Breaking a plateau.

Recently I've felt "stuck" in my studies. My dictation doesn't seem to be improving. My speaking retains it's American accent rather often. つ has been hit and miss for as long as I can remember. られる is the biggest tongue twister known to mankind.

I've been studying the same material and practicing the same mistakes for months and months now - and have seen no improvement. I still practice my つ and on some days its 'perfect' and on others it sounds like ちゅ or す. It's like I'm inept at remembering how it sounds or is said.

I pick up more vocab here and there because I still do my Memrise study sessions but I feel with my inability to immerse myself in Japanese through speaking and dictation that I'm really getting nowhere fast.

Has anyone felt stuck in a rut like this? How did you get out of it? I really do love and enjoy learning Japanese - and am sad to see my studies in the shape that they are. I just don't know what to do at this point to improve...

Posted by Tchael 4/24/12, last update 4/28/12 (2 years ago)
  • I think anyone studying any language for any length of time hits this kind of barrier. It is usually when your head has to stop and consolidate everything before moving on to the next level.

    First of all, are you outside of Japan currently? If you are, I highly recommend finding a conversation partner to chat with. You'll find that your voice will naturally start adapting to what good pronunciation is subconsciously.

    Also, just doing a lot of speaking drills will help you. The problem is right now you are thinking way too much about how to form the sounds. You want to replace that with the ability to make the sounds without thinking.

    Think of it as an athlete training for the Olympics. An Olympic runner isn't thinking about every step they take, they just do it naturally, and that takes practice to the point that the actions become instinctive.

    Try practicing out loud while doing memrise or taking a dialog of tongue twisters and time yourself, keep repeating the dialog and time yourself each time, make it so that you are correctly pronouncing everything but still improving your speed. There will come a point that you will realize you aren't thinking about the individual sounds anymore, but just saying it. That's what worked for me.

    The other way to smash through a plateau is to take it to the next level and try material that is above your current level, it will start out as a struggle, but once you get the ball rolling it gets easier.

    Anyway, hope that helps.

    Posted by jlptbootcamp 4/24/12 (2 years ago)
  • You will have such and such days. Sometimes the world is dark and gloomy, sometimes you're on top of everything, king of the hills. You will talk with someone and not even notice it's not your native tongue. Then you'll talk with someone else and wonder if that's really Japanese. You will think about the amount of time you spent on learning the language and find that in the same amount of time, your average college student will have a shaky knowledge of conjunctive forms such as -te, while you can converse rather freely, albeit erroneous and with an accent. That other student you know jokes around pretty perapera, although you started out around the same time. So what does this tell us?

    Right, nothing.

    It doesn't matter what your perceived level is. Your strengths and weaknesses are temporary, in a state of growing, each of your 4 skills on their own, at different paces. Your brain processes some things faster, some slower, differently from the brains of ANY other human being, because you're unique.

    I can understand spoken Japanese quite well and speaking makes me produce hormones that make me feel happy. After a few minutes, I'm basically high just by speaking. Now gimme a newspaper and I'll throw up. Damn those 20 synonyms for "production", the damn different readings and those friggin 同じみたいな文字!! Burn them, for all I care! That other dood can't string a fkn sentence together without sounding like an idiot to save his life, but he knows all those 2000 jouyou, he'd win a competition against your average Japanese college graduate when it comes to reading.

    So what?

    You will absorb information and your brain will process it on its own pace, no matter how much you try to force it to work more. Learning a language takes time. Don't believe idiots like "Benny the Irish polyglot" who claim they'd be fluent in 3 months by just immersion, or whatever. And don't compare yourself to anyone else.

    I've listened to and seen writings of Japanese people learning German. I've been learning Japanese for quite some time now. Let me tell you this: Japanese people have it WAY harder than us.

    By the way, train your つ with a native to get feedback. Subconscious, automatic pronunciation acquisition is bullshit. leads to fossilized mistakes.

    My2c

    Andi

    Posted by ikenaiAndi 4/28/12 (2 years ago)
  • I do my best to not compare myself to others because of the very reasons you listed. It's rather illogical to do so. :P However I sometimes feel as though the way I'm going around it may be improved by trying out others' methods. There is more than one way to skin a cat and my method might not be the best for me after all. =P

    Thanks both for the comments.

    Posted by Tchael 4/28/12 (2 years ago)
  • Not sure if it helps you to hear a list of my personal failures. You know me still from back in the day, smart.fm - I started out with audio courses, completely ignored the writing systems. At some point I accepted, but never embraced them. Learning the Kana alone was a PITA for me, and it'll take me forever to learn those Kanji.

    I was confident that my pronunciation was rather good, until I was confronted with the truth: my ず too soft, my し too harsh. I intonate words like I'd be from the Kansai area, quite the opposite of how they're being handled in standard Tokyo dialect. Inu instead of iNU, soRA instead of SOra and so on.

    I chatted on Facebook and Twitter pretty much right from the start, and the first time I've been humbled in front of my 1500 followers on Twitter was when I said かっこいいだ! and the girl i chatted with responded with ジジイみたいじゃん. One time I chatted with some people about some artist. One of my friends added how fashionable that person was, and I answered with 自分の女も可愛いよ!- a pretty macho way to say "yeah, but my girl is cute, too" - while what I actually tried to say way あの女の人自身も可愛いよ. I wondered already what was going on when I received remarks like 羨ましいなあ and 奥さんについて話してるの? but it was later that I actually got to know what I did there. Needless to say, if there's been a hole, I'd have hid myself there.

    I was chatting on Skype with someone and everything made sense. Then with someone else and I wondered if person #1 dumbed down their speech for me, or if person #2 just had their unique way to express herself in a more sophisticated way - or if by chance I just lacked the vocab to get her wordings. Turned out it was coincidence.

    I have my Alzheimer moments. The other day, I couldn't come up with 6ヶ月 and a while ago, I wanted to say 天気 but said 狼. I still don't get what I must have been thinking that day.

    I occasionally black out while speaking, my mind goes blank and I start to get nervous, because I just completely forgot for no reason how to say something, then tried hard to remember the word while in the process forgetting what I tried to say.

    Know what - I accepted I'm still a bloody newbie. I know a lot ABOUT Japanese, but to translate that into Japanese ability, it will take years.

    You were damn right when you said you'd get "nowhere fast", because that's how it is with learning a languages. My English still sucks after 20 years, and English ain't exactly far away from German - compared to alien-Japanese, no cognates, different sentence structure, completely different ways to transport ideas.

    It's all right. Japanese is my love affair. There have to be bad days, or I wouldn't recognize the highlights when they happen.

    頑張ろう!

    Posted by ikenaiAndi 4/28/12 (2 years ago)

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