Studying Japanese Should Not Be Painful

Does everyone remember the old and now ultra cliche phrase “no pain no gain?” Had this been ingrained into your mind from a young age? Are you using this motto to study Japanese?

Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Does this remind you of yourself when you open a Japanese textbook?

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If yes, please stop now.

No pain no gain

The concept is simple. You need to work hard to accomplish things. This correlates to the idea that the harder you work, the more you accomplish. If pain provides gain, then hellish torture should provide heavenly gain.

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“When his back hurts, a dragon can’t ride a cloud.”
“When your back hurts, you will be eaten by a lion.”

But this phrase is out of context and incorrect.

“No pain, no gain” developed in its modern form today based on exercise and working out. You work your muscles to the point of pain and beyond, and that’s where you make the most significant progress. If you never reach that level of soreness then you won’t get those bigger and stronger muscles.

So why would you want to maintain a motto that is so unrelated to Japanese studying?

Yeah, no pain no gain can be translated to “work hard and be rewarded.”

But “work hard” is not the same as “pain.” You can work hard, but that doesn’t mean your work has to be painful. That doesn’t mean you need to torture yourself, and count down the minutes of a study session. The more pain you inflict, the less you will like Japanese. The less likely you will get better. And the more likely you will quit.

Work hard? Yes. Work smart? Yes. Enjoy your work? Hell yes. Work painfully? No.



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Adam

Adam

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

Comments

Studying Japanese Should Not Be Painful — 5 Comments

  1. Even in exercise, that old saying is not a good one. Pain is a sign that something’s wrong. And if you tell yourself something is painful, then you will feel it that way. I totally agree with you!

    • You make a great point about the importance of your mindset when studying. Even if it is a more challenging task and one that you might not consider enjoyable, focusing on the positive can go a long way.

  2. On the other side though, I think that absolutely no pain will result in no gain. I’m around level 55 right now, and while I’d love to stick the anime and RPGs of my childhood (90s anime and RPGs) in the original language, having tons of fun in the process, it’s the Japanese Quest equivalent of splattering Green Slimes with the Dragon Buster in Secret of Mana — Good for self-confidence, but not exactly driving me to the next level.

    On the other side, going through the NHK podcasts each day’s an exercise in masochism. It’s frustrating only getting 80-90% of what’s being said, especially that I started studying in 2001.

    This site’s been a huge help though, by reminding me that when I started doesn’t matter — when I got serious matters. My true Japanese Journey began in July 2011 when I swore to be fluent no matter what it took.

    I think a good mix is absolutely necessary. You shouldn’t dread your challenge sessions fighting baddies equivalent to your level, but don’t be scared to bash on weaker monsters just for the fun of it. It never hurts to remember how far you’ve come!

    • I definitely agree you have to challenge yourself and do things that you may not enjoy as much as others.

      I talk a lot about on this site how fun is important but so is hard work. No one really has “fun” going through 2000 kanji in RTK.

      But I think pain and hard work are two different things. And pain is different for everyone.

      For example, just because you want to learn the news doesn’t mean you have to watch and use the most boring programs out there. You can use news that mixes in comedy, excitement, and you actually may enjoy a little even if your level isn’t high enough just yet. Yeah, you’ll probably still be looking up words, adding them to Anki, and struggling to get through it. But it shouldn’t be painful. It should be challenging.

      • Agreed, and I don’t want to give the wrong impression, the NHK broadcasts are interesting to me (or, to your point, I absolutely shouldn’t be watching them! :) )

        What’s tough for me is being on the bus and hearing a word I don’t know — my brain focuses on that one word, I miss the rest of the sentence, and the next. I finally pause the playback and have to jot a note, now rewind, agh! Basically, the simple trials of being way underleveled in listening/speaking!

        The “pain” will recede and merely become challenge over time, but a little bit of pain can be expected when shifting to higher gears: J-E -> J-J, finally turning subtitles off, etc. You can’t run from the pain, but if it persists for more than a couple weeks… I don’t know. Call the Japanese Alliance doctor?

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