This is not a race

Everyone needs to understand everyone learns differently. I’ve been studying Japanese for a year and I figure I’m at 30 to 35% fluency. I’m learning vocabulary at a good pace and after taking it slow with grammar for about six months I’m beginning to grasp it with the help of Duolingo and books. It may take me two or three more years to become fluent and to be able to have a conversation but I will get there eventually. I recently visited family where a family member was a Japanese native. Learning with a teacher or native speaker would definitely speed up the process but I don’t mind doing it on my own which would be a huge accomplishment. I think I have average intelligence so if I can do it anyone can. It’s all about small gains. I learn something new every day, usually vocabulary through WaniKani or in the wild (Duolingo). I just keep learning new words and I keep going over grammar. I find that I’m getting better. I didn’t think learning a new language would be easy, actually I thought it would be impossible. I’m now over the hump and in it for the long haul. I figure two maybe three more years and I will be fluent. If it takes five more years that’s fine because the result will be the same, I can fluently speak Japanese. What an accomplishment for an average person. Then I will learn Spanish for business purposes which is a lot more similar to English and easier. When things get tough don’t give up, just look how far you made it. The easy part is kanji and vocabulary, don’t worry about automatically knowing everything you went over. It’s all about storing it in your memory bank so when you see it again you can recall it easier. Keep at it and you will get there. In anything you do, never give up!


Sure but having realistic expectations is also important.


Of course they are but you can do it if you really want to. It may take someone two years but it may take you ten years. The end result is the same. Fluency! Don’t compare yourself to others. Some people have teachers, Japanese friends, better resources, more money to get better resources. Other people are just smarter or have photographic memories, or maybe they spend twice as much time in a day studying. I’ve been out of school for a while and I wasn’t the best in English grammar so I’m lacking. I study every day and now I realize it’s just a matter of time and effort.


Another awesome thing is wordplay and it helps with memorization. Looking up new words, old words, increasing your vocabulary and memory. I love learning new things!


Animelon and other sites which gives you japanese subtitles is quite helpful. I tend to use both english and japanese at the same time, but mainly just read the japanese one, if I’m unsure I’ll glance at the english one and if a new word or expression comes up I just check that out. Ez.

I’ll check it out, going through genki books, Duolingo, and grammar lessons daily. When I started I had a headache, now I can comprehend things better especially since I have a good grasp on kanji and vocabulary. There is still a lot I don’t know or I understand but that’s the fun part of learning. For most people this is something they want to do, not a requirement so look at it as fun and not a chore. Anything I do I look at the pros and cons. This has so many benefits I can’t even name them all.

1 Like

IMHO, try not to think in terms of degree of fluency. What fluency might mean to you now is perhaps meaningless because you don’t yet know what you don’t know.

Focus on enjoying the process and try to be positive about where you are at any given moment. Commit to studying every day and value review just as much as “moving forward”. Your Japanese ability will be what it will be. Perhaps your goal should be to be able to communicate in Japanese sufficiently better than some random Japanese native speaker communicates in English. That way that person will find it easier to deal with you in Japanese than English. I think that then you will have a chance to become “fluent”.


If you’re going to do something do it all the way. I won’t discuss all my reasons but some of them are anime, i love the culture and I plan on making multiple visits to Japan in the future. I want to be able to enjoy the full experience. My definition of fluency is being able to have a conversation in Japanese and watching anime without subtitles. I said a few years I’ll be fluent but if it takes longer that’s fine. I spoke to a native Japanese speaker and I could tell with a teacher or Japanese friend I would learn a lot quicker but I’m patient. If I learn on my own with no help it would be a huge accomplishment. I also realize it’s just a matter of time. Keep studying and applying myself every day and it will eventually happen and not worry about what others are doing because everyone learns differently.


Trying to minmax learning japanese isn’t all that fun to begin with, guess you wouldn’t want to mine sentences more or less all your awake time. I just don’t mind it, but on the other hand I don’t have friends or family either.

Probably better to keep it fun, while maintaining it for the vast majority.

Sure, but I’d rather take the former and actually enjoy most of the ride and using the language 8 years more during those ten years. I don’t think most people learn a language just to be fluent, but use it as and intermediary for something they want to do. For me for example, it’s mostly reading (and maybe working for a while in Japan, but that’s another thing).

Realistically, all that matters is time spent in the language, IMO. You will get better as long as you do something every day.

Overall, I don’t want to sound too negative, and agree that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others too much. Just that doing more in a shorter timespan has multiplicative benefits over spreading yourself out a lot. That said, 5 years to fluency, whatever that means, is a pretty good timeframe. Instead though, I think the real battle is already won when you enjoy doing stuff in your TL (reading, etc.) and incorporate that into your daily stuff. That’s the real goal rather than just being ‘fluent’.


absolutely this! I try to just think of language learning (all learning really) as something I do for myself so that wherever I am currently, I know that’s much, much more than I ever knew a year ago or a month ago.

How I agree with your point ! As long as you make progress it’s more than enough. Who cares if learning Japanese takes 1 year, 2 years, 5 years…? In the end you will still be able to speak and that is great, indeed. As long as you enjoy and keep going, you will get through it. How I wish I could know that 3 years before. I was in Japan with a group of foreign people and they made learning Japanese some kind of competition, mocking the ones who were not doing as good as them, criticizing others because their japanese was not as good as they thought. That was so toxic and it made me give up.
I started Japanese again when I came back from Japan and this is where I learned to like it again. I had my own pace, my own methods and I could see some progress. It became so much more enjoyable. Maybe I am slow, but now I don’t mind, I just do what I need to do and funnily… I have made much more progress !
So, thank you for sharing this. :slight_smile:

1 Like

you are really good with japanese, 35% fluency at wk lvl 15!

I wish I was like that. At lvl 39 now, some anime and news articles I can understand around 30 to 40%.

1 Like

If you are fluent in two years then you must be really smart and have a photogenic memory, in a class or both. You have to be totally committed but like I said people learn differently.

Since you put it that way maybe I’m 20% fluent :smiley:

1 Like

Hi NewGuy! I like your attitude. I’m doing DuoLingo and WaniKani as my daily learning. In a few weeks, it will be my 3 year Japanese study-start anniversary. I’ve done 104 DuoLingo chapters to “Gold” (level 5), with 27 more until I finish the entire Duolingo Japanese from English course. (I’m almost up to The final Unit 6). I will have been doing WaniKani for a year and just began WaniKani level 30. I’m finally now getting the point where I can speak and listen/understand and read with less difficulty. Of course, I’m still not really conversationally fluent, but as I go back to try again with some native material, it gets easier than 6 months ago.

I LOL’d that you called DuoLingo “In the wild”, because that’s what I call it, too. :nerd_face:

Good luck with your studies! I think you’re doing it well

1 Like

Fluent can mean anything, so it is a pretty useless measure. You never stop learning. I still wouldn’t call myself “fluent”, but after two years reading books wasn’t an uphill battle anymore. Important thing is when you can do the things you enjoy in your TL. You don’t need to wait for complete “fluency” for that.

I think given a standard method everyone pretty much learns the same. Being committed and time spent is definitely the biggest factor.

1 Like

I remember when 5 years seemed like such a long time. :joy:

Now here I am 3 years in and wow does that seem fast.


Don’t worry, the number will keep getting lower. I too was 35% fluent at level 15 and now look at me! After several thousand hours I’m now 30% of the of the way to being fluent.


Well if someone wants to actually be able to start communicating with people and interacting with things that require the language, they’re going to feel more compelled to learn faster/put in more effort. Anyone can go as slow or fast as they please, but it would be nice to not become elderly by the time I am decent at it. It’s not a race but it’s not a turtle fest either, (more like a durtle fest), it’s whatever I want it to be. It sucks missing out on so much in-the-now culture and things that are on a time limit regarding relevancy or existing at all anymore.