: While I haven’t finished WK yet, I do have roughly around 7000-8000 vocab learned. My personal roadblock is grammar and I am working on that alongside WK. But, as my goal is mostly about reading books (manga and regular books), I can only achieve improvement by reading. I try reading at different levels and when I can’t get any further and need to look up too many things, I switch to another book until I can come back to the one I had to abandon. Usually within a day or two, when I look at the page again, I start to realize where I had been stumped and can go on. My goal isn’t to indefinitely do WK or Bunpro or whatever other resource there is, but to read and look up what I don’t understand when and if needed.
My thoughts on your situation: I think you’ll get there and need to power through those first few books even though things are tough. A few books in things will be easier and getting easier still. Hang in there!
Based on Raionus’ website, my own experience, and my own experience with Raionus’ website, I’d say put them in an SRS.
Either stop reading when you have reached 30 words for the day or (because why stop reading) just build a backlog of words and just learn (i.e. activate) 30 per day in the SRS.
Keep on going. If you’re good enough start absorbing raw/native materials. Put in the time routinely and have faith. Track your progress and you’ll see the gains in longer intervals (not days or weeks, but maybe months or even years at some point).
For practical things, make some Japanese friends on Tandem or similar app and that’s where you can really learn a lot; moving away from book and formal study and into the real world of live communication/interaction.
I feel your pain, you are further along in your studies than me but a week ago I was reading a manga and watched some anime and really felt bad about where I was. I can get the gist of things, but full comprehension is (ofcourse) a long while away. And I did feel a bit discouraged…
What has helped me a lot are two things:
See SRS as secondary to immersion. Before I had it the other way around and it started to feel really draining… Now I finish my SRS in the morning, and the rest is immersion and from there refill my anki with new cards.
What @Raionus said. Abandon pre-made decks and start my own. I use Anki because I like the addons it provides and how fast I can make cards from different sources. But whatever tool you use, creating my own cards from the sources I enjoy has definitely helped me.
It is a grind, when I think back on how I really learned English it was through thousands of hours of immersion over a span of several years. So it’ll take time, but if I can learn English, anyone can learn a language haha.
We will get there if we stick to it, all the best!
Edit: A third thing I started just a few days ago
Have two levels of immersion. One that is at your level or slightly above, this might not be something you LOVE but it will be effective and not cause you (that much) stress or frustration. At the moment the two animes I use here are Flying Witch and Shirokuma Cafe, I can watch these pretty much no problem but still learn a lot. No frustration, but more of an achievement in like “Hey I’m watching stuff all in Japanese that’s pretty neat”…
Then I watch any other anime or movies I love but once I start to feel the frustration creep in from not understanding that much. I just take a break and go to my simpler sources.
I agree with what has been said: just keep at it and add words you encounter while immersing (vocabs list are really bad from my experience, i.e boring and hard to remember).
I’ll add one thing you can do (if not already): go monolingual with your SRS. I was feeling I didn’t make any progress for while and when I switch to monolingual SRS (i.e adding definition instead of translation), I felt a noticeable improvement. Learn lots of synonyms, understood nuances for words, and increased my time reading Japanese. Plus, it feeds itself as you look up word in the definition, making it easy to add many words.
At what point in your studies did you start “going monolingual”? I’m curious because I’m temped to start at around the lvl 30 mark. Some of my anki cards are already monolingual but it still a bit difficult to navigate a J-J dictionary for me.
Six months ago or so, so pretty late actually (past lvl 60 and N2). I regret not starting it sooner though.
The sooner the better I think. It will be hard at the beginning, it really adds extra work. When I started I had trouble navigating J-J dictionaries too, even with a decent level. It takes some time to get used to the way definitions are written and learn some of the recurring words, but after a while (a few weeks for me) it really becomes second nature.
But… if every day you know 30 more words than you did yesterday, how could you possibly have plateaued or hit a road block?
That’s how I view it. Know more of something than you did yesterday? Reading stuff where you might have to look up one or two fewer words every time? Then you’re still climbing and moving forward.
I’m a 36 year old native speaker of English. My English has certainly plateaued; can’t say I’m getting measurably better there. But every time I find a new word in a book or on the news in Japanese (which is frequently!) I feel like I’m moving forward.
IMO learning is an S curve and the intermediate stage is the opposite of a plateau; it’s when you know enough of the language framework to absorb a lot of new knowledge at once.
Might be kind of a silly question, but could you say how interested you were in the particular manga/VN you’ve read? From my experience, the less time your brain spends thinking “this is Japanese text” and the more it tries to connect the plot/create the context, the smoother the learning. When you step away from the VN/manga are your first thoughts “damn, my Japanese did not improve” or “damn, that was a nice story, I gotta go find a sequel”?
You’re quite a lot further along in the studies than I am, and to me reading Japanese manga/VNs is usually a daunting task due to the amount of dictionary lookup I have to do. And yet, I’ve come across two VNs that I absolutely marathoned through in a day or two - only one of them had the ever helpful VA, too - fueled by nothing but pure interest. I didn’t even realize that my vocabulary and kanji knowledge grew until I came across “お互い” elsewhere.
While I agree with the others that it’s something you gotta bear through… I also think that you could perhaps find a more enticing medium?
To add to this to, something that is very common in my line of work which is artistic (I’ll be vauge because… the internet) is a constant sense of dread and non achievement even though you are improving. It looks like this:
The idea being that the better you get, so does your observation and what you once thought was amazing, now isn’t to you anymore. So while you are getting better, you never get a sense of “getting good”.
To me this is very close to language learning as well, the more you know, the more you realize that you don’t know… You then learn the things you want to learn, for example put a bunch of vocab from an anime you like into your SRS, you learn those words and watch an episode of that anime. Turns out now you understand it “hooray!!”
Only to start another more difficult anime… and understand nothing. This can be discouraging, but rest assured if you are studying every day, you are moving forward.
I’m a total newbie on WK (only level 2) so I’m probably totally unqualified to offer any advice on reading. However, noragami is one of my favourite series, so hopefully I can help a little bit there.
First off, even in English, there’s a lot of uncommon words and phrases, so I’d imagine that it’s a relatively difficult read in Japanese, especially given how the naming system works for regalia- even the official English translation comes across as pretty clunky, something like “the name responds, the vessel to sound”, which, although it does have pretty extensive translation notes, doesn’t help all that much. Unfortunately I don’t have my physical copies anymore, or I’d be able to get a better example.
I would add to everyone else in regards to personal interest. My advice would be to watch the anime, in sub, and really pay attention to listening, then go back and re-read it. This is what I’m doing with my favourite series (tsubasa reservoir chronicles). As a newbie, my reading comprehension is basically nil right now, but as someone who’s been reading manga and watching anime for well over a decade, I’m finding it easier to pick up the vocabulary readings of some words and phrases because I already know what they sound like, so it’s more a case of turning the sounds into the written forms.
It’s been a while since I read or watched noragami, but having read it in English and watched in both sub and dub, I’m pretty sure it’s one of the most accurate adaptations out there. For something in the same vein, I know of a company that sends out manga based on your reading level, and one of the ones it sends is Natsume Yuujinchou. (Coincidentally, the seiyuu for Yato and Natsume is the same, too).