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I’m obsessed with studying kanji after passing tests

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 60s, and I’ve devoted my time and energy to passing kanji qualification tests. Lately, I feel as though the kanji are chasing after me in my mind. This distracts me from studying anything else I really want to learn.

I used to be bad at kanji, but I became interested mainly thanks to quiz shows on TV. I started taking a test at the intermediate level and now, at long last, I’ve just passed an advanced-level one, which was so challenging for me, though. I was elated and felt so fulfilled because I had gone through many setbacks up until then.

However, this emotional uplift did not last long. Instead, I started becoming obsessed with the feeling the kanji are chasing me. It may sound like an exaggeration, but I feel as if these characters are surging like an avalanche or are like raging waves that are almost crushing me. On top of that, I hate myself if I can’t write the kanji by heart. I feel all of this is choking me, and it’s uncomfortable.

I’m currently studying something in another field in which I’m interested. However, I can’t concentrate on this due to my problem. Should I take this as simply one of the challenges in my life?

E, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Dear Ms. E:

You’ve devoted your time and energy to passing kanji qualification tests. I admire your ambition and great work to achieve your goal. However, as a result, you’ve felt almost crushed due to the characters and distracted from studying your new subject. I think it’s quite ironic.

In my opinion, learning kanji takes a lifetime, even for scholars. The higher the level you reach, the harder it becomes. Also, it is probably difficult to maintain the level you once attained if you fail to constantly work at it. The same thing can probably be said for anything you study.

What’s more, achieving an expert level in multiple fields seems to be extremely difficult. If I were you, I’d aim for only one thing at a time ... but even then, I wouldn’t feel confident I’d reach the level I want.

Considering your current situation, I suggest you simply focus on what you really want to do. You should also be aware that doing this will mean you will see the level you already acquired for something else eventually fall.

I hear many people who pass various qualifications in succession have ended up making that their goal. You should think hard about what you really want to do.

Taku Mayumura, writer

(from Feb. 16, 2018, issue)Speech

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