Reflecting on Studying Multiple Languages, Passion, Goals

If you’d like a peek into how I’m thinking about my future with languages, read on. Just be aware that the following is an incoherent brain fart.

I knew that maintaining multiple languages would be a hard task, especially while at school. But I’ve realized a lot of things about myself from juggling as many as five languages at one time.

Japanese is the exception, not the rule

First,  I will probably never approach a language with the same passion and discipline with which I tackled Japanese. Back when Japanese was my only foreign language, I had a really hard time relating to the common second language woes I heard/read about all over the internet: the lack of motivation, the desire to return to the L1, the lack of commitment, the sadness stemming from not understanding at the beginning stages, etc. Now that I’ve attempted other languages, I see that I suffer from the same problems ( just replace L1 with Japanese).

Other languages are starting to feel like they’re just tasks and not things to be enjoyed  It’s time to just do what I want to do. At the moment, this would mean dropping all languages except for Japanese and Chinese. And picking up Japanese Sign Language.

neverending story study

A lot of these thoughts are coming from my perpetual dissatisfaction with my Japanese. But then again, I will never be content with my level in Japanese, no matter how many conversations I have, books I read, jokes I tell,  funny jokes I tell, translations/transcriptions I finish, or papers  I write. There will always be more to study, and I will always look forward to it. I’ve started to feel like the other languages are just in the way of my Japanese learning time, so I think it’s about time I just cut the cord.

it’s all about passion

I am now (finally) noticing the importance of passion in language learning. It’s the secret ingredient that has propelled my Japanese, along with a healthy dose of curiosity. The lack of passion turned Korean, Cantonese, and Russian into a chore. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the languages from the beginning. It’s just that the initial “shiny new thing” phase did not last very long at all. I’m still in that phase in Japanese and Chinese, despite not studying the latter at all recently. I’m listening to a Chinese dubbed Pokemon movie as I write this and it’s awesome.

I’ve considered just waiting and then going full throttle into another language instead of dabbling in multiple at the same time, but the thought of not spending most of my day in Japanese just doesn’t sit right with me.

what does this all mean?

What will this mean for the site? The focus will be brought back to remain Japanese, with more attention paid to Chinese. I will use Japanese as a base to learn Chinese as I was doing with Korean. I will still keep up my links for korean sources and my korean posts, but they will not be updated.  There will be a reorganizing of the site to reflect my new plans.

the road to learning a language is never straight

I just deleted all my links/SRS decks/music/whatever was not related to Japanese or Chinese. From here on out I’ll just do what I do best: wing it.


Author: Koyami

I'm Koyami. I am a freelance Japanese-English Translator and I enjoy learning new skills and reading in my spare time. Current pursuits include juggling, piano, and collecting all of the 十二国記 books. Follow me on Twitter and Google+ for blog updates, my Japanese word of the day, and more!

  • It is nice to refocus on Japanese if that is what you really like. Maybe the passion for the other languages will rekindle later…

    • That’s what I’m thinking, but honestly, at this point I think I’d be fine if they didn’t rekindle. I’m in the process of making a follow-up post about my new language goals, so I’ll talk about why in more detail in that post.

      Thanks for the comment, Orphee!勉強頑張ってください!

  • I forgot to leave a comment here when you posted this, but this was really interesting. I’ve actually had the exact opposite experience, and it has been from slowing down with Japanese and doing some dabbling that I have finally enjoyed things more, started to understand what I’m really looking to get out of all of this, and figured out what is driving my motivation.

    It was interesting to hear your story, though, because when I read about people who seemed so intense and focused like this, I couldn’t figure out if I was just doing something wrong or what the deal was. But I can see that there are just different people out there with different preferences and goals. Thanks for posting this and good luck with everything!

    • It’s always great to hear about how others are learning. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned so far is that everyone doesn’t learn the same way. Thanks to that, we can experiment and keep our learning styles fresh.

      I think language learning is as much a journey in figuring out how you work as it is a journey in figuring out how the language works.

      Thanks for the comment, Jeff! And good luck to you too!

    • lumiina

      This is so very interesting. I remember reading Jeff’s post about the opposite and thinking, well, why would one want to take a step back from Japanese? And after reading your post and Jeff’s comment, I really realize now that there are just different kinds of learners. I too couldn’t immagine not immersing myself in Japanese every day, and gave up my pursuit of other languages, aside from JSL. An acquaintance who knows Mandarin well and is taking up Japanese told me, don’t worry, you can pick Mandarin up again, but really, no, I don’t feel the need and am happy with Japanese. After seeing Jeff’s comment, I totally understand that perspective now too.

      • I just re-read Jeff’s excellent post, and now that I think about it, I’m dealing with Mandarin in a way similar to his experience with Japanese in that post, albeit for slightly different reasons. But because I am so easily “distracted” by Japanese, I have to consciously set aside some time for Mandarin.

        Thanks for the comment, Rachel!