- The Eternal Sorrow of the Intermediate Learner: “Are We There Yet?” Syndrome
- When Will I Get Funny?
- Intermediate Angst: Dealing With Feelings of Suckage
- Strategies for Overcoming Burnout
- Grinding: Focus On What You CAN Do
- Max Out The Cause Card: The Omnipotence of Precursors
- Intermediate Goals, Mini-Dreams
- Step Into the Sunlight, But Don’t Look Into the Sun
- Getting There Is Also Your Life
- Start Dirty: Why A Clean Slate Is Bad For You and What To Do About It
- How to Stop Worrying and Accept that Learning a Language is Unfair — Going Beyond Day Trader Style Language Learning
- Speaking: You Don’t Have A Linguistic Problem, You Have A Humanity Problem — Why You Still Suck At Speaking and How to Fix it Fast
- Mastery is Mastering the Basics
- Language Is Peeing: The Approximately Top Ten Reasons Why Language Acquisition = Micturition
- The Intermediate Phase Is Like Tepid Tea, But That’s Fine, Because Tepid Tea is Hotter Than Ice Tea
A good number of people have contacted me or written elsewhere about how using the methods described on this site led to burnout for them. No fun. Too tiring. Can’t continue.
There are two types of burnout that typically occur. Kanji burnout and sentences burnout. Both can be dealt with by application of the same techniques. But I’ll address them separately.[Strategies for Overcoming Kanji Burnout]
Well, here’s my first question. I am going through Remembering the Kanji. (For the third time, but hey, third times the charm, right!? 🙂 ) But, I am only working on this right now. Of course, I am listening to Japanese all the time, but I am not doing sentences or anything else. I feel that my Japanese learning is suffering from this. So, would you suggest I do sentences while doing RTK or wait until I’m done? Considering that speaking and understanding are more of an immediate need, but overall fluency is the main goal.
Second question is just a very general one. What do you do to avoid burnout. I’ve been doing your method for about a month now and sometimes (ok a lot of times) RTK is so freakin hard I just feel like it’s such a chore. I listen to Japanese all the time and my brain starts to feel tired after a few hours. I don’t want to lose that pleasure feeling I have from learning Japanese. So, how do you keep at it without it turning into a chore? What do you tell yourself? What tricks do you use? I know you suggest doing things that interest you, which is what I do (well, except for RTK, that doesn’t interest me, but…) but I still feel burnt out.
That was an email I got from a reader named L-star recently. Let’s take it step by step.
1. Reality check. While using the Heisig method may “only” involve learning the meaning and writing of kanji, let me suggest that this is in fact a big, hairy deal. It may feel lame “only” knowing meaning and writing, but it MATTERS; it makes a difference. Those kanji have-to-be-learned; there is no way over them, under them or around them, only a way through them. They need to be learned and the best time is here, the best place is NOW. Not knowing them is a state known as illiteracy. End. Of. Story. Don’t fall for the temptation to do something else “and kanji on the side”. Get those basic kanji down NOW; you’ll thank me later.
2. Put the fun back in it. Do your kanji stories rhyme? Are they violent and funny and full of potty humor and screaming and sassiness? If not, then are you TRYING to bore yourself? Because you might as well be. Don’t think of 女 just as “a pictograph of a woman”, think of it as a woman with a HUUUGE bust sticking out to the left. Don’t think of 晶 as just being “brilliant”, think of a character from Dragon Ball Z making a chi-bomb with the power of three suns (日) and screaming “KAME HAME HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”. Don’t think of 人 in 倫 as “person”, think of it as Oprah, or Bruce Lee, or Eric Cartman.
3. Colors. While we’re on the subject of fun, realize that the adult world is black and white and monochromatic and dull. What happened to paints and smiles and visual excitement? It’s time to go back to the roots: it’s time to go back to kindergarten. Get some color in there. Go out and get some non-toxic crayola crayons right now (they have these “twistable” ones that come in a hard plastic casing and don’t go breaking or making a mess like the ones we had when we were kids). Draw pictures of your kanji stories for fun. Maybe you could draw little cards with people on them, related to the kanji. And then put these cards on your wall (hey! free Japanese posters!). Do it! It doesn’t have to look “good”, it just has to be fun.
[Edit: once in a while, you get a comment that blows out the actual article in terms of quality. This was one such comment from the man who goes by the handle nacest. I wanted more people to see it, so I’ve copied it up here]:
[Strategies for Overcoming Sentences Burnout]
I think that you could have done better in the “kanji burnout” part.
In my opinion the biggest obstacle while doing RTK is not the amount of colors or realizing that you must do it no-matter-what. It’s the approach. If you are anxious to complete the book soon, if you are keeping count of how many kanji are left, then you will have to suffer the pains of hell to really finish them. There’s a LOT of them. It’s a four digit number. Every kanji is a mere 0.04% of the total. It’s not gonna be a quick process, IF you await the end of it. It’s like boiling water: I don’t know about the other places, but in Italy they say that the water will take longer to boil if you stare at it expectantly. I’m amazed at how well this applies to your (khatzumoto’s) metaphor.
Just enjoy the trip. Forget about finishing the kanji. Do them every day, and get used to it. Feel the flavor of the chinese characters. Every one of them is extraordinarily beautiful. If you are a philosopher, you may even seek enlightenment in their ancient shapes. Eat them like they are a fourth (fifth?) meal in your day, necessary for your good health. While you do this, one day, when you are least expecting it (more or less) you will hit kanji #2042 (or 3007 if you want to). Then you will be unable to believe how fast you were. I know it because it happened to me, even though it took me 11 months to complete the book! (don’t worry, it will take you much less, I was just using too little impetus with the first 1000 kanji. I finished the second half in about a month (after finding this site, by the way))
True story: once, a journalist on a trip to Egypt met a desert Bedouin. The Bedouin was used to traveling huge distances in the Sahara with his camel, taking weeks at a time. When the journalist told him that in the West there were airplanes that could cover the same distances in a few hours, he answered, perplexed: “And then, what do you do with the rest of the time?”.
The time you spend while aiming at something, no matter how long it is, is still part of your life. There is no reason to not savor and enjoy it in relaxation like the rest of your days.
1. Look forward. If you quit now, you’ll regret it in 6 months; it’s that simple. And you’ll have to pick up the pieces all over again, because you’ll have fallen back. You might be like this one German guy I knew, who knew all his kana and some basic vocab and then forget it ALL through neglect. If you quit now, you-will-regret-it. You don’t want to be that guy telling his friends and family and guests about how “yeeeah, I used to know me some Japanese”…do you? Not that you should dwell on the negative: focus on the positive (#6 — Remember the Dream).
2. Look back. When you’re always trying to learn more, it’s easy to forget to appreciate how much you ALREADY know. Look at you! Look how far you’ve come! Look at all you know. Take a look around. Remember how you used to suck? There was a time you knew nothing. Every legend started from zero, and so did yours. You came this far. You can go further. Just keep on keeping on.
3. Log it. Logging can be a great help; it gives you something to look back on, a sense of achievement. And helps you keep going because it creates at least one thing you have to report to — you have to do something worth putting into your log otherwise you’ll lose “face”. One caveat though — keep the logging simple such that it doesn’t become a burden. A plaintext Notepad file with timestamps and one or two comments on recent progress, ideas, experiences or impressions is more than enough. You want to spend as much time as possible making history rather than recording it, so stick to the highlights. It may not seem like much but you’ll be surprised by how good it feels to go back over it. Momoko taught me how to do this.
4. Get more stuff. I’m sorry to bust out the consumerism card here, but if you think that a couple of books and CDs are enough to get you fluent in Japanese, you are, as they say in Tokyo, quite mistaken. What I mean is…You need MORE stuff. MORE input. MORE videos, MORE music. You’re trying to simulate an entire country here, remember? You’re giving yourself the Japanese childhood that you happened to miss out on. You need more stimulation. You need to hear and read all kinds of stuff that interests you. It will cost some money, BUT…it’s money far better spent than on some stupid, boring classes where you wouldn’t have learned anything anyway oh crap I said that out loud again. Plus, getting new stuff is fun. I don’t know about you, but I get a kick out of the idea that every time I buy a manga it’s an investment in my education — and, in fact, it really is.
5. Chill. It’s my fault for getting people all worked up about sentences. Your aim in life is not to dart around with your eyes and ears open catching sentences like a whale catching krill. I mean, that’ll kind of happen anyway but there’s no need to force it. CHILL. Just let the music play, run the movie, leave the TV on, skim the comics, put up the posters and just chill. When a sentence needs to be learned, it’ll call YOU. It’ll come for YOU. You collect sentences because you WANT to; you have to want the individual sentence; this project is too big and too long for anything to be a chore. You surf the web in Japanese, when something comes along that’s interesting, you pick the sentence, if not, leave it. Just enjoy BEING “Japanese”. Of course ethnically and culturally you’re not actually Japanese, BUT — what would you be like, what would you know and do, if you had been born and raised in Japan? Reading manga, watching TV and movies, listening to music in Japanese, right? Talking once you were able…being affected by trends in speech. Just enjoy yourself IN Japanese. Be yourself, IN Japanese. Don’t “do” so much. Just “be”. Just float in this world of Japanese or whatever your target language is. The sentences will come; you don’t have to struggle for them. If you just keep your immersion environment going and relax about it, your curiosity will carry you the rest of the way. Just lay back and enjoy the sounds.
Let me put it into numbers for you — typically, it’s about 2-4 hours a day of actively working on the language [SRS reviews and new entries], 2-4 hours of handling business in another language out of necessity, and 16-18 hours of just having text and sounds come into your life without “working” on them as such (tasks can overlap). Everyone’s daily routine is a bit different, but that’s the basic pattern.
6. Remember the dream. There you are. Speaking Japanese as if you were born and raised in Japan. Blazing through Japanese books. Flying through manga like a butterfly. Stinging like a bee with witty comebacks to your friends. Remember the dream. Remember why you wanted to learn this language in the first place. And use the dream to guide you now — you want to learn Japanese in order to enjoy yourself and get things done in Japanese, right? Guess what the way to do that is? That’s right: By ENJOYING yourself and getting things done in Japanese. Imagine yourself doing regaling your friends with your Nagase Tomoya impression. Imagine yourself reading 200 books a year in Japanese. Imagine yourself curled up on that beanbag reading all 6 volumes of Akira in one sitting. Imagine yourself talking rapid-fire on the telephone in Japanese. Picture yourself writing kanji like you own the place, the strokes freely flowing from your mind and out of your hand: yes, any and every kanji you need to, from memory. Picture yourself laughing and sharing obscure pop culture references with a group of people. Never let go of the dream. No matter how little it seems you know now, always be dreaming the dream.
That’s it for now. Smile and have fun.