Why I stopped learning Japanese – and why I’m going to start again.

As anyone who has learned a second language knows, it’s tough.  Really tough.  The mental fortitude and perseverance to push through when you feel you’re not making any real progress is enormous.  I studied Japanese for almost 3 years, took every opportunity to bore everyone in my family with what I had learned.  Then I stopped.  

pexels-photo-9651Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, From Category 1 (Dutch, French, Afrikaans) requiring 23-24 weeks to learn, Japanese is up at the top.  Category 5, requiring 88 weeks to learn (As per the Foreign Service Institute rankings).  After 3 years I should have, theoretically at least, been pretty good.  That, unfortunately wasn’t the case.  It’s inordinately demoralising to have been studying a language for that long and still have to class yourself as the earliest of beginners, unable to even have a simple conversation.  My reading was my strongest point, as I had studied the writing system, Kanji, extensively.  And written resources were what I had easiest access to.

My main reason for stopping study was due to finding a full time job, and the fact that studying Japanese in Glasgow where there is such little need for it, didn’t seem to make much sense.  I moved on to studying Dutch through Duolingo, finding I made more progress in 3 weeks than I had in 3 years of Japanese.  That too fell by the wayside as real life took over and the lack of any real need for Dutch in my life (The majority of Dutch people I’ve met speak perfect English anyway)  became apparent.

In Australia the requirement for Asian languages is certainly higher, particularly in the Sydney area, with large expat communities and the stores and restaurants that cater to them, finding resources for learning Japanese and for maintaining what you’ve learned is a lot easier than it is in Glasgow, combined with making a number of Japanese studying friends here, in a much more serious capacity than anyone I met in the UK, provides a significantly more sturdy platform from which to build.  Before I start in earnest I will begin by asking the people I know what they did when they were at my stage and what they would recommend be done next.  I don’t know if this will be the time I actually make progress or if it’ll drop off as my Web Development course gets more intense, or even what situation I’ll find myself in in two months time when I’m working on a farm in a rural area in order to extend my visa.

What I do know, is that Japanese is a language that I have wanted to learn for a long time. With all its difficulties and barriers to English learners, it is still one of the most fascinating and beautiful langues, even without 100% comprehension.


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