I know how to speak 3 languages near fluent level and 2 others intermediate level, ive never had problems with language learning and pick up things fast, but Japanese is an exeption.
In the time ive been learning Japanese now I would have learned 10 times more of another language, its so complex and complicated that im seriously completely lost at times.
Even when I finally start to understand something, the next day or week I read or learn something else that completely breaks down that concept completely and im confused again.
Even the basic complex things such as numbers and counting and everything being so complex and with so many irregularities, yet alone the complexity that is the grammar where I just can’t wrap my head around any of it, I learn some form or rule or whatever, and next time its something thats completely against it and im confused again, and its because in this case its used differently or like this… and particles also have some odd rules and sometimes you don’t use them even if it makes sense to use them and…
Man… can someone relate? When does this get easier? When do you finally start to have some decent foundational understanding of this all?
But honestly, I think the problem in a lot of cases is that things are often not explained to beginners using the core logic in play, but rather they are explained in a way that lets you use them as quickly as possible. So that’s why you might hear an explanation that later seemingly gets contradicted.
If they spent a long time explaining the actual core reasoning behind certain things, it would be a longer time from “first lesson” to “first output.”
What languages do you already know?
I’m learning japanese because i love the way it sounds and looks but i’m struggling tons as well.
My native language is french, and i’m bilingual english.
I have studied German but forgot lots. However, I’m sure I could pick it back up very easily.
I never learned spanish or italian, yet I understand more of those than Japanese by far.
I think the learning at the start is a huge hurdle so I’m hanging to the hope that the curve will flatten later on .
Everything is so different. And learning the hundreds and hundreds of characters is no small feat!
I know Slovenian, English, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, German
The thing is with every single one of these languages I found many commonalities and once you know some vocabulary and basic rules its all fairly similar and easy to talk and say things, but in Japanese… for example on WaniKani im at level 9, so I know a fair bit of kanji and vocabulary, and ive also completed 5 lessons of Genki1 series which is a fair bit of things, and yet I feel like I know absolutely nothing at times, can’t understand basic things or can’t say basic things… last time someone gave me some N5 quizes to complete and I couldn’t complete a single one of like 5 or so questions, either I didn’t get what exactly the main point was of what I was supposed to do, or I didn’t understand 1 or 2 key words, or I didn’t know how to say that key word or something.
I think that it’s important to remember that you are learning an Asian language that (probably) is very different from the ones you already know.
It is going to take time since you have to learn a completely new way of expressing ideas. At least that’s what it felt like to me. I didn’t even try to output in the beginning since every sentence I tried to puzzle together would sound pretty unnatural. I found it more productive to just learn a bunch of grammar, vocab and kanji so that I could start reading stuff and learn how things are expressed in Japanese. It will take time. It took me 2 years of studying everyday on my own before I became comfortable expressing my self in Japanese and it’s still not effortless after 3 years of study.
Not OP, but I think this is also my biggest issue right now. I’m a software developer/architect by trade, since my strong suit is digging into a system and really understanding how it works on every level. It’s always frustrating for me to deal with surface-level explanations that break down as soon as you ask a single follow-up question (in general, not just with Japanese or with programming).
Since you so succinctly phrased the problem, would you happen to know of any resources that explain Japanese grammar in a more bottom-up approach (from first principles) instead of top-down (starting from the most common phrases and only then slowly digging down)?
I am from Mexico and i had a lot of struggle learning english and getting used to it. With english the main issue is pronunciation: the same group of letters specially vowels sound very different from one to another. Example “ea” in “wear” and in “beat”. That’s a regular complaint of many people who are learning english. And in questions the order of the sentence usually changes a little. From Affirmative “I am Cesar” to “Am i Cesar?”
But, japanese is a whole of a lot more of a struggle at least for me for many reasons.
Vocabulary: If i chose to study many other languagues i think i would have very similar vocabulary, (portuguese, italian, french) are all based in latin at some degree, even english is about 50% latin and some degree of a mix of others, ( English is a West Germanic language that originated from Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to in the mid 5th to 7th centuries AD by Anglo-Saxon migrants. When i hear Mexican people say they visited Brazil they don’t even take a translator with them, because Portuguese sounds a lot like Spanish and they are able to understand most of it. So in japanese you are starting with almost no common ground when learning a new language.
Kanji/Reading: If having almost no common ground when learning a new language, with japanese you have to learn not 1 but 3 entire sets of new writing/reading system. (hiragana,katakana and kanji). And with kanji you have to learn multiple reading sometimes, so again whereas in many other languages the arabic alphabet rules, in japanese you have to set your mind to get into a whole new world.
Grammar: I take all of this with a bit of humour, and at this point i can tell you this is the hardest part for me. The good old Yoda speaking style, while in english and spanish we have a Subject-Verb-Predicate order japanese is usually referred as Subject-Predicate-Verb and in many long sentences you will find its almost completely reversed. This makes my head go crazy and spin for days trying to figure out japanese, ohhh and the particles, this crazy little things that sometimes we dont know which one to choose.
ROFL, thats my rant about japanese language, we all need to relax and get things out and yell once in a while right? But here comes the good stuff, the stuff that motivates me.
I am a hard head: When something comes to my mind i don’t let it go, i don’t give up, i stay and stick with it until i have achieved my goal. Sometimes i stick with nonsense sometimes with great ideas. I think this is something needed to learn japanese. You may struggle but don’t give a step back, keep on trying and you couldn’t get it any worse, you will keep on advancing. Many people who studied japanese with me ended up quitting and now i am studying with a teacher without any other student and you know what? its kinda great because people who speak japanese and spanish are so rare that it is very well paid, let alone if they know english too. So its kinda good to be a hard headed guy.
Vocabulary and Kanji its just a matter of memorizing, wanikani will help you memorize more effectively kanji and if you are able to read more and more the vocabulary will come by itself knocking on your door.
There is a point i reached when studying english where i was intermediate or right beyond intermediate, where i was able to listen, read and understand english without having to translate into spanish, and oh boy it was so great. I just had to polish my grammar, see how other people use english and learn technical words. I hope with japanese something similar happens.
Asian languagues are common so if you want to study another asian languages japanese is in a good middle point. Wanna study Mandarin? well you got the kanji if you come from learning japanese, grammar is very similar to english so you will have a good solid base to learn mandarin. Wanna study korean? If you come learning japanese, grammar is very similar to the one in japanese, so it would just be a matter to get used to the writing reading way, and make up some vocabulary, i don’t know if they use kanji. but still learning this kinda grammar is such a sweet deal.
All in all, i bear with you and i understand you, we are here for a reason and there are many people looking for motivation and sharing their experience, i hope this helps not only you but also to any people who is struggling with japanese and happens to pass by and read this.
From my experience, it only gets easier with this. Understanding the difference in grammar, writing and culture is difficult at first but once you get the basic hang of it, it only becomes easier to study.
Japanese is just one of those languages where getting over the first hurdle and the very basics is difficult.
I’m too a beginner, but I’ve been with those basics for a while (don’t do as I do though, 2 years on basics is way too much haha) and they get easier to understand and comprehend as you go.
Don’t worry too much then. Genki 1 lesson 5 is still the very very beginning, you don’t know most of the fundamental grammar of Japanese yet. Keep at it ! Once you finish genki 1, you will be amazed how much more you can understand in those N5 quizzes.
Cure Dolly on YouTube takes his approach a bit further, but many have complained that she also amps up the sensationalism. If you can look past that, the model makes a lot of intuitive sense for many people.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to progress quite a bit to make use of the best material, such as the 「とある男が授業をしてみた」channel with videos like this:
He’s recommended quite a bit so you might’ve already heard of him, but I remember Tae Kim being particularly good at this kind of stuff.
Also, just a random comment for anyone, I always like reminding myself that Japanese is just as simple and just as complicated as every other natural language. It’s the differences between them that make some seem “harder.”
I’ve heard that it really makes a difference in difficulty when it comes to your native language, with English being the hardest starting point.
As someone else suggested, I recommend going through Tae Kim’s guide. I started reading it before WK and picked it up again after I started and I found it both easier to read his examples and beginning the feel the gaps fill in between grammar and vocab.
To that end, if you’re like me and you get overwhelmed by the sheer number of study options out there, I recommend Bunpro for grammar. It has a lesson flow and presentation very similar to WK, makes it easy to pick up grammar, has loads of examples, and is quite cheap.
I think the trick with Japanese is connecting the kanji/vocab you’re learning with the reading/grammar that you study. Also, I highly recommend speaking practice through repetition tapes or (ideally) a native speaker.
As some people have said, that’s what I enjoy about it. Keeps me humble as the Bunk. My teacher asked us in class last week what we would do if we became fluent in Japanese. I wanted to say bored, because I wouldn’t have the everyday struggle, but just said anything I want because I didn’t feel like trying to describe my response in Japanese. Wait till you get into Dialects and Cursive kanji! You get to sort of start over again! haha
It took me about 2 years to have a generally ok understanding of the language. And I still struggle a lot with more specific topics, like in my job where I can’t talk about technical things at all yet.
And reading is still tiresome even if I know most of grammar and kanji.
I was told before i even start learning grammer that “the most difficult part in grammer study is the start; the first hurdle” i didn’t understand it at all back then. Now that i am 3~4 months in grammer study i totally agree. Sure i am not in advanced level yet. But i can make some sense while trying to read