My Japanese sucks! Do I give up or grow up? (lessons in language learning from Rocky Balboa)

I’ve been studying Japanese for over 6 years now. And in total I’ve spent over 2 years of that actually in Japan.

So you might think that my Japanese language is pretty good. I used to think so too (although I’d be sure to play that down).

But the other day I listened to a recording of myself.

Boy, do I suck!

Seriously, I’m not trying to be humble anymore. I have realized that I still genuinely suck at Japanese.

This week I started a new course at my language school where I prepare a speech on some topic related to Christianity. Then in the class I give the speech, and then listen back to it with my teacher giving advice on how to not suck so much.

Monday’s class was pretty brutal because I tried to go just from brief notes.

Tuesday’s class I went with a full script prepared. My teacher stopped the recording every 15 seconds to ask me to pronounce words properly.

Today I thought would be OK because we would just be going over an essay I had handed in the night before.

Here’s some of the mistakes I made.


I now know how Rocky’s felt after his first fight against Klubber Lang.

But, like Rocky, I’m not throwing in the towel. No, I’m calling for a rematch. And Japanese, you can pity me all you want… Because I’m about to start my training montage.

That’s right, it’s on.

It. Is. On.

Because the thing about realizing you’re not as good as you thought you were is that it gives you a choice:

Give up or grow up.

That’s the choice I face now, and it’s the choice Rocky faced.

And I’ve decided to follow Rocky’s example. I’m going to grow up.

In case it’s been a while since you saw Rocky 3, allow me to remind you of the story.

Rocky is champ. He’s held the title for a while and has successfully defended it a number of times. Then he’s challenged by Klubber Lang. He accepts the fight because he thinks he’s unbeatable.

He gets beat. Bad.

That’s when he discovers his team has been protecting him. Only accepting easy challenges.

Why? Because Rocky’s lost that crucial element. He no longer has ‘the eye of the tiger.’ He’s lost his hunger to be the best he can be. That’s why he got pounded by Klubber Lang.

So now Rocky has a choice: give up, or grow up. Throw in the towel and walk away, or throw himself into training and get back in the ring.

Cue epic training montage.

Back to reality, and this week I have realized that I really am not as good at Japanese as I thought I was. I’ve been doing OK because I haven’t been challenged. Maybe even (dare I admit it?) I’ve lost my hunger. I do not have ‘the eye of the tiger.’

So I face that choice:

Give up, or grow up.

To be honest, I’m tempted by the first option. I mean seriously, it’s been six years!And my Japanese is good enough for most situations.

And as much fun as a training montage is to watch, the training itself is neither glamorous or easy. Working on your weaknesses means constantly having your failings highlighted. That’s not much fun. It’d be easier to just coast at the level I have.

But, as I mentioned before, my dad didn’t teach me to give up. And God doesn’t tell me to give up, but to give my best. Not to impress other people (good job, because my Japanese a long way from being impressive) but because it pleases my Heavenly Father, as I know it would also please my earthly one.

“Whatever you do, do at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for people.”

(Paul’s letter to the Colossians, 3:23)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some training to do…



3 thoughts on “My Japanese sucks! Do I give up or grow up? (lessons in language learning from Rocky Balboa)

  1. Pingback: The hardest part of learning Japanese? Having Love. | Reversed Thunder

  2. Pingback: Running through the pain: on (half)marathons and missions | Reversed Thunder

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