Is Studying Japanese Harder than Ever? — 10 Comments

  1. I’m thinking that analysis paralysis you speak of is a super importance piece of this article. I think that even though there are more people than ever studying Japanese thanks to all the latest apps, methods, sites etc the number of people who actually make it to an extremely high level is still minuscule.

    Japanese is hard as nails. Studying it to fluency and beyond is not something you can do on the side while you chase other goals in life, it has to be sort of a life mission, at least for a few years. With the advent of the internet studying has become easier but at the same time it is harder now that there are so many tools for the reasons you mention. I think the great filter of learning Japanese is still very much in effect. Once students hit the intermediate wall, and then try to “switch methods” they will find themselves stuck in eternal student mode, destined to fight never ending losing battles.

    Learning Japanese for the sake of knowing Japanese reduces the force of the argument of things being translated into the local language however in my opinion. Reading manga in English for example has a different “feel” than reading the same text in Japanese. I wonder if others feel the same. Though I am sure to an extent some students of Japanese may actually quit once they realize how hard it is and decide “welp, with all the free manga site and fansubbers around, why learn this impossible language”?

    • Some good points. It’s definitely true that reading in one language vs another is a different experience. And while no one wants to hear “Japanese is hard,” the sooner they accept that, the better off they are.

  2. Super on point. The good news on analysis paralysis, I feel like it’s worst at the beginning of your journey. You know nothing, everyone is swearing X, Y, or Z is the right way to go and if you do this other method your screwed.

    If you make it far enough, for me at least, this feeling receded more and more. I found confidence in judging my own strengths and weaknesses and how I learn best.

    Also I feel like early on while you have a ton of options, really what matters is finding a method you enjoy. You know so little and need to learn so much that it’s hard to go wrong as long as you enjoy the method. Stop worrying and do what you enjoy, that’s the only way you will make it long enough to really learn Japanese.

    • Yeah, it definitely gets better with time. And agreed, the sooner you stick to a method (even if you completely change it later), the better. Any start is better than no start (or an indefinitely delayed one).

  3. Exercise gurus always say “The best workout is the one that you do.” which means don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis but do the workouts that are enjoyable, or at least have a small activation barrier. You might not end up looking like Mr Universe, but you will get fitter.
    Surely it’s the same with Japanese, the best method is the one you do and if all you do is watch drama then who is to tell you that’s wrong if you enjoy it?
    You probably don’t want to look like Mr Universe (I know I don’t) and you might not care what the blue haired boys are saying in anime. In the end we reach slightly different goals and who is to say which is better?

    • I think a lot of people stress out because they don’t just want to get a little better, they want to be fluent enough to read manga or watch anime. So they spend a lot of excess time trying to find the method that will allow them to do that.

      But yes, it does all come down to just choose it, stick with it, and then worry about pivoting later.

  4. On the flip side, I used the extra time I had from COVID lockdowns and not having to commute to the office to pick up Japanese again. After a decade of off-and-on study, never really getting past mid-beginner level, I finally am seeing real progress thanks to Jalup. Just hit my 3000th card (Intermediate 500 and Kanji Kingdom 1500), and I’ve got no signs of stopping. I think there will always be difficulties and challenges to studying Japanese, which is why I have multiple failed attempts in the past. So I think it’s a matter of motivation and self-discipline to really commit to it, as well as keeping your eye on the prize. Just gotta take things one day at a time.

  5. I disagree that Japanese fluency isn’t as special anymore. I don’t think it was the rareness that made it special but rather the relationships you are able to make and the experiences you are able to have.

    Even in 2023 I still got plenty of people telling me they’ve never talked to a foreigner who can speak Japanese correctly. So even if rarity was what made it special I can assure you that it is still extremely rare even in Tokyo!


    • My wording was probably a bit off – I was only referring to special as out of the ordinary. But my perspective might be slightly skewed based on my social circle, so fair point.

      Glad to see you after all these years :)

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