Plateaus and Improvements

I’ll just jump right in.

I have taken some Japanese in university (1st and 2nd year), and subsequently forgot a fair amount of it - of course, we typically only retain 30% of what we learn in classes anyway, so on that I am doing much better. I also have lived in Japan for a couple years now, which has dramatically changed how I approach speaking and listening. My reading and writing skills, however, are lacklustre and currently being moved to the front seat for study as it has an impact on my progression towards fluency. (Edit: I reset my WK in late November, hence my very low level).

I find that, with anything I learn, there are plateaus that I feel there’s no movement in my learning at all, just a coasting along. I have determined that this is where my brain goes “hold on a tick… let me process all of this…” When the information has been processed, there’s another big spike in learning and absorbing new materials… and then another plateau.

Getting past those, well - patience mostly. Changing things up. Alternating between things that I learn. Studying other things entirely (such as Irish, or programming, or capoeira) helps too. So does teaching my friends the parts of the language that I’m sure of. Sometimes I just have to let things simmer - and turn the two-three hours a day of study time into 10-15 minutes a day.

I’m curious what other people’s experience has been with learning, specifically their plateaus (the flat, seemingly no improvement, zones of learning), and their improvements (when suddenly, there is a launch off the plateau up to the next one - a level up, if you will).

What kinds of roadblocks have you discovered in your journey to learning Japanese, and how did you overcome them (or, are you still)? What moments were there (or are there now) where you consciously realized that you were capable of “more” in the language?


I think I experienced a few but the two most notable plateaus/what felt like deadzones are what ill reply with. Around where I was level 30-40 on WK and the diminishing frequency of kanji I was learning. Second one is the one im going through right now, but its sort of self induced. Im on the 6th book of a series, and for the most part its easy to read, but it stopped getting easier around the 3rd book and the number of words im learning per book is about the same. In terms of progressing my studies as fast as possible, I think switching between different books is best, but I just personally want to finish and translate the one I’m currently reading so eh.

Well, for the most part I’ve always just pushed through it and waited for the plateau to pass. At this point, I feel immune to burning out and studying japanese is so habitual for me that I will do it even when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Thats why I always advocate for a set schedule: because among other things, it makes japanese a habit that you just do.

Well I’ve had a few, but the most recent and notable was a couple months ago. It was when I was reading a light novel which I had previously needed some dictionary help with when reading and all that. One day when I was reading I just hopped into my bed with my kindle and started reading it. I think I went like maybe 20 pages or so just laying in bed reading it until there was something I didn’t understand. There were words I hadn’t learned of course, but they were so few that I could guess them from context clues. Afterwards I was just all surprised and proud that I had managed it with such ease. I had read far more than 20 pages before, but that was the first time it felt so effortless and gave me a pretty big confidence boost!


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