When You Are Most Likely To Quit Learning Japanese
None of you are going to quit learning Japanese. Of course I know that. But, if you were going to, when would it be? There are 3 specific phases where your chances of quitting will be at their highest. While this will never be you, it’s good to know what to watch out for, as no one is immune to these quitting danger zones.
So when will that urge to quit strike?
1. Shortly after starting
Everyone starts in Japanese learner bliss. I’ve talked about enjoying that beginner learning phase, and trying to avoid rushing it. This still holds true, but as with starting anything new, many people quit quickly. The initial wonder wears off, and you realize that you need to actually study to move forward. Beginner phase study is pleasant, but it is study nonetheless.
Danger zone: 4 days to a few weeks in
2. As you enter Intermediate
You’ve developed a routine over the months. You know how you study, the pace you’ve progressed at, and can see all the noticeable gains. You like what you have been doing and feel pretty unstoppable (with a lot of cocky mixed in).
Then you leave Beginner bliss and enter that intermediate phase where things start to change. Work becomes harder, the language becomes messier, you start forgetting things, and it takes more time to organize where you came from and where you are going.
Danger zone: 6 to 9 months in
3. As you reach the peak of Intermediate
You’ve finally worked out everything about being an intermediate user. You accept the larger challenges, understand that the obstacles are tougher, and that things aren’t as straightforward as you’d like. But you can deal with it. You start seeing a bright future.
And then you hit your mid-level blues. Your feeling of progress drops. You just can’t move forward. You’ve hit colossal walls. This is as far as you think you can go.
Danger zone: 9 to 14 months in
That’s the solution to your problem right? No. The real solution is to know that the feeling is common. But as long as you can make it past these 3 phases, you will never quit. Ever. People who overcome the final quitting zone just don’t quit. Studying Japanese gets easier from there. There are plenty of hurdles, difficulties and frustration that you will still face, no matter how high you go, but you won’t ever quit. Once you make it that far you are too strong. That strength can’t be taken down easily.
Ever fall prey to a quitting danger zone?
Have you ever reached a near-quit in one of these phases? Or did you actually get the feeling at a different stage?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
Alright, I’m at the 13 month point so I’m nearly out of this.
For me, that initial push to study was so big that it wasn’t probably until 3 months in that I had thoughts about quitting. Since then there’s always been a feeling that maybe I can’t do it and I can’t put in the necessary effort. Especially now in the intermediate blues area. It seems harder than ever to make progress and grammar is often a blur of rules. Even still, I can feel my understanding getting better all the time. My Japanese before now is nothing compared to what I have in front of me.
I have studied for 2 years now, and I think what makes people quit it that they don’t have a reason to study. I studied just to understand manga and anime. Simple, but that how I study better and faster than others in my class. Many people say they want to work in Japanese company or they like it quit after a few months. My big brother quits after 1 beginner course (3 months)
In the middle of stage 3. Reading about how everyone else does 30 new cards a day and reviews them in 15 minutes really crushed my morale.
It doesn’t matter how many cards you do each day as long as you keep doing them and immerse a lot. Trust me, doing hours of immersion is better than doing a lot of cards/day.
Adding 30 cards takes more than 15 minutes alone. Reviews for that are likely to be hours. You really shouldn’t worry about the numbers. It’s simple – if you are putting in the time, you are learning and you will get there. Whatever your numbers are, they are the numbers that work for you.
As others have already said, don’t let the quick pace of fellow learners get to you… Coming from another slow pacer :)… It’s important to not push yourself too hard or you might end up quitting… Quitting is definitely worse than doing only 5, or 2 or 1 new card a day!
It is okay to try pushing yourself every once in a while. When pushing your limits you may find that you can do better. But you may also find that you are at your limit, and that’s fine too!
I actually think the number of new cards added can also depend on how much time you spend immersing… If you spend more time immersing, the new stuff you learn will be reinforced by that, which will then make your cards easier to remember and thus decrease the review burden since cards will be sent further into the future sooner. That’s the effect I have felt anyway :) if I meet a word in the wild it sticks much better in my mind since I have some kind of context to stick it to.
Thanks. And what is slow for a Jalup user is still probably pretty fast compared to a lot of learners out there! In just one year, part time, I’ve probably covered more than a lot of courses do in several years!
Definitely. My entire first year of Japanese in college covered less material than the first half of JALUP Beginner. Thinking about it that way, you’re already going way faster than people learning in college classes =)
Absolutely! I am only 7 months in myself, but when I read about what other people achieve *outside* Jalup, it is clear to me how far I have come in such a short time.
I’ve known some friends who, after graduating, stopped studying Japanese because their job doesn’t require them to use it. And this is after 4 years of studying Japanese. I agree with Tim’s comment that sometimes people lose a reason to keep studying, and I’ve experienced frustration with my output not being as great as my input (how much I comprehend or have been studying) But I think once someone gets over the hurdle and adapts their study plan, it’s back to smooth(er) sailing.
I see the people at my school stop studying is if they have been taking classes but then stop studying once they are done with classes. It’s because they were only ever studying to pass a test or whatever, so now they have lost that incentive. They wanted to learn Japanese but they never tried to learn it on their own. It’s a shame because almost all of the people learning Japanese at my University are like this, so it’s almost certain they will end up quitting.
I am one of the slow ones but hopefully will still have good results. It took me a year to do RTK and didn’t do any other study during that time. Finished beginner at a pace of 6-10 a day (slowed down to 6 at the end) Now on J-J intermediate finished 320 cards so far. Was trying to do J-J challenge but too fast so hoping to finish 1000 in 6 months. Haven’t missed any days of anki reviews so feel good about that, though.
Thank you for this.
I think everything depends on motivation. I have “learned” three languages and “given up” on them to use the terminology that we are using here. What I really did was learn as much as I wanted and needed to learn, but found that I had no desire to give any part of myself to those languages. I am glad I know as much as I do, and I have no reason or strong desire to know more.
Japanese is the exception for me. I love the language and want to go all the way with it. To me it is not “another language” but “my language”. English feels like a kind of accident!
But there is no reason everyone should feel the same way. To me Japanese is the exception. The language that is worth continuing with. The same is probably true of a lot of people here, and when that is true one *does* continue with it (even if one has a few gaps).
But it is also perfectly possible that Japanese is not high enough on one’s scale of life-priorities to commit the large amount of oneself that it takes to learn the language deeply.
And if that is the case, I don’t think one should feel guilty, or that one has failed. I am not sorry I part-learned the languages I did. I know a lot more now about words and language than I would otherwise have done. If I stopped Japanese now I would have learned a lot from it and would also be able to use it in various ways should the occasion arise.
I certainly don’t propose to stop now. But there is nothing wrong, I think, with making a serious assessment of one’s priorities and deciding whether to continue.
This is a really interesting (and excellent!) point. Quitting can sometimes be the right choice, given priorities. I’ve done this with a language or two myself in the past (as well as other non-language-learning pursuits).
I think the distinction to be made is:
1) Are you quitting because you’ve evaluated the relative effort involved and decided that it’s not worth it to you to expend that effort? And will you be content with your future non-Japanese-speaking self?
2) …Or are you quitting because you think it’s just “too hard” or “can’t do it” or just because you’re discouraged at that particular moment. Then of course inertia takes over and that “moment” becomes “forever”… or more likely, until you regret your decision to quit and start all over again :D
I think reason #1 above is totally valid and people shouldn’t feel guilty at all about quitting if this is the case.
If you’re more in the #2 camp though… NEVER GIVE UP! DIE FIRST! JAPANESE FOOOOOORRRRREEEEEEEEVVVVVVERRRRRRRR :D
Stage 3, every time I think I’m out, it pulls me back in.
I don’t think I have a reason to continue studying Japanese. I only ever started studying in the first place to understand anime and song lyrics, both of which I can generally do.
I think the biggest demotivator for me is that everything I do in Japanese, I can do in English for cheaper/free. Manga, Anime, even light novels, everything can be done without any Japanese knowledge. Sure doing karaoke in Japanese is fun, but since I can do that, why continue? I don’t particularly like Japan or Japanese people, so I’m not bothered by not being able to converse at a near native level.
….Even though I say that, I end up depressed when I don’t study Japanese, go figure.
Just remember, that the experience in English is very different than the experience in Japanese. Even if you think you just like anime, you might want to one day try taking a trip to Japan. Things can change and you may even surprise yourself.
Try finding some English media that you are very familiar with and then read/watch it in Japanese afterwards. Notice how much detail and nuance is lost. That is what you are essentially giving up when watching Japanese media in dubbed or translated form. This might help you decide if you are right in your assumptions.
It’s possible you’re just in a temporary state of wanting to quit. If you think that might be the case, you could try to maintain what you have now, and wait for that injection of motivation.
You could also just try to find things that are interesting to you in Japanese and refuse to use subtitles or dubs, yes it is easier to use subtitles but you won’t get the same enjoyment.
It could also be you are just tired of studying and don’t feel like your quest has been worth it. You could try taking a break, but that could also lead to permanently quitting. Or you could try to find a way to turn that feeling into anger and use it to power through to a higher level of understanding.
Anyway, I hope you find your way.
I agree with this. Try reducing yourself to maintenance mode, so you don’t take in anything new, but keep doing your reviews. If you cut everything out, it will be very difficult to get started again if you regret it in a month or two.
I recommend doing at least some of your reviews every day while you consider whether or not you want to keep going. Quitting Japanese doesn’t make you a bad person, and it’s alright if you do. If you decide to keep going though, you don’t want to have your reviews all piled up into the sky.
It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing either, you could choose to continue at a leisurely pace and only add 1 new card per day. If you keep doing your reviews and adding only one new card, you would only spend a few minutes a day studying at equilibrium. You could do that only using the Anki mobile app while sitting on the toilet.
Late-intermediate was the hardest for me. I was soooo close to being able to read novels and articles without much assistance, but I’d still occasionally hit large pockets of words and/or usage that made me feel like I was still at Ground Zero. I hunkered down, SRSed everything i could, and kept on with extensive reading.
If you’re thinking of quitting, just tell yourself, “It gets better!”