Lately Iíve been very frustrated with studying Japanese. For the last year and half Iíve been dedicated studying, following all the advice I could get. Within nine months I completed Pimsleur and RTK. I got about half way through Rosetta Stone. I finished Tae Kim. I spent countless hours on subs2srs and Iíve mined and repped over 3,000 sentences. I listen to nothing but Japanese Hip Hop and watch almost nothing but Japanese movies. Itís not that I donít enjoy it all that much, itís more that Iíve been feeling like Iím not making any progress, and that I canít understand or speak any Japanese, and that itís a waste of time, and that I suck and I should just give it up and get a new hobby. I was actually very, very close to quitting. And if I quit, it would be an absolute decision to give it up for good. But then something interesting happened today. A coworker who speaks fluent Japanese started speaking to me today and I actually understood her and was able to reply. It was like some kind of weird out of body experience, where I was hearing and understanding Japanese, and I was hearing somebody reply. It was like two people were speaking Japanese, and one of them couldnít be me. But somehow it was me. Itís even weirder because Iíve never spoken with anyone before. The only speaking Iíve ever done was limited to miming television and subs2srs cards. Of course it wasnít perfect, and I have a lot of work to do. But Iím excited again, and Iíve been thinking up some new methods that I think will fill in the gaps to take me to the next stage of having real conversations.
So, if you think you suck and want to quit, maybe itís not as bad as you think. Maybe you are making progress.
Production/application is pretty important for motivation and progression. Most people I know who were too comprehension heavy in their study (aka they lacked a large number of Japanese friends) progressed slowly or not at all (still JLPT3/4 level despite studying the same amount of time I have).
Reminds me of when I went to Japan a few years ago. I didn't think my Japanese was very good, and I'm very nervous about speaking foreign languages because my accent is bad and I'm scared that I'll not understand the response. I was a bit confused at a train station so I bit the bullet and asked a member of station staff how to get somewhere by train - in Japanese. He gave me detailed instructions. I understood. He then said that I was wise for picking to visit there because he thought that they had the best cherry blossoms. I understood all that, nodded along, and thanked him. I didn't say too much but I was amazed that I got him to understand what I was asking, and that I understood his response.
Yeah, if it wasn't for the constant exposure and need for japanese at work, there's no way i'd have put in the level of effort i have. Most of my use is still recognition (technical documents, meetings, etc) but there's a smattering of production here and there too. The main thing is that you use your knowledge *somehow*. Otherwise it's going to feel useless and you'll get demotivated.
Especially if you have an effective study plan, you're constantly going to be pushing yourself to understand and use japanese that's just not quite in reach. Anki in particular will constantly throw the hard cards at you. That can make you feel incompetent. Until you go actually use it and it turns out all you needed was easy stuff.