Overcoming learning anxiety

I’m not sure how good my title is at conveying my issue, but essentially:
I understand that I’m not going to be one of those “Did all of WK in one year” people, and even if I was, I know that Japanese is a language with a lot to learn, so no one could possibly learn all of it in a year.
I’m aware that I’m a kind of slow person and even if I wasn’t, my two “senpais” (as in the people I know who already speak fluent Japanese and inspired me to start learning) both took years to get to the point they are now.

Nevertheless, being surrounded by people who go at a much faster pace and who have mastered maximum Japanese Learning Efficiency, is making me feel like I’m never going to get to even a conversational level of Japanese…
(For reference, the game Stardew Valley became too stressful for me because of all those “completing the entire game in the first two days challenge” type videos and seeing spreadsheets on how to minmax all the fun out of the supposedly relaxing farm game)

Right now I’m trying to keep to ~50 apprentices so I don’t get dumped with hundreds of reviews all at once (only doing new lessons as this number drops below 50) but I feel like I’m not going fast enough especially because I have a lot of free time now, but will be going back to university next month

sorry if this is too rambly
basically I want to know if anyone has any tips for not comparing my journey to other people/being less worried about my speed


If you give more specific details on how much you’re studying and what you want to be able to do, some more advanced users can probably give you a semi realistic timeline for when you can expect to be able to achieve certain things.

I’m not sure how much it will help, but having someone much more experienced who has reached your goal say it will take X amount of years might help you shake the feeling that it will never come. That’s about the only way I can think of for shaking off your uncertainty about the future apart, though.

And, well if you truly never would have reached them then it’s a great opportunity to make a change. It doesn’t sound like that applies to you, though.


Well, you could compare yourself to the people who never studied it or gave up, and realize that whatever speed you maintain, you’re gonna get there eventually, by also trying not to burn out or get overwhelmed. :slight_smile:

Or to me, who has been “studying” since 2014 and I’m doing ok, but I also see people do what I did in a year or two, and start to feel inadequate, but remember that I still know the things.

Also, you’re just starting, you can always adjust your speed later, either go faster if you feel like it (not forcing yourself hopefully) or slower if you need to.

By what I’ve seen in the sentence thread, you’re doing pretty well. Better than I was even a year or more in. I wasn’t that good at output, so I didn’t try until after I got the N4. :sweat_smile:

You might think that you make too many mistakes because of all the comments we make, but it’s because you seem to be able to keep up, at least to me.

Remember why you’re studying, and focus on being able to do that, not how long it’ll take you to get there.

Eventually, you’ll go, “hey, I’m already there”, and won’t even notice how much time passed, or at least that’s how it did to me, since I was making sure of having fun all the way.

I also understand what you say about Stardew Valley. It goes with what I mention about not trying to speedrun but savor the process. If that means taking breaks and maybe doing some of the stuff you want to do, be it read, watch, or listen, that can help you gauge your progress in a more tangible way.


As difficult as it may be, try your best not to compare yourself to others. If you need to compare yourself against something/ someone, compare yourself to you.

Set your own goals, check your progress per week or per month against what you knew or could do the month previous even if you think it’s something small like only learning a few more words or recognising a kanji you didn’t recognise before, gaining a deeper understanding of a grammar point or being able to read and understand a simple sentence, or even just picking up on a grammar point you remember from something you’ve read or studied. Anything that is a better understanding, better recognition or an extra word etc than what you knew before is an improvement.

It’s taken me almost 8 months to get to level 17 on wanikani (my apprentice items I’m trying to keep under 50 because otherwise I end up with way more reviews due to mistakes which just makes more mistakes, so I’m taking it slow), it took me 6 months to complete one book of minna no nihongo then another 6 months to review it til I understood it enough to be able to recognise most of the words and grammar points. I’ve heard of people completing that in the space of 2 months and understanding it enough to pass N5 and most of N4 but it’s the pace I needed to grasp it and to understand the vocabulary and grammar points and I still struggle with the particles. I’m learning slowly compared to a lot of people but I learned to go at my pace, learn my way so it sticks with me, and to have the patience not to try to rush to catchup with anyone but just go at my own speed even if it seems slow to someone else.

Language learning isn’t a race, it’s an endurance test. If you try to race your way through (unless that’s how you learn) you’ll burn out, or give up or forget most of what you’ve learned. Take it at your own pace, however that looks, compare your best today to your best last week etc and focus on your own goals, big or small. If you stick with it, even if you feel it’s a slow pace, you’ll still get to where you want to be. But if you try to rush through quicker than you can cope with and burn out or give up, you’ll only set yourself back or not accomplish your goal, so take it at your pace, enjoy the experience and you’ll get there when you’re ready. :slight_smile:


I love being a slow a$$.
I have been using wanikani for real for like… 5 years? Vacation mode is king lol
I studied Japanese in university so now it’s been like…or lordy it’s been like more than ten years now since I started x_x
For some reason I hesitate so call myself fluent, but I definitely can hold conversations and understand almost everything I read and hear. Kanji and vocabulary are my weakest points which is why I turn to WK lol

Go slow, do what you can, and take any opportunities to use Japanese that you can find that are actually interesting for you. I see so many people here talking about how they live and breathe Japanese all the time and I wonder if they ever see their friends of have any other hobbies. It’s not bad to have one hobby you’re passionate about, it’s just not for me. I have other hobbies outside of studying, and sometimes those overlap with Japanese :slight_smile:

“Don’t compare yourself to others” is easier said than done, but I think with time as you grow into yourself, it will get easier. Make a habit of reminding yourself that other people are not you, and they do things they like and have fun doing, and you have things that you like, too, and those might be different things.


I get what you mean about stardew valley. Any game that’s supposed to be a relaxing, take your time sort of thing, I turn into a stress fest. I blame the ADHD and completionist in me.
With learning Japanese here, I started off a bit too fast perhaps. I already knew stuff so it was easy to speed through. I’d done about a month on duolingo before wanikani too so I’d brushed up on stuff I’d learnt years ago there as well.
When it came to learning new stuff, I considered myself a fast learner and to others standards, I am. But I’ve learnt my limits.
10-25 lessons a day is what I do. 10 being for kanji at my current level as they are more difficult and there’s a lot I haven’t seen before. I keep below 110 apprentice.
I’m also finding myself slower on vocab with said kanji as it takes a while to remember the readings. Feels like it isn’t going in as easily. So I do currently feel I need to slow down some to get this stuff to stick better before moving on and perhaps even purposely answer wrong if it takes too long to remember. (but that need for speed plagues me haha)

Whenever you start to feel doubt in your ability to learn, I’ll pass on something I read from someone else. Think of what you have accomplished so far. What can you read that you couldn’t before? What objects around you can you name in Japanese now that you couldn’t a month ago?
How much faster can you recall that reading now on a guru than you did on the second apprentice?
Take notice of the little successes. They are progress. Mistakes are a part of learning.

One last thing is consistency. Many that do too much and too fast, can burn out and stop learning. A bit of a tortoise and the hare situation. Some may speed ahead of you, but they may tire before even coming close to the finish line. Going at a slower pace, you’ll still overtake those that have stopped and achieve what they could not.
Sorry if my post was too long.


I think a lot of people are confused on what a “slow pace” actually is. They see other people completing a task in less number of weeks and think that they are slower by comparison.

The number of hours of study required for basic fluency is estimated to be about 2000. If you do those 2000 hours over the course of 8 months, or over the course of 8 years, it’s still 2000+ hours. A truly fast learner would be someone that achieved a very high level of fluency in less than 2000 hours, and I guarantee that number isn’t a very large one. By comparison, a slow learner would require something like 3000 hours just to form simple sentences. Those are also very few.

Your friends put in their hours. You’ll have to put in your hours too. You just don’t have to put in your hours at any timescale that stresses you out. When all is said and done, if you achieve a similar level of fluency to them, you’ll all probably be in the same ballpark for # of hours taken. :slight_smile:


i also get overwhelmed by stardew valley because my brain naturally wants to try to maximize my time spent and it gets to be too much :sweat_smile:
as someone who also takes a long time to learn anything, my comprehension got much better once i stopped putting so much pressure on myself, which is of course much easier said than done.

what helped me snap out of my own tunnel of self-criticism was focusing on things i found fun, and letting myself enjoy it! recently, i’ve been reading the manga Witch Hat Atelier in japanese even though it’s definitely above my level, and while i don’t always understand 100% of the grammar and i’ve had to look up a TON of the kanji, i’m still reading much more than i did when i was trying to force myself to get through textbook readings. even if some people say certain methods of studying aren’t “realistic” or “effective,” as long as you’re doing it, you’re studying! you’re making progress, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
textbooks and flashcards (for example) are great, but if they make you feel bad doing them, you’re much less likely to continue your studies, and you’re more likely to feel like you’ve “failed,” when that’s just not true!
i also had problems with setting goals that were unrealistic for myself. i found that setting goals like “i will do at least 100 reviews today,” while easy for some, was a lot to ask of myself. changing my goals to things like “i will study every day,” even if that means just doing a couple of reviews, or reading a single paragraph in a novel, took a lot of pressure off and i found i was able to do much more than i thought i could!
you will get there! i believe in you!!


I think this is an important thing to note.

If you can’t help but compare yourself to others, then at least make sure you’re comparing everything. If you are looking at the very fast people and their results and comparing it to yours, I would recommend comparing everything.

I went into work yesterday not listening to music, but to speech audio. I used basically all of my downtime at work on reading a book, mining cards, doing reviews, or outputting apart from occasional breaks. I walked home, again listening to japanese native audio rather than my music. I got home and didn’t play any games. I listened to more japanese for practice and searched for more content. I took a handful of breaks but all of them while still passive listening. I then did my meditation for the day which I do to improve my focus and then I ate dinner again while listening. Talked with a language exchange partner in japanese and made plans with a friend for tomorrow and then got back to listening for the last hour of the day in bed with screens off.

Is that the kind of life you want? For me, that was a great day, but is that what you want? Because that’s what goes into my results. So if you want my results in the same timeframe, then I mean that’s whatcha gotta do. I’m sure reading this it became a lot less appealing, right? Everything comes at a price. The people who go very fast sacrifice a lot of time and things they otherwise enjoy. They either just enjoy japanese that much or have that much of a necessity for it. Or both…


I have felt this way in the past but pushed though because I have stopped learning Japanese like 5 times over a few years for this reason, and every time when I come back to it I feel regret that I didn’t just keep going at the same slow pace before. “Slow” progress every day is infinitely better than no progress. There are times when I do 1 review just to keep the streak going, sometimes for weeks at a time. What I’ve found is the most important thing is to just do something every single day and eventually you will look back and realize you’ve come really far. I’ve done wanikani every day for 504 days today, and I’m only level 24. To most people, that is really slow. There was a period where I just sat at level 19 for 4 months because school was super busy and Japanese had to go on the backburner. Slowly but steadily I’ve seen my reading and listening skills (for individual words at least) skyrocket because I’ve just put in the time. Try not to compare yourself to other people even if it’s hard!

As a fellow student, it’s ok if Japanese isn’t your first priority. After all, I’m assuming you’re doing this as a hobby. The important thing is to tell yourself that if you just keep going you will make progress in the long run.


I’m one of those that go fairly quickly. More or less all my free time goes into learning the language, and it’s a lot of hours every day. Do I progress quickly? Yes. Would I recommend it to someone with a social life? Not really. You’ll end up alone. Find a pace that is doable for you and never quit. You’ll get there eventually. Doubt you would want the fast pace even if you could stomach it. 1h for WK, vocab and grammar + 1h of immersion a day is probably more doable for most people.


As said above, it’s not about speed, it’s about just sticking with it. Ask yourself how long you want Japanese to be a part of your life, and if your answer is anything more than a few years, you’re more than fine.


Aye, it’s all too easy to optimize the fun out of everything.

Sounds like you’re too fixated on the destination instead of the journey. What helped me was to have a neutral metric for myself. After every level, I would check my level up time on wkstats.com and then see if I was at my average or faster/slower. That lets you compare yourself against yourself.


This. Kind of encouraging to watch the number of known words and kanji increase. Checking every once in a while is kind of nice.


Oh that note, I’d also like to recommend the userscripts

(you can visually see your own progress in an appealing way)
and possibly

This one is more external, but can show you how much kanji on a given metric you should be able to read. You’ll still need grammar studies to actually read, but I think it’s nice for giving you an idea of when it’s a good time to try out various immersive media.


Yeah, the biggest surprise was that my feelings were not an indicator of performance. Some levels that I thought took forever were faster than average. Some levels that I thought went by so fast took slightly longer than average.

That’s why an impartial metric is so useful. Because your mind lies to you. :wink:


I’m a college professor.

I don’t believe in laziness or procrastination or any of the other reasons why my students beat themselves up about speed. There are really two things they’re actually worried about: they don’t know where to start and/or they’re afraid of sucking.

For the former, ask us or your senpai. That’s what we’re here for.

For the latter, the most common advice I give my students: give yourself permission to suck. It all starts with sucking. And being OK with sucking. Some days I still suck. I’m level 60 but just a few minutes ago, I missed an item that I would’ve burned, but I also burned three others. Every day has wins and losses.

This might sound like sour grapes, but you’d be surprised how many polyglot YouTubers aren’t nearly as proficient as they make themselves look. If you’re taking longer and making sure that info is baked in your mind, you’re probably doing a lot better than you tell yourself.

Of all places, it was actually a book about painting (Alla Prima by Richard Schmid) where I found the best advice I’ve ever gotten about learning any skill, and it’s my creed when I’m teaching:

Don’t bother about whether or not you have it. Just assume that you do, and then forget about it. Talent is a word we use after someone has become accomplished. There is no way to detect it before the fact, or when someone is still grappling with the learning process. It is impossible to predict when or if mastery will click into place. Besides, the thing we label as talent is not a single ability. It is a complex mixture of motive, curiosity, receptivity, intelligence, sensitivity, good teaching, perseverance, timing, sheer luck, and countless other things. If any part of it is genetic, God-given, the result of astrological fiddle-faddle, fate, or destiny, that part is not the sole determining factor. All the other ingredients must be present in the right combination—and no one knows the exact recipe. Therefore Dear Reader, don’t waste time worrying if you are talented—and don’t blame any failures on the lack of it—that is really a cop-out.

The only real piece of concrete advice that I wish someone had given me sooner: start doing immersion practice. Believe it or not, you can start today. Start watching something that interests you in Japanese only. No subtitles or dubbing.

No matter how long you’ve been studying Japanese, this will be agony at first (I have OCD; I get it). But it takes several hours before your ears start telling where words begin and end. You just have to be OK with sucking for a while. Then you’ll start to hear a word or two that you recognize. Then phrases. Then whole sentences. That’s how you make your skills actually useful.

As @Vanilla up there has said before, the main challenge even at high levels is comprehension speed. Immersion practice is where you get the gains you’ll need to make your skills everyday-useful.

Keep at it! I wish you luck!


I started over with WaniKani for the third time this summer because I have coworkers from Japan who I’m able to practice with. I can’t formulate sentences or anything like that yet, but something we’ve been doing is just hanging out and they’ll have me try to name as many things around us as I can. That alone has helped me tremendously. As many of the posters have already mentioned, slow progress is substantially better than no progress and learning a new skill like a language isn’t a race. If you rush through it, it’ll not only become unpleasant to do your reviews, but you’ll be much more likely to forget things. Go at your own pace and make sure you remind yourself of the progress you’re making, even if it doesn’t seem like much. Knowing one more word than you did the day before still matters.

My one coworker in particular isn’t fluent in English, but in the two months of him being in Canada surrounded by people speaking English, he has made considerable progress and I’ve watched him become significantly more confident just because of the environment he’s in. Immersion really does help. If you can spend even a few minutes every day consuming media in Japanese, it’ll make a world of a difference.

Good luck, and don’t give up!


I think the most important thing is finding a pace that you can keep up with every day, regardless of how slow or fast that pace is. Some people simply have more time and energy that they can commit to Japanese, and many of the people here who are speedrunning WK or going close to that speed are people who don’t work and thus have an easier time committing to learning a language full time. Naturally, they’ll progress much faster than someone who can’t sink eight hours into Japanese every day.

One of my friends here started several months after I did, but has already probably lapped me about four times, in terms of where their Japanese skill level is at in comparison to mine. Why? Because they simply have more time to commit to the language than I do. I probably put four times as little time into studying every day, and as a result, I progress four times slower.

I think learning efficiency is an easy trap to fall into when the reality is that the main predictor of your skill will be the sheer amount of time you’re able to put into this. You can be maximally efficient and put one hour into studying every day, and you’ll probably be quickly outpaced by someone who studies much less efficiently for four hours every day.

So really all you can do is just try to make the most out of your time. You don’t want to push yourself too hard and risk burning out, but if you put too little time into it, it’ll take a lot longer to see results. Where that sweet spot is depends entirely on the individual. You might have more or less free time available, and more or less stamina for studying every day.

Many people push themselves way too hard and end up burning themselves out on the language because they put more time/energy into it than is sustainable, and don’t see results quickly enough to make that investment feel worth it. Even going full speed, learning Japanese is a marathon. A fast pace requires both immense dedication and also specific life circumstances that allow it. People who have both of those things are definitely the outliers.

If you find your pace and stick with it, though, you will progress, even if it’s not as fast as other people will. The important thing is finding a way to put the time in every single day. If you find that sweet spot where you can painlessly invest time into studying every single day, it’s way easier to keep that up over a period of years, which is what it takes to gain true proficiency in the language.

I’d focus on trying to find your own perfect speed, and then make that your goal every day. If you can spare two hours for Japanese every day, then aim for putting in two hours. Then you just have to, well, trust the process, haha, but I understand that this can be hard if you feel like you aren’t seeing your progress. But if you can manage to put time into Japanese every single day, I guarantee you that you will progress.


Those “who have mastered maximum Japanese Learning Efficiency” might have had experience optimizing their studying for something else and could transfer it over, I don’t know you, but, if you feel like you’re slow it might just be that they’re using a more efficient method than you, since you’ve got two friends who already know Japanese you can ask them what they did if you feel dissatisfied with your pace and remember that what works for them might not be the best method for you but knowing the method exists and trying it out means it might be better than what you’re currently doing :slight_smile: if you iteratively improve your method for learning bit by bit you’ll either eventually also have reached your maximum learning efficiency or will have gotten where you wanted to in Japanese before that happens, both being good outcomes right? You’ve already started thinking about how to improve your retention by trying out the ~50 items cap, just trying different tactics like that out, keeping what works and changing what doesn’t is all that maximizing learning efficiency is :slight_smile:. If thinking about efficiency bothers you then you can just let wanikani handle giving you items when it’s best for you to see them and then continuing to use it, eventually reaching (the vocab part of) your goal of being conversational whether that takes a year from now, two years from now or five to ten :slight_smile: If you want a rough estimate, I have no idea how accurate this will be, but, a middling estimate for the number of words you need to know to be conversational (after a quick google search, so take this with a grain of salt) is 1,000 so try looking at how many vocab words you have at guru 1 or above on wanikani and then do 1,000/that number and then multiply the amount of time you’ve been using wanikani actively and multiply it by that number. Please note that estimating like that might be (probably will be) wildly inaccurate but it’ll atleast give you a ballpark number, it’ll likely take less time than that considering you have more experience studying Japanese now than you did when you started so don’t let that number being big bother you. :slight_smile:

Sorry for the long reply, I’ve been demotivated about the speed at which I learned things before and thought I was just slow until I stumbled upon better methods of memorizing and learning things, so when I saw this I wanted to tell you what I wish someone had told me and cheer ya on :slight_smile:

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