Is Learning Japanese Difficult?
Everybody wants to be sure to tell you that learning a new language is super hard. Before you started learning Japanese or any other foreign language, you’ve probably heard from a dozen people how difficult it is. I hear this all the time from language teachers, language learners, and the native speakers themselves. Especially if you decide to study Japanese which everybody knows is pretty close to the hardest language on the planet. Maybe you could learn Spanish or French. But Japanese?
Learning a language is easy.
Nothing hard about it. Think about it for a minute. All it’s made out of is a few characters and symbols, a bunch of words and a few rules you have to follow in order to put it together. Learning it is pretty simple. All you have to do is memorize a few words. Draw a few kanji. Read a few Anki cards. That’s it.
The only hard part about learning a language is actually getting yourself to do it.
As far as I can tell, there are two big barriers in your way that can make learning a language extremely difficult for yourself.
1. Being consistent, staying focused, sticking with it when you’d really rather give up.
So many people just don’t have enough drive or self-control to do something and they confuse that with the actual difficulty of the task. Learning ten new Japanese words a day is easy. Having the willpower to do that every day for two years is a lot harder.
There are a lot of things that are really easy but that nobody has the self-control to do them consistently. Try exercising. It’s pretty easy. All you have to do is get off your ass and do it. Go run around the block. Do thirty push-ups. I don’t care. But it’s much harder to do that every day or even just a few times a week.
2. Limiting beliefs you’ll pick up.
These beliefs are things like telling yourself “learning a language is really difficult.” A lot of these come in subconsciously. If you keep telling yourself that, you’re not going to find it very easy, are you? Duh. No.
Maybe you’re too old to learn a language. Or too stupid. Or maybe you are just really too lazy, because heck, you missed a whole week of studying and you’re 800 Anki cards behind so you must be really stupid.
I can’t do this. Maybe I am just wasting my time. I’m just too slow of a learner. You can probably guess what’s going to happen if you keep telling yourself that day after day. It’s going to come true. You’ll have told yourself you can’t do it so many times you’ll believe it yourself. With that kind of mindset, you’ll be right. Learning a new language will be too difficult for you.
Whether or not a language is difficult to learn is all in your head. It’s all up to you. Are you gonna make learning Japanese easy or hard?
A writer for Japanese Level Up, a part-time graphic designer, and purveyor of fine Japanese art (which consists mostly of anime, manga and weird music). When he’s not wasting time in Japanese, you can usually find him making pretty pictures or studying something that sounds interesting.
Thank you for the wise words. It reminds me of when I was in college and I told my grandfather that Calculus was so hard. He said, “There are no hard subjects. It’s just that some subjects take more time to master than others.” So I spent 8 hours every Saturday and every Sunday studying Calculus. And then I became an English major.
Your article inspired me anew.
I like that quote. :) Glad you liked the article!
I absolutely love this post. I get so annoyed with mainly people who DON’T know or even think about studying a second language–they seem to be full of so much opinion about how difficult languages are. /huff I was under the “Japanese is too hard” spell until I stumbled upon AJATT and eventually JALUP early last year. The only thing that’s hard is committing to my Anki reviews, otherwise, learning Japanese has been a PLEASURE (aside from the occasional kanji migraines)!
I agree, doing the reviews is what’s hard to start, when it comes to actually learning new things I fly through that stuff with total pleasure haha (and have to stop myself or else I get too many reviews and then the wheel stops there…)
Yeah, most of the people who think it’s difficult are people who have never even tried it. I was under the delusion until I actually started studying it myself. (“Hey, this isn’t actually so hard after all!”)
Yep, Anki reviews are hard to stick with. Being consistent with Anki has made Japanese very difficult many a time for me! :) Glad to hear you liked the post!
I hate coming across articles that claim Japanese is the most difficult language for a native speaker of English to learn. It all comes down to motivation and dedication. Not once have I considered Japanese difficult. What was difficult was trying to learn French in high school the traditional way, which is supposed to be easier for native English speakers. I guess you could say studying method also has a lot to do with it too.
Wow! Tremendously inspiring and well written article. I agree with you completely. It’s difficult I think for a lot of people to realize they are accountable for their own destination with japanese. But if one just tries to give their best on a daily basis, I’m confident we all can build or continue to build something fantastic.
I remember my Karate Sensei saying “All you need to do to get a black belt is keep showing up at class”.
Japanese is extremely difficult… but I like a challenge.