No one likes to fail at learning Japanese. You would like your path to be a straight line that gradually moves up over time. Who could possibly want those massive failure dips that bring you to your lowest and make you regret you ever took your first step?
The overwhelming feeling is often that failing is moving backwards. You get stuck, you’ve hit something massive, your progress has fallen, you have been doing something wrong. Very wrong. Whatever you were doing has stopped working and now you are back where you started, maybe even in a worse place than before.
This is an illusion.
It turns out that it is the opposite. Failure is moving forward. And faster than you think. If you are experiencing failure, you are actually doing something right, not wrong. Because if you haven’t failed during your Japanese journey, you probably aren’t studying Japanese at all.
Failure is everything
You are supposed to fail. You haven’t strayed from your target. You are working your way in the right direction. Your original map, your original strategy guide was wrong. That’s it.
It would’ve never gotten you to your destination. Failure allows you to fix that map and get you going where you need to be. No one starts with the perfect guide, no matter how much time they put into it and researched. Even if you followed the Jalup Walkthrough down to the exact letter, you aren’t immune to failure.
The feeling is bad but it will pass.
I know, you can put a positive spin on it all you want, but Japanese failure still feels pretty terrible. Especially when you hit a chain of failures (often at the mid-level blues or the other high risk failure areas). But there is no one that has become fluent in Japanese that hasn’t had their share of failures.
Embrace the failure – and use it to reflect on where you are
So you just went through your first live conversations and completely stumbled over the most basic of sentences? Good. You can now practice that and increase your output.
Tried watching the news and can’t understand anything? Good, now you know you have to introduce and continue practicing it every day if you ever want to get it.
Started watching anime without subtitles and can’t follow anything despite several months of studying? Good. Now you can start increasing your immersion and contact with anime and realize you need to start little by little.
Studying Japanese will humble you. Just when you think you’ve gotten good, you have a door slammed in your face. After you finally manage to open that door, another one is waiting.
Don’t get down on yourself
The worst thing you can do is complain to yourself, and others. Why me? Why can’t I succeed? Why can’t I be good? Why do I keep falling. If you are failing you are on the right path. Just keep walking, picking yourself up after every stumble, changing your route as you intuitively see fit, and your string of failures will lead you to Japanese glory.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.