The Inevitable Mental Hurdle

Workstation at the end of the day

My current number of handwritten reps if 72,269 so i’m about four days from hitting 75K. However, this has NOT come easy, and as i work through this, I’m making a note of the most stressful things I’m encountering.

Even though i”m using a very good methodology to remember the Kanji, it is  still A LOT OF DATA. Whittling away thousands of Kanji 25-30 at a time requires the patience of job. I’ve woken up on days where my mind and body said NO! I didn’t feel like writing, I didn’t want to immerse myself in Japanese and I also wondering what in the bloody hell I was doing with this ‘crazy’ goal of mine. However, as much as my mind was battling me (and I feel this happens to all serious language learners) I know it is a point we all hit. The harder you grind the faster you hit it.

I call it the inevitable hurdle. 

Basically, as a human we have our limits and when facing such a gargantuan task like memorizing 2,136 Kanji, doing hundreds of hours of immersion and focused learning of vocabulary, whatever “progress” you make will pale in terms of the physical and mental frustration you may experience. You might have a bad day, or you might hit a bad spell of fatigue and then you must REALLY question your commitment. There are days when its around 6pm and I realize I’ve only done 150 reps and need to buckle down and write 950 Kanji to keep my 1,000+ daily total and I sight and groan, but I get it done.

My mental demands are create because i’m currently ironing out what is effective versus  isn’t in terms of what i call progressive overlap, which is a systematic acquisition of data incrementally that allows everything to reinforce itself. However, this ‘research’ has resulted in an excess use of my brain which nearly lead me to complete burnout. I do not want people experiencing the same thing. I always hit this hurdle around the 6 or 7 week mark. It’s usually one day i’m watching a show and I just think to myself i will never understand this! But i’m armed with my previous research (and success with German) and I’m quite curious to test out a new theory called the golden number which I will report on later. However this is just a time stamp. I think i’ve crawled out of the fatigue funk I found myself in the last three and a half weeks. It was brutal, I was so tired some days I only learned 9 Kanji, when I was blasting 50 without breaking a sweat earlier. My main issue I find is the introduction of Anki and immersion both have their mental demands.

Using iPads, podcasts and Netflix to get 8hrs + daily

I don’t think it is feasible to learn 50 words a day with anki and then do 35 Kanji a day. Unless you are an efficiency Ninja ( and trust me i’m trying to be) it  is VERY VERY hard to get it all done. It is important to learn as many words as possible as quickly as possible, but there has to be a compromise in terms of your major goal. Doing Anki and learning Kanji split my energy and made my Kanji learning much harder because my brain was fried from trying to remember words and then trying to create stories. So I realized its either I do my Anki reps all at once (a 1 hr session) and forget about it for the day. However once I’ve ironed out all the component parts everything should be pretty smooth.

It is daunting to attempt to climb Everest. But i know I can do it. I think i’m at around 1,600 Kanji memorized now. So i’m somewhat behind on my projects but i hav enever reached this far with Japanese by any means. By “this far” I mean, I’ve never had the patience or impetus to keep going.

What Has Changed

Obviously, my methods. No matter how tired I feel, or some days I might battle with resistance, my curiosity about the next step keeps me going. I’m able to read quite a bit of Japanese now with little trouble, and I’ve also noticed that watching Japanese TV is getting easier. Still noisy, but i’m following things a lot better, hearing words and phrases and I’m able to read along with a lot of the Kanji that flashes on screen really fast. The point is, I was 100% unable to do this eight weeks ago. Meaning I couldn’t read a lick of Japanese and I wouldn’t really know what people were saying beyond very basic things. So each day I walk with certain knowledge:

I know there is a direct link between the number of hours you spend listening to native audio and what I call a “comprehension explosion”.

I know there is a direct link between the number of words you learn (and lessening the time frame) and what I call “progressive overlap” where this information gets processed by the brain and facilitates the “comprehension explosion”

I know there is a direct link between being able to read your target language and aspects of the above two.

The difference this time around is that I’m working systematically. If I’m doing too much Anki, I ease off, or just shut off new cards. The first mission is to memorize all the JyouYou. I can star hammering words more hardcore once I’m not using a few hours a day memorizing new Kanji. I’m also trying to get about 8 hours a day of listening in. Today isn’t a prime example (I think I’m at 4 hours) but i”ve been averaging 7-8.5 a day and the results are quite promising. Promising in the sense that stuff is just “coming to me”, even grammar points that I haven’t studied yet.

I’m All In

Also, I’ve pretty much made this my entire life right now. With all the madness in the world i’m happy to keep myself occupied with this task.

Why I Want To Finish Fast

Finishing fast allows me to spend time “hammering” my other phases. I think it would be impossible for the average person to try and learn 50 Kanji and day AND learn to speak AND try and study 50 new words a day. You just don’t have that time or energy. However, what i’m doing moves phenomenally fast, so 2,136 Kanji in 8-10 weeks is lightning speed, but that frees me up to focus completely on my second phase, which is vocabulary acquisition, and the race to the first 3,500 words.

50 words per day equals 1500 in a month and if this is my 100% focus, then I know I’ll be able to do 100 per day and aim for 3000 in a month while I do my Kanji revisions and then rack in listening time. Finishing fast allows me to shift the energy in real time and keep things fresh. I would NOT want to spent six months learning all these Kanji, it would be a nightmare and i’d most likely not have the patience to stumble through teh other parts. Point is, once i”m done with this. I can read ANYTHING in general media so my reinforcement of everything will be so solid I won’t have to worry about it. and then once i hit 3000 words as I experience with German, you don’t need much more study to get all the grammar locked since it will all “make sense” especially after hundreds of hours of listening. Everything “clicks” at this convergence point… a certain number of hours of listening, a certain conscious awareness of certain words and a certain ability to read. This convergence point can be “forced” i.e “sped up” with ridiculous work ethic. This is part of my testing.

More to come

About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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