Positive Affirmation Post

Hi everyone!

So, I’m finally making my first post here after lurking in the forums for so long; I guess the start of 2024 has me feeling inspired.

I wanted to (hopefully) provide something different, as I’ve noticed in my Japanese study journey so far, that it’s really easy to be hard on yourself while learning the language. I’ve also seen a lot of posts about people wondering if they should quit, if they aren’t making any progress, or if they’re learning too slowly.

At least in my case, it’s ridiculously easy to constantly be comparing yourself to others who are “further ahead” than you in their studies, or to always be thinking about how much you “still haven’t learned”, rather than how much you have learned. In fact, a few weeks ago, I was so down in the dumps that I almost thought about quitting - a far cry from when I first started Japanese and was so excited from simply learning hiragana. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I didn’t know, how far behind I was - I had this intense, depressing feeling that I’ve been studying Japanese for so long, and I barely had anything to show for it.

The best way I can explain is, I sort of mentally felt that I had gotten no farther than my first day of learning hiragana. Even though I suppose I knew that I’ve been studying grammar, reading, doing passive/active immersion, etc., I always had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t doing “enough” with my Japanese, that I was still the same person who took all that time to initially memorize hiragana. And how wrong I was!

What saved me was seeing this post by a Youtuber I watch regularly, MikuRealJapanese.
(The post in question.)

Way back before I ever thought of learning Japanese (but thought anime and manga were really neat), I used to always immediately copy and paste Japanese text into Google Translate because I had no idea what all these weird symbols and squiggly lines meant. It’s genuinely a bad habit (I know) that I’ve been doing my best to break since starting my studies, but I started to do the same on Miku’s post, until I realized:

I can read this! And not only can I read it, I can understand it!

It may seem like such a small thing, but for me, it was huge, and completely re-contextualized everything for me. The me from almost two years ago would have seen that small post as incomprehensible nonsense, used Google Translate, and moved on - but the current me can understand every word! It showed me that I really am making progress, however slow, however small - and all the time and effort I’ve been putting in until now has not been for nothing.

It’s really easy to forget that when I’ve been in my bubble of kanji and grammar study… as things get more difficult, the feelings that I’m an imposter of sorts, that I’m not really learning Japanese, that I’m not doing “enough”, have increased as well. So I just wanted to share this little story to hopefully remind someone else out there who needs to hear it:

However slow, however small… You are making progress. You are learning Japanese. And you are a seriously awesome person for doing so!

sabergif

That’s all from me (who knows if I’ll ever make another forum post again), but now I’ll turn it over to you. Hopefully we can get some positivity going in here!

In the past year, what have you done, realized, or experienced, that made you feel like you actually are learning Japanese, or getting closer to that milestone you wanted to reach? What made you feel proud, happy, or excited? What made you go, “Oh! This worth it after all!”? It can be the tiniest thing or the largest thing, anything at all!

yuigif

I’m looking forward to reading the comments~
And, as Miku said: 2024年も一緒に日本語の勉強を楽しみましょう!

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I mentioned in my own post introducing myself that I had a nearly year-long Duolingo Japanese streak and nothing really to show for it, so I know how that feels! I know you explained you had a realisation that you really could understand Miku’s post, but I think lots of things in life can feel that way, and that’s normal. Everyone does everything at a different pace; lots of people never learn Japanese at all, much in the same way that I’ll never learn to play the flute!

I think part of the trick is not to compare yourself to others so much, as you touch on later. And when you do compare yourself, to interpret others’ progress and ability as a height to aspire to, rather than something to kick yourself about. When I see level 60 flairs around here, I never think “They’re so much better than me” - I usually think “wow, I’d love to be there too one day!”

Despite me complaining about Duolingo, it did actually teach me something. By complete chance, I met someone in my UK hometown on New Year’s Eve who’s spent the last 13 years living and working in Tokyo! After stumbling through a very short conversation, I managed to introduce myself in Japanese and even catch that he wanted to be friends with me (thank you vocabulary knowledge catching “tomodachi”)! Sometimes interactions like that can really remind you how connecting and amazing learning a language can be.

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Everyone does everything at a different pace; lots of people never learn Japanese at all, much in the same way that I’ll never learn to play the flute!

That’s actually a really good point, another thing that is so easy to forget, I think.

I think part of the trick is not to compare yourself to others so much, as you touch on later. And when you do compare yourself, to interpret others’ progress and ability as a height to aspire to, rather than something to kick yourself about. When I see level 60 flairs around here, I never think “They’re so much better than me” - I usually think “wow, I’d love to be there too one day!”

Wow, yeah, this is so important. Seeing that progress and ability as motivation, instead. Reading through your reply, I also realized, there is probably someone out there who is learning Japanese right now, whose current goal is where I am right now. Putting things into perspective really helps me be kinder to myself. And yes, I’m going to start seeing those Level 60 flairs as more motivation, too!

After stumbling through a very short conversation, I managed to introduce myself in Japanese and even catch that he wanted to be friends with me (thank you vocabulary knowledge catching “tomodachi”)!

Awh wow, that is so awesome! Especially because, you put yourself out there (in speaking Japanese), and got to enjoy that interaction because of what you learned! Spontaneous connections like that are really lovely.

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Nothing like a ‘omg I can do it!’ moment to brighten your day.
Comparison can be a great motivator but sadly it can easily turn into a vicious inner critic voice.
It’s great to read you were able to compare yourself to your former self and see the great progress you’ve made! That’s the best comparison to make when learning.

For me coming back to learning japanese after several years not only showed me what I learned is still there, but how much I’ve change, so it gives me hope and more motivation to continue learning. I was amazed I was able to read graded readers after a complete and total disengagement with japanese (priorities and such).
I love learning languages. So even when it’s not fun I know I can always come back to it. But I think I love learning so I’ve never stopped.

It also gave me much needed respite from learning German, which I’m still not sure which one of them is harder to master. Well, tbh my german is better than my japanese. But I still have a lot of learning to do, and practice. But coming back to japanese made me revise the way I learn german, which is really refreshing.

But it’s not a small thing at all, being able to read - It’s a life changing moment, it’s such a powerful skill to have. It’s a :exploding_head: moment for sure.
The fact that I can understand several languages on products leaflets is still crazy weird.
And it’s useful too.

Some of it is people venting in order to keep going, some of it are new self learners that are probably burned out.
Learning a language is a long journey, but everyone can do it, since everyone learned their mother tongue. People tend to forget how long and how much effort one needs to put into it. Being mindful of the process is a good mindset to be in.

Personally my expectations are very low, when it comes to language learning, which might sound contradictory, but since it’s not something I must achieve in x amount of time, and even when it was it wasn’t, there’s less pressure.

And it will be here to remind you the next time you’re too much into learning that you can’t see what you’ve achieved already. So it’s kind of a note for your future self.

It was heartwarming to read your experience, I have a tendency of being overly occupied with doing and not seeing/appreciating the results, so these kind of moments are really precious to me. So thank you for that.

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My latest discovery is that my grammar comprehension is good enough to try reading the example sentences in Wanikani. Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t even try reading them, because when I did, I could never comprehend their grammar. Now I still often don’t get their meaning right, but (focusing on the positive) sometimes I do, and it’s huge!

This journey is so hard and Japanese seemed so outlandish at first, that it’s hard not to be amazed at being able to comprehend something.

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I’m happy you’re feeling better about your studies. Thanks for sharing your story. It really resonates with me because I’ve always been rather anxious about my academic progress and that carries over to learning new languages.

I can relate to this experience, too. My Duolingo streak is very nearly six years at this point. I don’t recognize a lot of progress because the pace feels glacial, but I do think I have learned from it and I don’t regret the time I’ve invested. In my personal experience, I wasn’t able to do much with Duolingo alone, but I added vocabulary review and studied the 6,000 most common words in French over a period of a couple years. That, together with some grammar tidbits I’ve picked up here and there (and largely through long-term exposure on Duolingo), has made it possible for me to read Wikipedia articles and play games in French with only occasional uses of a dictionary. I want to do the same with Japanese, which is why I want to focus on kanji and vocabulary for a while.

For me, the thing that made me realize I had actually made some progress with language studies is when the game Geoguessr started becoming popular. I realized that I could just look at signs and get a pretty good idea of where I was in the world. For example, I could instantly recognize signs in Japanese or Chinese (and I could occasionally tell the difference between mainland China/Singapore/others and Taiwan/Hong Kong by recognizing characters like 学 vs. 學). I could see the letter ı and know the image is likely from Turkey. I could tell Swedish apart from Norwegian and Danish and I knew Finnish when I saw it. I could immediately recognize Cyrillic, Greek, or Armenian. I could tell the Devanagari script apart from Tamil.

It’s almost like a party trick, but this is honestly what gave me the boost I needed to keep studying languages, even if I do it slowly.

I was also happy when I was able to read some signs in Japanese at the Detroit and Narita airports and some signs in Mandarin at the airport and MRT stations in Singapore.

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Another thing that gave me a boost is when I shared the little bit of Mandarin I know with my colleague (I’m an engineering graduate student and I know a lot of international students from China) and his wife. I was so scared because I thought they’d correct my pronunciation or tell me I had phrased something incorrectly, but they were just excited. My colleague’s wife was so happy to see that I could also type in Chinese. I honestly didn’t know that much, but it was touching to see them react!

I later had the chance to meet with a prospective graduate student from China. I asked where he was from and he told me the name of a city just outside of Shanghai. I asked whether he spoke Shanghainese or Pǔtōnghuà and he seemed taken aback that I knew there was a difference (and probably that I knew a bit of Chinese geography). I did a silly little introduction (basically just 很高兴认识您 and 我叫“northpilot”) and his face lit up. I think showing that you’ve tried to learn a language will bring you closer to other people, even if you’re not the best at it.

My only other experience speaking a foreign language outside of a classroom setting is when my research group was hosting a visiting scholar from Korea. I know even less Korean than Mandarin, but I was able to say 안녕하세요 and read her name in Korean (it appeared in Hangul in the sender field in emails), and I think it really helped us become friends.

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This is so true!! Past me would be jealous (and awed) by my current self’s ability to read/comprehend as much as I can now, even though I’m still so far away from where I’d like to be. And I’ve already met a lot of people who have said that they’ve taken inspiration from me, or who are somewhere near the beginning of the path I’ve already walked, who are looking at my path as a model. I remember when I first joined this forum, I was in awe of the folks here reading Tobira, and now I’ve reached level 60 on WK and have almost completed that textbook myself.

As long as you keep going, you too will get there!

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I’ve just started learning-- like, ACTUALLY learning-- and I’ve absolutely shocked myself a few times. I was so scared of kanji, I actually posted on the r/learnjapanese sub asking how people got over the kanji anxiety. But I sat down that evening and really focused on learning some, and ended up learning FIFTY, in one day. (Of course, it was an easy fifty-- but fifty nonetheless). Then, the other day, I was playing a mobile game in all Japanese, and instead of just kind of guessing what the buttons meant, I actually recognized a few of the words for the first time.

I still need a lot of help when reading (Using OCR, looking up almost every kanji) but the fact that I just recognized words like start, quit, etc. was just INSANE to me! I even recognized some of the kanji primitives! I was like, in bed, playing some bizarre game about solitaire and hamsters, and had to get up and do a lap around my house because I was so excited, lol.

I’m working on the next fifty kanji right now and it’s much slower going, but I’m getting there. I don’t feel as discouraged when I get it wrong now. I’ve got a looooong way to go before I’m even N5 level, but I’ve also come a loooooong way from knowing nothing at all, so I just gotta keep it going!!

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As I have been studying what keeps me motivated is thinking about when the next Crystal Hunters book is coming out as each book slowly leveling up my Japanese. Also the thought of Japanese language learning video games coming out like Shujinkou, Koe, and Nihongo Quest N5 keep me motivated as well.