Giving Up Learning Japanese — 98 Comments

  1. Jonathon and I started around the same time learning Japanese. If any of you don’t know Jonathon was the one who is level 40 in 8 months. We are best friends and it was really discouraging to me to watch him absorb Japanese while I struggled so much. For a couple months there I felt like giving up, and I took a break from studying Japanese because I was so discouraged. I asked Jonathon for help and he gladly gave me some pointers on how to refine my studying. Now I find it fun to study and immerse myself in culture. Sometimes it’s finding that friend who will push you out of your comfort zone and be there for you to lean on when you need it.

    • Having friends with you for the journey, especially those who start at a similar level can be powerful. Glad to hear Jonathon has helped bring you back into enjoying Japanese.

  2. The point I dropped Anki was when I realized I wasn’t using it right. I suspect a more profitable way to use stuff like that is to supplement whatever else you’re doing, so you can pick up some new words and sentence patterns or refresh what you’re already seeing elsewhere. My problem was, Anki was pretty much the only place I was reading any Japanese, since, how would I read anything else without translations to know it’s accurate? So Anki was it. I ended up conditioning myself so I could only read or remember those specific sentences in that specific context. If I encountered a word or kanji on a website or something outside of Anki sentences, I couldn’t recognize it at all. Now I’m in some weird Japanese limbo where I’ll still look up words I see or hear and really pay attention to deciphering speech, but don’t actively sit down and try to study anything.

    • Yeah, the balance between Anki and real reading materials is an interesting one. You can know it fine in Anki, but when you see it in the wild, sometimes it doesn’t click. This shows the importance of increasing your “native feed,” because the more you read, the more Anki’s scaffolding you have in place in your mind gets used.

  3. Do you ever have this great response to a post in your head, and then you go to write it and it’s like “what?? this wasn’t as good as it was in my head”…yeah anyway.

    First let me say, that I would not be where am I right now, if it wasn’t for you Adam. Your sentence packs have helped me push past the beginner’s barrier which I thought was impossible to cross. I have tried other methods in the past, but there just wasn’t enough beginner material to sink my teeth into. Thank you for your hard work, and your honesty.

    I haven’t become discouraged about my studies in quite a while, and I think it’s because I just try to focus on the process instead of my end goal. I set a schedule each month (thank you Adam) about the study process I’m going to follow each day for 1 month and 1 month only. I only plan to follow this schedule for 1 month, at the end of the month I can change it. I can make the schedule very easy if I’m feeling tired, or I can make it very hard if I’m feeling energetic. But I stick to the schedule EVERY DAY. That is all I care about, not the goal but the schedule. I know that if I stick to my monthly schedule, the rest will take care of itself, just like magic.

    I didn’t always think that way. The turning point for me was the post about Adam’s Anki stats (What does your Anki deck say about you). For some, that may have been discouraging to see those stats. It was discouraging for me at first, but instead of letting it defeat me I made a decision to rise up to the challenge. I knew I couldn’t match those stats at this point in time, but I didn’t care, one way or another I was going to learn Japanese (still in progress since I’m at about a very early intermediate stage). The fire I felt from that post has since died down, but I’m still following the same process I started when I got all fired up.

    And to me that’s all that matters…I don’t care about tomorrow, but for today, I will follow my schedule.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Anki time ^^

    • I have that feeling all the time with posts I write for this site!

      That every day schedule, as you’ve found, yields so many benefits. And your idea of only requiring yourself to stick with it for a month, and then feeling no guilt in altering/adjusting that schedule works well. It’s like the popular “30 day challenge.” I’ve been doing that myself again recently.

      I would like to see a hilarious meme with the theme “It’s Anki time.”

    • I really need to start doing that! Plan out for one month, instead of long-ass periods of time! And not only for anki and japanese, but for most of my goals really. Just every month, thinking “do I feel like passing a lot of time working on japanese this month, or more on making youtube videos?” and stuff like that. Thanks!

  4. When I first started studying Japanese I bought a whole bunch of manga in Japanese so that if I did decide to quit it would have meant I wasted my money. At this point I have so much manga in Japanese that it would be such an incredible loss of money if I stopped part way, haha. Forced me to keep going in the first few months of learning where the beginner blues set in once in a while.

        • monogatari reference? Too scared to attempt those word plays in japanese. Though they are probably easier to understand without the hopeless translation efforts.

          • Hah, indeed. Monogatari is one that I still use subs for. I’ve talked to the translator who does the English version for Daisuki, and they make an incredible effort to ensure the subs on that one do the original writing justice. I *highly* recommend it even you need the subs.

        • Haha. That’s a bit extreme :-P
          I do have more manga than I’d be able to read anytime soon though. All thanks to Amazon Japan’s manga sets, which are a great price plus the postage is also cheap ^.^

      • Haha. There is literally towers of manga on my shelves and on top of my drawers. I’m very much running out of room. I have a lot of stuff in English too, from before I started learning Japanese, that I’m trying to gradually sell off to people to make room for manga in Japanese instead.

  5. Adam, this is an enormously helpful article. I agree with your assessment of articles with themes resembling “I Learned Everything in Heisig’s 3 Books Overnight and You Can Too!!” (Ok, a slight exaggeration for effect); they’re a double edged sword. They’re motivating to me, but the prospect is also daunting. Life……finds a way……to get in the way of immersion, SRS reps, passive and active listening…..all of it. So, I found it very, very refreshing to read your account of YOUR struggles with all of these things, and, in particular, your human reaction to these issues and your methods of overcoming them. This article is much more motivating to me than the Heisig crushing article satirized above.

    Thanks for this. Made my day.


    • Haha, show me that article.

      I don’t know why life always tries to get in the way of people learning Japanese. If it knew what was best for it, it would just back off for a few years!

  6. Related to Christine’s comment about buying manga, it’s been really helpful for me to get Japanese dubs of some of my favorite western movies (たとえば、「クルーレス」「エバー・アフター」「ユー・ガット・メール」「ミーン・ガールズ」「ハリー・ポッター」「魔法にかけられて」). Besides the monetary investment helping cement my sense of commitment, there’s something really comforting about watching my favorite movies in Japanese. It’s like a cultural-linguistic bridge / comfort food for the heart.

    Also, if you seriously love holidays / any excuse to celebrate life the way that I do, maybe you can celebrate some Japanese holidays, too! Having exciting celebrations to look forward to has helped motivate me a lot in my studies. I’ve used Japanese tutorials to make lots of cute, affordable, easy-to-store decorations with felt and origami paper. Holidays are also a great excuse to try new recipes (use Japanese Cookpad), learn new vocabulary/cultural notes (Japanese Wiki), get involved in the local Japanese community (join! befriend! volunteer!), share Japanese love/gifts with friends, etc.

    Also, don’t strain yourself laughing [b/c I’m a 主婦 whose only surfing experiences were brief and happened over 20 years ago…], but when I need to chill out and step back a bit, I find it helpful to switch my inner voice to a “Bill and Ted” / “Wayne & Garth” / surfer-dude / Valley-Girl (my inspirations: ’88 Earth Girls Are Easy / ’92 “Buffy-the-Vampire-Slayer” movie/”Clueless”) sort of wavelength. The idea is something like this: “Dude, triumphant! You just powered through some heinous waves. Gnarly! Your brain is like totally bodacious, but check it out, you gotta relax to the max, my man. Be excellent to yourself. Party on, Dude. *insert guitar riff Doodley-doodley-doodley*.”). It helps me lighten up / interrupt negative patterns / take a breather.

    Honestly, though, sometimes it just helps to “Treat. Yo. Self”. [“Parks & Rec” reference]
    Bonus points if it’s something fun/encouraging for your studies.

    Above all, you’re more than a brain. Take care of your body (which will also help take care of your brain). Don’t sit all day staring at a computer/book/whatever without fueling your mortal needs — eat right, exercise, get some sunshine/nature, socialize with loved ones, incorporate the learning game into your life in a way that doesn’t stop you from living your life (and make you want to escape it), and get some sleep.

    For example, a few ways I get some energy out:
    -Gardening while listening to 聞き取り (podcasts, summery/reggae-style/rap Japanese music, ドラマ).
    -Running while listening to hyper/happycore-style Japanese music
    -Move Japanese studying/reading outside (like a picnic — slap on some sun protection, lay out an outdoor blanket, and read/study away)
    -Random dance parties (get up, stretch, pump up some Japanese music, get your heart going)
    -While driving elsewhere, listen to music / podcasts / other 聞き取り
    -Enjoy relaxing/encouraging BGM while taking time to prepare good food / handle menial chores around the house — like “Happy Working Song” (魔法にかけられて).

    • Wow アンドレア, thanks for providing all those great strategies you’ve used!

      I’m also picturing ユー・ガット・メール in Japanese. I’m guessing they don’t dub the sound into something like 着信あり!

      In regards to dubs, Lord Of The Rings is one of the most beautifully Japanese dubbed movies I’ve seen. If you are a fan of the series, you need to see these movies in Japanese.

      • I just can’t get into dubbed Japanese. It feels as unnatural as trying to watch Anime with English dubs (except a lot of my problem there, is that they are rather amateurish, amongst other issues).

        I actually enjoyed watching frozen in Japanese, though I think that was partly due to it being my first watch. I think it’s a problem of expectation versus reality. Watching lord of the rings with my associated images and voices and then trying in Japanese just seems too difficult. Plus the lips being out of sync is also pretty jarring at time. I enjoyed watching School of rock in Japanese for the first 15 minutes, until the novelty wore off and things started to bother me.

        I’m pretty happy with native media for now anyway, there’s so much awesome stuff that originates in Japan, more than I’ll ever need on my path to fluency. For that reason, I’ll watch English stuff in English, and Japanese stuff in Japanese. For now…
        Exception to that rule would be if I haven’t already seen it in English/Japanese, I will watch it in its dubbed language. Though this is easier with animated feature length films, as noted earlier.

        • Most high quality dubs have the lips fairly lined up well. You’d be surprised that once you get used to it, you start to feel the opposite. With LOTR, I of course watched it many times when they were were first released. But after listening to it so many times on my iPod in Japanese, the now the English voices sound unnatural.

          To me though, it’s like getting to watch a remake of your favorite movie. Changing the voices changes the feel of the movie and the story. I get 2 versions of LOTR, and that’s just fine by me!

      • I’ll have to add LOTR to my “wish list” for サンタさん(AKA 夫さん :D).

        ユー・ガット・メール in Japanese is pretty darn glorious. Especially because 江原正士’s voice for Tom Hanks/”Joe Fox” is perfect (江原正士 + ). He handles the bits when Joe Fox is freaking out so well, and he even does the silly Godfather impressions. haha!

        It’s the subtle touches that amuse me in a hypnotizing way.
        For example:
        -They カタカナ-dub the computer’s AOL sayings (「ウェルカム。ユー・ガット・メール!」) and the little boy still spells “F-O-X”, but it’s「エフ・オー・エクス」, of course.
        -The conversation in the shop about the children’s complicated lineage/relationship to Joe Fox is an amusing family-tree vocabulary puzzle to unwind. My brain hasn’t yet sorted it all out, but each time I hear it, another piece fits.
        -They translated the little girl’s song… and even the group holiday/”clarinet” song, keeping the original rhythm and everything. (It’s pretty catchy. I want to learn it so I can sing along!)
        Best of all,
        -The side characters retain their personalities (which I adore) through the translation. Joe’s girlfriend has a similar impatience, complete with exasperated exhalations (omg the elevator scene is perfection). His best friend still has that calm edge with a voice that’s sort of staccato-succinct in its frankness. The slouchy shop guy is a perfectly Japanese version of slouchy. The older woman has that same warm vibrato and worldly vivaciousness. The boyfriend is still slightly floaty and distracted in that cerebrally-argumentative way of his…you get the point.

        To top it off, the ending scene? Perfection. I have to rewind at least once.

  7. I cannot believe you just posted this. After 7 years of studying Japanese I have had my first breakdown this morning and now I read this. It meant a lot to me, and I am really thankful you chose today to post it and that you wrote it so well. <3

  8. This article just relieved a lot of my frustrations around reviewing, thank you Adam. Especially with the one deck reviews, I fail some cards that could’ve been a year till I see them again. That can really be a motivation killer. Knowing that it’s ‘supposed’ to happen makes me feel so much better about my failures. Now I know that it’s all part of the learning process to fail mature content, and completely normal. So thank you.

  9. Wow, does this ever resonate! It wasn’t that long ago that not only did I declare I was giving up learning Japanese, but had even convinced myself that I never really wanted to in the first place!

    Obviously the specifics of how someone should cope with these kinds of thoughts is going to vary widely depending on the individual and the cause of the frustrations, but I do think as a general rule Adam’s advice to return to the original motivations is spot-on. At least in my case this provided not only a renewed desire, but also a way forward. Specifically, as I said a long time back, there are activities that it would never even occur to me to give up. Maybe none of these could be considered “studying,” exactly, but they keep me in the game. From that starting point there are small incremental things I can do to (and more importantly want to do) that push in a more studious direction. For example, even if I stopped studying I wouldn’t stop watching subbed anime. But if I’m going to do that it’s not much of addition to rewatch series raw or load the Japanese transcripts (when available) into a browser and read them with Raikaisama. These activities could then evolve into something like subs2srs or Dolly’s method, which are firmly back in study territory.

    So I guess my advice, at least to someone frustrated because they feel stuck, would be to pare back their activities to the core that they actually enjoy right now, and re-grow their study plan from there. This might mean veering away from methods that work phenomenally well for other people but not for them. This is not a problem. Increasingly I’m convinced that any ongoing, long-term, active engagement with a language will yield results. Maybe some methods are faster than others for some people, but to someone on the verge of quitting questions of speed and efficiency should take a distant back seat to finding a pleasant, sustainable way to keep going.

    • I’m really glad to hear you are back, and managed to push away the thought of eternally retiring your Japanese journey.

      Everyone has to cope with these things, at different times, and it sounds like you’ve finally found the way that you want to 付き合う with Japanese.

  10. Great points, it is certainly a long road to learn a language, and especially so for Japanese. It is important to enjoy the process and not just be hanging out for a future point of achievement.

    I made the 3 different games over at to make the experience of kanji study more engaging than dry old flashcards. (…and they are more than multiple choice quizzes!)

    Apart from using the games, I try to do regular reading of short web articles like ‘Koborebanashi’ (odd news) using the Rikaisama plugin to save lookups.

  11. I may not be very qualified to comment here because I really haven’t had most of this experience at all. Japanese was love at first sight for me, and actually I have gotten a little depressed at times often have asked myself “why am I doing this?” But the answer is always “No idea, but I need it, like breathing.” So giving up just hasn’t ever been an option.

    I do love Japan, but I love Japanese more than I love Japan (which may seem odd). So the odd disappointment about Japan itself never had much effect on my commitment to the language. And I have just about no attachments to Western culture or Western cultural attitudes (one of the reasons Japanese appealed is that for the first time here were attitudes I could actually understand).

    Oddly enough I am getting more exposure to (rather old) Western popular culture through Japanese than I had before I started learning it (when my diet was almost exclusively material translated from Japanese). I am loving Heidi, Peter Pan and the Moomins in the old Japanese anime!

    However… I certainly empathize with the depressing feeling that I am learning too slowly and the questioning of “am I making any progress at all?” I am afraid I can’t work the JALUP level thing (no criticism, I can’t do textbook exercises or cook from a cookbook either), so I have no idea what level I actually am. I managed in Japanese only for months in Japan after a year of “study” (very badly I might add) and I sometimes wonder if I am any better now than I was then.

    What is the answer here? My answer has been to enjoy the journey. I have never had a heavy emphasis on “study”. I do do Anki and I do research grammar (I find it interesting anyway) but textbooks have not played more than a kind of afterthought role (as a checklist more than a learning tool) since I got past basic grammar.

    My belief is in not “learning Japanese” but “living Japanese”. However much progress I have or haven’t made (and objectively, I must have made some, I just don’t know how to measure it!) I am now free from English translations. I can enjoy anime and games in Japanese. I may need Japanese subtitles. I may need to pause and reverse a lot if I don’t use subtitles, and a lot of more complex material may be beyond me. But I am able to live and enjoy in Japanese.

    And unless one has some urgent deadline or exam or something, isn’t this the important thing? One of the problems with the “study” approach is that it is so goal-oriented that one is constantly comparing, and worrying *and looking at some future rather than the present*. I used to be more like that. A friend once asked me why I was so 必死 about learning Japanese. It was a good question, and I wondered why I was.

    I think the problem is this “study” model of constantly throwing “success” into the future. So there is in the imagination a period when one is “learning Japanese” and another period, some time in the future, when one has succeeded and may enjoy it. I realized two important things:

    1. The period during which I am “learning Japanese” is the rest of my life.

    2. The period in which I am living Japanese and enjoying it is NOW (and the rest of my life).

    As for thinking about giving up Japanese. No. When I was so sick I could barely eat or move, all I wanted to do was watch Japanese anime (in Japanese). I was too sick for harsh, cold English!

    The only thing I ever want to give up is English!

    But that’s just this silly doll.

    • Don’t give up English. Otherwise you can’t enjoy this site haha.

      It sounds like you’ve got things figured out for yourself, which is great, and there is no worry at all about you ever thinking about giving up Japanese.

  12. I’ve been at a rough point for a couple months now, without making any progress. I still do reviews whenever I feel like it, but I haven’t made any progress. My problem seems to come from a complete lack of motivation, or goal. There just doesn’t seem like there’s anyway I can enjoy Japanese now, rather than far into the future. Something definitely has to change so I can start making progress again, any suggestions?

    • Sounds like a make or break point to me. I don’t really know what to say, but good luck.

      *edited with like 1 minute left*

      Actually I do know what to say, right now the outlook seems pretty bleak…but I see this as a huge opportunity to fix whatever got you to this point in your journey. I hit a similar roadblock a few months ago but I found my way around it. Your way will of course be different, but just do your best. There is a ton of advice just in this one thread, there must be something useful here.

      Make this your turning point.

    • What’s bothering you most? Anki or lack of understanding for material. Make more of your immersion time passive, that way you can feel less guilty about doing stuff like browsing the net in English.
      If it’s lack of understanding then try Japanese subtitles, they really help, especially if you’ve learned the kanji, transmit a lot of meaning. Try and watch a lot of visual shows or play video games with text heavy, voice acted plots. Most games can have subtitles turned on too, so you might find fun in that. Use material that you would find fun in English, and get the Japanese version of it.

      If you aren’t enjoying anki then you can consider adding 5-10 a day or just taking a break from adding all together (not too long, set specific date beforehand). Make sure you keep your reviews up, the reviews workload will drop to nothing in a matter of weeks.

    • Hi! I don’t know if this will help or not, but you asked for suggestions, so I thought maybe?

      So, I’m a beginner (just got through the Noun section on good ol’ Tae Kim), so for fun, I decided to take the JALUP test to see what level I was at. I was SO excited about how far I got (not far; I’m about level 11). But I could READ, like, WHOLE SENTENCES. And that was AMAZING. And I’ve noticed it elsewhere since then. I get so excited when I can read and understand anything. And that really helped to motivate me and make me wanna work harder.

      That said, I also: don’t do RTK or Anki, and don’t study every day. If I do any of those, I burn out within a week and I just don’t care about anything.

      So! Hope this helps. Whether it does or doesn’t, good luck to you! I hope you find what need! <3

    • Hi Dominic,

      I’m always a little reluctant to make suggestions since I’m still very much figuring things out myself. But, for what it’s worth, here are some things you could try:

      * As others have suggested, watch (or read) something in Japanese you’re already familiar with.

      * If you’re a fan of anime or Japanese dramas, rewatch your favorite series raw.

      * Try some of the recommendations on this site geared towards beginners, such as Five anime that you shouldn’t need subtitles to watch or Yotsuba to.

      * Watch anime or dramas with Japanese subtitles

      * Try “parallel texts,” purchase a book in both Japanese and English, start with the Japanese and a good electronic or web-based dictionary, and turn to the English when you get stuck or just frustrated with the process.

      * Read a novel with Rikaisama. If Adam will forgive a little self-promotion, I describe the process on my blog here and here.

      * Join the Kawaii Japanese forums! This has been a pretty amazing experience for me, and all levels are welcome.

      Finally, if you aren’t doing reviews because you find the process unpleasant or ineffective than not using Anki is a perfectly viable option. Anki works so well for so many people that it’s probably worth trying a few experiments in card formats and reviewing schedules, but don’t pin all your Japanese dreams to any one particular tool.

    • I am not sure what level you are at, but I think that there are things that one can enjoy at any level. I think it is important to go from “study” to “use” as early as one can.

      I started watching Anime with Japanese subtitles very early in my journey, after a couple of months, actually. I knew my kana and some kanji, and I knew very basic grammar. I had to look up almost every other word. It took me over 6 hours to go through a 24 minute episode. This may seem like it was a chore, and in a sense it was, but for me it was a treasure hunt! I still remember words I looked up and entered into Anki from my first Anime watch…and remember that this is where I learned them!

      There are also some very basic games out there for young Japanese children. I used an Anpanman game which had games at the level of a small akachan all the way to games that were useful to beginning reading and writing. Heee….actually, it was rather fun seeing the difference in the vocabulary from adult learner’s textbooks and from the Anpanman game. The adult learner’s textbooks had in the first chapter words like せいじ, politics and こくさいかんけい、international relations. The Anpanman game had words like リンゴ, apple and ヤギ, goat. Heee…I always found the Anpanman game vocabulary far more interesting and useful! Adult learner’s textbooks can be rather つまらない, boring, I think! They are useful in that I think that one does need to have grammar explained. Little children go to school already knowing a HUGE amount of grammar and vocabulary on an instinctive level, which makes it hard to use native children’s textbooks. Still, it seems to me that they go out of their way to make adult learner’s textbooks as dull as possible.

      I also had the advantage of learning with good friends, which I think is so important for motivation. I know that this site has a monthly post for people to write their goals. Kawaii Japanese also now has Forums to talk and play in Japanese with other learners, with a beginners section.

      Good luck! がんばってください! ぜったいに あきらめない!

    • I know it is probably nothing like the deep pit you are in right now, but I often have similar feelings of getting nowhere and the road ahead being endlessly long. I think the key is to just keep going, never skip reviews, and try and change things up a bit.

      What keeps me going is looking for the ups. I’ll suddenly realize that the Anki card I just read through and understood right away in about 5 seconds is the one that was complete gibberish last week. It’s easy to forget this when the next card is a new one that I don’t understand. Your progress is constant, but Anki (and most other study methods) will make it look like you are failing all the time, since it focuses on your weak points.

      Immersion is the other motivational trick I use. I only understand somewhere between 5 and 10% at the moment, but instead of focusing on the 95% I don’t understand, I just think about all the words and grammar that I DO understand. I am also amazed that I can keep up with the speed of native speakers and actually hear the syllables and words they are saying. I know how impossible I found that just recently. I am convinced that this is because of the Jalup method which never dumbs anything down. We get the full native package from the beginning!

      Try and look positively at your progress and change up your methods a bit. And most of all, just keep on trucking (and do your reviews!). You will be over this bump before you know it!

    • You don’t say exactly what the problem is, but you do say “There just doesn’t seem like there’s anyway I can enjoy Japanese now, rather than far into the future.”

      So I am wondering if it is a very common problem: that you have put a lot of time into learning vocabulary and such but still find you can’t understand the spoken word (that’s a tough one and takes time) or read even simple books, manga or Japanese subtitled anime despite all your learning efforts.

      If this is it, please don’t despair. It is very common, and as it happens (I didn’t see your post till later) I have just written an article that explains why this happens and what you need to do about it.

      Don’t be put off by the title. It isn’t just about acquiring vocabulary. It is about overcoming your exact problem (if it is what I suggested) and actually starting to enjoy Japanese and make organic progress.

      I do hope it helps you.

      • That’s a great article. 100% agree with the suggestion to start reading (or doing other fun things) early and often. Even if you only know 500 or 1000 words, there’s plenty of interesting material you can start to enjoy and learn from.

        I personally am still a fan of building and maintaining a strong core and use the JALUP sentence decks for that purpose, but I’d say at the moment my new word intake is ~60% Anki/~40% Organic. The Organic side is really what characterizes my own individual interests and specialties, and developing it greatly helps to keep up my excitement for the language =)

        • Thank you for your kind words. Sentence decks are another thing for me. I have evolved a sentence Anki system of my own that is audio based. I rarely actually look at a card in this deck (back or front unless I am going to fail it, but it isn’t just a kikitori deck. It is for learning words and grammar and how they are used. I wrote a couple of articles about it a while back. Again, I build it organically from the words I learn “in the wild”.

          I don’t claim it is better than other systems, it is just the one that works for me. Partly because I couldn’t fathom the sentences systems you-all folks use here (It’s just me. I have a funny brain with odd strengths and weaknesses).

          Not everyone who uses the ideas I recommend has a sentence deck at all, in fact I think most don’t (though I tend to sing the praises of mine in private conversation – in Japanese of course – because I really find it helps me). Embarrassing isn’t it? My kouhai are more organic than I am! Well they would be, wouldn’t they. I’m made of plastic.(⌒▽⌒)

          But that’s fine. I think we all have things that work for us and things that don’t. I think mix’n’match is a good idea if people can find their own balance of techniques that work for them.

          What I would say is vital is using and enjoying Japanese from early on and getting a good proportion of one’s learning organically. I realize some people thrive on pure “study”, and good for them. But for those who don’t, I have a feeling that approach is the number one cause of burnout.

    • Thank you for all the kind words and suggestions. I’ve decided it would be best for me right now to ditch J-J. I’m far enough into J-J that I’ve gotten used to it, but the branching progress I find very tedious, and ultimately takes away from what I was trying to do; which is to read. I’ve been going through and getting words from things I wanted to read before hand, but due to branching, a couple words could turn into hundreds. This way I can focus on enjoying reading, and building a larger base of vocabulary. I will definitely go back to J-J in the future though. Again, thank you for all the help. Hopefully I can make it through this.

  13. After reading the article „ Level 40 In 8 Months“ I lost the little confidence I had in my skills… I put a lot of effort and time in studying but still there were others who could do much more in a fraction of the time I spent. I was extremely demotivated and this lead to a bad feeling when learning, which in turn lead to even more demotivation which started to frustrate me. Nevertheless I continued my studies day after day.

    At some point I did not want to continue like that and I needed to change something. Since giving up is not an option for me, I devoted myself even more to my studies. I power leveled for the first time. In 2.5 months I added more cards than in the previous 9 months, 140% the amount of cards to be exactly. This was a huge achievement for me and it showed me that I can do a lot more than I thought.

    Now my confidence is higher than ever before and studying has become a lot more fun lately. Of course I am still far away from being fluent, there are many things I cannot understand or express but somehow that does not bother me that much anymore. I will just continue studying every day and enjoy whatever I can on my journey. I don’t know if or when I will reach my goal but I have got a feeling that the journey will become more and more fun and that by itself is already rewarding enough.

    • My experience was sort of the opposite. I was really inspired by posts like “Level 40 in 8 Months” and tried my hardest to achieve it… only, I failed, over and over and over again. I don’t learn like that very well, it turns out. So, seeing those is painful now. I have to try and ignore it and just focus on what I’m doing, which is NOTHING like any of the programs people describe. I question almost every day whether what I’m doing will work, or whether I’ll be one of those horror stories you hear about, with people trying to learn for a decade who still can’t order pizza in their L2.

    • I think there should be a little disclaimer on that article, just like on the other power levelling article. Power levelling is pretty stupid for most people, it has too high a failure rate. It’s basically just multiplying your study by x amount. Obviously it’s necessary to have that information available for people that want to do it. But it should always be stated that this is not a good way for people to study, and is somewhat masochistic in nature. However, I won’t lie and say that the return isn’t high. Just many people don’t return. I’m upset to here that you took this article to heart, i think more caution should be taken when producing articles of this nature, to make sure people are aware that this style of study is far out of the norm. You are fine for not meeting those targets.

      I honestly recommend 5-10 cards per day, especially on J-J for regular people. If you have an 1-2 hours to study a day then 5-10 (you’ll need to judge from your review times) is the perfect amount for you. It’ll keep you moving at a steady pace, leave you time for immersion and keep your motivation high.

      30-35 j-j cards today (especially using the one deck or self-made j-j cards) breeds 4-5 hours of active non-stop study. This is totally unrealistic for most people.

      I know better than most, it’s a hard a silly road to walk on. However, for those that have a ‘need’ to learn in a certain amount of time, this harsh journey may be necessary.

      For normal people, I really really recommend you stay away from power levelling, when you have 400-500 + reviews every day and you miss a day studying. Let me tell, it isn’t pretty. Hope you have a free 7-8 hours to spare. Anki is absolutely brutal, and has no sympathy for you and your life’s hiccups. Take that into consideration when choosing the amount of cards you introduce every day.

      • I agree with what you’re saying, James, that power leveling is definitely not for everyone, and I apologize if reading that article has made anyone feel bad about their own journey. It was intended to be inspirational, and to show what using the great methods on this site can do. Also, I’m curious how strict you are on yourself with your cards, James. I’m by no means criticizing your judgement of how long you decide your card intervals, but I think if you are getting 500+ cards a day you might be able to ease up on yourelf. I’ve been doing the same (30-35) and usually am around 350 reviews. Though maybe I’m being too easy on myself.

        • Yeah I wasn’t criticising your article in the sense that it was wrong. I actually agree with everything in it. I just think it could scare some people off because they think that’s the acceptable pace to be going at.

          I used to have a much lower review threshold when I was using Jalup series of cards. I get around 50 kanji a day still so I guess it’s more like 450.

          Even still, the change to using one deck cards just seems to breed more reviews. I think because they are less related than the JALUP series I get them wrong a lot more. I’m quite strict on myself I must admit, but I don’t really understand how to give myself any lee way.

          For example, if I see a card and I get the pronunciation some what off but I knew the definition, I may or may not mark it as correct. Sort of dependent on how long the interval is.

          On the other hand, if I see a card that I only know part of the definition, I’ll most likely mark it as wrong. A made up example in english would be :
          Foresight: I might remember that the word has to do with picturing something in your mind, but if i forgot the bit about it being relative to the short-term future I’d most likely mark it wrong.

          As well as that, some words just take forever to sink in because the way the dictionary explains things is much less intuitive. I’ve become a lot better at suspending cards when I fail them too often, but the reality is that these cards just take longer to set in. I guess they’re just less memorable? If you have any rules you have for passing/failing cards and your conditions you set for leniency, please share them. I’d highly value anyone else’s opinion in a similar postion to myself. Though I’d ask if it pertained mostly to the One deck or any j-j self made deck you may or may not be using, if you are (which I assume you are if you’ve finished expert haha).

          Maybe your rote memorisation is just better than mine? My brain has never been very good at that kind of stuff, but sentences are best used with that style of learning, in my experience. Plus J-J has enough challenges, I’ll picture sentences in my head if I think I understand them well enough, but mnemonics are out of the question as far as I’m concerned.

          It could also be a problem with how I learn cards. Anyway, maybe let me know your system for introducing and evaluating reviews. I’m all ears haha.

          Sorry if I was ssounding critical of your article, it was more a criticism of Power levelling articles in general. I just think that all of them should disclose a warning that they aren’t the benchmark in which people should learn Japanese. I actually agreed with everything in your article method wise, just don’t want people to get the wrong idea about self-expectations. I hope I haven’t caused any offence ^-^

          • I found the best way to handle complex sentences is to turn them into Cloze cards where you have the word itself as the hint. (So no fill in the blanks.) Thus if you have a sentence that has three things for you to learn you make a close like this:

            {{c1::This::This}} is a very {{c2::complicated::complicated}} English sentence {{c3::for me personally::for me personally}}.

            When you do this you get three different cards that are all scheduled in relation to each other so you won’t review this sentence more than once a day, but you know when each card comes up which part you must know in order to pass that particular card. (The weird syntax is just to get the cloze answer to show up correctly on the front and back of the card.)

            The cool thing about doing it this way is I can rip entire paragraphs from books but still focus in on either one vocabulary word or a particular phrase or whatever I was having trouble with when I decided to add that card.

          • No offense at all! My method recently, for the one deck, may seem a little unorthodox in light of using the Jalup method. It seems to me that the time when I really get a good sense of a word is when I encounter it naturally a few times after being predisposed to it. Even if I see a card a lot of times and it’s on like a 2 month interval I wouldn’t feel comfortable using it until I’ve heard it used outside the context of my Anki sentence, which would typically be through a show. So, because of this when I’m using the One Deck I’ll read the definition and if I get it right away obviously that’s fine and good, but most of the time when I see a word I won’t get it right away. When that happens I will think it over, give it a few guesses and resets. If I still don’t get it I will actually look up the English *gasp* Which sounds bad, but I think for the purpose of speed it’s justifiable. I’ll add the English word to the anki card while still keeping the Japanese and read both when I come across the card. The reason being is the previously described feeling of not really getting a word (even if I understood the Japanese definition completely) until adequately exposed to it through a natural occurrence. So even if can read the Japanese fine I still only get a feel for the word. By doing this you can free up a lot of time to be engaging in the native material rather than anki. I typically spend an hour and 15-30 minutes a day on my cards because of this. Also the when the word you use the English definition on the first word in the branch you understand the first word in a branch and it then becomes the kind of reverse branching that is found in the Jalup decks. You may not like this because of the idea of continuing to use English, but as I said I think when speed is the goal this makes things go faster and provides an overall more enjoyable experience because you are making more time to enjoy the things you study Japanese to do.

            • That actually sounds like a pretty good idea. I have to admit, it is quite tiring reviewing the amount I do everyday. And the percentage of young and even mature cards I am failing does get awfully tiring. I have to admit my Japanese level does feel like it’s rising doing this, but I wonder how long I can keep this pace up at ? The fact that the review count seems to be slowly rising each day (despite adding the same number of words) is dawning on me too, though this might be temporary. I’m so bad at self-study in the sense that I am a man of absolutes. I find it very difficult to sometimes do things and then decide when it’s appropriate to say, look up a word in English or google images. I’ve become decent at knowing when to use google images. But normally I’ll just suspend cards if they are too hard to understand in pure japanese. I can’t remember the last time I actively looked up a word in English (though the Japanese dictionary frequently has english in the definition, or even eigo katakana).

              In other words, I’ve completely banished English and I don’t really know how and if I should ever reintroduce it to my study. I don’t know if my review count or study amount is normal for what I add a day. All I know is that it wasn’t as much when I was using the JALUP series, though that would be expected, right? I can only imagine when Adam was doing 40 self created cards a day with little to no english he was spending well over 5 hours in Anki every day. If I’m wrong though then maybe I’m very harsh on marking myself, or I need to do more than just read the sentence+definition. The problem isn’t even one of understanding, I think. For most words that I get wrong in the One Deck i actually understand the sentence and target word, but only after I look at the definition and remind myself. I seem to forget word meanings very easily in The One Deck. I wish that the Expert series could indefinitely keep up with my pace, none of these problems exist for it.

              Hell, who knows. Maybe I’m doing everything right for someone in pure J-J, despite being a little harsh on marking my reviews. Maybe these reviews are to be expected if I’m not using English because the sentences just don’t relate and recycle words over and over like they do in the JALUP series. I must admit that words do eventually settle, but I tend to fail them more often even when they’re mature. Probably for the same reason.
              My ‘solution’ up until now has just been to ‘man up’ and accept high reviews are a result of a harder deck and being critical on my marking. Perhaps that’s my stubborness and naiviety making me think like that. Being a self professed Nihongo Nazi doesn’t help my cause, there is miniscule English allowed. My reviews have been slowly going up every day, so hopefully they at least taper out soon. Maybe as my Japanese level progresses I’ll find my retention of new words from the One deck improve.

              At the very least, I’m understanding quite a bit of The one deck, even if I have to review a lot more than anyone else in comparison. Though I’ll definitely give some thought to your review+add style, it intrigues me :)

              Out of curiosity, what is your review threshold before you check up a word in english? Or do you do it on a case by case basis. In that case, what would you guess the average would be.

              Anyway, maybe Adam can give me some advice too if he sees this. I think his situation and mine must be pretty similar (relative to our study timelines). I’m just curious to whether people think this is normal, or is it a problem with the way I review and/or learn cards. I would actually like to see an article on the way adam reviews card, not only the methodology but the the thought process for adding and reviewing words. I understand this is a very personal thing, as he’s once told me. But it’s always nice to have a point of comparison. Even if we know his learning/review style doesn’t mean we can’t implement our own, or implement are the best parts of his. Besides, I’ve always tend to model my learning after his. What’s one more thing to do add to the list, haha!
              I have no doubts that what I’m doing is working, but is it as efficient as possible? Right now I’d ebb more on the side of no. Unfortunately only time or other people’s perspective can really help me solve this conundrum.

              Damn it hindsight, why are you such an elusive bastard…

              I apologise about the length of my replies, they disgust me also haha.

            • So after seeing Jonathan and James talking about this, it struck me as odd that there was such a huge review count gap between the two of them, despite having similar new card add rates.

              I hit up James in chat and it turns out that he only ever used buttons 1 & 3 (Again/Good) on reviews. So all failed cards go in the Again pile, which is guaranteed to make your review count absolutely explode. Jonathan could confirm for me, but I’m willing to bet that’s the main reason for the discrepancy.

              I wonder if this is something that could be made clearer somewhere on the site, because I bet a lot of people are suffering from overusing the 1 button and spending tons of time that could be better invested elsewhere.

              For me personally, Good (3) is my default pass, and Hard (2) is my default fail. I only use Easy (4) if it’s absolutely trivial, and I only use Again (1) if I fail something that *should* be trivial (usually because I see it often in native media and feel like “omg, I should have that 100% down by now”).

              IMO, “Hard” does a good enough job of keeping the review interval tight while still allowing small time gaps for things to sink in (and preventing reviews from drowning you). At least when it comes to cards that haven’t matured yet. Hopefully that observation helps some people who are feeling overwhelmed by reviews and may not have realized it was a valid option.

            • When I first started using Anki, I used a strategy similar to James. I would pretty much use 1 (again) for any sort of failure. If I didn’t get it right before I flipped the card, I would put it in the Again pile.

              It felt very masochistic, so I started going through articles and comments here on Jalup to learn how other users dealt with this. The most important lesson I found was to always press Good (3) on the second pass of a card. So basically if I fail a card, I will always pass it when it comes around after 10 minutes. What is important to realize, is that this will make the card come back the next day, so basically a card will stay in the review queue every day until I learn it. This made Anki work a lot better for me, and what I have come to realize is that it is NOT important that I get the card right every day. What is important is that I *eventually* get it right. Anki will still make sure that happens.

              Based on the experiences above, I also started reflecting on what it means to fail a card and how the different answers in Anki affect my the learning process. What I have come to realize is that I shouldn’t really choose based on my performance, i.e. whether I remembered the card or not. I should choose when I want to review it again. It may sound obvious, but there is a crucial difference. I don’t just pick my answer based on how I performed, but also on how important I feel that understanding the card is, how much of the card I failed, can I be bothered to be asked about this again tomorrow, do I think I’ll understand this one soon enough anyway, etc?

              Sometimes I will fail a card because I really want to drill a specific concept to nail it down. If I get the overall concept of the card, but fail the reading, I will usually just pick Hard. If I get the keyword correct, but fail some other detail, and I don’t feel an urgent need to relearn that from this card, I will just pick Hard. My choice will also sometimes be based on the number of days on the button. Can I wait 7 days for this one?

              Sorry for the long reply. I hope someone gets some use out of it. The ultra short take away from this post is that it doesn’t really matter what you do in Anki – You will eventually learn all the cards no matter how you use it, so pick a strategy that works for you.

            • Yes, as to what Matt is saying I go with the philosophy he’s talking about, but I might hit the one just a bit more than he talked about probably because I went through a phase were I almost never hit the one which didn’t lead to adequate memorization. As for James’s question, it isn’t a rule of times I get it wrong as it is more a feeling of whether or not I will be able to understand it with more reviews. If there is two or more words I don’t know then I may even add the English after one reset. Although now I believe that at this point I’ve reached the place where I know all, or at least almost all, the words that Adam knew at the time when the cards were being created. So I kind of expect these words to be defined in the next few cards. In that way my continued dependence on English is decreasing and will at some point in these 10,000 cards will stop. If I know all the words in a definition I never put the English. But if I had to put an average on it then I would say 2-3 times and if I can’t get the meaning behind it after that then to save time I add it.

            • How I rate cards changes based on how I’m feeling for that day. If I’m feeling a little bummed out, I’ll go easier with my ratings, if I’m angry with my progress I rate the cards strictly. The flexible approach works really well for me, and gives me the best of both worlds. I don’t think anything should be static really, change that stuff up whenever you want, just keep going.

            • Thanks for all the great responses every one. I really appreciate all the input. I’ve decided to go with Matt’s advice for marking cards. I’m kinda over doing 4-6 hours of reviews every day and leaving no time for immersion, and I don’t really want to slow down the pace that I’m adding cards either. I’m not sure if using hard as my default ‘incorrect’ button for young cards will adversely affect my retention. Obviously short-term it would, but if I’m failing those cards before they become mature (or suspending them) it really would just be spreading the hard cards out over time. Plus, if a card isn’t sinking in, surely spamming it every day, twice a day (review again in 10 minute feature) isn’t the smartest thing to do. I mean, it works, but when you have 500 cards to review and you fail a good percentage of them, you’re almost multiplying your review count by 1.5 on failed cards, not to mention that they all get pushed to the next day on top of your other due cards. I’ve been putting up with it for a while because I thought that’s the way it had to be. But looking at how matt’s Japanese has progressed, I don’t think his review style has hurt his Japanese at all. On the contrary, the extra active immersion has probably made his Japanese better than mine in a lot of ways.

              I’d still like Adam to give some input or perhaps make an article on the matter. I know reviewing is meant to be a personal thing, but it means you could end up reviewing in a masochistic way. But surely someone that has had great success with anki’s way of reviewing would be better than a beginner’s intuition. I can’t help but feel leaving people without much guidance on the topic could make them head in a direction where they just don’t really enjoy using anki, because their way of reviewing is too clinical. All that freedom could cause the same effect on me, where you just don’t have time for anything else but anki. Some people mightn’t be as tolerant. Freedom is good except when people lack direction. Then it can be quite harmful and lead people into making choices that make their study less enjoyable overall. I’m probably a shining example of this.

              Even if Adam’s way of reviewing matches my own, it’s a great feeling to know that what you’re doing is ‘normal’. I don’t think anyone wants to be told what to do, but we’d just like to be informed of all the choices. Maybe my binary style of reviewing is/was the same as Adam’s back in the day. Perhaps he used to study 5-6 hours every day in anki whilst adding 40 cards a day. I don’t know, and I think that’s the problem.

            • An article on Anki review strategies is also something I’d really like to read. It would be great to hear more details from Adam but also other experienced users. It is obviously a very personal thing, but I could definitely use some more inspiration to get me on the right path a bit faster.

            • Wow Adam, that’s the fastest response article ever! I love the community awareness on this site. Thank you for participating in the community so much. The intimacy here is unmatched on other learning platforms!

              on a side note, I’ve been using matt’s method for 2 days and it has halfed my reviews: which is awesome because I have heaps of time for immersion now. I’m just a little scared that my retention will go out the window, but matt assures me it won’t affect me too badly. So i’m going to give it some time, he’s normally pretty spot on around things like this (it’s his job to fix problems haha).

              Still, really excited for this article. Hopefully it can help finalise my review strategy and keep it at an acceptable level. Though I’m a bit scared Adam will just say “I DID 500 HOURS OF REVIEWS A DAY, DEAL WITH IT’. Knowing me I’d definitely step up to the challenge, and start training in 100 times earth’s gravity. Then again, just knowing my inspiration went through that hardship at my pace would encourage me to get back into it again.

  14. Thank you, Adam. This came at the absolute perfect time for me. I totally cracked under the Anki avalanche earlier this year and have been struggling to get back into the game for a while now. There was definitely a part of me that was starting to have doubts and was considering packing it all in. This article has given me hope again. Time to chip down those cards! Thank you again!

    • The Anki Avalanche can be tough. I know the feeling all too well. Once you get things under control, and (try to) make sure you don’t let it happen again, things get better!

  15. This is exactly what I do. I’ve actually just finished going through RTK again (did so a year ago when first starting out and quit because I’d keep failing reviews, hitting Again and getting frustrated) and do just what Matt described with both Kanji and sentences. That keeps reviews manageable and gives a little breathing space so cards that don’t stick aren’t showing up and getting failed every day. It also frees up more time for native material, which is much more fun and beneficial at this point I think.

    • I’ve done 5500 cards. 140000 reviews. All using the again/good method. My fingers are tired haha. The retention is unmatched though, at the cost of a ridiculously high amount of reviews. If you have the willpower it’s worth it, but we are human’s not robots. I think we both are making/made the right decision but I’m still waiting on Adam’s article to see what his tactics are.

      Besides, our mistakes failures are what guided us to realising there was a better way. Plus my willpower is super high from doing 4-6 hours of reviews everyday (let’s not talk about when i’ve missed days…). But today I read for 3 hours with all my free time, was fun. Hopefully this can last, but I’ll go back to my old reviewing ways if I found it is no where as effective for my Japanese. I want to get fluent no matter the cost, I’ll make that time sacrifice if I have to haha. But only if I have to.

  16. I think that going completely monolingual with Anki is not a good idea. I know from my experience that, while at first it helped me become more comfortable reading Japanese, my retention and review rated suffered tremendously. To counteract this phenomenon, I have been putting both English and Japanese definitions on the backs of my cards. I put the Japanese first in case I don’t want or need the English definition, but still have the English there at the bottom just in case I need it. Conceptual words can be really difficult for me to understand the definition using monolingual definitions only, so having the English on the card saves me the time I would have inevitably spent looking up the English definition outside of Anki.

    One last word of advice: Discarding English completely from your Japanese study can help you become more comfortable reading Japanese IF THAT IS SOMETHING YOU STRUGGLE WITH, but in the long run adding English back into your study, especially if you are struggling will NOT HURT YOUR JAPANESE ABILITY AT ALL.

    • if you’d ever like to return to J-J, maybe consider the following.

      There’s an application called morphman that takes any pre made j-j deck (or j-e) and scans it for i+1 ordering. It’s quite fantastic and you can run it over the expression and definition fields of your deck. When it comes that you want to add your own words, maybe only add the ones with definitions you understand/least branching possible. A lot of words I look up nowadays have maybe 1-2 extraneous words that don’t prevent my understanding. Obviously there are still words with stupidly hard definitions, but those are the times you use images or even english to clarify. For me, I just tend to avoid those super hard words for now. Those more difficult words will always be there for you, and there’s tons of low level monsters out there for you to fight. You don’t need to take on the big boys just yet, I don’t and I feel my level rising. Get good at suspending cards, there are so many words out there that you can avoid unwinnable fights. Win the small battles, they give you exp as well.

      If you really love your J-E deck that’s fine, but don’t avoid J-J if you find it difficult. Branching isn’t necessary anymore, well not a whole tree’s worth of branches anyway. I really recommend you grab the maxed out package if you can afford it. That thing is absolutely worth its weight and gold, and will do more for your japanese than a J-e deck ever could. Assuming you can’t afford it, try out morphman with the Tanuki ultima (or one deck if you own/can afford it) and get it to organise it i+1. I think you might find J-J a lot more manageable.

      Unfortunately, the retention problems will still exist. But they waiver over time, they still pose a problem for me also. I’ve started countering that retention problem that I have with the one deck by a strategy listed above by Matt V and upping my active immersion. Good luck and I wish you all the best on your journey :)

      • Sorry I forgot, here’s a really good example of how easy J-J can be, especially with the use of morphman
        Isn’t always this easy, but there are plenty of words you’ll fly through.



      • You mentioned the One Deck and morphman, I’ve had a question about that I’ve been meaning to ask someone. Awhile ago I sorted it with the intent to start using it, but the reason why I didn’t was because the first couple hundred cards were all like this:

        412 宮城
        412 宮城

        I have no idea what this is.

        I’ve never felt J-J to be difficult, but the idea with switching over to J-E was to focus more on reading. If I’m using J-E I can take all the unknown words out of something I want to read before hand with KanjiTomo, make cards, learn them, then read the book. My problem is me feeling as though I have no way to enjoy the language at my current level. Doing J-E this way would solve this I feel.

        • I believe all of the cards in the One Deck in that sort of format are just common Japanese names (with readings). I currently have just suspended most of those, except for some that I have either encountered in native materials or the names just looked easy for me to remember without much effort based on my current knowledge. The reason that there are so many of those are up front is because in those cards there is technically only one unknown.

          For me, (having gone through a few thousand J-J cards) I feel like I have been able to enjoy plenty of Japanese materials. I definitely did also enjoy a good amount of materials when I was less cards in, but I am able to enjoy more and more as I progress and read/hear more Japanese. Maybe you are just currently struggling to find the right materials for you to enjoy at your current level.

        • To add to what Jacob said, it’s important to realize that it’s OK to read something in which there are many words you don’t know. Being able to “follow the plot” well enough to enjoy material doesn’t require anywhere near 100% understanding. If you’re already comfortable tackling J-J, I guarantee there are loads of books, games, and shows that you can dive into and have fun with right now.

          よつばと gets called out a lot as a manga option, but really if you’re already doing J-J then a great many other 日常 titles should also be well within your reach. Likewise 1-2 star J-Dramas about romance or other daily struggles will be very accessible (even if you understand less than 50% of the dialogue). Games are another great option that, while generally harder, also give you lots of chances for repetition to really master those difficult words.

          Finally, if it’s for the sake of enjoying fun material, there’s no shame in still using the old J-E dictionary to a limited extent. Generally words that you feel the need to look up in this way will be used multiple times in whatever you’re reading/watching, and that repeated use in context will create strong ties for you in terms of both memory and meaning. Personally I don’t even make cards in those cases, but if you want the extra practice there’s certainly no harm in doing so.

        • Just suspend those as they come up. They are either Names, Places or something else random like that. You can just suspend any card until you find one you can understand straight away, or with little to no branching.

          In fact, suspend every card you don’t like as you see them. There are like 12,000 cards. You can afford to be picky. I don’t think you should delete them though, you might find them useful one day and annoying to add back in.

  17. I am reading all of the different ways people are doing their Anki. Oh my! My head is spinning.

    In some areas, I am quite organized with my Japanese study. My Anime watching is on such a complicated system that I need to use a Trello Board to keep track of it. I use HabitRPG to schedule my days with respect to my housework and my study schedule. Yet, my Anki is completely 目茶苦茶 (I love that word, by the way! It sounds so much like what it is, although I can not work out how tea comes into the picture…heee).

    I have about 10 different decks, although most of them are small. I do have a sentence deck, but that is one of my small ones. My trouble with sentences is that I am a visual, big picture learner, which is great for kanji learning, but if I have a whole sentence, I tend to just memorize the sentence, and end up passing it whether or not I understood the component parts. I really must force myself to pay attention to the details, so I think, for myself, it is probably best to stick with words.

    For myself, I see Anki as sort container for all of the words that I gather during the day through reading, Anime, kaiwa, etc. It is good to have a place to put them, so that they do not fall all over the floor causing me to trip over them. I tried to play with the settings, but that just made a mess of things, so mostly I just let Anki sort things out for me, including taking words away that I am not learning. The number of new words I add depends on what I run across during the day. I do not have a set number; however, I kept the 20 new word daily limit on each of my decks, which I exceed some days, but mostly I do not.

    I get a high number of “leeches,” but I discovered something interesting. Even when words get “leeched,” they still find their way into a corner of my mind somewhere, I think. The reason I think this, is that there are many times I run across a word, and think…もしかして. I put the word in my Anki browser, and やっぱり! and there the word is in my suspended leeches. At this point, I revive the word.

    My approach to J-E, J-J is as mechakucha as the rest of my Anki approach. Now, with Rikai-sama Sanseido mode, it is easy to switch between the J-E definition and the J-J definition, and there is also an Anki plugin that allows you to enter words with one click. Heee….have you guessed I am a bit of a 怠け者 when it comes to Anki? Anyways, I almost always check both definitions now, and if I can reasonably understand the J-J definition, I use that one; if I can not, I use the J-E definition. I would say that I average about 1/4 to 1/3 J-J and the rest are J-E. I will occasionally branch, but only for about one or two words, if they look interesting.

    My J-E, aka 大きい目茶苦茶, deck generally gives me between 150 and 200 reviews per day, my 日本語だけ deck, about 40 to 60, and the other decks combined give me another 30-40. At first, I got a higher percentage of “leeches” from my 日本語だけ deck, but I think that is tapering off now that I am getting more used to it. I would say I average around 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day doing Anki reviews.

    I have no idea how to say how much time I spend entering words, because I do that throughout the day as I encounter them. I do set aside time to look up highlighted words from the books I am reading (while I am reading, I highlight words I do not know and move on), and I enter 2 kanji per day into my kanji deck.

    I do not know that I am doing things the right or most efficient way. Probably not. I do not know that I actually learn words through Anki; however, I think that Anki helps me to recognize words when I encounter them in the wild, which seems to me what is most important.

  18. If there’s any advice I can give to a Japanese learner at any path of their journey, whether they’re on the brink of quitting, just starting, going strong, etc. it’s to really attach your life to Japanese if you enjoy learning the language. That will become your safety net for when things get low.

    I can’t possibly stop being part of the Japanese language. It’s part of me already. It would take serious effort to eliminate everything Japanese from my life because of how thick my immersion environment is. Build up your immersion environment strong so that it can catch you when you’re falling.

    There’s been two times I’ve gotten really low. First was just a few weeks after I started using the immersion method. I told a professor of a college I was considering applying to about the method I was using and he told me to give up and wait until I get into college. But I decided to continue on and it only made me more motivated being told that to prove him wrong. The second time was just recently after I became a translator. I had no time for personal time with Japanese and Japanese was becoming all about work. Every time I set out to do a self challenge I failed. I wasn’t going to give up on Japanese per say, but rather gave up my aspiration to become a native level speaker and was going to settle. I lost my passion for Japanese, and I’d say that’s equally worse as giving it up all together. But I quit just 10 months after becoming a translator and it was so healthy for my Japanese.

    • And this can work with casual languages as well. I learn both Japanese Sign Language and Aynu casually. I’m not immersed in them on a daily basis, but because of the immersion environments I’ve set up for them, I still come across the languages frequently without even setting out to immerse myself in them. So safety nets can be good that way. You just have to figure out how important that language is to you and how strong of an immersion environment you want to build for it.

      I’ve quit and restarted learning Aynu so many times. It got to the point where I was regretting having quit and thought where I’d be today if I didn’t give it up that I finally decided to learn it. Whenever you think of quitting, just wonder where you might be in a year if you quit or if you stick with it and decide if you’d really be happy with that. Even if you decide to take it slow you’ll still be further than you would be than if you decided to give up all together.

    • That’s an unfortunate run in with a college professor, especially when you were still in high school. “Give up” and “wait till later” are not 2 phrases that lead to achieving your dreams!

  19. I was about to quit learning Japanese ;_; some months back, then I found JalUp.
    I used to have ~7 anki decks…now I only have 2.
    I used to spend 6-7 hours reading bilingual text, 90% of which was English [so only ~40 minutes of Japanese contact/day]. Now, I study for 4 hours, ~100% Japanese…and so on.

  20. I’ve learning Japanese in university I started taking classes in 2012. I retook Japanese level 3 three times and finally passed it in May. Now I’m in Japanese level 4 and I’m barely surviving this Japanese course. There are 5 test and I have so far 4 C’s in the tests. I feel unmotivated because my sensei calls on me and I don’t understand the question in Japanese. I’m beginning to feel that I wasted 3 years of my life learning Japanese. Everyone in my class could speak Japanese besides me. I feel like my sensei lost hope in me improving my Japanese. Is it time for me to let go of The Japanese language?

    • If you want to learn Japanese then no, it isn’t time to give up. Time and perseverance conquer all. The people who are very good now, have many many years of study, pain, study, disappointment, and study behind them:

      Are you following the Jalup method?
      Don’t worry that other people are better than you. Just compete with yourself yesterday.

      • Thank you for your advice I will do my best even though how difficult it gets. I think in classroom environment it’s very fast pace. I only have 3 weeks left of this course. Your right if I really wanted to give up learning Japanese then I would of quit learning Japanese already.

    • No, but you should probably change the way you think about what classes are for. Formal learning environments don’t suit everyone – classes encourage competition, tests are immensely stressful, and teachers don’t try hard enough to understand their students. Some people thrive in these situations, many others don’t.

      You need to focus on what you’re doing and how you can improve, not waste time trying to figure out your classmates’ secrets to success. Whenever I’ve met someone with better Japanese than me, it makes me reflect on my own study methods and look for ways to improve; not so I can be better than them, but so I can be better than myself. That’s the only thing that’s important.

      I commend you for sticking at the classes despite seemingly not enjoying them so much! I think that alone shows you have the desire to keep studying. Classes should only ever be a very small part of anyone’s journey. Anyway, a C is still a passing grade, so you must be doing something right, right?

      • Thank you for your advice I agree with you that formal learning enviroments don’t suit everyone. I think I should change the way I think classes are for. I think I will focus on what I can improve. I know I sound like I’m not enjoying the classes, but the past sensei’ I had a different approach to teaching that made Japanese fun and more engaging. At the minimum I put 10 hours of study time. Yeah, your right I should be doing something right if I got a C. Thank you Kareem for your advice again I think I will keep pushing through and learn Japanese. :)

  21. I’m self learning Japanese. I use Genki and I’m on chapter 8. Yet for the life of me I can not read anything that is not on the chapter im learning. I go on to the next chapter and forget all the grammar and vocabulary I learn! I know I won’t be as good as someone who formally learns Japanese in a class but I feel like I’m not progressing. I feel like I’m just wasting time on Japanese.

    • You can definitely learn Japanese as good or better than anyone who formally learns Japanese in a class.

      What you need is a way to organize the information, so you can efficiently review it before you forget things. The most popular way people organize information here on Japanese Level Up is through the flash card app Anki. Chase provided some good links for you to start with.

    • I 100% understand what you’re going through, as my first go-around I quit Japanese around chapter 7 or 8 of Genki. I remember the frsutration and just the amount of stuff you forget.

      A few things:

      1) Every time you forget and relearn something, you set it a bit stronger in your mind. It may not stick just yet but you’ve taken one step closer to truly memorizing it.
      2) It’s 100% OK to go back and look at the vocab/grammar you forgot, and I’d recommend it. It strengthens your connections between grammar points in the book and you start to see the connections.
      3) Use the internet when you don’t understand something. Don’t get the explination for んです, or need more examples? Just google it and see what the rest of the internet has to say. May make it stick better in your head.
      4) If you’re really stuck, just move on. You may start to understand something only after you’ve studied a few chapters past that grammar point. Happaned to me a few times. Do the same with vocab.
      5) Just read this article- I’d start doing the search now, but I found that I was able to start reading things around mid-Genki II and a few months of searching:
      6) Give Anki a try, seriously. Either use sentances (as Chase linked) or individual vocab words, but just try. May not be for you but I would never have memorized even half the vocab I know without it.

      Things get a lot easier, but man was I ready to quit so many times (and a few times, I actually did). But keep perservering, give Anki a try, and just try to have confidence that, a few months or so down the road, some of the stuff you understand will start falling into place.

  22. I feel like I can’t do it.
    No matter what I do は comes in my mind as the subject, not as the topic.
    I have been trying for a lot of time now but there is no progress, none at all.
    I was told it was the subject for years and I never got a decent explanation and now I don’t know what to do, I think i cannot correct this.
    I feel like giving up japanese, it’s impossible for me

    • I really wouldn’t worry so much about は and が and the extremely finer points. The goal is not to know one as the subject and one as the topic. The goal is to have them known to you as は and が. You’ve heard が used X way a thousand times, so you repeat it X way. You’ve heard は used a thousand times in Y way, so you repeat it Y way. Don’t let confusion of grammar make you want to quit Japanese when there are so many great things awaiting you.

  23. I’m not sure how to stay motivated, when I have Japanese every MWF+demanding hw+daily quizzes on vocab, or remind myself why I fell in love with it when I have so little time?‍♀️

    I’m at that point where I like my classes— I really do. I just can’t muster up the will to give a shit and do the homework or readings or even study. I’m a junior in college right now. I’d rather not dropout since that’s what most of my family’s done, and I can see myself going to office hours more (which I’ve done), going to a writing center or contacting Japanese language partners….

    I just don’t know how to have fun with it, and my classes, in general anymore. I am very very lazy, have chronic depression, so… yeah. I don’t hate Japanese, but I’m starting to be stifled by it. Even if I ended up taking Spanish or something (which I can’t atm), I think it’d be just as stifling.

    I really don’t know… what should I do?

    • I dropped out of college multiple times. I always kept returning. This is my senior year (finally!) after having gone to school off and on for 10 years. Sometimes, in order to refresh and get a good restart, you need to take a break. I recommend you finish up this semester because if you don’t it will hurt your transcripts,so do your best, but you might take a break after this semester to figure things out for yourself. If you don’t give up this semester, it is not dropping out. It is just taking a break.

      I didn’t have the motivation to kick butt in school until I got a taste of what is possible. My dad got me a job that paid really well and all of a sudden I was able to afford to do things I had dreamed about but wasn’t able to take action on. Once I got a taste for that, for making happen what I wanted, I couldn’t get it out of my mouth and I just wanted more, and that motivated me to eventually go back to school and I haven’t quit/dropped out since I went back in 2014.

      I wish you the best.

    • I wasn’t sure by your comment, but are you a Japanese major, and the problem is that you hate being a Japanese major? Or are you talking about just one Japanese class? If it’s just the one class that’s causing all the stress, is it too late to switch out of it? Or can you just bear it through the end of the semester, and then not take Japanese anymore?

      If you need the class and/or it’s your major (and it is too late to switch to another major), you might want to focus on what you are gaining out of it, and just use the class as a means to an end. I assume you took Japanese because you were interesed in Japan and Japanese media, and there is a possibility that the class itself has been the motivation killer.

      A lot of people that end up disliking the Japanese language at school because all their learning was focused on using the “traditional school method,” and nothing else. The traditional school method by itself can be painful if you don’t combine it with your own thing, because it mostly just focuses on homework, quizzes, and getting a grade. That’s probably not the reason why you started studying Japanese and it won’t bring you the satisfaction you need.

      Many people try to combine any Japanese class with self study ( It makes the experience more enjoyable and gives you actual reasons for studying. You get to use the Japanese for what you really want to.

    • There’s not really the one solution to this. I think classes can be a bit of a pain, especially if they start to feel overwhelming as seems to be the case right now.

      I agree that taking a break can be helpful. I took multiple breaks from Japanese and always came back, because even if it was “too much” and “too bothersome” for a while in the end I really do want to learn this. And it took me a while but I’m getting better at being consistent with it. (Still not a diligent person but that’s just me ^^)

      But anyway, I’m gonna make some other suggestions as well, in case you decide not to take a break for now :)

      Maybe you could set aside some time in the library directly after classes or so and just get the stuff for the next day done? It might help to just get into the habit of it. And I find it easier to do unpleasant things when I’m already “up and running” and not back in my comfortable chair in front of my pc (but maybe thats just me)
      And yeah, homework isn’t that much fun for most people, so you don’t have to feel weird for that :) I think the daily vocab tests are there to help you keep at it every day, but at the same time, if you have trouble doing that, I can see how they might get frustrating. But maybe trying to change your mindset towards them can help you a bit. Thinking “I HAVE TO do all this, it’s so overwhelming!” is a bit scary, but maybe you can try to look at it like this: If you learn those things, you are going to get a little better each day, isn’t that cool? Yeah missing out a day feels shitty, but who cares, try to focus on today, not yesterday. If you see a word you ought to know but didn’t… well so what, look it up then :) Most important words will pop up regularly again. So the deliberate study for the tests will definitely help you get familiar with them, but the real understanding will come from seeing it in different contexts which comes after anyway.

      I guess I’m arguing for two things that are seemingly opposed: On the one hand I’m trying to promote regular study (go to the library each day), on the other hand I’m saying, don’t be so hard on yourself if some days are just shitty or something doesn’t work out. I think basically both parts play a role in most learners journeys, how they weigh against each other will depend on the person a bit though.

      Apart from that, for Japanese, maybe try to find some “non-studying activities”. Watch some youtube videos from hajimeshacho or so, they are probably still rather fun even if you don’t understand a word. And if you understand a word, hey, nice! If you pick up a new word, that’s cool as well, but if you don’t, well you don’t. *shrug* You are not here for learning but having some fun :)

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