What puts me off learning languages

Around almost four years ago I started learning Japanese but stopped short because I became disillusioned with learning by myself. Looking at the language as a whole started overwhelming me and I couldn’t figure out how I’d do all this alone. I’d go on forums where people were highly dedicated to it which overwhelmed me even more.

I’ve since tried on and off to learn again and I’ve now joined in a weekly online 2-hr group lesson, but I still fall short and feel disillusioned. Additionally I feel deflated because (yet again) I’m starting from basics and never getting to the intermediate stuff. I’m tired of simple sentences now. I can grasp them well. When I go on this forum I sometimes shrink back because I look at people’s dedication and I feel lazy with it.

I think the reason is because there is just not enough contact time with other people in general. 2 hours a week is not enough contact time and whilst listening and comprehension might help, I don’t feel enthused for the language because I need to practise to etch it in. What I’m most interested in is spending time with people at the same level where we are spending at least a few hours a week practising together. Even if I were in Japan, I’d need to find such a community.

I feel it is fruitless to sit and memorise things and only part useful to listen and read (for myself). When I did this before I’d end up with a build up of knowledge but I just couldn’t contain it because I wasn’t speaking it. I went from one topic to the next and then forgot the last topic. When sentences and grammar got more complicated I threw the towel in. I just couldn’t retain it without practising. My muscle memory needs to work practically and think actively.

I know we all need this but how do you guys do this alone? I see you reading, writing etc but how do you practise your speaking comprehension? Are there any groups that I can join?



I think that if you really buy into the “output” learning focus there really is no substitue for a classroom or a tutor.

And I think most of us running this on our own, is doing so primarily through pure memorization and input (essentially all the things that you shun)
I personally do not do any speech practice at all and i consider myself intermediate since i can watch the easier anime’s subless and laugh at the most of spoken jokes. But i also buy into the input theory since that was pretty much how english came to me. I do not consider my speech lacking for my level in either japanese or english even tho i have never intentionally practiced it. So i wouldnt say it’s absolutely necessary (at least not for everyone).

You can definitely do this without anyone else, but you need a clear overall strategy for learning the language in its entirety.


I don’t have advise about your main question(I’m sure there will be plenty of other people that can do that) , but I still want to say: Any method works if you stick to it :slight_smile: And you don’t have to keep repeating the beginner stuff over and over if you feel like you know it well enough (not perfectly, just well enough). I know I basically did that for a long time, but in the end what got me anywhere was just to actually keep going and not some ideal method or repeating easy stuff, so basically…

Almost anything works if you stick to it, and don’t just repeat the beginner stuff if you already know it well and think other things are more interesting. You don’t actually have to do things any set way. It’s far more important that you actually stick to things than that you find a perfect method, because at least some of the problems you mention(forgetting things, feeling overwhelmed, using material at the wrong level) seem like general beginner things that not necessarily will be solved by just being able to talk to people.

Beyond that advice(which I realise might be a bit uncalled for), good luck with finding what you’re looking for :slight_smile: If you think speaking will help you stick to things it’s definitely worth it to try for you, even if I personally don’t feel it’s as much of a necessity.(on a separate note: It’s not exactly what you asked about, but maybe it would be worth checking out something like italki? It’s unfortunately the only kind of speaking practice I’ve done myself so I can’t really recommend or help with anything else )


I’d probably give up if not for italki. It’s nice to have tutor and chat about stuff. Tutors are used to speaking to people with different skill levels, so they will adjust. And in my opinion speaking to a native is much better than speaking to learners.

I used to have difficulties picking up new things. But then I realised that it’s simple - just practice that thing regularly, every week. Then after a while you’ll look back at your progress and will be amazed. It’s basically a shift to a more long term thinking. You can learn anything but it takes time. So you better do your practice and see the results in a year, otherwise a year later you’ll be biting your elbows in frustration that you didn’t invest enough time in the thing you want to learn.



(Disclaimer: I only shun those things for myself. I understand it works for others)

To a good extent, of course, memorisation works for me but perhaps my learning style more active and involved. An example was tonight when I did a little bit of dialogue exchange with the teacher and a few students and I felt really happy. Even those few sentences helped me actualise and crystallise the language a bit more.

In hindsight, I’m a very communal person in general. I love contact with other people and immersion. Learning anything alone has always been an obstacle for me. It’s a breath of fresh air to be with other learners.

I guess, though, I will have to work on balance with all this.

Thank you.

1 Like

Unless you are living in a country where the language you are learning is spoken then I find this is always an issue. I spent a fair amount of time learning German but my spoken German was poor until we moved to Switzerland.

You don’t say where you live. Are there perhaps Japanese people there who would want to do a language exchange? Before we moved to NZ we were living in Cambridge (UK) and I found several Japanese PhD students who were happy to spend an hour a week meeting (half an hour in each language) although of course their English was much better than my Japanese.

Perhaps you need a more concrete goal to keep you focused. The year before we went to Japan (now more than two years ago) I studied really hard and learnt a lot. Regrettably since we got back from Japan my studies have been haphazard at best and I’ve not improved as much as I should. We had planned to go back to Japan this year but Covid got in the way (partly I wanted to go back to give me another push).

If you are not enjoying learning then maybe it isn’t for you. There is no need for me to speak Japanese and I am not sure if I will ever be able to use it properly (even if I do live in Japan in the future it would only be for a very short period). I must be getting something out of the journey!

1 Like

I know exactly what you mean about getting frustrated with beginner level, textbook style approaches to learning a language! The few times in my life where I have been able to live for an extended period of time in a country where the local language was not English I got far more out of interacting with people in shops and places where people didn’t just speak English than I did with practicing simple textbook examples although those helped guide my more immersive activities. When I started Japanese about a year a half ago I started with Duolingo, but got bored with repeating the same old examples again and again. I attempted to plow through the Genki text, but also found little to motivate me there. I also tried bashing my way through kanji learning using the method recommended by Heisig which I found endlessly frustrating – first learn the “meanings” of the kanji, and only later look at readings. Plus I found his order weird and hated his mnemonics so I tried creating my own which was way too much hard labor.

Eventually I showed up here and started using WK for kanji because it seems to work and because of the huge supportive community and all of the fun techno-geek tools for enhancing this system. Otherwise besides WK I do some grammar lessons at times by watching Cure Dolly videos. And I follow her advice to just immerse myself as much as possible in Japanese media without the crutch of English.

In other words I am experimenting with learning this language as a kind of literate infant – I watch videos with Japanese subtitles, listen to podcasts, extract the audio from the videos I am watching and listen to it again and again and again (I hear the soundtrack of Shirokuma Cafe in my head all the time even when I am not actually listening to it!). A lot of the time I have no idea what people are saying but I feel like I am slowly but surely tuning up my brain to the sounds and rhythms of Japanese and then sometimes I can understand and it’s fabulous.

I’d say the best thing to do is just keep at it and immerse, immerse, immerse. There is a time and place for studying, but I am starting to feel that the best thing to do is just keep immersing my brain in Japanese and not worrying so much about getting all of it at once. Only now am I going back to listening to podcasts for Japanese beginners and I can actually understand them! I like listening to Momoko and Teppei who both have short podcasts that you can find on the web and download and just listen to again and again.

And as others have said, it’s not all work! Forget about the end point and just have fun! I have found that I really just love learning little bits and pieces of Japanese, but also about the quirks of Japanese culture and a whole new way of thinking. Sometimes it does feel impossible. But sometimes it feels just amazing to see how much I have learned. It’s been a great exercise in patience too!



It could help if you set some smaller goals for yourself.

Like if there was a manga that you wanted to read, or if you want to understand conversations enough to watch japanese reality TV. The big goal is of course to be able to do all of that since you’ll know the language (or at least I assume that’s your goal) but it’s important to have milestones you can reach on the way. Then it becomes easier to break down what you’re lacking in order to reach that one smaller goal.

It can be hard in the beginning when there is so much you don’t know, but that just means that you can pick any direction and make progress quickly. Wanikani is great for Kanji, Bunpro and a ton of other sites are great for grammar and 日本語の森 is great for listening practice.

If you feel like you’re forgetting the things you learn unless you speak it, then don’t worry. When you look something up and realize that you recognize it, it will stick better in your mind than before. You physically can’t learn everything first try; that’s why you need to keep using the language and review what you’ve learnt. It’s a key process of learning anything.

Nobody is expecting you to understand everything at once. You absolutely shouldn’t either. Start with the basics and go through the N5 grammar, then find something fun to read. Go at your own pace and look things up as you go. When you’re having fun, it’s easier to stay motivated.

Some people are blazingly fast but this is not a race. What other people do doesn’t matter one bit. Keep learning as quickly or as slowly as you want, then look back every now and then to take in how much further you’ve come. Feel proud of your own achievements instead of comparing yourself to others.


I will second a recommendation for iTalki. If what drives you is speaking to people, then there is no substitute for actually speaking to people. If iTalki is too expensive, some people have also found success finding a Japanese speaking buddy and taking turns practicing your Japanese and their English.

1 Like

It sounds like you are dedicated and have the right mindset to me. I just think you need to mix up your study routine.

Don’t compare yourself to people on the internet! That’s silly. These people that you think are so confident and skilled are just as perpetually anxious about slacking off as you are. Self-study is objectively hard.

but how do you practise your speaking comprehension?

Talk to natives. There are apps you can use. I don’t think what you use really matters as long as you are communicating with a native speaker. It will help you grasp how the language is actually used, and help you become proficient better than anything else. Phone calls for bonus points. It is terrifying but it will pressure you in all the right and uncomfortable ways that are necessary in order to learn.

iTalki, Tandem, Lang-8, and Discord are my primary methods. Even if you can’t speak to people, being able to message them in real time still helps with comprehension and production speed. It feels good to actually communicate with people and make friends, and has helped keep me sane during the pandemic.

1 Like

I take online classes at university 251446983644938240 They force me to speak plenty of Japanese

1 Like

When I first started learning Japanese I would always shadow tv shows and apps in Japanese (really anything that had Japanese audio) so I completely second this recommendation. You get used to a different set of sounds, and you also start to get familiar with pitch accent (per word and sentence).


I had a super similar experience and feeling when I got back from studying abroad in Japan. All my self study and even university classes felt completely useless compared to when I was actually in Japan, completely immersed and taking classes. I had no goal for going back, and I lost interest and only on-and-off studied (besides having japanese classes at my college, but I won’t get into how useless they were for me). I’ve only picked it back up this year, finally. I had to understand why I wanted to learn Japanese, and be okay with that reason. Honestly, I’m just learning Japanese because it’s fun and interesting, and it took me a long time to be okay with not wanting to be a translator, or teach english in Japan, or anything like that. I’m just hoping maybe one day I will find a use for it, but if not, that’s also okay.

What are your goals for learning Japanese? Are they enough to fuel getting over this hump?

1 Like

Hi, Nada-san. You’ve gotten a lot of replies, hopefully something will be helpful!

I think it helps to define why you’re learning. Why do you want to do this - is it manga? games? films? or some other reason? if you define why you’re doing something, then you can define whether you actually want to do it or not.

Then define how you learn. Do you learn best with sound, with written material, or some other way? If you’re trying to learn through a method that’s not right for you, it’s going to be much harder to retain material. That may take trial and error, and you may find that it’s a mix of multiple styles.

Then, think back to how you learned your native language. Odds are that you won’t remember learning it, and you won’t remember any time when you couldn’t speak it. A lot of times, we look at our ability to speak whatever our native language is and our lack of memory of acquiring that language, and say “why isn’t XYZ as easy as that?!?” But because we weren’t conscious of acquiring it, we think that it must have been easy.

In my opinion, speaking any language as you learn it is the way to go. My first couple years of Japanese lessons, I didn’t speak much and production was very hard. I’m now taking classes from a different source, and it’s focused completely on speaking and hearing; the grammar I learned the first time is helping me with production now, but it still takes work because it’s only an hour a week.

Similarly, when I learned German several decades ago, we did practically no speaking. It was only when I moved to Germany for work that I really gained the ability to speak the language. When I learned French, I lived in France and I used the language every day. It was definitely the easiest language for me to learn, because I was immersed in it and had to learn it to be able to talk to people at work, in the supermarket, etc.

So - explore italki, see if there are discussion opportunities near you, start talking to yourself in Japanese. Do you have pets? Talk to them in Japanese!

Basically this:


(how do I even embed a video?)

I often wake up and feel like I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned. I
wonder as well why am I even studying all these crazy little symbols. In the end, I stop asking myself questions and just sit and do my reviews. It’s much easier.

1 Like

I don’t know where you life but in my country universities and adult education centers (I hope the is the right translation) often have tandem programs. Sometimes even library or whole cities have a tandem program where you can sign up. You could also search online if there are any portals for finding tandem partners fo your language.

There are also Apps like Slowly where you can find pen pals all around the world (next to famous apps like HelloTalk, Tandem or HiNative).

or you could follow Japanese reddit threads or you tubers and try to engage in the comments. Now that I think of it there are also language partner threads on reddit.

If you really want to find people to talk to I am sure you’ll find someone.

Hi everyone,

I much appreciate all your replies. Thank you so much :slight_smile:. I’m going to note the resources people have put up and take heed of your advice :slight_smile:

A few people have asked what my motivation for learning Japanese is. Strange, I don’t know how to answer this easily but I’ll try…

I come from a family who are mostly multi-lingual (most of them speak Arabic, English and French). I used to listen to them talk and couldn’t comprehend much, but I also loved the fact that I could hear these sounds. However I felt excluded when they all talked together and I couldn’t get it, neither could I feel completely immersed in the culture. I guess I’ve become a little annoyed that I don’t know another language and there is a bit of a resentment and unhappiness at missing out. I want to know what it feels like to do what they did.

Apart from that, it’s quite a hard question to answer…I’m simply moved to do it. I don’t know why and I’m happy without knowing why.


Hannah, yes I think that’s really my reason, too. I’d also be super happy that I could reach the point where I can talk with fluency. I would be so proud of myself. It would be one of my biggest achievements.

1 Like

Some of us are inexorably compelled to do certain things. I dunno why, but ever since I was a kid I could smell something Japanese related a mile away. I loved reading books on Japanese architecture and design when I was in middle school. I just always knew I would go to Japan, and I really enjoy learning and speaking the language. It’s simply fulfilling to me, and frankly it’s a special thing if you find something in life that brings you joy. The only problem I have is that I’m half Korean and can’t really speak much Korean, so I’ve learned to not bring this up around Korean relatives. :open_mouth:

To redeem myself, I’ve started learning Korean too, but I’m trying to find Korean texbooks in 日本語 so I can continue to sharpen my Japanese while also learning Korean.