I know exactly how you feel. You want to know Japanese and you want to know it NOW!!! NOW!!!!! NOW!!!
I know your inner monologue: “ARRRRGGGGH!!! WHY DO I HAVE TO LOOK UP ALL THESE WORDS??!!! WHY CAN’T THEY LEARN THEMSELVES!!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO JUST BEING IMMERSED IN IT LIKE A CHILD!!! ARHfshaghffhggdvhngbcgcdcbweq qqwgwhy”.
You, my friend, need to calm down. Relax. Drink some cocoa, hug someone good-looking, breathe deeply.
I know exactly what you’ve been doing. You don’t know enough Japanese to fully “get it” all yet, so, sometimes you don’t bother watching or listening, because you only understand bits and pieces of it anyway, and you wonder what happened to all the good times when you used to actually understand the words that people spoke, when you could read a page of text in like 5 seconds flat, when you ate cake with a knife and fork instead of chopsticks. So, you feel “screw it; I don’t know it now; I’m not going to know it tomorrow; who am I kidding? I’m not Japanese; I’m Joe Bloggs. This whole learning a language thing was a mistake; I belong to the culture of my birth and this suffering is what I get for going against NATURE blah blah blah blah critical period et cetera, et cetera, et cetera”.
You, my friend, need to hurry up. Quit the whining. Stop talking kafuffin. Get your immersion environment back up and running, do your SRS repetitions, go sentence-picking. You don’t have time to be worrying about this.
Calm down and hurry up. Obviously conflicting advice. But it’s appropriate for many of us language-learners, whose minds are in conflict as it is. Now, I don’t actually know if you have these thoughts or feelings at all, but I’ve seen it enough in myself and other people to feel that it is a general pattern. I’m going through the same thing with Chinese. I just want to know it already, you know? I mean, what the kafuffin, can’t I just know something by wanting to know it? But then, I don’t quite know enough, so I have to do all this work and WHEN WILL IT END?
So, like I said, we need to calm down. Calm down, and accept being noobs. It’s OK. Everyone who starts is a noob, including Chinese babies: their Chinese sucks :). And we need to hurry up. Stop wasting time, and just hurry up and get down to work. The reason we don’t know the language(s) we want to know yet is that we didn’t work hard enough (if at all) in the past. The past is the past, we can’t change it. But we can change the future. And all it takes is one small payment in the present. Everyone who ever learned a language to fluency busted tail to do it: everyone. Whether they knew they were busting tail or not is immaterial, tail was busted. Accept that. Accept that you suck now and that tail needs to be busted. But…but…also accept that your tail-busting will be handsomely rewarded with fluency. You WILL get there. You WILL get fluent. IF you work now, IF you do just this one small thing, IF you take one step in the right direction — that’s all you need to do, take one step, rinse, repeat — then you’ll get there. You just will.
You want to sprint there and be fluent tomorrow, don’t you? I do. Unfortunately, you can’t (yet). But you can do one small thing. So do it. I know it seems small, I know it seems like just a drop in the ocean. I sometimes wonder (I’m not always Mr. Hopeful) — how can learning one more stupid word lead to fluency when there are so many effen words? The same way that one spark can burn down a forest, or one cell can grow into a person. Learning a language is not a linear process. The better you get, the easier it gets for you to get better. The more you know, the more you are able to learn. Knowledge, words, structure will get stickier — but first you have to go through this sucky period, before the curve starts to shoot up.
Think of your work as water and your ignorance as a jagged rock — you need to pour water on that rock to smooth it out. The good news is that it won’t take geological time to erode the rock of ignorance, but it will take a lot of water, and so you need to keep pouring. It may not look like anything’s happening, but it is. Just focus on pouring, keep the water moving.
Since we are human beings and we do get bored, the key to keeping the water flowing is to enjoy the pouring. Enjoy the journey, because, no matter how little time it eventually takes, it is still a long trip: Longer than you might wish, but at the same time, shorter than you might fear.
Remember: languages are finite, made by humans for humans. There is nothing you are lacking intellectually. It’s not hard, just long. Now get running.