Japanese major with major question and advice

I feel that I am in a bad situation in my language learning. I am a Japanese major at my local university and currently in an upper level class because I passed, and got high grades, in the prerequisite courses. But my problem is that even though I can do the work, when it comes to understanding Japanese speech, I have serious problems with comprehension and understanding what people are saying. I do a lot of things such as listening to music, podcasts, and movies, but I never am able to understand them to any real level where I know what is going on.

I have been studying Japanese for about 4 years at the community college and university level and off and on over a 8 year period since 2008. I even did one year in Japan on exchange program. But even so, I still have very low comprehension on listening comprehension. Because of this I have problems understanding my upper level classes since they are only taught in Japanese and I don’t do well in conversations.

I guess I am very concerned because I feel that I am the only one with this problem in my class. I guess I am asking if anyone out is in a similar situation. Also, if you were, how did you improve. I hope that my post made sense. If there is anything that I need to add, please let me know.

I would suggest you get busy LingQing.

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What Steve said…

Negative comment time!

Change majors to something that can get you employed (you can still go to grad school for Japanese with a PoliSci, Business, Engineering, or any other degree) and start learning Japanese intensively on your own. You’re not going to learn the language just by being a Japanese major, and if you’re going to work on Japanese on your own time enough to become actually good at it, you might as well be majoring in something else.

I actually agree with your comment.

I did think of changing majors a few years ago, but this was the major that I chose. Originally I was a math major but changed to Japanese after discovering liked Japanese as a subject more. I was planning on being an English teacher or a translator and Interpreter in Japan when I first started. I am not unhappy with my choice of major, but with my current language abilities. Also, my university will not allow me to change majors due to being in my last year with only six classes to go and having too many units.

To be honest, there are other factors going on that are causing me problems. I hate to go through the whole “I have no motivation anymore” excuse, but I have noticed that I do not really study like others. I tend to study a lot during the semester, but then get burned out due to stress and anxiety from classes and dealing with the work. Also, I had some negative experiences in Japan that I think still affect me today. I wish I could let all of that go and just focus on intensively learning Japanese, but it is difficult for me. Also, I am 43 years old and I kind of want my life as a university student to end soon. I am 20+ years older than almost all of the students in the department.

Sorry about the long reply. Again, I actually agree with your comment because years ago I could have changed to a major where language does not get in the way, but I no longer have that choice. Also, I thought by now that at least I could understand what people say in regular everyday conversations.

What you describe is a pretty common stage in language learning, so don’t despair. A summary of your skill levels would be helpful, but I’ll wing it. So you’ve got poor listening, which is keeping you from understanding your prof. You also have poor conversation.

Imo, you should be a well balanced B2, or at least a strong B1 with a good grasp of “teaching vocabulary” to take your all-Japanese uni level courses.

The obvious advice is to do plenty of active listening, preferably many hours per week. But that alone doesn’t work very well unless you keep increasing your vocabulary/grammar and it’s usage. So lingQing, which is listening and reading the same material, is very good for this. But let me pick on something that’s probably even lower hanging fruit - your poor conversation. You can get that up to speed much faster than your listening imo, and in the process it should fix your most basic listening issues.

I’ll give the same advice that I give over and over again here. Take a 1hr conversation class from italki every day. Classes should be Japanese only, and should focus on communication with minimal correction. Write down every word/sentence you hear but don’t understand, and all those you want to use but don’t know. After the class, put those words/sentences into an SRS and review them the next day. Hopefully after less than 100 days of this you’ll be a good B2 speaker with much better listening.

Now I’m not saying you’ll be advanced at anything, and I’m not saying that this is a substitute for listening many hours per week, I’m just saying that based on your description I think this is the most efficient way to make up your current deficit and get back on top of your class.

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I have been thinking about that too. I only have the free account, but I am thinking of becoming a paying member of the site so I can have unlimited lingqs and imports. I have watched a lot of your videos and actually agree with a lot of what you said.

For me, there are other factors that I think are part of my problem though. Mostly due to negative experiences during my study abroad in Japan a few years ago and age gap issues as a 43 year old Japanese major.

I will take your advice and trust the process. I also need to let go of whatever negative things that happened before.

Check out the LingQ Podcasts, Steve’s Book inJapaneseetc.

By using LingQ, you are giving yourself the opportunity to enjoy the content. When you listen to a random radio station, it can be difficult to engage unless your comprehension is at a level whereby it can infer “rogue” words by context.

Once you’ve gone through a transcript here, you can listen to that content anywhere you like, but now you know the meaning.

Having an understanding of the context is key to improving your listening, especially if it’s one of your weaker attributes.