What Should I do When Studying Causes Physical Pain?

Studying Japanese causing you actual pain? Not just mental, but physical pain? Does reading and listening to Japanese cause you headaches and discomfort? Is this common? Is there anything that can be done?

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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

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What Should I do When Studying Causes Physical Pain? — 18 Comments

  1. 日本語冒険者あるある!

    There’s a lot of truth to this. What it comes down to, I think, is concentration. Doing something extremely difficult requires more intense focus, and that focus is mentally exhausting. The harder you have to think about the material you’re reading or listening to, the more quickly it will tire you out. And then as you get more comfortable with the material, this feeling starts to go away.

    When I first started trying to read or play games, I had to concentrate so hard that I’d get tired after ~30-60 minutes. If I pushed up to the 2-hour mark, a headache would start up and it became much more difficult to focus. However nowadays if I’m reading/playing something close to my level, I can go for 2-3+ hours without any problems. Every time I’ve set aside material that felt too difficult, and came back to it a few months later, I found I could engage with it for longer without getting tired. It definitely gets easier.

    That said, it’s always a good idea to take short breaks periodically. At some point you’ll be physically capable of doing a 6-hour Japanese reading binge, but it’s still best for your health and well-being to step away for a bit at least every couple of hours. Get up and walk around, drink some water (stay hydrated!), and let yourself relax a little. You’ll feel better AND your studying will be more efficient =)

  2. For me, ambiance goes a long way. I’ve learned that if I make my environment extra cozy, it helps my brain chill out, builds “this is fun” feelings toward what I’m doing, and helps me focus/be present.

    Some ways I create “cozy”:
    Good smells in the air (candle, lingering baked goods)
    Twinkly lights/holiday décor
    Fun seat — comfy chair/rocking chair/picnic blanket
    Mug of hot tea
    Comfy clothes/shoes/etc
    Hand-sewn quilt/-knit blanket
    Nice view/plants/go outside/to a park
    Soft music or soothing sounds
    Pretty fabric book-covers on my textbooks/self-decorated notebooks
    Happy doodles/fun stickers/cute pens for my writing/notes
    Chunking info into a theme related to the current day/holiday/whatever
    Self-care/self-comfort/etc — exercise, mindfulness, breathing, kind self-/situational-thoughts, etc.

    Also, I know studies say multi-tasking is terrible, but sometimes my brain focuses better when I pop in a Japanese dub (of a movie that’s familiar/cozy/nostalgic to me in English) to keep me “company” while I work. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid (with TV at the time), much to others’ amusement/bewilderment.

  3. No doubt. I’ve had 20/20 vision all my life, but trying to read manga has made me finally realise that age related long sightedness is catching up with me. Why do Japanese printed publications have to be so small? And what is the point of furigana anyhow? It’s impossible to read without a magnifying glass, but that’s not my idea of fun.

    I can read the tiniest of English text no problems, because I only need a glance of the shape of a word. I’m sure native Japanese readers can read tiny text the same way. But as a learner, printed material is not an option, so I read scans with an iPad. I sure miss the tactile joy of reading a book though.

    • I had the same problem with furigana when I started my first manga. After a couple reads it got easier and easier for me to make them out though. If you can see English letters of the same size but not furigana, my bet is that it will get easier the more you try.

  4. What does it feel like at 10,000 cards? How is it different from 5,000 and 7,500 ? If someone (maybe James?) has completed, 教えてください。

    • I’m only up to 8000. Been really lazy these past couple of months. Haven’t added since the 10th. Really annoyed with myself because I want 10000 before December :( still possible but need to pull my head in.
      I’ve also realized that you probably don’t get the effects of the cards until months have passed from when you added. That said, been on 8000 for a while. Comprehension wise it just really depends on unknowns in a sentence. If it’s two colonial marines discussing military tactics in halo you’re not going to get very far. So specialistion is a problem…. Grammar uses age is still poor for me, but my listening and comprehension would around 50. I haven’t done any any formal spoken conversation for a couple of months but that’s somewhat improved just through reading, games, Netflix etc. I’m not sure if there is a fundamental change in the next 2000, but for media alone, I can’t say I’m satisfied yet with my comprehension. That would be in line with the guide since I’m only getting around 70-80% understanding when you’re supposed to have 90% for true enjoyment (according to some studies I’ve read in the past). I want to answer this question again in a couple of months. And then again when I return from Japan in January with 4 weeks of every day speaking practice. I think then I’ll have an answer that will be a lot more motivating for others. Right now I feel rather incomplete, but maybe because I’m so close to my actual goal? We’ll see :)

        • Mmm hard question. For example it really depends on what they are talking about. If I’m watching a show like durarara it depends on the topic. Every day high school chat I’ll understand every word (with subtitles). However, if they start getting sciency or speaking about the drug trade/illegal immigrants I might get lost for a whole section. I think what I’m trying to say is it comes down to your own specialisation, if you watch a lot of highschool drama you’ll get real good at it eventually. If you switch to ghost in the shell you’ll find it incredibly difficult. That said, slice of life shows are probably the easiest as the language is just general Japanese.

          I’ve read books with a high frequency of unknown words and it becomes difficult to follow for whole pages, but then other parts I’ll be able to understand exactly what’s happening.

          That said, 3-4 star material is what I mostly watch/read/play. Understanding ranges depending on episode, moment. But you will discover this at any level. I think at my level if you were really bothered and subs2srs’ed a show you could get 100% understanding quite easily. But on a first watch you can expect a lot less, especially if it’s dealing with technical discussions.

          Unless you’re watching something equivalent to shakespeare you will bounce between 30-100% depending on a 4 star piece of material in my experience. If the language is literal and you have know unknowns in a particular section, 100% comprehension is not uncommon. I can’t tell you if you get a consistent 90-100% at 65, but I’m willing to wager that it depends on what you do. Lord of the rings/game of thrones I can’t imagine you would. For a slice of life romance you would get nearly all of it.

          I think another problem is you get critical on yourself the higher you get. So even though you understand more, you also notice what you miss too. Even level appropriate material especially 3stars+ is going to have moments where you don’t get a sentence or more. But I don’t think the point of 10000 sentences is to understand everything you see. I hope it gets a bit more like english where it’s one word that bugs me at most, and most of the time I can get its rough meaning from context. But 10000 sentences has made me realise that level there is a big gap between level 65 and native English.

          ps. you’d also need to be farming those resources for unknown words. Though you’d definitely pick up a lot just from context.

          also, you’ll find that you have a greater understanding of things you already had an understanding of. That’s the most rewarding part for me, as you find more nuance within the same familiar language. It really feels like you’re levelling up in those moments.

          • Your last statement resonates with me. “Understanding” stuff at level 20 and “Understanding” the same stuff at level 40 are two different experiences.
            I guess it makes sense that 10,000 words is a hazy figure because it really depends on what materials you wanna watch. I am a Mystery/Gambling/Military fan, so naturally 90% of my sentences come from those sources. Consequently I get a bit lost when talking about magic and voodoo.
            Thanks for the input!

          • I’m not an English native speaker, and I find your take on the path beyond level 65 to be quite accurate. Reaching 65 is not that difficult. It just takes a lot of work and you will eventually get there. However, reaching native level is near impossible.

            My English level is around 85’ish by the Jalup scale. Jalup calls that level native, but that’s not quite correct. I pretty much know all the words a native speaker would. Probably more than the average native speaker, as I have studied at university and most of my interests are fairly technical (and usually in English). I don’t translate at all, either – I’m fully E-E. I also have that native gut feeling that native speakers have – I can instinctively tell if a sentence is correct. My pronunciation is also nearly perfect, so you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell that I wasn’t a native speaker if you didn’t know.

            … and yet there is still so far to go. I get increasingly critical of my own ability the more I learn. I notice the little flaws in my grammar, pronunciation, etc. and it bothers me a lot. Not because it really matters at my level, but because it reminds me that I’m not there, yet.

            • Well the thing is, in any language, natives make mistakes too. The difference is most of them don’t really care. To quote a friend-

              “A language suffers the most abuse at the hands of its native speakers”.

              So perhaps it’s not that you haven’t reached or even exceeded proficiency comparable to an average “native” adult, so much as it is that the mindset which got you to that point prevents you from taking your ability for granted the way native speakers do.

            • I agree with what Matt said. John McPhee, a great writer and a great teacher of writing, talks about how he is always looking up words in the dictionary (80% of which he already knows, but which he wants to be absolutely sure about their use and precision).

              You seem to have this kind of conscientiousness about words, which is a great thing. Most native speakers do not have it and are perfectly content to speak or write with only a vague understanding of what they mean or are saying.

            • You are both spot on. I am obviously quite aware that I can’t take the language for granted the way a native speaker does, and for that reason I am extremely self critical. I speak English every day at work and in doing so, I only rarely encounter any situations where it prevents me from using the language effectively. It is just that I wish that I could take those last few steps, but I know that it will most likely never happen.

    • In about 20 days I’ll be at 11,000 cards, and I think there’s a slight misunderstanding about the card to level ratio. If like us you are doing a lot of cards every day for a long time, for me it’s been 30-35 a day for close to a year, then while you have a lot of cards it’s like what James said you still need the time for them to sink in. Also it starts to get very specialized the higher your card count. For example I can understand 魔法科高校の劣等生, which uses a lot of science and magic terms, quite well but on a show like 食撃のソーマ which is all about cooking I get lost pretty fast when they talk about recipes for things. Another element that I think plays a big part is that when you’re a lower level pretty much all the fun stuff you want to watch or read is a higher star level like 3-4 so you do those things anyway and get used to them over time. But once you get to a level that’s above them at least for me I still spend most of my time just doing things I want that are still 3-4 star besides news articles that I want to read I don’t really interact with material at the 60+ level. The last thing is that while there’s always plenty of new vocabulary to learn I think once you get to around 65 leveling involves getting really good at the things you know rather than improving your overall knowledge base.

      • That’s awesome Jonathon! I’m proud of you! Hopefully I’m not too far behind XD how far past 10000 are you going? Or just indefinitely? I think I’ll stop for a year or two but might add again one day

        Matt you just blew my mind haha. Though I do think it’s partly to do with it comparing to his skill in language onez plus real world experience hanging out with friends is so different to media at times, at least for us Australians. I know this almost native level Russian Canadian at my work who struggles whenever I speak to him colloquially or use certain antiquated or underused words. But if he didn’t tell me he’d be completely indistinguishable. Maybe that last 5% you actually need to live within your target culture/language to ‘perfect’ it so to speak ?but even still you’re looking at 10-20 years with somewhat concerted effort.

        • Thanks James! I’m sure you can get there by December! I think I’ll keep going until I finish the One Deck so around 7000 more cards. After that I planned on asking Adam what he thinks I should do concerning cards. I know you’ve posted about the Anki struggle and I can definitely identify with you there, but keep on going!

          • By the time you finish the One Deck I think self-made cards would be an absolute cake walk for you. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I’d be happy to go into detail on it at some point if you’re curious.

            PS: Not sure if you saw, but I sent you an email a couple weeks ago =)

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