Learn forever? That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Learning a language doesn’t have an end. Not only is it so vast that it would take you a lifetime to learn everything (even if that were possible or desirable), but it is continuously evolving. Being constantly surprised and learning new things in Japanese is fun and refreshing, especially when you least expect it.
You will always be learning and this is great. But there is one thing you want to avoid:
Becoming an eternal student
The eternal student: Someone who only studies through textbooks and flashcards, practices conversations in a controlled environment, for the purpose of classes, tests and other measures of ability.
Who would want to stay in this world any longer than they have to? Surprisingly, many people. You get used to student-mode. You remain in that warm environment that your Japanese has grown up in. That comfort zone. You are improving, and that improvement feels good.
So you stay there: forever.
Those who never turn to immersion
The goal of studying is to enjoy what you can do with Japanese. Not for the studying itself. In the beginning, you are in student mode, and that is your appropriate focus. Anki and textbooks make up most of your studying. But as you move into intermediate level and beyond, immersion (touching the native Japanese world in every shape and form) will start to dominate your studying. Eventually immersion will overcome everything.
99%: Study materials
1%: Study materials
When I tell people that I still study Japanese, they picture me working hard at textbooks and flashcards. My “study” is 99% immersion and 1% study materials. That 1% is probably the 30 minutes a week it takes to go through Anki reviews, occasional J-J dictionary searches, and working a bit on improving the smoothness of my speaking. I used to be all over study materials, all the time. But that time is long gone.
Even if you are not an eternal student, people have trouble making the adjustment from Anki being the center of their universe to realizing its increasingly minor role. There is a reason why my personal Anki deck grew to 12,000 cards in a few years, and for the many years after that increased only by the hundreds.
Remember: your goal is not to be a Japanese student. It’s to be a Japanese master.
Where are you at?
What does your study vs. immersion balance look like? In the comments, leave your level, immersion %, and study %.
I think seeing how everyone balances out their study vs immersion at their current level will be a useful statistic to reflect upon.