Ever have a nice period of things just going well with your Japanese? You smile with pride as your vocabulary grows and your grammar expands. You are able to do all kinds of things you couldn’t do before. You can pick up TV shows and books and actually understand them. You are on a positive streak. Many good things keep happening. Then one, and just one, bad thing makes its debut. And your whole world comes crashing down.
The awful ratio
The “Many Good Things – One Bad Thing Ratio” is that painfully annoying phenomenon in life where you have dozens of good things happen to you in a row, but just one bad seemingly takes that all away. That one bad thing is all you can focus on, sending you into a quick and painful spiral of “my life sucks. I hate studying Japanese.” This is so frequent in Japanese and everyone gets pulled into it against their will.
You’re a beginner and do well for weeks or even months. Without any warning, your beginner enjoyment falls apart. You start questioning your ability. You start questioning your progress. Everything looks bleak. Everything up until now was for nothing, and feels like a long-forgotten memory.
Confidence killed instantly
Gaining confidence boosts in your Japanese ability is natural, expected and vital. When you get into your mind that you are owning this, things tend to go your way. It’s unfortunate that there are one-hit instant confidence killers out there. For example:
- An overly critical or unfriendly comment from someone telling you that your Japanese isn’t good.
- A failed JLPT
- A completely failed conversation where you can’t understand anything and the other person can’t understand you.
With just one of these, in just a few minutes, all your awesome is drained out of you. Sometimes it is even enough to make you quit. Big or small, one event brings an untimely game over screen.
Just think more positive?
10 good things. 1 bad thing. Any normal thinking would show this is an excellent ratio. This should even be your goal. But in reality the ratio is brutal.
Common advice is to “just think more positively, and don’t let one bad thing get you down!” Refresh yourself of all the good things that have been happening to your Japanese lately. But if it were so easy to flip a switch and be positive, then this ratio wouldn’t exist in the first place, and wouldn’t be so easy to fall prey to.
The real advice is to acknowledge that this is a thing. An irrational thing that should not be what your brain is wasting its time and energy on. If (and when) you get through it, all the positive things that studying Japanese has brought to you will return, and will be even better than before.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.