Trust me, I know the feeling. Not every day you wake up and feel the motivation to open that textbook. I know I’ve had my fair share of days where all I wanted to do was throw my Japanese notes across the room, and other days I just wanted to give up.
I’m glad I didn’t though because these feelings did eventually go away. Just like everything else, the bad times pass and the good ones come after. It’s all about bracing through the storm and coming back out in one piece.
All of that motivational talk is easier said than done — I get that. So, instead of telling you to just pick yourself back up and keep going on, I’ll walk through with you the ins and outs of why you feel like giving up, and what are the realistic ways of bouncing back up from that slump. Let’s go!
So You Feel Like Giving Up…
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way. It’s okay to want to give up; that’s totally normal. Things get tough for most of us and the more times we convince ourselves to go back on it, the harder it gets. I’m here to tell you that probably everyone who’s ever picked up a Japanese learning textbook has thought about giving up. You and I both know it’s not the easiest language to learn.
Take a step back before deciding whether or not you want to put the Japanese books down permanently. It’s easier to just call it quits early on and just move on with your life because at the early stages you haven’t really put in much to learning the language. But there are ways you can fight and argue with yourself to stop yourself from giving up; first and foremost is looking at the causes of making you feel this way.
What’s Causing You to Give Up?
There can be quite a number of reasons that are making you feel like giving up. Believe it or not, what’s causing you to give up is quite common among other Japanese learners as well! I probably had all the reasons below. Let’s take a look at what they are.
After months and months, or even years for some, of learning the Japanese language, you’re finally able to read a whole manga and watch an anime or drama without much trouble. You understood every single word and sentence — even the language humour, and that’s saying a lot!
You switch to a different theme of drama or pick up a more serious Japanese book to read, and everything comes crashing down. You barely understand half of what they’re saying or what you’re reading.
You travel to Japan, all excited to put all your studying to good use. The first chance you got, you messed up because you couldn’t understand what the cashier staff was saying, or what the restaurant waiter was asking you.
You went from an all-time high to an all-time low in a matter of seconds. Your mood changes and this sudden shift just brought a whole set of weight on your shoulders. You end up feeling like all the effort you put in just didn’t pay off. You lose confidence in yourself, especially your language ability.
It’s tough to push yourself back up from such a setback, but also tell yourself that everyone’s a student one way or the other. We’re all learning, and there’s always highs and lows in everything, especially language.
Comparing yourself to others
A comparison can be a real enemy. Whether it’s another student in the same language class as you, a friend, or just some stuff you read online, you start comparing yourself to them. Someone had learned in three weeks what you had in three months — and during that time you were really struggling as well.
There are two ways this comparison can affect a person — the first one being a good motivation and pushing the person to work harder, and the other is actually demotivating the person who ends up giving up because they don’t feel good enough.
Just like in life and the various life stages, everyone has their own timeline. Stop comparing yourself and your progress with others. Different people have different studying habits, obstacles and timelines. You might be juggling three different jobs and using the limited free time you have to study Japanese, so don’t compare yourself with someone who dedicates their whole days to studying the language full time. Don’t run a bicycle race.
I’ve been there, done that — getting frustrated at Japanese learning, especially when I’ve been stuck on a grammar point for a few weeks, and still not getting it! I’ve lost count the number of times I wanted to call it quits because I couldn’t grasp the structure of how the grammar works.
They say if you’re too close to something, you won’t be able to see the full picture. During times where you feel extremely frustrated because you can’t remember or can’t comprehend something, take a step back and put a pause on that specific thing. Go on learning others and get back to it when you’ve had a bit of time and space apart from it. You’ll come back with a fresh set of eyes and memory space.
This happens more often than you think, and it’s, unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons why people feel like giving up on learning Japanese. For those who haven’t been to the country, Japan is like a dream destination. Even for those who have been on holiday, it’s still a heavenly place on Earth.
There are times where Japan doesn’t live up to our expectations. There can be unpleasant bump-ins with some Japanese people, realizing that Japan is not all that it seemed or receiving unintentional condescending comments. All of these can definitely put a damper on one’s motivation to learn the Japanese language.
Times like these, you have to look at the bigger picture; why did you learn Japanese in the first place? Realistically, a country cannot be perfect in every corner; a small handful of people does not represent the whole race; comments are just comments and they won’t be able to affect you if you don’t let it. Look within yourself — are these encounters really worth giving up a whole language skill?
Ways to Bounce Back Up!
If any of the above reasons are what’s causing you to feel like giving up, I’m here to tell you that there’s a way out of all of them! I’ve been through them all, and I personally have used these ways below to bounce myself back up to feeling pumped about learning Japanese again.
Let’s take a look at what these ultimate ways are to pick yourself back up after falling down!
Take a break
This is a way that quite a number of people neglect and forget to do. You always have to take a break, and not just a short pause in between grammar points and kanji memorization sessions. When you’re at quite a low level of motivation, it’s best to take a break from the Japanese language fully. Press pause for a couple of days. Get anything and everything Japanese out of your mind — music, manga, articles; all of it, out!
This space between you and the Japanese language allows you to come back to the problem and fix it with a new perspective and not one that’s been clouded and affected by all the negative emotions. Even if it’s not a full 100%, you’ll definitely feel more enthusiastic about getting back into learning Japanese again with a renewed sense of energy.
List the pros and cons of giving up
When you’re feeling stuck between giving up and holding on, take out a piece of paper and grab a pen. Then, list out the pros and cons. Learning a new language is exciting and all, but is the language you have chosen the right one for you? If there’s not a strong reason and passion behind learning the language, the harsh reality is that you’ll always struggle with it.
List the pros of giving up — are there so many things going on in your life that you don’t have time to spare to learn a language, so giving up opens up your free time? List out the cons of giving up — do you have a strong desire in learning Japanese, and giving up your passion?
This list will be a good visual representation of what’s going on in your head with relations to your life situation. Only you have the power and the answer to make the decision based on this list. And only you know what’s best for you — you can drop it fully if learning the language is more of a negative impact than a positive one, continue if you really love it, or go for the third option and hit that pause button while you sort other things out in your life.
Try another learning approach
This is one that I highly recommend to those who feel like they can’t absorb anything that they learn. Everyone has a different learning style. Not one style fits all, so don’t force yourself to learn a language by memorization when you’re more of a visual learner. Some people learn better through audio, so go for some podcasts!
The language learning world is your oyster, and in this modern day and age, there’s no learning tool that you can’t find to help you with your language learning using a different learning approach!
Find a study partner or group
I know that some of us are better at studying alone, but when it comes to learning a language, we all work better together! Having a study partner or a group not only motivates you to regularly pick a new learning point of the language, but you’ll also have people to practice the new skills you’ve acquired.
A study partner or group is so effective in improving your Japanese speech. Not only that, but you can also even have fun activities together like movie nights binge-watching only Japanese TV shows, movies and anime — only with Japanese audio and no English subtitles! Who says you can’t mix work and pleasure together?
I understand that the pressure of learning a new language can get quite overwhelming, but know that you’re not alone in this. Every one of us struggles with it at every stage of the learning process, but there are always ways to get back up! Ganbatte (頑張って)! We’re all rooting for you!