About three years ago, I wasn’t really studying Japanese all that hard. At that time I had already passed 三級 (old N4) and I was kind of lazily making my way through 二級 (old N2) books. I honestly felt a little worn out and frustrated. I went through all the exercises in all the books, but I didn’t really feel like I was getting anywhere.
I kept buying more and more books and going through them slowly. Or, worse, I bought books and didn’t get around to ever getting through them. I even had a premium subscription to JapanesePod101 that I never really used to its full potential. To put it bluntly I was in a bit of a slump.
I think anyone studying a language for any length of time gets stuck in these ruts. It is really a rite of passage to get to full fluency in any language. So, it is important to know when these types of situations will pop up and how to counter them so you don’t lose progress and you can keep studying to make it to that next level.
Set a Routine for your Studies
One of the most important things you can do for your Japanese studies is setup a regular routine of studying. Even if you are only devoting 10 to 15 minutes to your studies a day, you are still making progress. Make sure it is on your schedule, and that no matter what, nothing interferes with it – not parents, not girl/boyfriends, family or work. That is your time.
This routine will help you get into a rhythm that will become increasingly harder to give up. The important thing is to make it a priority above all else. Think of it as brushing your teeth or doing your hair. You wouldn’t leave the house without doing one of those (well, probably :)), and doing a little something for yourself like studying a language is the same thing.
Disruptions are Inevitable
Nobody goes through life trouble-free with a schedule that never changes. There will inevitably be something that will throw a big rock in your path. It might be moving, transferring to a different office, getting a new job, getting married, or even having a baby. These things are going to happen, if they don’t you would probably be leading a pretty boring life to be honest.
These disturbances are usually the kind of thing that knocks students completely off track. I know with my students, if they go through some big life change like getting a new job, they are less likely to study and may even stop coming to class. It’s even sadder when they stop coming completely.
So during those times when your time is stretched to the limits try to squeeze in some studying here and there to keep Japanese on your mind. I know it might be hard especially when you are probably thinking about a million other things, but simply flipping through some flashcards or listening to some Japanese music, or even some Japanese learning podcasts can at least keep it front and center.
Set Realistic Goals and Expectations for Yourself
There are a few people that can magically pick up languages and are great communicators from day one and that is absolutely amazing, but that isn’t everybody. True fluency in a language simply can not be achieved in a short period of time. For most people, you probably can’t do it 3 months or even a year, even if you studied for 5 to 6 hours a day.
Some of my students that have practiced English for 10 to 20 years consistently still have a little trouble with things like movies and specialized areas of the language. Some teachers say that you can never be truly fluent in a second language.
Think about your own language. I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning how to use some vocabulary correctly. There are still times when I have to stop and think about what the difference is between accurate and precise for example, and I’ve been technically studying the language for 32 or so years.
If you have trouble setting language goals for yourself, you might want to take a look back at the blog post I wrote earlier this year about setting smart language learning goals. I go over a simple formula for setting goals for yourself so that they are useful for you.
How did you Get Out of your Slump?
If you’ve ever had a slump or plateau in your studies, how did you overcome that? Let me know in the comments below.