Deal With Your Own Difficulty Setting

A while back, on Stories of a Second Attempt Learner, we had a writer who discussed her less than optimal study situation.  She considers her learning adventure on a difficulty setting of hard, stopped comparing herself to other learners, and is not allowing any life situation to get in her way. I love this concept.

Dealing With Your Own Japanese Adventure Difficulty Setting 2

It’s really easy to become fluent when life is perfect. When you have time, money, confidence and motivation. When the tools you choose to study with work perfectly. You don’t doubt yourself, and you set a continuous schedule that you follow through with every day. You have no interruptions, worries or problems intruding in on your thoughts, and every day is a perfect Japanese day.

Does this sound like you?

Of course not. If everyone had this set up, there would be no study failures. The fluent population would sky rocket. And you’d be in eternal kick-ass mode. Creating the perfect study conditions is not what you should be after. It’s not possible. Creating the best conditions you have in your current circumstances is what you have to do deal with.

Dealing With Your Own Japanese Adventure Difficulty Setting 3

Everyone has things that get in the way of your goals in life. Time, money, illness, family, stress, etc. You have two options, and depending on your situation, often only one is possible.

  1. Change your circumstances
  2. Figure out how to be successful in your circumstances.

Chasing after perfect study circumstances is silly. Because balancing Japanese with your specific life, and what goes on in that life, is your quest task.

If you have a family of 4, you are going to have to find time in a different way than a college student. Struggling at your job to make rent? You aren’t going to be able to study in the same way as someone who is enjoying a one-year stay in Japan. Have a broken arm, a broken leg, a broken heart, or a broken mind? You will be studying differently as well.

For every situation you might have, there is a way of fighting it.

Dealing With Your Own Japanese Adventure Difficulty Setting 4

To quote from a book I reviewed recently (この世でいちばん大事な 「カネ 」の話):

「最下位 」の人間には 、 「最下位 」の戦い方ってもんがあるんだよ 。
“Even for people that hit rock bottom in life, there is a rock-bottom way of fighting your way to success.”

So assess yourself. Assess your life. No matter what, you can win. But you have to change your tactics to your individual world.

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


Deal With Your Own Difficulty Setting — 14 Comments

  1. This is really inspirational and helpful. I wish I had received this article on March ‘madness’ to know that I have to work around life’s lemons instead of wait for them to go away. They did go away with the price of losing more than a half month’s progress but hey I am back at it again

    • You can’t do anything about time that already passed. That is past. What is important is what you do in the present.


    • Don’t think about it as “losing” progress, but just taking a much needed break to get your life in order while your progress is “on hold”

  2. This article is very important and very true I think.

    One thing that I have done is to think of my study tasks in terms of maintenance and progress. When I have little to no time to devote to studies, I put my study setting on maintenance…which for me is my Anki and listening to Japanese when doing things that do not otherwise engage my mind or ears. Now that I am reading, I have added reading in the spare moments during the day (I always found time to read novels in English no matter how busy I was…so now I do that in Japanese instead).

    Having a “maintenance mode” is helpful for me, because then when I do have time again to move forward, I am actually using that time to move forward rather than trying to catch up on what I lost.

    Of course, as one progresses, there is more to maintain, but the plus side is that it becomes easier to do through immersion.

    • I too have gotten a heap of value out of dividing activities into maintenance and progress. Just making sure that I keep up with Anki reviews even on busy times and times with low motivation has made sure I didn’t burn out and lose progress.

      I agree that as you progress there will be more to maintain but on the other hand more of it will also get well-grounded in your long-time memory which leads to less effort to maintain that knowledge. And yes, immersion makes maintenance almost seamless when you are able to enjoy immersing and use it for doing thing you would want to do that has nothing to do with Japanese except for the language of the material being in Japanese.

  3. I was very lucky when first learning Japanese (and now, actually) in terms of the amount of time I could devote to studying, and the resources I had at hand, but I have still failed to actually make the most of this time and time again, so I am in complete awe of anybody who manages to get any level of fluency while also juggling a lot of other commitments.

    Learning to work with the hand that life has dealt you is definitely a really important lesson for life, not just for studying Japanese!

    • Sometimes it’s that “the less time you have, the better you use it.” I know that at my peak of studying, I used to sometimes get the most done on the busiest of days, but not do so well on complete days off.

      • I had a one year period in my life with almost nothing to do besides learn japanese, and managed to accomplish almost nothing. I wasted so much time trying out new methods and ideas, looking for some magic bullet, instead of just putting in the time on one or two methods. I was always letting my anki reviews stack up for days and it was so easy to procrastinate.

        Now that I’m working full time, it’s so simple. I know certain blocks of time are anki time, and I don’t procrastinate. I don’t have time to waste constantly looking for better methods, so I do things I know work and only make adjustments after giving things several months so I can evaluate the results.

      • It’s easier to waste time when you have a lot of it… On weekdays I have a busy schedule, but I also commute around 1.5 hours per day which I then use for doing Anki. On weekends I have a much harder time getting Anki in because there is no set structure and specific time dedicated to Anki so I end up doing anything but Anki.

        • I have the exact same problem. My studying works really well on weekdays, since I always follow the same schedule and it’s a well established habit for me. On weekends I have a lot more trouble getting my reviews done. I think I just need to follow my weekday schedule more strictly on weekends and see how that works for me :)

          • I always do anki while I have my coffee in the morning, and since I drink coffee weekdays and weekends, this has really helped give me an anchor on weekends to keep reviews in line.

            • My weekday rhythm is pretty similar. I start every morning with a little over 1 hour of anki reviews before I head off to work. This works really well and it is pretty much the only time a day I can pull off doing Anki reviews for more than 15 minutes straight without getting distracted (attention is not one of my strengths). Before I started doing this I really hated Anki, but as long as I stick to my schedule – no problems :)

        • One thing that has helped me recently is I basically overload myself during the weekday with new cards, just enough so that when I hit the weekend and have massive amounts of free time, I’m forced to use that free time to get those cards under control before the new week starts and I start building up a huge backlog of cards again <3

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