Taking a Break: Helpful or Harmful?

When I embarked on my AJATT-style Japanese learning, I was set on never taking a break.  Sure, I had waves of more and less activity, but I never stopped.

I often felt my “less activity” periods hurt my learning.  It was extra difficult to get back into a steady pace, as it felt like I’d been stagnant and not fulfilling my potential.  Horrid for my motivation. But I always pushed on, even when things were busy or stressful.  No stopping.


However, I was forced to prioritize things for the past 3 weeks or so.  My senior dog (who, by the by, is the best and most awesome dog in the world) became very, very ill.  While caring for him and coping with the idea that he will likely soon take his leave, I had to finish my graduate school application, move, and change jobs.  It was crazy.  Something had to give.  Reluctantly, I chose Japanese.

Surprisingly, taking a break seems to have done me good.  In some ways, anyways…

The Pros

  • Re-invigorated my passion for the language.  Almost like it was new to me again.  Much easier to remember all the things that fascinate and interest me, and why I started learning in the first place.
  • Gave me a chance to step back, clear my head, and reflect on what I’ve been doing.  Nice to evaluate what’s been working, as well as what might need to be tweaked.
  • I’m more excited than ever to get back into studying.  And with the fresh perspective comes new ideas as to how I can do things differently, and maybe even better.

The Cons

  • Use it or lose it!  Words, kanji, phrases, lots of things I was once somewhat familiar with are all but lost on me now.
  • – 2 in Writing, -2 in Reading, – 4 in Speaking  (Listening skillz still seem to be uneffected, hoorah!)
  • Mad SRS reps due.  But it’s all good.  With my new perspective, I feel confident I can and will tackle them in manageable chunks!

All in all, I’m glad I took this break.  I think the benefits outweigh what it’s cost me.

Have you ever taken a break from Japanese?  Why?  Do you think it helped you or harmed you?

Here’s what some Tweeps had to say!

(Also from Kanjiwarrior)

From @e_dub_kendo


3 Responses to Taking a Break: Helpful or Harmful?

  1. Delphine says:

    So sorry to hear about your dog! Hope your life has settled down and that you’re doing well 🙂

    Everyone’s situation is different and everyone handles breaks differently. Sometimes life gets in the way and it just happens, and I think it’s great that you’re looking at the benefits of it and that you feel reinspired to study 😀 There’s really no point in feeling guilty about it either – the more that happens the more you could begin to associate Japanese with negative feelings. If you have too much going on, don’t worry about hardcore studying and SRS reps that might be overwhelming, but try to still listen to Japanese music every once in a while or something.

    Like you mentioned, a break may be harmful to language study, but I think it’s more harmful earlier on than it is when you already have a decent base in Japanese. So don’t sweat it, and good luck with future learning! 😀

  2. Hello Liz.

    I also decided to put my AJATT journey on a hiatus at the beginning of this year and focus instead in immersing in English (my native tongue is Spanish) and working on other personal projects. And yup… “use it or lose it”. I have forgotten almost all the kanji I learned using Heisig’s method, and I know I will have to start from scratch when I get into it again… but I’m actually excited to re-start my journey when the right time comes.

    At least I’m getting to own even more in English, so it’s not a complete loss! And I haven’t forgotten the kana hehe xD

    I hope everything turns out ok for you Liz. I wish you success with all your projects! 😀

  3. marcusbird says:

    I think “break” is relative to where you are in your study level, but I think its good to have “some” Japanese in some form if you aren’t say, actively studying.

    I used to live in Japan, and I was always frustrated because I was starting and stopping Heisig quite often, and I would never keep up with Anki reps, or anything like that. So I when I had these long gaps between actually trying to study, (i.e breaks,) I felt I wasn’t progressing at all. In actuality, just living in Japan gave me a base exposure that kept my brain “topped up” so not doing certain things each day wasn’t such a big deal.

    Now that i’m outside Japan, I think the idea of a break is an actual reality, beacause I have to create my own immersion. But for me I find the easiest thing to do is not get too worked up if you can’t beast your Japanese the way you want to sometimes, because that’s just how it is. Each step if a step closer, so maybe a few slow steps aren’t so bad 🙂

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