I think for every JET, not matter their ability, language is a great and consistent battle.
Even if you can speak well, kanji are a minefield. While I don’t use a dictionary everyday in Japan now, most days I do. And I either consider a victory or day of not enough Japanese conversation if I don’t use it. There is always something that crops up where I need a little boost to work out what it is that is going on. Language, particularly early on was a stress for me. I didn’t really study much in the lead up, and so the first 2 months or so were mostly me just getting used to speaking and using the language regularly again.
Once I got back into it, while I do struggle with a lot of things, usually I could communicate what I needed to. Right now I feel I have improved, but it’s hard to pinpoint and describe that clearly, it is more a “yeah, you do what did before, but better and more naturally,” Which is great… Although it makes it hard to know how you have really progressed. Although I guess this is why most Japanese learners are always looking for the next test to conquer. Clear goals and certain knowledge when you succeed. One of my friends here seems like they are taking a new test every few months, most of which I didn’t even know about until they mentioned them. I suspect once I take the N3* at the end of this year I’ll start my focus on tests a little more.
*N3 refer’s to the 3rd level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, JLPT. The easiest level is N5, and hardest N1.
So study wise, what have I been doing? Mostly classes once or twice a week, and using free time at work for self study. Most of which involved reading and practicing from textbooks with grammar points, or learning kanji/vocab with kanjidamage. Although since starting the musical I have done less of that than I would like. For a while I was also doing a good job of studying with my games, but that drifted off about the same time musical kicked into gear
I was very deliberate with choosing to take the N3 at the end of this year as opposed to last year or even this July. I wanted to ensure I had the time to get to that level without stress. Moving to a new country is stressful, and I wasn’t sure where my revision needed to start from. So about 6 months or so was spent revising over N4 and university grammar. A lot I had forgotten almost entirely.
My biggest problem right now honestly is now the same as my English one. Which is I am TERRIBLE at getting a conversation with a person I don’t know to go anywhere interesting. And I am also terrible at striking up conversation at work, because I am always concerned people are busy. So, I ultimately don’t get as much practice as I probably should be.
However, while a lot of people tell me my Japanese is good. While I would hardly say I just tackle anything that comes my way. I have noticed a lot of moments over the last few months either noticing things I knew I couldn’t read before, or knowing things that people I consider much better than me in Japanese.