When you decide to get serious about Japanese, you have to learn discipline. Study every day. If only a little bit.
For someone as lazy as me, this was difficult. I had had streaks of trying hard, but never for too long, and they rarely continued past the point of steady progress. Struggling with Japanese has taught me that it doesn’t matter if you feel the progress, if you feel the point, if you’re any good, if you have problems, if you have talent; what matters is that you keep at it.
Even if serendipity had not allowed Japanese to become such a great part of my life (never had I dreamed of even visiting Japan, tbh), I think that the discipline would have helped me a lot in life. And it does; it really changes the way you perceive studying. I sometimes notice myself having made progress in grad school, and I’m like Woot, aren’t you glad you’re so obsessive despite your self-defeatism? Lately I’ve been noticing the same thing with Chinese, Spanish, and my moocs. I don’t dedicate that much time to them, really. But I’m doing it (almost) daily, and I don’t find myself judging my progress, but my dedication. The question is not ‘is my Chinese any good?’ (of course at this level I am still terrible), but ‘have I been working on it?’ (yep, I have!)
You learn to treasure every hint at progress; any reference that you catch, any word that you manage to make out, any random occurrence that you know is a product of your hard work. Even if you don’t have cues, learning to work with online resources has allowed me to take solace in the fact that I may not *feel* the progress, but at least I have palpable proof that I have been working. It’s great, it really is.