Is Jalup Intermediate Too Hard? — 26 Comments

  1. This article so perfectly describes the jalup intermediate struggle. Way better than I could have summarized it. I don’t know how you stay so in touch with the learner journey.

    Too hard? No I agree it’s not too hard. It is a big wall, no doubt. A lot of people likely drop off the learning here. But I agree getting it behind you early is so nice and normally nearly impossible without the tools here.

    I am nearing the end of jalup expert, almost 3000 cards of j-j. Everything Adam lays out above is true. I went through all the stages of doubt he lists. Your brain will get used to it if you stick with it I promise. Don’t lose confidence based on any single card you just can’t figure out, just keep moving.

    Looking back it’s hard to believe how much easier it is now. Your brain eventually does all kinds of weird things behind the scenes if you keep feeding it Japanese. You read faster, you just start feeling the grammar instead of thinking about it, etc.

    I think a second question though is could intermediate be easier? I’m not sure but I would suggest a couple things:
    1) An intro primer deconstructing a few typical Japanese definitions so you better know the rules from the start. For example when there are multiple sentences in a definition and また is used.
    2) If a couple key key words like 物事 were covered in beginner I feel like the shock could be lessened.

  2. Not going to lie, I’ve started the Intermediate twice over so far. I seem to get stuck at around 80-90 cards. The cards depend very heavily on each other and I feel like I haven’t learned the previous word yet but I’m already expected to know it. My tolerance for uncertainty just isn’t high enough yet to power through.

    You did a really great job with the article though, motivating me to leave my first comment on this site. I could see myself in a lot of the points you mentioned, especially 3, 7 and 9. Maybe this article will finally motivate me enough to just power through the hardest part. That and I think I’ll switch up my approach a bit. I’ll spend a lot more time on the “first” time I learn a card and try to use another actual monolingual dictionary ( alongside the definition you provide. Maybe even create a new field where I put other definitions (all japanese ofc) into. Basically I agree with what I think is the message of the article, that while this is quite a hard step, it is primarily an issue about having the right mindset/mentality towards it.

    • That sounds like a great idea to add other Japanese dictionary definitions to the same card.

      The mindset is the hardest challenge of all. But sometimes just knowing things will be okay allow you to calm your inner worrying.

  3. I’m working through intermediate now, and am currently at bit over 150 in. Not gonna lie, it was tough in the beginning, but something clicked in my brain around the 75 card mark and things got quite a bit less fuzzy for me. I’m still not out of the woods, and there are still things that I annoying can’t seem to figure out in some definitions, like the strange dot symbol in the middle of some sentences. I agree it would help gain traction if there were some explanation somewhere about what the heck some of the definitions.

    Without too many “spoilers”, one thing that really threw me and felt a bit like artificial difficulty were the groups of synonyms all bunched together but with different tones to their definition. Not only did I go half crazy trying to figure out what subtleties the differences in definitions were trying to communicate, but it made it REALLY hard to remember the various words in the clusters. I still have a bit of trouble with the meanings of the earlier synonym clusters, but the ones I’m encountering now are going much more smoothly.

    These complaints of mine are not major, and all-in-all I think it’s been a good step for me. Certainly much easier than pulling my hair out trying to form my own J-J cards, but I think these are things that would make it just that much less frustrating.

    • Some people get caught up on knowing the fine difference between synonyms. Right now – you don’t need to. If you understand the meaning, and both words are used similarly, that is good enough.

      How to decide which word to use or the exact distinction is something that naturally happens over the months and years through further exposure to the language.

      Think to English. How hard is it to explain the difference between to very similar synonyms.

  4. J-J is even harder if you haven’t finished Kanji Kingdom or RTK. I’ve started intermediate over a few times but this time I’m waiting until I’ve finished Kanji Kingdom. Trying to learn and remember new words without the Kanji foundation was too tough. Lesson learned never skip the basics.

    • Totally agree. I finished rtk before any jalup. It has been an invaluable tool to help understand new words even when I struggle with the Japanese definition. It was still hard as hell. Without rtk/kk it would be crazy hard.

  5. Reason 1: It makes you feel like a beginner again

    The switch from NHK Web Easy to normal News is basically the same thing … you feel like a noob again. But I think you just have too see it as a new challenge.
    Like in most MMORPGS the monsters are most of the time around your level and only when you go to lower level zones to help a friend or so, you really notice how much your dmg increase. ^^
    My new monster is my first novel (not light novel) “麒麟の翼”. Halfway done. Its papaerback, so no lookups for me xD. Even though I can follow the story pretty close, even without looking words up, it still makes you realise how much you still have to learn. Really a step up from news, manga and so on.

    Reason 4: Learning how to think in Japanese

    And the funny thing is, you don’t even realise it. For me it was around two months ago.
    I read a manga and this sentence appeared: “神妃は神々の残滓の中でも本国から最優先での捕獲を指示された存在です。”
    I dont know why, but I thought “Hey let’s try to translate this”. It took me so damn long
    to figure out how to express this in english, despite understanding what they want to say.

    It just takes a lot of exposure (Reading, Listening). There is no special method.
    Just patience.

    Reason 5: Learning how to use a Japanese dictionary

    This is so invaluable. Especially once the words become a bit more complicated or
    have a pretty similar meaning. So glad I did it early on.

    Reason 7: You don’t know whether you actually understand a card

    This takes quite a while. At first you are uncertain with everything you read.
    Than you slowly gain confidence with more and more sentences and sentence structures.
    The stuff you see the most, is the stuff where your confidence (in your understanding) will increae first.
    As allways, this just takes time (and willpower to fight the urge to use google translate or what not).

    Reason 9: The doubt is uncontrollable

    I think this is the worst part about learning any language. This doubt in the back of your head. “Will I ever get this”, “Will this ever get easier?”. And trying to ignore this and especially the Idontknowhowmanytimes where you read a sentence, know all the words, but still dont get its meaning takes a lot of willpower.
    But it pays of. Luckily I got over this and I am at the “Lets chill, I just have to continue like this”- stage. I understand so much, the rest just takes time (and a few 1000 more vocabulary words under my belt xD)

    So just stick with it and trust the process (And the deck).

    Good Article. It really helps when talking about such “problems”.

    • As you discovered that “let’s translate this” is both counter-productive and brings false results.

      If the most desired skill is thinking in Japanese, the most “to be avoided” habit is trying to translate everything into English.

  6. It’s definitely not too hard if one goes slowly, especially if transitioning directly from a quick run through of the beginner deck. 5 to 10 new cards per day would be very doable. In my experience, consumption of native materials in tandem with the decks would also be key here. I had around a two year break between finishing beginner and restarting intermediate (got to around 50 cards before I quit flashcards entirely due to various reasons) where I just went through native materials at a very leisurely pace. Now, intermediate for me is quite easy to go through, when it was so hard and frustrating before.

    My conclusion is, just keep actively consuming Japanese other than doing the flashcards and give your mind enough time to process it all. It would actually be quite impossible for things to not get much easier, and you don’t have to do any of the processing consciously.

  7. “This isn’t all gloom and doom though. There are some important things to keep in mind:

    Japanese studying is going to get hard somewhere – might as well get it over with now.
    Once you get to 500, life gets easier. Once you get to 750, easier. Once you get to 1,000 and move on to Jalup Advanced, even easier.
    You will start to wonder why in the world you found it so difficult in the beginning (just like you felt when you finished Jalup Beginner).
    This is the one and only time you have to go through this. Once you do, you are set for life.
    This will change your Japanese forever.
    You can join the others and be proud that you are on your way or have achieved fluency
    Do you want to achieve your dreams? Then let’s get to work.”

    Excellent article though, Adam. Motivating as usual. After all the starts and stops I have went through studying Japanese, I am realizing that this dream of fluency is just something that I have to accomplish in my life. I’m hoping this would be the final push that will take me there!

    • Yes, please do. It’s your dream. It’s important to you. In 20-30 years, when you look back on your life, how would you feel if you didn’t accomplish it?

      • Indeed. I am giving it my all this time around. I will tell you all about it in Japanese when I achieve it!

  8. Yeah I actually found that back when I did intermediate and it helped. Building it in more and/or updating it for jalup intermediate may be helpful for people.

  9. The first set of 50 cards in Intermediate were HARD. I restarted a few times and almost stopped at some point, but I was able to get through them eventally.

    The next set of 50 were hard. Not quite as hard as the first 50, but I started to get a little more confidence.

    Now I’m in the third set if 50 cards (currently at 120), and it’s getting easier. I hope that it continues like that! Maybe I’ll be able to finish Intermediate by the end of the summer.

    Maybe we could have a challenge of some sort? Who can finish Intermediate by the end of July or something?

  10. Something that I think would really help is if there was more than one example sentence for each word / card. I think most people learn a language by seeing a word used in multiple contexts, however when we first encounter a word in JALUP there’s only the one example sentence to show us how the word is used. Often you do see the word again in the next few cards, however you see it again with yet another word that you don’t know yet, which can make things difficult.

    Of course, adding more example sentences per card would be a lot more work on your part, especially because of all the extra card linking that would require. Still, just a thought, maybe it’s something to be worked on in the future.

  11. I’m currently struggling with Intermediate. I have one question with how to approach studying. If faced with a kanji that I can’t read in one of the definitions, is it okay to use google translate to get the reading of the kanji so that I can read the definition and have a broader understanding? How should I approach when getting stuck on a sentence or new word?
    Thank you!

    • I would say for sure okay to do that. Intermediate somewhat assumes knowledge of kanji keywords. If you haven’t done kanji kingdom or rtk then you are at a big disadvantage in intermediate when trying to go j-j. It can be done but it makes something that is already hard, harder.

      I cheated for the first 250 or so sentences in intermediate and used Google translate often. I weaned off and stopped and have suffered no ill effects. I am finishing jalup hero (5000 cards) this weekend. J-J has become as simple as J-E and I struggled just like you.

      Keep at it, find ways to enjoy it. If cheating helps you enjoy it or get through it do it. Keeping motivation up is way more important than exact methods.

  12. I have started at a rate of 3 cards a day. I am at #45. The main challenge I face is trying to remember both the kanji and the meaning. It is specially tricky because some of the kanji that are clustered together have different readings. For example, today I had to do “満” with two different readings. As others have mentioned ,doing each card is slow. I am averaging 30 minutes a day. But things are moving forward. I think having such low number of cards per day means that I can follow the definitions between different cards more easily. Nonetheless, sometimes I have to “cheat” and look up the definition. Regarding the challenge of memorizing. I use mnemonics, and it is problematic that I don’t know enough Japanese so I still have to use English for them. I hope this does not affect my progress too much since I am not being 100% monolingual.

    • I faced the same challenge (I vividly remember 満 as one of the worst offenders). It will get better over time, or more specifically, it will move to different characters while the “older” ones become gradually easier (at least that’s how it became for me).

      I have no experience with using English mnemonics for the Japanese-only card, but I don’t think it will hurt your progress too hard, especially if you try to move them to Japanese gradually over time. I will however add that for me the Japanese sentence eventually became the mnemonic for quite a few cards, so this alone might cover that part for you as well.

      You are currently at on of the biggest – if not the biggest – challenge of your journey, so keep pushing, there is a point when things become much more manageable!

      • Hi Dmg,

        I can back up what Yass said too!

        For context, I’ve been learning Japanese on and off for 3 years, last year (Jan) I committed and stayed with my JP study through the whole year.

        I am at the other end of the deck to where you are now, but it was not that long ago I was feeling the same as you are expressing now.

        This is what worked for me, maybe some of it will help you :) My intention was to get through a large number of cards as opposed to go for 100% comprehension.
        1. The more cards you do the better you get at understanding how the definitions work, so don’t be afraid to move on past a card even if you don’t quite get it.
        2. The more cards you do, the more times you see the words (you don’t quite get yet) in other sentences
        3. I used the “star” function to mark a card as “unknown” if I moved past it. This meant when I did reviews, if I was in a hurry I could move past the card without fretting I didn’t know it.
        4. Make your own rules for what constitutes as “pass” on a review – remember it’s a marathon not a sprint, have faith (if you can :) that one day these hard cards will get easier. E.g. after repeated reviews I found that sometimes I could remember the kana of a kanji without specifically learning it.
        5. Read posts on this forum about Intermediate, it is hard, and I found that listening to others got me past the worst of it.
        6. If after a few weeks you REALLY don’t get a card, then cheat :) Some cards I just could not get, so I looked up the English definition, and then for bonus points you get the “fun” of reverse engineering the JP definition and you are still learning Japanese :)
        7. I did this twice as I just felt I wasn’t getting it, take this one as a “maybe” but it helped me:
        As I approached just over 100 I felt that a lot of it wasn’t sticking for me and reviews were frustrating, I just didn’t get it!!! So I RESET the deck
        Take your learning into your own hands, don’t be afraid to reset :)
        By resetting, you come back to card 1 and you know what, card 1 was a complete mystery for me when I first saw it, but now having been doing J-J definitions, it felt easier…. and that gave me a boost that maybe I can crack this!
        8) I don’t know if you do this already, but if not, read out loud as often as you can when learning and reviewing, I found that some cards I still don’t quite get but I can read them confidently, and that’s part of comprehension right :)

        One final thing that I have found really gave me a boost, is immersion.

        Reading an NHK News Web Easy sentence and seeing a “word” or Kanji that I knew I’d seen but I didn’t yet understand in the Intermediate deck, gave me a drive to figure it out, plus I now had one more example of it in “the wild”
        Conversely, if I saw a “word” or Kanji I’d recently learnt in the Intermediate deck, that I DID understand, then holey moley, there’s proof right there that you can read Japanese (mini fist bump)

        This turned into a longer post than expected, but know you are not alone.
        If I could summarise into one sentence I would say

        “Don’t be afraid to forge your own path, don’t be afraid to reset, and if you really can’t get J-J yet, don’t be afraid to cheat a little”

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