Japanese Classes? Textbooks? Grammar? Throw it all out the window. Forget everything you thought you knew about learning a language. The real way to fluency is … immersion. Umm… ok… more explanation below.
I may be one of the last people in the J-Blog reading/Japanese learning community to have discovered the All Japanese All the Time blog (or so it feels that way). And seriously, after months of tediously memorizing vocabulary lists and re-playing J-Pod 101 podcasts that are chock full of English, the blog is pretty mind-blowing.
Khatzumoto’s theory in a nutshell is this: There is no excuse for not being able to become fluent in another language. Immerse yourself in your target language 24 hours a day, study sentences and put your first language aside for the next 18 months (which is how long it took for him to become fluent). Now, of course, even Khatzumoto himself is all for taking any piece of advice with a grain of salt, which is exactly what I did while reading his blog.
I like the way I’m learning Japanese. I listen to podcasts, watch doramas, make paper flashcards and study from the Genki book with my tutor. But I have to admit, the process is not going as quickly as I would like. I’m not going to outline AJATT’s entire strategy here (I highly recommend you to just go read it yourself), but I will go over what I found the most helpful and will try to implement into my current routine.
1. All Japanese Music, All the Time- I am a total world music freak… so this one’s a little hard to swallow. Kicking out English music? Pshhhh… no big deal. Letting my Korean/Spanish/Arabic (ESP KOREAN) go… I don’t know if I could do this! I’ve slowly begun to wean myself off of K-pop by only downloading Japanese versions of Korean songs. AJATT blog actually advises to delete ALL non-Japanese mp3s and give away (or break!) your cds… but that is just unfathomable. So much money down the drain! So for now, I will try to add as little as possible of other languages on my iPod and continue discovering new Japanese artists.
2. Japanese while you work and sleep- Yeah, I said sleep. Khatzumoto even listened to Japanese in his sleep! Why not try it myself? I’ve already put my Japanese Pod 101 subscription to good use by downloading many of the advanced audio blogs and having them on repeat while I work. It’s actually very soothing and whenever I step away from my desk, I find myself totally missing that Japanese playing in my ear. I plan to buy some ear phones that will be comfortable for sleeping and listen to these while I sleep as well. Hey, the man became fluent enough to work for a Japanese company in 18 months, you know he did something right! I am also putting together a Youtube playlist with videos of J-vloggers. It’s not much of a playlist yet, as Japanese vloggers are about as easy to find as unicorns, but here’s the link in case you’re interested in checking out what I’ve got so far. I am currently on the hunt for Japanese podcasts and will be checking out the iTunes Japan store soon!
3. Japanese Learning on the Go- So, I just recently got myself an Ipod Touch 4g (I sure am showing that sucker off!) and have been going app crazy. I plan to review these in the future, but for now I am going to focus on Anki, the popular FREE open source SRS that has become the belle of the ball ever since Smart.fm went all “paid subscription model” on us. I’ve tried Anki in the past, but really couldn’t get myself to sit at my computer and manually click to view my answers every time. I decided to purchase the app, and while the price was quite steep ($25), it really is a wondrous thing. You make your own cards on your computer, sync them to your app at the click of a button, and you have customized flashcards on the go. I still love my paper flashcards, but this is definitely becoming a solid part of the routine.
4. Talk Japanese to Everyone- Ok, this one I already do… but I plan to go into overdrive. I answer my phone saying “Moshi, Moshi” and greet my friends in Japanese. Luckily, my friends love it and have adopted most of the phrases themselves. But I do realize there are people out there with friends and family who are not so supportive of their Japanese studies. I say, screw them, keep saying “Konnichiwa” until you drive them nuts.. but that’s just me :-). . Khatzumoto says to think of yourself as a Japanese tourist who speaks no English. You have no choice BUT to speak it. And you could always just talk to yourself. If you think you’re crazy for doing so, don’t worry, we can be crazy together! 😛
The blog really was a lot to take in, and that’s coming from someone who is not learning the traditional way. I suggest checking it out even if it’s just to see what all the hype is about. Again, you don’t have to follow his instructions word for word. I took his advice and am adapting some of it to a routine I already follow.
So, we’ll see how this works out. I plan to follow all of these for about a month… really it can’t hurt. And if I see improvement, or none at all, I will definitely pass along the info! I’m off to download more podcasts for tonight’s sleep/learning session…
Update: Check out how well I did! AJATT Immersion Challenge UPDATE