Learning Japanese is like being thrown into the middle of a forest and being told you have to escape to reach fluency. You trek through the forest learning the lay of the land and mastering the terrain. You start to see how far you have to go to reach the exit.
As your knowledge of the forest grows, you start to feel pretty good. You gain confidence. You want to help other people that were thrown into this forest after you and show them the way. Maybe you even get a little cocky; you could be king of this forest.
Then one day you make a big revelation. What you thought was the entire forest was only part of a larger forest. The scale of this forest was completely different than what you originally thought. You had spent several months trying to find your way out. You now see that you have a lot further to go before you truly reach the end.
You spend several more months to a year searching for the new exit in this expanded forest. When you finally make it there, ready to throw your fists in the air in victory, your face goes pale. The expanded forest was actually just part of an even larger forest, yet again. It can sometimes feel like one of those movies where the ending completely shocks the hero. Everything he had done to accomplish some grand mission to save the world was actually just a tiny part of what he actually needed to do.
The above image is your tunnel vision at your current level. The below image is the reality:
You don’t know this though. You can’t see the whole map from the inside of the forest.
This tricks people into thinking Japanese is easier than it actually is. Someone who is studying Japanese for 3 months can proclaim that it’s not so bad at all. They can see the end in sight. Of course. Their small portion of the forest isn’t that intimidating.
This forest produces one of two outcomes for you:
- You get stuck in one of these forest circles, and assume it is the last one.
- You always remember that your present location is just inside one circle, and you don’t know how many circles are left ahead of you. You’re only option is to keep moving forward.
This is what separates the “know-it-all” from the “learn-it-all.” Are you going to keep learning, and keep expanding outward? Or are you going to stop and assume that you’ve reached the edge of the forest?