Studying after loss of motivation

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Denzagathist
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Studying after loss of motivation

Postby Denzagathist » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:49 am

I have been struggling a lot with my motivation for Japanese lately. When I originally started learning the language several years ago, I was interested in Japanese because I found it beautiful and it was so foreign compared to every other language I had studied. I was interested in traditional Japanese culture, and dreamed of traveling to Japan one day. Several years passed, that interest faded, and I quickly lost most of the Japanese that I had worked so hard to learn. Then, unexpectedly, the chance to move to Japan for a year presented itself, and so my interest in Japanese suddenly flared up again for obvious reasons: I needed the language for my daily life. I had strong motivation to study once again, out of necessity if for no other reason.

Fast forward to today: I have been living and working in Japan for nearly a year, my Japanese is decent, but my motivation for continuing with Japanese is almost completely gone. I haven’t had the best experience in Japan and I think that is mostly to blame. I’ve also realized that I’m not as interested in the culture as I once was. I have no Japanese friends. My current level is high enough for everything that I need to do in my daily life. I teach English here, so I rarely need to use Japanese for my job besides the odd word or phrase when a student can't understand. My year in Japan is almost finished, and I don’t foresee myself coming back here anytime soon.

In short, I’ve lost all of my original sources of motivation and it feels like the only reason I’m learning Japanese anymore is to know Japanese. I have no underlying purpose or goal related to the language anymore. The thing is, I’m not yet content with my current level. I’d like to reach ~B2 level before calling it quits on the language, considering how much time I’ve put into it. I also feel ashamed that my Japanese isn’t there yet given that I’ve spent nearly a full year in country in addition to having studied for several years prior.

I wonder if anyone here has been in a similar situation and was able to overcome the loss of their original motivation to learn a language by either finding new motivation elsewhere or by soldiering onward toward their goal despite lacking motivation. I’m also wondering why someone in this position would even bother to continue putting in the effort, if it feels like there is no real reason to continue.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby renaissancemedici » Tue Jul 10, 2018 5:37 am

Loss of original motivation: the story of my language learning life.

But motivation tends to appear again at the most inconvenient times (say, the moment you decide to drop Japanese forever, and start mandarin). What I mean is, in my experience, the strong desire to learn a particular language comes and goes, but never dies. It will come back to you anyway, you might as well will it back.


Maybe you should see the Japanese culture with fresh eyes again, and connect with whatever made you love it in the first place. I suppose you reached a point where you communicate with your current level of the language, and nothing is pushing you to learn more.

Do try to make some Japanese friends, I suppose it will make a difference.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby zenmonkey » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:47 am

Denzagathist wrote:I wonder if anyone here has been in a similar situation and was able to overcome the loss of their original motivation to learn a language by either finding new motivation elsewhere or by soldiering onward toward their goal despite lacking motivation. I’m also wondering why someone in this position would even bother to continue putting in the effort, if it feels like there is no real reason to continue.


The people that have not lost motivation at some point in a learning journey are very few indeed. This is a common occurrence. Been there so very often. In fact, @rdearman gave an excellent presentation at the last Polyglot Conference on demotivation and some of the causes - it was very well received. A lot of the listeners confirmed going through the same process.

Personally when I'm demotivated I consider a few things - is it time for a break? Are my expectations about my ability realistic? Have I objectively looked at how far I've come? Do I really need to be goal oriented or task focused? How well do I trust this phase of my learning?

A lot of my successful personal style of language learning is passive - I set myself in an environment that requires the language - like you have tried, by moving to the country. But it is clearly very easy to be isolated enough that we hit ruts.

Perhaps a small step like choosing to work on a book you like a few times a week will help you get back in the groove?
Perhaps you are at the point that a goal like a certificate will artificially motivate you for a short while?

There are a lot of posts on the forum about these topics - give search a try.
Also, I imagine you've heard of AJATT?
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby rdearman » Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:31 am

Make sure your not demoralized. You might believe that the problem is demotivation but it could be demoralization. I spoke about this as zen said, but the presentation is in French. However there is a English summary on my blog. http://rdearman.org/blog.html#org7a9ece3

People tend to be demoralized by the size of the task. But if motivation is the problem one thing you can do is setup a system and rely on the system not the motivation. But this I mean that you have a set of activities you do and you don't worry about the result. So X minutes of study per day and Y of conversation. Then work the system not the motivation.

Also since you are in country i think you should do things in Japanese. Take a diving class, learn to paint, learn sword fighting (kendo) or whatever,but get out in the community. Determine to never be alone and always be talking.

EDIT: after I got back to my computer I found the thread I wanted to link to about taking advantage of being in country. https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =23&t=7943 also you might want to go "Character hunting", walk around looking for characters you've never encountered, then ask some local for a translation. Write all this down in a notebook. This accomplishes two things, you learn new characters and you're forced to interact with others. Outside of work, you should try to never speak a work of English. If that is part of the system you design, then I figure you'll go pretty far.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby garyb » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:42 am

I'll be the devil's advocate and say that the issue is perhaps that you're simply losing interest in Japanese after having experienced the reality of the culture. It's not an uncommon story, and it happened to my old flatmate: she studied Japanese for years, solo and at University, and reached a good level then spent a year in the country. After this, she realised and accepted that, as fascinating and beautiful the country and culture were, Japan wasn't the place for her and she couldn't see herself living there in the long term. She found it to be a very closed society: she struggled to connect with people and make friends there, and always felt like an outsider. She mostly stopped studying the language too since she didn't have much use for it anymore. It does seem like a shame after all the time and effort, but consider the sunken cost fallacy: there's no use in continuing to pour in more time and effort just because you've already invested a lot, especially if you're just studying for personal interest. Forcing yourself to do activities in the language or intensify your studies could just increase your frustration.

I had a somewhat similar experience with my first linguistic love, French, and stopped studying it a few years ago after too many bad experiences with young French-speakers. I also spent five months travelling around Italy and Spain last year, and experiencing the real cultures and their often-closed attitudes towards foreigners - as opposed to my romanticised idea based on films and books and friends from the countries - dealt a blow to my motivation that caused me to mostly lose interest for a couple of months. The motivation did gradually return as I reconsidered these experiences and my attitudes towards the languages; I didn't try to force it with "hacks" or make myself study when I didn't feel like it. My loss of motivation was the symptom of bigger problems - bad experiences, unrealistic ideas and expectations, and just tiredness from the trip and trying to live in other languages - and it was these I had to deal with. More recently I've even picked up French again, mainly because I've found someone to speak it with and again that's made the motivation return naturally.

I'm not saying this is your case; it's just a possibility to consider alongside what the other excellent replies have suggested. What I've said might also seem to go against other posts I've made recently where I've criticised learners who lose motivation as soon as they reach the intermediate plateau and start a new shiny language instead of persevering, but you seem well beyond that point and you've given Japanese a very good chance already.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby iguanamon » Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:50 pm

garyb wrote:...consider the sunken cost fallacy: there's no use in continuing to pour in more time and effort just because you've already invested a lot, especially if you're just studying for personal interest. Forcing yourself to do activities in the language or intensify your studies could just increase your frustration...I've criticised learners who lose motivation as soon as they reach the intermediate plateau and start a new shiny language instead of persevering, but you seem well beyond that point and you've given Japanese a very good chance already.

Here on the forum we are naturally biased towards encouraging people not to give up. Advising someone to quit a language can seem like heresy. So it takes some guts to do that here. I agree with garyb's well written post. You're not a newbie language-learner. Your situation is different. You have been living and working in Japan. From what you've shared, I wouldn't say you are demoralized. It doesn't seem that you want to continue with Japanese, so don't. There's no shame in that. You've already proven yourself to be highly capable of learning languages. You don't need to learn Japanese just to prove your worth as a polyglot. Put that energy and effort you would otherwise spend on Japanese into improving your Greek, Turkish or Italian... or learning a new language, or, into something else in which you may be interested. Life is short. Don't fall into the sunk cost fallacy. Do something you want to do.

By the way, welcome back. You've accomplished a lot since HTLAL. I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby Adrianslont » Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:53 pm

I was going to write a few words of encouragement - because it seemed you needed encouragement - not just with Japanese. I was going to encourage you to continue with Japanese - despite the sunk cost fallacy - but maybe I was thinking more about myself.

Then I looked at your profile and see that you are a language learning machine with a big bunch of languages at a high level at a young age - and I thought that it really wouldn’t hurt to let one go if you really have no love for it or need for it. It would free you up for another language you love or just give you time to improve or maintain the ones you already have. And I suspect you could probably come back to it if you change your mind sometime in the next few years and pick it up really quite well.

Or, if you are still interested in traditional Japanese culture, you could continue reading about that and just forget about living in Japan or speaking Japanese. I imagine the best sources for reading about Japanese culture are written in Japanese. Seems worthwhile to me - if you still have that interest.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby zenmonkey » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:22 pm

iguanamon wrote:
garyb wrote:...consider the sunken cost fallacy: there's no use in continuing to pour in more time and effort just because you've already invested a lot, especially if you're just studying for personal interest. Forcing yourself to do activities in the language or intensify your studies could just increase your frustration...I've criticised learners who lose motivation as soon as they reach the intermediate plateau and start a new shiny language instead of persevering, but you seem well beyond that point and you've given Japanese a very good chance already.

Here on the forum we are naturally biased towards encouraging people not to give up. Advising someone to quit a language can seem like heresy. So it takes some guts to do that here. I agree with garyb's well written post. You're not a newbie language-learner. Your situation is different. You have been living and working in Japan. From what you've shared, I wouldn't say you are demoralized. It doesn't seem that you want to continue with Japanese, so don't. There's no shame in that. You've already proven yourself to be highly capable of learning languages. You don't need to learn Japanese just to prove your worth as a polyglot. Put that energy and effort you would otherwise spend on Japanese into improving your Greek, Turkish or Italian... or learning a new language, or, into something else in which you may be interested. Life is short. Don't fall into the sunk cost fallacy. Do something you want to do.

By the way, welcome back. You've accomplished a lot since HTLAL. I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts.

The forum never ceases to surprise me (I mean this in a positive way) with the variety of perspective and insights. While I think that challenging the sunken cost fallacy is valid (and I respect both of your posts) is that really what is going on here? Denzagathist clearly underlines their dissatisfaction with their achieved level given the amount of time spent in-country. I agree that sounds a bit like "I've sunk a lot of time on this" but I believe it more about error in self-efficacy - a person's belief in their innate ability to achieve something.

Addressing of "where should I be now?" relates to 'how good am I at learning' and not only 'how much effort have I sunk in'.

And 'sunken cost' isn't fully a fallacy when you flip it and look at 'future value' and 'investment to achieve' that value. It's easier (less costly) to get to a level of achievement by continuing an effort than dropping the language, then allowing language attrition to take place, and then trying to pick it up again.

Having said that, I completely agree with "Do something you want to do." should be the driving factor. Language learning is inherently full of regrets (oh, I wish I had...) but letting go of those and other guilt is how we come back to learning for enjoyment.



All that I wrote could possibly be dropped - I should have just added - perhaps you will decide to come back to Japanese later.
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby AndyMeg » Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:41 pm

As iguanamon said, life is short. We have a limited time on earth and forcing ourselves to do something we don't really want to do leaves us with less time to do the things we really want to do.

If there's something internally meaningful to you that you want to do in japanese (maybe read a specific book, watch movies or learn a specific art), then just focus on it and don't worry about the rest. Just enjoy the one activity you do want to do in japanese. If there's absolutely nothing you want to do in japanese right now, that's completely fine too.

Japanese society has been a traditionally closed one. If you want to make japanese friends maybe you could have a better chance if you find japanese people that has lived abroad for a considerable amount of time, or japanese people that have never lived abroad but that have a keen interest in learning a foreing language (so maybe you could go to language exchange meetings) or another particular aspect of a different culture (music, traditional arts, etc.).

You have done it great until now and it is completely fine to let it go if it isn't meaningful anymore. Maybe the interest in the language will come back in the future, maybe not. Either way, don't worry. Just focus on what really matters to you at this moment in your life and what truly makes you happy. ;)
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Re: Studying after loss of motivation

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Tue Jul 10, 2018 3:46 pm

I was so over Germany by the end of my year there. Was counting the days to leave. And then I ended up missing it terribly when I was gone. Twenty years later I’ve found balance. Germany is a lovely place to visit, I enjoy using my German skills on occasion, and I’m really enjoying French. My point is only that your feelings about Japanese are subject to change, you are at one extreme now, the pendulum will probably swing, no need to make any decisions about Japanese at the moment. And my goodness, it’s totally okay to take a break. Like years. Japanese isn’t going anywhere.
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