How you Handle Plateaus is how You’ll Handle Fluency — 18 Comments

  1. 15 months in. I can’t say I’ve hit a clear plateau yet. I have had days where I feel like I have leaps forward and I’ve had short periods of questioning my progress but nothing long or serious yet. Part of it may be luck. Part of it may be my methods. I am doing a lot of immersion and I spent a month in January focusing just on listening to vary things up. I’m half way through jalup expert.

    If/when I got a big plateau in not sure what my strategy will be. I guess I’ll just have to see when I get there.

    • I actually hope you prove this post wrong :)

      And if you do, you need to write a post here on Jalup with your methods that helped you avoid any plateaus!

      • I hit my first massive plateau! :( I guess it is probably plateau 3 maybe 4.

        I was really glad I remembered this article. It is a listening plateau mainly. I am immersing still 50% of the time and doing less and less jsubs but I don’t see progress.

        Reading is still going super well and I would say reading wise I am minimally fluent. I don’t really practice speaking but I think I can improve it anytime with practice. But no matter how much I am throwing at listening I don’t feel like it has progressed in the last 6 months.

        I have been asking for some advice from a few areas of the internet. Mostly it sounds like I am doing the right things but I just wish there was a way to tackle listening in a more methodical way. I have been considering a ton of options:

        1) Getting a tutor
        2) Start SRSing more with audio on the front
        3) Subscribe and start doing something like Japanese 101
        4) Shadowing

        I have gotten mixed advice. But I think what I am settled on (Please tell me if anyone has more ideas or thoughts, I would love more opinions on this) is to add in the “Shadowing Let’s Speak Japanese” series.

        I will keep doing Jalup to the end, almost finished with Master, just Champion remaining. I will keep doing immersion with no jsubs. But I want to add something else in and hopefully help me shatter this plateau. Hopefully this is it.

        Any other ideas out there? Anyone else hit a listening plateau despite tons of immersion? Thoughts? Much appreciated!

        • I would say that it’s the same for any skill you are decent at but want to become great at. You must push harder and do more. For example, you say 50% of the time listening immersion. What’s the other 50 percent? It may be that you are spending to much time on Anki?

          Also, how much of that immersion is active? As in, putting ALL of your attention to a tv show and trying to hear everything and process what you hear and picking it apart. I’d personally say there is far more to be gained from active watching than passive, or even semi passive. Humans think they can multitask, but actually there is scientific evidence that we’re just tricking ourselves and really our brain is just super fast at changing focuses.

          Anyways, it sounds like you’re doing very well!! I’d just say you need much more active immersion (if you’re not doing that already) and that you should also begin making your own cards based off of the immersion you frequently use after you finish Jalup.

          Also, you just need time
          The brain has to work on the patterns its constantly encountering. It just needs time :)

            • Ah I see. So, great job with your dedication. I’m not sure of your current circumstances, but I would say this, with Japanese, to make quick progress and to overcome this plateau, you should probably be getting a minimum of 3 hours of active immersion, even if you have to cut down your SRS to make it happen. And of course, any extra semi passive immersion you can do thought the day.

              I’m definitely not trying to tell you what to do, I’m just sharing my experience. In reality I’d say get 6 hours a day and watch the huge change over a few months. (It’s essentially like a huge SRS and gives you much less time to forget words).

        • Oh, a small example I forgot to give is this:

          I have temporarily quit Japanese to learn Spanish instead. 3 months or so after quitting and I decided to listen to a Japanese show. I suddenly realized…wow, I understand more than I did before! My mind just needed time to work on things I suppose. (After 6 months I took a hit though lol, which lead me to up keeping my listening with an hour or more immersion a day.)

          • Nice I appreciate the recommendation on immersion time. I can see moving to more like three hours without much adjustment. I still think I’ll finish jalup first before making the change I’ll just temper my listening progress expectations. How many new cards do you typically add with that much immersion?

            • I honestly think 10 cards a day for Japanese is sufficient so you don’t become an Anki slave and get burned out. I do 20 Spanish cards, but it’s a much easier language for English speakers. Also, if you’re using Jalup or making your own cards, they take longer to “rep” because they build off of each other and there is more info to go over, like a full monolingual definition. Since the language I’m working on is so much easier, I’m just doing a premade deck with images which is much faster and requires less time. I also find it much easier to not translate in my head than I did originally with Japanese.

              So yah, I’d recommend 10-15 a day unless you’re a machine or have a ton of time.

              Another thing to keep in mind is how much you learn without SRS. While reading in Spanish I’ve seen words that I looked up on the spot and never added them to Anki and then I saw them enough that I learned them. So you may only get 3,650 or so new words in a year from cards, but you will probably get many more on top of that from immersion when you look them up (whether audio or reading) if you immerse enough.

            • Actually I meant after you finished jalup specifically how many cards a week or day were you adding on your own? (Maybe you meant this too)

            • I think the maximum I was making was about 10 cards a day. Also, it wasn’t completely consistent; some days more some days none.

        • So you are human after all :)

          I don’t think you need much of a methodical way. Immersion and shadowing, immersion and shadowing. With enough buildup over time, you’ll make your breakthrough.

          Other things are just trying to simulate real listening. But immersion and shadowing almost always beat simulated listening.

          • Thanks Andrew & Adam, I really value both of your thoughts and opinions.

            @Andrew – Yes about 50% anki and 50% active immersion. I do passive immersion fairly often too but I don’t count that time. You may be right at my point it maybe needs to go up to 75/25 soon. I am about 3 months from finishing Jalup cards though so I am planning on keeping it about 50/50 until then when I start to make my own cards. I am curious how many cards you generally make in a day/week post-jalup? I want to keep my momentum up but you make a good point that my SRS should start coming down around that time too I guess…

            @Adam – I am sure you are both right about time. Just after months of feeling no listening progress you start to second guess yourself and wonder if there is something wrong with you or your methods. I haven’t been shadowing really so I want to really up that come January.

            I may still try that Shadowing series, it is pretty cheap and it will force me to up my shadowing game. If I find it too basic or non-native feeling I can try something else…

            Anyways thank you both for the encouragement! I will keep you updated…

            • Out of curiosity, how many hours of active listening and reading are you doing per day?

  2. Related to plateaus, I find it helpful to accept “Sisyphus” setbacks — that there will be times when life interferes (health, family emergencies, conflicting priorities, et al) and the boulder of language-learning progress may roll backwards a bit (from your ideal pace/timing/intention). Ideally, it’d be great if you’re able to at least hold onto the ball, maintaining your progress. But maybe out of (emotional/physical) exhaustion, you drop the boulder and it rolls downhill to table-flipping frustration or even self-doubt valley.

    At that point, it’s tempting to curse at and maybe even kick the boulder further and further away or entirely… but if you can think back / reconnect with / draw upon that spark of joy that you feel for Japanese (language, culture, media, hobbies, friends, etc), the sooner you can jog down to catch the ball, and the sooner you can continue the climb, one baby step at a time. Bonus points if you’re swift enough to still see the trail of footprints that worked for you before, or maybe you learned something (to adjust) from the “Sisyphus” setback and can instead divert to a path better suited.

    Above all, “Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat.” Don’t push your car / boulder (efforts) off a cliff or Yabba-Dabba-Doo brute force exhaust yourself with a clanky prehistoric lemon. As soon as you’re able, fix the flat / repack your hiking pack (method / pace / source materials / motivation) and hop back on the (language-learning) road / mountain.

    P.S. If you feel like you’re at rock bottom or are struggling to get started or continue, remember: you’re not alone. You don’t have to push/pull alone or invent the trail. Seek out mentors / ask for help!

    • Thanks for sharing your positive thoughts on this :) I think it will help people who are currently at a low.

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