Find Someone Better Than You
You want to be the best? Great. Your first step should be to find someone better than you. Your next step is to become friends with and hang around them. If you are the best among your circle of Japanese learner friends you need to expand that circle until you can find someone higher.
Why do you need someone who surpasses you?
Nothing slows your pace down more than being overconfident and thinking that you are real good. If everyone around you is lower than you, it makes you feel higher than you really are.
Have something to aim for
Sometimes you don’t really know where to go with your studying. You feel like you’ve plateaued or have gotten good enough. Having someone around you can show how much further you can go and how much more you can achieve. They can be an amazing source of motivation.
Learn from them
People who are higher levels got to where they are for a reason. They know what they are doing. They know how to study. And their Japanese is good. Ask them questions, watch and figure out what they did right and try it yourself.
Ask for advice
People who have been in your shoes often like to help you out. They know your pain, your struggles, and everything you’ve been through. They most likely will be willing to help you out so you can avoid some of the same.
Competition breeds greatness. The best competition comes from someone who is just a little better than you. It means you have to rise to their level to be able to compete. They unintentionally bring you up if you let them.
There is a limit
It’s always good to find someone better than you regardless of your level. While it becomes harder the higher you go, you can always find someone and the benefits will remain the same. I still do this, and it has kept me moving forward. However the benefits of your higher level pal become limited depending on the gap between both of your levels.
You: level 5
Friend: Level 15
You: level 25
Friend: level 45
You: level 10
Friend: level 60
The problem with such a large gap is that it can discourage you. If that person feels so out of reach, you may feel like you’ll never get there. They are too good. They are too far off in the distance and much harder to relate. It almost feels like you are comparing yourself with a native.
There is nothing wrong with being friends with someone who causes this gap, but make sure you are around other people who are somewhat closer to your level as well.
Go out and look up
Everyone needs someone higher level them to be around. Have you found your person yet?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
This is true not just for learning a language but for everything in life. Swallow your pride and learn from a master, if you can find one. If you don’t know how to befriend a master, just express your sincere admiration for their skill at whatever it is they do – everyone loves to be admired :)
Good point. Now if only there was some easy site like “findyourlanguagementor.com” haha.
I feel like hanging out/chatting with fellow learners (lower or higher level) makes it really easy to start procrastinating. The conversations can quickly turn into anime discussions or something.
Also, finding a high level person with the ability to properly explain stuff and actually be willing to spend time doing that is very very rare. Even then, you have to take the things those people say with grain of salt
I can only speak from my experience, but when I was starting out, I had a friend who was already studying for about a year. I asked him about some grammar points I didn’t understand. Looking back, quite a few things he told me were wrong, but I didn’t really have any way of knowing that at the time.
It’s nice to have a fellow learner to discuss stuff with, but you should ask yourself if it’s really worth it at the end of the day.
I did a little experiment a while back. I deleted Skype, installed LeechBlock on my browser (to block access to sites, i.e., stop procrastination) and just went to study grammar and read, on my own. After a week, I felt like I made way more progress than when I was chatting on Skype. That being said, everyone is different, so your mileage may vary and all that.
Sorry if this post came out as overly negative.
If you start seeing social time as study time, surely your progress will seem slower than if you spend the same time on intensive study as you describe. That seems fairly obvious to me.
Where you will benefit is when you take otherwise social time and spend it being social with someone as described in the post.
Asking a fellow learner who is only somewhat better than you. For me I would never take their answer for the truth, after all they are learning, just like you. Actually asking a native I would feel kind of the same as many people are inherently bad at their native language. If you want useful and reliable answers you need an actual teacher or a grammar book.
What a fellow learner can give you is another point of view. Maybe an explanation that makes you understand what the grammar book states.
What a native can give you is a look at whether you understood something right or whether your Japanese is understandable and feels natural.
As Adam also says in the post, being around someone slightly better than you gives you something to strive for, keeps Japanese in sight even on social times and reassures you that you can become better.
I agree with you. I don’t know why, but I feel like studying with someone else slows me down a lot. Sometimes going slow becomes an “obligation” rather than a choice (girl, don’t look at me with those puppy eyes…fine, I’ll slow down until you catch up).
But Adam is not talking about these people. He is talking about a mentor.
There are 3 major benefits of mentors: 1. Techniques 2. Warnings 3. Motivation.
I’ve always thought of Adam, or maybe the whole JalUp community as my mentor. They taught me new and innovative techniques (and spoon fed me the process) so that I didn’t waste my time finding them (JalUp decks for example). I was warned about Mid-Level blues and High-Level blues. I would have given up at intermediate (the beginning is b*tchingly hard) had I not been told that before.
As for motivation…when I was doing JalUp cards, I used to imagine Adam sitting on his computer MAKING J-J cards (40-45) and studying them. Just imagining that brought an evil grin on my face (Adam, making cards, working hard, while I am reaping the rewards), which motivated me to add “just 10 more cards”.
Haha this had me cracking up.
And yes, this post is not about finding someone higher level to teach you Japanese (which there is really no need for and can have problems as you and others have pointed out).
It’s about picturing them working themselves to death at creating Anki cards… and other stuff.
If there’s someone level 40-50 looking for a mentor I’d be happy to talk to you, and if there is someone level 70-80 looking to mentor someone then I’m your guy.