The Problem with “Just Put In The Time!”
One of the most well-meaning, truthful phrases about studying Japanese is also one of the most problematic.
It’s no secret that people tend to look for the fastest route to fluency. Anything they can do to shave off all the unnecessary time is a huge plus. They go through all different methods and resources and search for what will get them to the finish line before the grey hairs come in.
There is nothing wrong with this. But since everyone has struggle, hits walls, and inevitably gets lost, you’ll one day need some advice from someone. And you might just hear this:
“Just put in the time.”
This phrase is painfully true. There are no ultra short cuts to fluency. The ultimate equalizer is time. No matter what you are doing, the more you do it, you are going to get better. Rather than spend all the time on everything around Japanese, just put in that time to learning Japanese, and eventually become fluent.
This phrase is important for people seeking quick fix promises from every corner of the internet. Every method is the best, fastest, and what you should use. Why put in the time when you can put in less time?
But less time is still time. Without that time, no, you won’t become fluent. You absolutely need to hear this phrase.
You did put in the time. It’s not working. Hearing “just put in the time” can feel like the ultimate insult, tearing down confidence.
Everyone studies at a different pace, regardless of the tools they use. The tool needs to match the learner. You have to know yourself and learn how you study best. Just throwing time aimlessly and inefficiently, regardless of how much time that is, is not going to be productive in the long run.
Which looks like it’ll take less time to become better?
- Practicing a sport by yourself daily for 3 hours after just having read the rules
- Practicing a sport with a personal coach daily for 3 hours a day.
While the above is obvious, you also don’t want to be the below person:
- Practicing a sport by yourself and spending an hour of those 3 hours daily researching a new tool or best method.
Regardless of how great a method you think you’ve found, anyone seriously learning Japanese is probably not thinking they are going to become fluent in a flash. They know it takes time. But people are for the most part are horrible judges of their actual time use.
- They don’t realize the distractions that take away from the time they think they are using.
- They don’t count the actual time, they count the around time (ex. counting studying in years, despite a real total of only hundreds of hours).
- They think they studied when they really just spent time talking about Japanese
To compound the problem further, “putting in the time” means something different to everyone. Is it 4 hours a day for 3 years? Is it 10 hours a week for 4 years? Is there a better? Is there a worse? Ambiguity is everywhere.
Are you putting in the time?
Do you think you are putting in the time? What does this phrase mean to you?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
My initial reaction to the article is yeah this can be disheartening to hear.
A few days in now though I am mulling over the positive side of this. There are actually so many cases where you are doubting yourself and this is actually the answer, you just need more time. You are often doing all the right things and you just need time for your brain to adapt.
I can remember when my brain wouldn’t stop translating in my head back to English. I was trying to figure out what to do. The answer was time.
Same as when reading took forever. Or when listening real time to grammar and decoding it felt impossible. Time was the answer for each.
So saying put in the time can feel cruel but it can also be a relief. You are doing the right things just keep doing it!