Reaching The Japanese Payoff Point

You are struggling. You are having problems enjoying your studying. Your fun is limited. You feel like you have been going at it for long enough, but aren’t happy. When is your Japanese ability gonna get better? When are you going to be satisfied that you decided to start studying in the first place?

Reaching The Japanese Payoff Point

Will you ever reach your Japanese Payoff Point?

It can be hard to visualize. Because you aren’t good at Japanese and can’t enjoy everything you want to, what the feeling will be like when you do get good and can enjoy everything is hard to imagine.

So I want you think to anime (c’mon you probably were going to anyway).

Think to a series that got great reviews and a friend recommended to you.

1. You start watching it.

However you soon realize that it just feels “okay.” Nothing special. No real excitement. You give it a few more episodes hoping it gets better, but it still doesn’t provide any additional entertainment. You temporarily stop watching it.

You ask your friend: “Why did you like this? It’s boring. Nothing happens. I don’t really care about the characters.”

Your friend replies: “You gotta give it more time. The beginning and development are really slow. But once you get to X saga, it will all be worth it. Trust me! You will absolutely love it.”

2. You go back to whatever episode you left off of and continue.

Still feels the same. You’ve given it a bunch more episodes. There was a small interesting point here and there, and maybe a slightly good fight scene. But really? This is what everyone loves? You are already a few dozen episodes into the series. Your friend must be wrong or the anime just isn’t your type. You stop again and go back to your friend.

You: “I have no idea why you liked the series so much, but I couldn’t get into it. I tried, and watched up to episode 25. It’s not worth it to keep going.”

Your friend: “Just give it a little longer! You are about to get up to Y part. Once you get there, you will never look back. Trust me!”

3. Now you have two options at this point:

A. Stop watching the anime. Your friend is wrong. It is overrated. Or it just isn’t for you. It’s better you move onto something else.


B. Give it just a little bit longer, hoping for the best.

You continue with a few more episodes. Your faith is fading fast. You “know” it’ll get better. That’s what everyone tells you. But that doesn’t help your feeling towards it now. Ugh. Time to find a new friend.

And then it hits. The payoff moment.

The moment where all that character introduction and plot development come together. That moment where your jaw drops and you get a chill down your spine. That moment where you realize this is freaking awesome and one of the most amazing things you’ve ever seen.

The anime has finally paid off.

From this point on you absolutely love the series. You can’t wait for the next episode and have many multi-episode binges. This is one of the best series you’ve ever laid your eyes on. What were you thinking almost giving it up?!

You start telling other people how great this anime is and why they must try it. You even start repeating the advice your friend once gave you.

This is studying Japanese.

You will reach your payoff point. While my words may feel meaningless now, they won’t be when you get that first “oh my god” moment.

Work towards the payoff. Don’t give up before than. Otherwise you’ll never know what you missed.

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


Reaching The Japanese Payoff Point — 23 Comments

  1. And the cool thing in this case is, you’re going to have lots of smaller payoff points as you conquer various things along the way.

    For me, I have a special game I set aside at the start of this whole thing – an opponent that I’ve been steadily preparing to challenge. When I finally manage to do so, I think that’ll be a really satisfying moment. However, even just clearing the smaller milestones in the lead up to that has been really exciting :)

    • I set aside a special game too! I went through the hassle of importing it, waited a month for shipping, then realized about 10 minutes in that there was just no freaking way I was good enough to play it yet. So… now it sits on my bookshelf, taunting me… until the day I can pull it back out and dominate it. I think that day might end up being one of the best days of my studying career.

    • Ah!

      I also have a special game I want to play eventually, though it’s not out yet (ゼノブレイドクロス). I guess I probably already am good enough to have a decent shot at playing it, though I’m sure I’d still miss enough stuff that I’m happy to have some extra time to level up before it comes out. Playing that game is probably the hardest concrete goal I’ve ever set (things like “reading novels” and “playing visual novels” being a bit vague).

      But you really don’t need to come anywhere near your highest goal to get some serious payoff, and some of that can come from stuff you didn’t even knew existed when you started studying. For instance, I’m currently 15 volumes into the ハイスクールDxD novels, which are a weird blend of the 少年 genre with other stuff. Before I started that series I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a 少年 novel, but now I think they can be even better than 少年 manga and anime, so there you go…

    • I definitely agree there are many small payoff points on the way (which you should and will enjoy), but there is also one major one where everything changes for you.

    • I ended up buying Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D in Japanese before realizing I would also have to buy a Japanese 3DS. It sits on my shelf, but next summer I will be visiting Japan. I plan on buying a new 3DS there. By then I should be at a level high enough to play it while I am in Japan. It is going to be amazing! I’m also going to buy Majora’s Mask 3D and possibly the latest home console and the latest Zelda given they are out by the time I am in Japan next Summer. ゼルダの伝説!

      • I’m kind of biased since it’s one of my favorites, but IMO it gets interesting almost immediately. The best part is definitely the last few episodes, though. I recommend having some tissues on hand if/when you get that far >_>

      • Half way through is when it hits. I could barely keep my friend watching it until then and now he says it’s one of the best anime ever.

        • As for me it is exactly from the 13th episode. Before that episode I was tempted many times to stop watching it, but thereafter it become one of my favorite anime ever.

    • Okay, now I’m tempted to try the series again. I gave a few episodes a try a few years back and never got into it. Time to follow my own advice.

      • I was waiting for the Steins;Gate comment, lol. It’s pretty notorious for being slow and character-heavy in the beginning and then getting awesome after pushing through it. Did you ever return to watching it, Adam?

  2. It’d be interesting to see around what level you’d say the payoff point is at. I’m nearly 3000 sentences in and I’m not even a third to fluency. Would you say the payoff is around level 65 or is it different for everyone?

    • Nah, it’s definitely not that high. I would say closer to 40. That’s where everything starts to just make sense, and you start really having fun with everything you are doing.

      • It’s around 40 alright. I have just hit it during the last few weeks and the change is incredible. Suddenly most native sentences are approachable and it no longer feels like most of the words I encounter are unknown. It is very gratifying.

  3. When it comes to Clannad, I’m that annoying friend! :D
    Second season is totally worth it, I swear.

    Meanwhile, I just got to the real meat of Gintama. The slow start was actually a lot like learning Japanese- They had to introduce all the characters and show what they’re like before they could tell hilarious stories with them. Hopefully learning Japanese will end up a lot like Gintama, too :P

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