Why I Still Suck at Japanese After Living in Japan for 5 Years

Why I Still Suck at Japanese After Living in Japan for 5 Years

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In this episode why Japanese I consider Japanese to super super hard to learn for me. Thanks to Audible for sponsoring the video. I’m really happy to be able to recommend a service I’ve been using for years.

Some Learning Resources I’ve Used
– Japanesepod101.com
– Genki
– Tae Kim’s Grammar Guide
– Anki SRS
– NHK Web Easy News
– Rikaikun
– Pimsleur Japanese
– Wanikani

– FSI’s Experience with Language Learning https://www.state.gov/m/fsi/sls/c78549.htm
– The Interagency Language Roundtable Scale http://casemed.case.edu/registrar/pdfs/Scale_ILR.pdf
– Japanese project: Reach fluency in 3 months https://www.fluentin3months.com/japanese-mission/
– First month learning Japanese https://www.fluentin3months.com/month-1-jap/
– Benny’s first time speaking Japanese in person https://www.fluentin3months.com/manga-hall/
– Japanese project conclusion https://www.fluentin3months.com/japanese-wrap-up/
– CEFRL self-assessment https://europass.cedefop.europa.eu/sites/default/files/cefr-en.pdf
– Hacking the Kanji: 2,200 Kanji in 97 days https://nihongoshark.com/learn-kanji/
– Honorific speech in Japanese https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honorific_speech_in_Japanese
– Words Japanese people know at certain ages http://q.hatena.ne.jp/1236067987 from http://www.kecl.ntt.co.jp/rps/index.html
– Dawn Commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fCtJZy7sEA
– Katakana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katakana
– Hiragana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiragana
– Boy Studying By Lewis Hine – Lewis Hine: Boy studying, ca. 1924, based on file from the Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11160015
– Newspaper generator https://newspaper.jaguarpaw.co.uk/
– Ultra Marathon http://www.r-wellness.com/hakusan-shirakawago/
– Fake News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4DljfhSoqE
– Fake News 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-SmKj3zCKU
– Hiragana chart https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/hiragana-chart/#tofugus-hiragana-chart
– Katakana chart http://www.kfstudio.net/kidsmoji/aiueo_stamp_kana/
– Kanji https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/11/3002_Kanji.svg/3573px-3002_Kanji.svg.png
– Why some people find learning a language harder than others https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12108758/Why-some-people-find-learning-a-language-harder-than-others.html
– LingQ
– Keigo http://www.yutaaoki.com/blog/when-to-use-keigo-honorific-speech-hierarchy-in-japanese-society
– U.S. Flag By Jnn13 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6221363

– “I Can’t Explain” – The Who
– “Summertime (REDUX)” – Nicolai Heidlas Music
– “Back In The Saddle Again” – Gene Autry

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  1. Budi Mustapa Husin Sagala on December 17, 2021 at 2:10 pm

    My major is Japanese Literature 🙂 I try my best, it’s my third year on learning Japanese. Greeting from バリ島、インドネシア❤

  2. Ben X on December 17, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    "Mongolia, a barren moose-wasteland" lol

  3. Angél on December 17, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    "mr. white sounding mexican guy" 🤣🤣

  4. Meruna Stelar on December 17, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    And this is why I picked Korean instead. My friend is great at Japanese though and I applaude her for it!

  5. MrSprog4u on December 17, 2021 at 2:14 pm

    Greg? We have the solution for you – learn Norwegian!

  6. chi him Tsang on December 17, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    As a hongkonger I laugh so hard when I saw Cantonese is listed as same level as super hard as mandarin and Japanese, come on, we don’t even want to try to teach it🤣🤣🤣 it’s beyond hell level for foreigners

  7. jeepwillbmw on December 17, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    You made a comment in one of your videos that you are south America, what is your background?

  8. There was this one time…….. on December 17, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Im Japanese and still struggle

  9. Life Where I'm From on December 17, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    Apologies to Benny (Fluent in 3 months). I didn’t set out to talk about him at all when I started the video. The intent was initially to commiserate in misery with other struggling language learners. I always get asked about my Japanese, so this was my attempt to answer that. Really, the whole video was just a bunch of excuses and complaints from me about my ineptitude and I totally understood that from the start.

    For anyone, including Benny, I think it’s commendable to try and learn something new. So my hat is truly off to you, I respect the effort. It’s hard to fail but still continue on. And I’m not being sarcastic, I truly believe this.

    Something that turned me around and motivated me to be more consistent in studying Japanese was when I found out it takes MANY, MANY hours of study to become basic, let alone proficient. My goal for the past few years has been to study 60 minutes a day. When I found out basic was estimated at 1,000 hours, I realized that of course I wasn’t good, because I needed to put in more time. So instead of making me sad, it actually made me realize I have to look at this as a life long project and that I can’t just hack my way to success. So that’s how Benny came into the video, because I wanted to believe that I could spend 3 or 6 months, really studying hard, and then I’d be proficient at Japanese. But at least for me, this is not the case, and understanding the difficulty of the task at hand makes it easier to soldier on.

    One of the big factors that prevented me (and prevents me) from learning Japanese is my fear of failure. It’s just something I have in my mindset and the way I get past it is by dedicating myself to things. (Sidenote: there are some things I don’t mind failing, so it’s not like I’m dedicated to everything in my life). But one example of my dedication (fear of failure) is when I make videos. I really try to not get things wrong. I have to limit myself and say that there’s only so much research I can do before I can move on and finish a video. I believe it’s this attitude of wanting to get something right before showing people, that results in me being able to be half-decent at making videos. But for language learning, I think type of attitude is detrimental, so I have to consciously fight my natural urge to shut my mouth.

    One thing I tried but didn’t mention was to study full time in a Japanese language school for 2 months. I wanted to study longer, but I had to get back to life. I got marginally better, despite trying really hard, but the big success was that it let me overcome my fear of speaking Japanese in public. So now I can at least do that.

    Pimsleur is helping me to speak, because it makes me repeat things over, and over, and over. Even if I forget in a week, I can listen to a lesson again and then it come back faster than when I first started out.

    Something I’m also starting to do is work one-on-one with a tutor.

    It’s also been one of my goals to get a 1 day a week job in Japan, purely so that it forces me to speak Japanese. If I can find a job that is flexible in both my poor language ability and my main work schedule, I would totally do it.

    Okay, I think that’s all I had wanted to say in the video but forgot to. The video was originally 25 minutes long before I cut a ton out and then added a little bit of new stuff in.

    Thanks everyone!

  10. Dark Soul on December 17, 2021 at 2:21 pm

    I started learning Japanese some months ago and stopped … anyway! That was the most fun time I ever had learning a language!
    For me, while learning any language, I always read about the history and the culture … I believe it helps to get more familiar with the context of words and the language in general!
    This video was made 3 years ago, I hope you feel more confident now and can speak more fluently.

  11. Lisa Voortman on December 17, 2021 at 2:23 pm


  12. Joshua Glass on December 17, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    I’ve finally figured out how I study best and have the discipline to do it… but I find myself studying and asking myself "why am I even doing this" If only a youtube video could fix that

  13. Philip HEMA on December 17, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    I studied Japanese for about one year.
    Our Japanese teacher told us not to worry about reading but rather to concentrate on learning through Romanji since we were interested in conversational.
    A friend who lives in Tokyo said she gets by just with conversational language, the advantage being not being bombarded with advertising which
    I’m a member of the local Zen temple and one day, over lunch, I understood a conversation taking place st the table. I was surprised- and so happy! I think my companions were shocked😁!

  14. David H on December 17, 2021 at 2:27 pm

    Haha the sentences you translated (semi)directly word for word had me laughing hysterically.

    I totally get where you’re coming from even though we’re in different boats. I once wanted to learn japanese just because of a general interest in languages and pop culture (like most everyone else, basically).

    Besides it being a completely foreign language which felt "upside down" or just completely foreign and incomprehensible not just in words but also in the grammar and the way they talk (me coming from a germanic native tongue), once I got over that fact I looked into learning the language and hey look there’s not one, not two, but three different new alphabets I have to learn.

    Tried my hand at both hiragana and katakana which went decently well. I patted myself on the back for doing well with those (which I guess everyone does) while also at this point having become somewhat used to and learned in very basic spoken Japanese.

    And then there was kanji….. yeah, no. I’m not gonna spend more time trying to learn a language so different from my own, with the normal hardships of it just being so extremely different from my own even in spoken form while also needing to learn three new written forms/alphabets, one of them seeming more like ancient egyptian hieroglyphs than anything else that need deciphering.

    That’s kind of where my dream died of learning the language. It’s not that i don’t think I could do it with enough time investment, but I don’t plan on ever moving to the country so the extreme time investment just didn’t seem worth it.

    Best of luck in your future struggles and thanks for the video 🙂

  15. MiracleYacht__ on December 17, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    tbh before you even attempt learning Japanese, you need to drop the thought that it is this impossible task you will never achieve. Approach it casually and learn to enjoy learning. When learning feels like a never ending chore you’re approaching it the wrong way. Be curios to discover this amazing culture and nuanced language. Be happy and proud about every word or phrase you understand in your favorite anime or whatever it is that made you learn Japanese in the first place. Talk to yourself. Think of imaginary conversations and try to tell your imaginary Japanese friend about yourself. Write it down, type it into Google Translate and see if it makes sense. This will be very rewarding feeling. You just got a thought across in an extremely difficult language! The next step would be using apps such as Hello Talk and trying to talk to REAL (OMG) Japanese people. They will correct you or tell you what you wrote was nonsense (ok, maybe a bit more polite than that). Try to understand what they text back and then translate it with google or whatever. This will make so much fun and you will start learning out of pure curiosity in order to understand these amazing people and their culture. Note that this is only useful for the advanced Japanese learner, who knows his basic grammar and vocabulary but doesn’t know how to utilize it.
    I am far from being fluent in Japanese but changing my attitude towards this beautiful language has massively improved my learning and most importantly has led to a lot of fun times as I try to understand this thing that fascinates me every single day.

  16. ビビ くん on December 17, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    He hasn’t found the immersion method lol 😂

  17. 別府ニーナ on December 17, 2021 at 2:31 pm


  18. SandeepCovers on December 17, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Does it mean non native english speaker can learn faster compare to native speaker?

  19. Sebastian on December 17, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    2200 hours is 1-2 hours per day for 3-5 years. Studying over an hour every single day for years might seem insane for someone that is not used to that, but once you’ve built up a habit it is not that bad. If you want to learn a hard language like Japanese, then there is no way around this unfortunately. 1 hour of proper study time per day if you want to progress towards fluency, 15 minutes of Duolingo is just not gonna cut it.

  20. L C on December 17, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    You did not study hard enough and keep a positive attitude…if you stayed focused and stayed consistent…in two to three years you would have been better.

  21. fred lacroix on December 17, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    15:35 nice place

  22. Rachael’s World on December 17, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    Somehow I wish I would’ve found this video sooner. Anyways very cool and helpful info. It would be nice to be fluent coming from a bilingual kid. Which is something that I struggle with a lot.

  23. Conan on December 17, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    im so happy cause i understood u saying おいし ほんと

  24. Rowan Elessar on December 17, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    I have the Genki books too! I’m looking for more though. Can you recommend any good, accurate books and workbooks for practicing and learning?

  25. Cheeky Monkey on December 17, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I understand completely! My dear Mum
    was Japanese, but didn’t speak/teach Japanese to us when children
    because when she emigrated it wasn’t popular after the war. And she was
    trying v hard to learn English. I only began to learn it at high school,
    but the teacher sucked. By then Mum’s English was v good, but was so
    tired after work that it was easier to speak English. Mum was a clerk at
    the Japanese Consulate General office, I was too embarrassed to speak a
    little Japanese in case I failed. Life went on. First time with mum to
    Japan, I was 26yrs old with husband & baby. Three kids later, busy
    life and 60+yrs.. darling mum has gone, heartbroken. I know some Japanese,
    can read a bit. But not enough to communicate with family in Japan.
    Unable to tell them about wonderful Mum. I’m still trying to learn. 💔❤️

  26. やきとりちゃん on December 17, 2021 at 2:42 pm


  27. Leo P on December 17, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    "What I have learned to master is failing"
    quote of the day

  28. MsEmmaHale on December 17, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    Mandarin is not difficult for English speakers to learn (to speak). The phonemes are similar mostly, and formed in the front of the mouth. And sentence construction is subject-verb-object mainly. The thing that gets English speakers hung up is that it’s a tonal language. If one can figure that out, then it’s smooth sailing. Now learning to read and write is a whole different ball of wax. THAT is difficult, I think. Mandarin doesn’t have the various forms of politeness that Korean (and Japanese) do: honorifics, casual speech, etc. Korean has Hangul which is a phonetic system, so I think it’s be much easier to learn to read and write than Japanese with its three writing systems.

  29. key2010 on December 17, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    1:48 *panting in Japanese*

  30. Clever Duck on December 17, 2021 at 2:46 pm

    I majored in Japanese language at university, but I eventually dropped out. This was back in the 90s, so we didn’t have a lot of the tools and resources that are available now. For me the big problems were keeping track of all the different politeness levels, and the male vs. female word usage. And then, of course, kanji. And, the only listening practice available was to listen to audio cassette tapes in the language lab, that had been re-dubbed so many times, they would break. And the female actors on the tapes would speak in that stereotypical high-pitched voice you here in anime, which I couldn’t parse.

  31. ゆんちゃん on December 17, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    because kanji haha only merit for chinese

  32. R X on December 17, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    So glad I didn’t buy the Fluent in 3 Months course (for French)

  33. Wanterof Justice on December 17, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    This guy makes me feel a lot better about my Japanese proficiency.

  34. zainab Perween on December 17, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    Props to you! I too am learning one of the hardest languages- Arabic!
    So i understand the amount of constant hard work it takes to be half decent!
    Great videos! Thanks for making them.

  35. Danica Templeton on December 17, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    Wanikani is soooo good for kanji! It helps me not just know my kanji, but also helps me be confident in telling apart similar kanji. I was using Duolingo before, and I think after checkpoint four or so you really need to start supplementing your kanji or even take a break just to focus on it like I’m doing

  36. ぽっぽ on December 17, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    ”why is Japanese said to be difficult?
    ’cause even ourselves, who are Japanese, can’t use it properly.” (that’s what is often said in Japan) so you don’t have to worry.

  37. dragonboy718 on December 17, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    cant read these magazines, everything is so blurry, hahahaha

  38. No longer lost on December 17, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    This video is literally "Why I tried and failed to learn Japanese, and why you should try and fail too"

  39. RANIRU PEIRIS on December 17, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    now i know hpw to deal with japanese , find a one who speak english , boooooom

  40. tankeryy on December 17, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    i was ignorant in the past like "i wonder why japanese peeps are having hard time learning english when its an easy language?" (also english is not my mother tongue) so i started learning on february to april 2021 (and then started procrastinating until august and started again this month September lmao) then while learning japanese i realized to why japanese peeps have hard time learning english.

  41. enric on December 17, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    ayo? 9:51

  42. 3004ever on December 17, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Omg when he spoke to the Chinese girls😂😂😂

  43. RawGab on December 17, 2021 at 3:04 pm

    Well ..I still love your reports and enjoy them very much 😉

  44. liu tony on December 17, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    About language learning: Why do you think Japanese student have problems with kanji but Chinese students don’t? Chinese student has nothing to compare with, so they can’t complain. Chinese students do not count, it’s pointless. The moment a Japanese student exposed to kanji, they start counting and complaining. When Japanese student learn English, they put all the focus on grammar and effectively treating they brains as a computer parser: deconstructing sentence according to grammar rules and reconstruct in another language. The human mind is capable of so much more but it does not work like a computer.

  45. Ajnin on December 17, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    Oh Finland isn’t super hard anymore yay 😀

  46. Rainbow L on December 17, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    It would be helpful if you can make a video or videos to read simple Japanese menu🥲

  47. Hand Soap on December 17, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    I want to point out that this "My brain isn’t wired for language learning" line is a logical fallacy. Although studies exist that give great evidence towards the idea that some people are wired towards language learning, they do not correspond to a classroom environment.

    If you look at most Polyglots in the World (people whom speak more than 4 Languages) you notice two interesting trends: 1. They were late 20s early 30s when they started Language Learning, 2. They were horrible at Language Learning in Highschool yet really good at self-taught Language Learning. This implies it’s not "Their brain wasn’t wired for language learning" and more "Their brain wasn’t wired for a classroom environment".

    My own journey mirrors this well. In Ireland you’re required to take Irish, then you have to take a European Language (I took French), and then I went to Muslim Sunday School where I had to learn Arabic. I failed all three classes and retained nothing. But when I was 20 I took Japanese 101 in College, and became top of my class. I realized the difference between my failures and my successes was the classroom environment.

    The issue with Classrooms is that they use English as a basis. You’re thinking in English and translating to Japanese. You’re thinking "I want to say X, what is X in Japanese?" and that slows you down. You learn really complex phrases that you just have to memorize and repeat, in order to say these really specific phrases. This method is really bad, and one people fall into even when doing self-teaching. Instead, say what you already know: use the Vocabulary you already know to talk about topics related to that Vocabulary, and when speaking on unfamiliar topics try to relate them back to the core vocabulary you know, instead of trying to translate from English. Thinking and speaking in Japanese should be step 1. Lastly, you really need to know the core basics, you have to start with the foundations.

    Almost anybody can be good at Language Learning if you take the time to learn the whole language. Don’t use a dictionary or phrase book. Don’t translate phrases. Don’t relate everything back to English. First build your foundations of grammar, over time expand your vocabulary, have conversation using what you know, and expose yourself to new media/literature/conversation. Move away from the Classroom Environment, away from just memorizing set-phrases, and take time to understand the core of the language and learning to think in said language. After that it’s no longer a matter of "My brain isn’t wired for Language Learning" but instead "Do I have the time and passion to spend a year or two on learning the basics of this language before I can use it in a practical way?".

  48. joseph dunn on December 17, 2021 at 3:07 pm

    It’s my ketchup theory. You’re trying to push the ketchup out of the bottle but, it’s slow. YOU CAN’T RUSH IT. IT WILL EVENTUALLY COME OUT OF THE BOTTLE. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP-GO WITH THE FLOW. UNDERSTAND MY THEORY. DON’T GIVE UP. HANG IN THERE.

  49. 730t on December 17, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    just read more

  50. Isabella Savoy on December 17, 2021 at 3:09 pm

    Im portuguese and we say "hair brown" and not "brown hair" 🙂 I think native english speakers don’t have to make an effort usually because they already speak the current "universal" language. But if you are portuguese you probably know a bit of spanish, maybe french, and english. we are used to adapt to other foreign languages and learn them. We are also used to listen to other languages. Saying this japanese is a very difficult language no mater what the different writing systems etc so i admire you for learning. You need to hear more japanese and start to speak with your wife in japanese, the issue with english speakers is they are used to everyone to adapt to them. Start to speak in japanese and hear everything in japanese outside work. Justs tips from a person who learned two 3 languages 🙂 In your case being an english speak is a disvantage since people will more likely adapt to you.
    PS: about the bike not true for me hehehe 🙂