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Jul 1, 2012

Are you on the right path in learning Japanese?

I know why you're here. You're worried that you're not going to make it. That you're going to fail at learning Japanese and all of your effort will be wasted. You don't know what to do and there's nobody to guide you. And it's not that you don't care enough to find what to do, you care a LOT. You care so much that these doubts keep you up at night. Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “Maybe I should start over. Do I need to research other methods? Am I doing any of this right?” And guess what.

These doubts are a good thing.

For all that they make you feel like crap, they're also a sign that you really want to learn Japanese. No, that you NEED to learn Japanese. But what should you do? What can you do when you suddenly find yourself buried in kanji, sentences, and lists of words with no end in sight. How can you possibly know that any of this is working; that you're on the right path and headed for the finish line?

Learning Japanese has no final goal line. There's no point at which you cross some mystical finish line and suddenly cheering crowds appear to present you with a plaque that says “JAPANESE MASTER.” While it sounds ridiculous, I think we find ourselves expecting this. We expect to see some loud, obvious sign that we're doing it right, but in reality we ignore the true signs of progress.

If you have an immersion environment, then you should be using Japanese media, right? Books, songs, shows, whatever. These are the signs of progress. If you're wondering if you're on the “right” path, if you're doing things “right,” then just pay attention to what you do each day. Do you read manga? Watch anime? Browse articles on the Japanese Wikipedia page? Sing along with J-Pop? Whatever it is you're doing, realize that you're doing it in Japanese. You're reading in Japanese. You're listening to a song and understanding the lyrics. Well guess what...

That IS the end goal! You've done it! Look at you! Immersed in Japanese and understanding so easily that you forget how absolutely amazing you are!! Learning Japanese can be so sneaky in the way that it happens; it's incredibly easy to forget how much progress we've made. So remind yourself. If you're feeling these doubts, then pause for a minute. Think about what you can do, what you've achieved. And then...

Take the next step.

When you're feeling this way, it means that you need to move. So take the next step. Grab that book off your shelf that you've been avoiding and give it a shot. Start watching that TV series that was "too difficult" for you before. Find that next thing in Japanese and do it. And when you do it, realize that this IS the end goal. This is it! If you can take something Japanese, be it a children's story, a manga for teens, or a tome on organic chemistry, and understand it - that is learning Japanese. You've done it. If you can read even one sentence, one word, one kana, then you've already learned Japanese. Now do it again with the next kana, word, sentence, or story.

So if you're feeling worried about your progress, just remember what you've already accomplished. Think of how far you've come. Then go forward. It doesn't matter what you go to next, just do something in Japanese. Don't worry. You're on the right path.  

Now get walking.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice read, makes it easy for one to reflect on their current progress. I'm sure writing this had a similar effect.

    Looking forward to this Yotsuba annotation.