Random Japanese Level Down

Ever have one of those bad Japanese days? You wake up and are all excited to use some Japanese. You watch an episode of Death Note. You meet up with your Japanese friend Takeshi for some coffee. You are reviewing some anki cards on the subway. You’re reading the new novel 悪夢のクロゼット (nightmare closet) which you can’t seem to put down. But something is wrong.

Random Japanese Level Down

You’re having trouble understanding things that you normally have no problem with. You can’t say what you want to say, and when you do say something, it feels full of errors that you should be way past making. While your Japanese isn’t perfect, and you are only in the mid to high levels, you’ve come to expect a certain level of understanding and what abilities you have. This isn’t the mid-level blues; it is a new enemy to confront.

Welcome to the Random Japanese Level Down (RJLD).

Your Japanese suddenly drops a number of levels for an unspecified period of time. You didn’t change anything. You’ve been following the same robust pace as always. So what happened?

What causes RJLD?

Good question. I’m no expert on the brain, but I can assume a number of elements that are completely unrelated to your Japanese.

Lack of sleep (you know how much I am against this already)
– Stress
– Being overworked
– Being overstimulated
– Strong emotions

Then again, it may be something completely unrelated to your actions. Your brain might just be compensating for all the new pathways and circuits that are required to configure your new Japanese ability, and decides on its own when it needs to temporarily put this area under construction.

How long does RJLD last for?

An undetermined amount of time, but on average anywhere from a day to a week.

How do you know if you are experiencing RJLD?

You’ll know. Out of nowhere you will have trouble doing things that were easy before.

Is there a cure?

Not that I know of. It is just something that will pass. Your previous level will recover and then will rise. I suppose the best thing you can do to prevent the inevitable frustration is remember that RJLDs are natural. Maybe you can pass through this time with a few good IMD powerups?

What are your thoughts on what causes RJLDs? Any special way you cope with them?

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


Random Japanese Level Down — 11 Comments

  1. Oh, I thought this was only me. It happens to me quite too often I feel like, but I’ve gotten to the point where I just accept it and go through it. I feel like I cycle through this at least a few days every month.

  2. I’ve found that a snack often helps; the brain works better when it has plenty of fuel. I usually have something relatively healthy like yogurt or fruit when I have a lapse, and a lot of the time it at least alleviates the issue.

  3. This is something that really ties in nicely with your zig zag level up progress chart: http://japaneselevelup.com/2011/03/02/feel-youre-getting-worse-the-true-face-of-your-japanese-progress/

    I’m not a native English speaker but back in the day, when I was still learning English I would also “level down” so to speak. One day I was writing everything perfectly, the words just came to me and I would write something so well, I even had fun doing it. On other days, I would need to look up very simple words.

    You and my fellow commenters are of course right. Accepting it and doing your best (when doing sentences for example) is still better than doing nothing at all. And of course you shouldn’t be starved when studying, as Vii pointed out before.

  4. For a good few weeks during a long spring break, I felt this and really wanted to beat my head against the wall. Once the semester started back up I wrote up on facebook all my worries about how I felt my Japanese sucked and felt very relieved after. Once the relief kicked in wow it felt like my Japanese had leveled up from even before I felt the “level down” phenomenon.

    For me it was mostly the stress, and the fact that perhaps I was still down from the winter season here in Hokkaido. Thank god it is spring.

  5. This happens with every new skill. Unless caused by some environmental factors, it usually presages a level up. I think the brain is undergoing a re-wiring process. So, it may actually be something to be welcomed.

  6. There’s a difference between short term memory and long term memory.

    Losing some short term memory items is an indicator you’re about to level up, because those items are getting committed to long term memory.

    Short term memory is how we process items we can afford not to retain. Long term memory is for things we need to access frequently, such as language.

    Know that if you experience a RJLD, you may be about to pull some badass Japanese learning moves when you next try. It’s the positive sign of reaching some limits of your training and your brain will begin to surpass those limits if you keep going.

  7. Today I was having another level down and I was discouraged.
    I am at an intermediate stage, I think.
    I still have troubles with は and が and I am trying to fix that.
    I tought I got it but now it feels like I have gone 10 steps behind and I am having difficulties understanding easy relative clauses today.
    I am glad I am not the only one or else I would feel really stupid.
    It’s the only post about a level down that I found and I wished I found it sooner.
    I hope for a level up, but I am not that optimistic.

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