Suddenly better understanding Japanese out of nowhere?
By - ExplodingWario
Your brain occasionally needs time to process/rest, like training a muscle. You don’t get stronger from working out, you get stronger from allowing the muscle to rest and repair.
Being out of the forest, so to speak, might have also given you the chance to appreciate some familiar sights for the first time in a while.
For a long time I thought that applying this muscle-resting analogy to the brain was bullshit. But then multiple times in the past two years of learning Japanese I've had periods where I threw myself against reading novels and books for multiple hours a day, getting frustrated at my difficulty in comprehension/reading speed despite my best efforts. I would take a couple days' break from reading out of dejection, then return to the same book and found that reading that same book was much easier than it was a week ago. I now really do believe that giving your brain a couple days' break after a long period of intensive Japanese immersion actually measurably improves language acquisition speed.
I always think back to another example where I couldn't beat a boss in a video game, like 50+ attempts in a few hours straight. After quitting and going to bed my brain had time to commit his patterns to memory and I breezed through him the next day. It's really all about letting stuff sink in and not actively thinking all the time.
Your experience matches that of Steve Kaufmann (polyglot). He would drop one language for a bit and focus on another, then when returning to the original language found he had improved.
This happened to me to a crazy degree when taking Calculus. I would routinely run into homework problems where I'd hit a wall and just couldn't solve them despite spending hours working at it. I'd go to bed, get up in the morning and go back to my homework and these impossible problems would now be easily solvable, almost trivially so. It's amazing how much stuff your brain does in the background that you're not aware of.
I think I needed to hear this. I'm only a year into my studies, but recently I've kind of felt like I've hit a wall of some sorts. I feel pretty comfortable with most of the N5 grammar and some of the N4 grammar, but it feels like every new thing I learn is just confusing me more and more and more ha.
I probably could benefit from a solid couple days to a week of just rest and not really learning anything new or doing too much in Japanese. I bet it would help.
Thanks for the reply, that does make sense :)
I've just had a tough 2 weeks of only interacting in Japanese. I've picked up a hell of a lot of new vocab, but only understood 30% of what was said.
I'm sure after a rest, I'll be able to use my new vocab and understand more of what is said, hopefully.
Yeah, burnout can even be like overtraining. It's best to just relax (or say maintain Anki reviews, no new cards) do no immersion and just let your brain rest.
Then in a few weeks you'll suddenly get the urge to start again.
This happened to me when I learned English as a second language. Our classes at school were mostly useless, but I spent a lot of time listening to music, reading and watching subtitled movies and at certain points, things just came together effortlessly.
I think the concept of a "tipping point" in language learning is real. At some point, you simply have enough vocabulary and grammar mastered to understand 90% of basic everyday conversation. Not sure whether it's New Word #7,679 or Grammar Point #224, but the magical percent has to be reached somewhere.
There are other situations where an additive process eventually reaches a threshold of change, which may be useful as language learning analogies. Water remains water when you add heat, little by little, until suddenly at 100\*C it becomes steam. A plane goes faster and faster until suddenly it's off the ground. A tennis racket with one string, two strings, ten strings is useless, but add enough strings and at some point it becomes a useable racket.
No lol it's bs. There might be a threshold but it's not as small as one word. Like water doesn't depend on the tiniest degree of celsius, or the plane with one more Planck length per second. A tennis racket can function without any strings if you are creative. It's not that small is what I'm saying.
Other than that, yes I can agree that there comes a point where you get comfortable.
Ha, it's true that language learning is not exactly like flipping a switch. Of the examples I gave the racket is probably the best analogy.
In my own experience I do feel like every once in a while I sense a kind of leveling up. Maybe it just comes from the occasional realization that I understand more than I used to in similar situations. So, no hard threshold, just a byproduct of reassessing my skills from time to time.
Now I can fully agree with that lol.
It's like this, but there are many points.
You could study and watch say Pokemon. Then eventually reach a point where you understand 95% of Pokemon and can watch the series for fun.
Then you move on to, say Dragonball. You then will feel disheartened as you only understand 70%. Study up, whatever and get that back over 90% and it's fun again.
Then you move to 鬼滅の刃 and... it's back down to 75%.
Yeah, that happens a lot with Japanese. If you don‘t learn kanji pronunciations but only meanings, at some point you are starting to read kanji by pronunciation because you learned them through vocabulary. For me that happened in a real short time, maybe a week. Very fascinating.
Same for recognizing words as a pattern and not character by character. At some point it starts and you gain much momentum.
But it‘s the same with things like learning to ride a bike or juggling. It never works and suddenly it does and always works from that point on. So why not with very foreign languages?
Yes, it's normal to go through long periods where it feels like you're making no progress and then suddenly making a huge leap. I believe the technical term for this is having something "click" into place.
Had the same thing happen recently. It's so neat how our brains work.
Yes, it happened to me as well. There are times where I'm surprised I can suddenly recognize words in a paragraph that I've read before (a few days/weeks prior). It's my favorite part of language learning.
As everyone else has said, learning things isn't a straight line. It's more like the tangled mess you get when you pull your wired headphones out of your pocket.
Happens to me regularly with Japanese, it doesn't surprise me anymore but it's always great to experience. Never go full zero on Japanese, and your brain will be training for you, even in secret. Then 3 months months later you try x again and it's totally different than before.
I've stopped studying as hard for the last couple of months as real life has taken over, and I have to say when I do encounter Japanese stuff (at least the stuff I've already covered) reading it feels a bit more natural. I'm still ass and I can still never actually read a full sentence, but the bits I do know I seem to be able to read immediately rather than having to sit and process each word.
I share this situation presently, new job and moving has put my studies on hold but in my encounters with Japanese I've found it easier to understand and recognize things.
To add to the other comments, use this to your advantage for anything thats practical.
I used to play a lot of Rocket League which takes a lot of skill. I would sometimes give myself 2-3 days off from playing, especially when I felt like I wasn't doing so well, just to let my brain do its thing. When I returned I would play much better than I did before.
his is called \*learning\*
Seriously, haven't you learnt anything before? This is how it happens
Usually after a week, but not after 3 months with no exposure.
Because language acquisition is subconscious. You don't learn a language, you get used to it. If you do AJATT you'll be experiencing this literally all the time....