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A Proposal Towards Reduced Suckage in the Classroom

Classes suck. But could they be made to suck less? Even, *gasp* worthwhile? A reader named Kurojohn asked me that, and I got carried away with the response, so for the purposes of easier discussion, here it is as an article. First, the question:

Khatzumoto, I know that language classes are not highly regarded by you, and understandably because they often become a barrier to effective language acquisition instead of a help. When I say language classes, I’m not thinking about eikaiwa schools, but courses offered in high schools or universities for academic credit where graded evaluation is a given. I would love to hear your thoughts on possibly how a language teacher in such a situation could teach in a way that is complimentary to this approach instead of a hindrance. How could a teacher encourage and facilitate this kind of approach and still take a graded progress evaluation? Any brilliant ideas? Would love to hear your thoughts, and of course anyone else’s.

I haven’t really been interested in making language classes better, but for what it’s worth, here is my response:

Wow, that’s a really good (and really constructive) question. I’ve spent so long either ignoring classes altogether or talking about how they suck that I haven’t given much thought to how they might be made to work.

As I see it, language is a very all-encompassing thing. Virtually anything and everything could constitute language practice. Part of the reason classes suck is they’re designed to optimize grading and not learning — to be easy to grade, but not necessarily to be easy to learn. “Why should they be easy to learn?” someone might say? Well, because learning is easy. You take one block of information and tie it to another. It’s easy. OK, but you know that already, so what you’re wanting to know is how we might:

>still take a graded progress evaluation

I think something that takes the SRS into account could be key. The teacher could take a student’s SRS database, and randomly select questions from it to produce a test; the random selection could bias toward older information that’s been reviewed a lot, which is even more interesting because it’s older information that usually trips up students. That way, every student could be tested on chunks of information that they actually were interested in [so, if you like Star Trek, more power to you!], and that connected to things that they wanted to know, because that’s what a language is (or should be) for — doing (reading, watching, listening to, writing and saying) what YOU want.

That test, randomly produced from the student’s own SRS, could take several forms to test different skills. There could be a part that just tests reading comprehension (given a sentence, read it out loud). Another part that tests listening comprehension (teacher dictates a sentence to you from your own SRS collection, and you have to write it down). Maybe a little spoken test where the student just talks about one of the materials that were the basis of her SRS entries (so, say she watched Cowboy Bebop, she could explain an episode, or explain the whole series, and answer questions about it); as a cautionary note, this spoken test shouldn’t be about how well the student knows the material in question — that’s not the point of the test — but about her Japanese: can she talk her way through and/or around a complex situation, with natural pronunciation, usage and cadence? Even if you don’t know the word for “spaceship”, if you can say “a space-travelling vehicle”, or you don’t know the word for “bounty hunter”, but can say “people outside of government organizations who catch criminals for money”…even if you forget something, or stumble, if you break out of that stumble in a Japanese way, then that has to count. The essence of fluency isn’t rote. It’s being quick on the old feet.

The SRS combines a lot of features that students and teachers both love. The teachers love the fact that an SRS rewards a consistent effort — not cramming. The SRS can also crunch out numbers that the teachers can combine in a more or less objective evaluation — number of items, number of kanji (variability), kanji frequency (quantity), average length of items, reps per day, adds per day, etc. Simply put, you can’t much lie or cheat past an SRS because it’s all about long-term effort. Furthermore, the teachers are also freed of the burden of making a test, the SRS randomly (and so, in a sense, fairly) creates a test based on the self-directed work of the student. The students, on the other hand, get freedom to choose their materials: no stupid, expensive textbooks, instead, the teacher could have a recommended list, and even build a library of student-suggested materials (books, comics, videos, the whole gig).

It’s the 21st century. People have access to information, to use a hackneyed phrase, “at their fingertips”. You don’t need a textbook, and you don’t need a teacher to give you information. You don’t need a supervisor sternly watching over you with carrot and stick. BUT, a consultant, someone who can tell you the things you can’t look up, someone to advise you on methods, someone to encourage you when you’re down, this is the kind of teacher that is appropriate to the situation we live in now. The teacher need not teach; the students can teach themselves. The teacher just needs to stand back, guide if asked, and evaluate fairly — almost like an uneven mix of coach, line-judge and referee.

Another thing — I’m envisioning this class having little or no class time. Or, it should only meet for administrative purposes — share SRS items, ask the teacher tough questions, borrow materials, share techniques and experiences. The main learning has to be done by the students in their own time; the students should spend less time with each other and more time with native speakers (whether in real life, or in simulo through audio and video); I think that one should always try to be outnumbered by native speakers. In my experience, anyone who thinks that classtime — an hour every weekday with 20 people who have no clue and one person who doesn’t care (to be fair, they may not have enough time to care) — is going to lead to real language proficiency is kidding themselves.

Anyway, thank you so much for that question. If you or anyone else have something that comes to mind, please feel free to add.

  30 comments for “A Proposal Towards Reduced Suckage in the Classroom

  1. October 24, 2007 at 13:34

    I’m not anti-classroom myself, but I am anti-sucky-class.

    The good points about classes are:
    1. You have a live-feed of example sentences upon request.
    2. You can pool knowledge, which sets flags in your memory based on the situations or conversations they were learned in.
    3. It’s heavy in external motivation (which some linguo-psychologists attribute as a driving force in the language aquisition in children). “If I don’t know how to say it, they’re all going to laugh at me! So I better study.”

    I don’t think classes should have tests at all. Grades should be purely determined by the assessment of individual study outside of the classroom (the evidence of which should be presented in class – SRS files, reports, etc.) Even better – Let the students determine their own goals at the beginning of class, and assess their performance on how closely they came to achieving those goals at the end.

    I think you’re too quick to give up on the classroom as a resource, Khatzumoto. But, to each his own.

  2. khatzumoto
    October 24, 2007 at 13:35


    Thanks for your comment about classes. I have a question for you.

    What about those classes where the teacher just works through the text (which, unfortunately, is most classes I’ve ever been to). What good can being in a roomful of people with bad pronunciation and one overwhelmed person be? Linguistically, it seems like a roomful of clueless infants and one very busy adult.

    Also, there definitely is the effect of “those people are going to laugh at me”. But that, it seems to me, comes AFTER a kid has been raised in a loving, non-threatening [I sound so touchy-feely] environment. Kids who are in school, even kindergarten, are already pretty fluent. They’re refining and increasing, not learning from scratch.

    Interestingly, and this may just be me, I found that classes pulled me DOWN. Since everyone sucked, I just had to be better than the next clueless foreigner to be the best thing in class. In fact, being “too good” just got lots of ridicule and negative attention — “do you think you’re Chinese or something!?”. Even from the teacher.
    Working surrounded by native speakers (real or simulated), I had to work to be like THEM. To have THEM understand me and not be bored. And I think this is ultimately a much better thing.

    I don’t know. Those are just my ideas and experiences. What do you think?

  3. October 24, 2007 at 13:36

    I think all of your points are valid, but it’s all circumstantial and fully depends on the teacher.

    For example, in the Korean class that I’m taking right now, we have two teachers. One is really good (gives examples, etc) and the other one is really bad (teaches straight from a textbook page to page). In our class, I’m towards the top in terms of skills in the language, and the teachers cater to our level. The lower level students have to work harder to keep up with us, which means if they are really studying hard they should be getting twice out of the class, but that’s usually not the case.

    The reason I enjoy having a class to attend is it means I HAVE to dedicate at least 3 hours of my day to studying Korean (in the classroom), and what I learn is instantly reinforced when I step outside (because I’m studying in Korea).

    I must say, though, that Korean has considerably less resources for self-study than what I’ve found for Japanese in the past. There is very little support for foreigners learning the language.

    I guess the conclusion to my opinion is that classes are good (only) when the teacher knows how to utilize the time.

    Thanks for getting back to me so quick! Also, thanks for keeping up on your blog. I enjoy reading it.

  4. khatzumoto
    October 24, 2007 at 13:37

    THanks for your response, Alex.

    I totally agree with you — a good teacher can make your experience just as a bad one can break it. That’s really cool that your Korean class is centrifugal toward excellence rather than centripetal toward mediocrity.

    What about a process that freed you of the vagaries of teacher quality?
    You self-studied Japanese, didn’t you? What was your experience of that?

  5. beneficii
    October 24, 2007 at 16:01

    In response to the you-should-listen-to-Japanese-24/7 comment, I think that many people beat themselves up and look to appearances too much. Like, “I don’t want to give the appearance that I’m doing/reading Japanese just for show.” Like, one time in high school I was reading an article on the Internet on a computer in the Basic programming language class (I was finished with my work) and was pondering it and was mindlessly pressing up and down on the scroll bar, scrolling it up and down, when a kid, who was often nasty to me, came up and said, “You like to give impression to others that you’re all smart and reading and stuff, but it doesn’t look like you’re really reading; you’re just giving us a show.” I thought about this, and when I do Japanese, I try to be very mundane and quiet about it.

    Another thing that is annoying is when people say, “Oh, you’re so smart, doing Japanese. I don’t know how I could ever learn that. I’m too stupid.” It’s one of those things that make me quiet about it. I respond, saying, “I don’t know it too well yet and I know there are a lot of dumb people who speak Japanese.” This person I know is literate, and I can envision a particularly nasty exchange between us:

    PERSON: Japanese has all these letters and ways that don’t match the pronunciation. I’m too stupid; only a smart person could learn all that.
    ME: English has that too–so many words for which you must memorize the correct pronunciation because the spelling doesn’t match the pronunciation. Even you, a person who is stupid (by your own admission), were smart enough to learn this.


    Anyway, my apologies and back to my very first sentence. About the 24/7 matter, I think that even if it’s sort of hard to listen to, due to the whole I-can’t-understand-it factor, it’s good to at least run it in the background while you’re doing other things. By that way, you can keep hearing it and listening to it while not being forced to devote your whole attention to it and you can still listen in from time to time, allowing you to get more accustomed to and comfortable with it. Nee, Khatzumoto?

  6. beneficii
    October 24, 2007 at 16:05

    Oh I remember the point I was making! That whole giving-the-apperance-of-putting-on-a-show-when-you’re-really-doing-it thing is tied to people’s fears about doing the whole even-if-you’re-worn-out-from-it-keep-it-in-the-background thing, because it gives the effect of the first. Anyway, ignore those people looking for your putting on a show for them.

  7. October 24, 2007 at 16:08

    That is a good question. I think classes, at least beginner classes, would still be good for some rudimentary things: stroke order, how to write hiragana/katakana. I think some things can be taught well in a rote way: numbers, dates and telling time. Once you get past fundamentals though, classes tend to become less useful. Back in the day I used to just space out in class, then cram before tests and pass that way. Letting students study whatever they want through SRS, with the teacher in a consulting role, is an interesting idea. Someone should try it out or do a study.

  8. nacest
    October 24, 2007 at 17:57

    People who think you are just putting up a show have issues for themselves, or they are dumb indeed. So it’s not even worth your time considering them imho. You’d better spend that time studying!It’s the effects that count, not the appearances.

    all these are good ideas, and I think they could really work. The only remaining “suckage” factor that I can think of is that this method would still not work with people who are not highly motivated.

    With motivation, you can do almost anything. But if you go to a class half heartedly it’ll be annoying having to do all the job by oneself. I know you’ll say “lack of motivation is THEIR problem,they shouldn’t take a class they are not interested in”, and normally I agree with this. But what about, for example, the language classes in high school, where you have to study even if you aren’t interested?

    Actually, it may be that using SRS with the sentences of one’s own choice is a motivating enough factor, but I’m not sure. It’d be nice to test your method!
    Do you have any comments about this?

  9. quendidil
    October 24, 2007 at 19:24

    Beneficii, no offence, but I don’t get you on the whole giving-the-apperance-of-putting-on-a-show-when-you’re-really-doing-it thing, what you’re doing is purely for your own benefit, not for anyone else’s sake why should you give a damn what they say? As long as you know you’re improving your Japanese, why should you care what those fools have to say?

  10. ffhk
    October 24, 2007 at 21:31

    I have almost the same problem as you and people are often saying I’m too “obsessed” with Japanese. It gets annoying, but I simply ignore them because the funny thing is they want to learn Japanese themselves but never make an effort to do so.

    I really like your ideas, but I also agree with nacest. I was never really interested in learning Italian in high school, so this probably wouldn’t work. I wish we had more of a choice.

  11. October 25, 2007 at 02:44

    Sorry to keep straying, but I know what beneficii is talking about. My own friends have done that and stuff that’s even more embarrassing…they’ve drawn ridiculous conclusions from my trying to absorb as much Japanese into my life as possible. It kind of puts me on the defensive a lot, but oh well…I think people make up their minds about others all the time. But over time they’ll correct their views about you on their own.

  12. godai
    October 25, 2007 at 08:45

    Hi, Khatzumoto
    (glad to meet you! my first post here.)

    I guess that beyond: 1. answering tough questions and 2. demanding the students to express themselves (speaking and writing), the teacher should also analyze the statistics to see if there isn’t a strong bias in the SRS database.

    And maybe scrutinize the database looking for errors or some misusage (although I understand that could be kind of demanding).

  13. ffhk
    October 25, 2007 at 12:43

    Hm, I posted before but it seems to have disappeared and it’s been a couple of hours so I guess I’ll repost it.

    I’m having almost the same problem as you and people are often saying im too “obsessed” with Japanese. I just try to ignore them. It’s funny because they want to learn Japanese themselves but never make the effort to do so.

    Those are really good ideas and I think they would work. But I do agree with nacest. I was never really interested in learning Italian in high school, so I don’t think this would have worked for me. I wish we had more choices.

  14. October 25, 2007 at 20:00

    Interesting thoughts you have, Khatzumoto.

    At the language center I currently doing my internship they have the exact same concept. Students don’t have to attend lessons anymore as they study on their own. Instead, they can consult teachers in the language center who can answer their questions, and only the questions they asked. No extra work, just plain answers and study help if the student wants to.

    I really like the concept and more and more schools in the Netherlands are moving to this concept.

  15. quendidil
    October 26, 2007 at 13:29

    But I think if a learner can find answers to his queries online for free, there’d be little incentive for someone to pay for a language centre. Unless of course, the fees are really cheap.

  16. October 26, 2007 at 19:10

    The language centers are located in school, they’re for the students of the particular school/ I’m not talking about an institute where veryone can apply to, but about schools like high schools and colleges. The college I’m currently having my internship has this kind of language center, and I must say I like it. I’m pretty against classes like Khatzumoto is against it, but I do like the concept of the language centers.

    And somethimes, mostly not though, I find a person-to-person explaination clearer than some obscure internet post. Not always, but somethimes I do.

  17. Michael
    October 27, 2007 at 04:55


    I am currently a university student enrolled in a Japanese language class after having taught myself some basic Japanese through high school. I agree with you that classes are much less efficient than self-study, but I still like to believe that I can get something useful out of the classes (besides a degree).

    This post addressed how a class setting could be better optimized for learning in a non-artificial manner. The only problem with this is that, unfortunately, we don’t have much control over how we are taught. We do, however, have control over how we learn. So my question is this:

    What do you recommend a student do to best learn in a classroom setting? Any suggestions on how to use an SRS in the context of a class would be useful. I don’t know enough kanji to use the “sentence method” outlined on the site (though I’m currently working through RTK 1). We periodically get vocabulary and dialogues, how should I format them in my SRS or should I even bother? Also, any other suggestions you have would be much welcomed. Thanks!

  18. Sutebun
    October 27, 2007 at 07:10

    Despite all the negative things about classes, there are a couple positives if your major is Japanese/whatever language.

    Even though you may be in classes, that in no way inhibits your ability to study outside of them. Actually then, your outside study provides study for the language class itself, making the grading easy. On top of that, any homework you get from that class is related to your study itself, so it could help your study. If your homework/class time doesn’t help your study, it minimizes the time you have to spend on outside class work.

    I want to go to law school, so my major doesn’t really matter. I was a philosophy major, but I recently changed to Japanese not because I think the classes will shoot me towards native level, but rather now I don’t have to spend hours reading philosophy/writing essays. The time I do spend on my class work will be on Japanese.

    So, I’m in no way arguing against anyone that classes alone do not provide sufficient time/usage to achieve a high level on class work alone. However, for students who have the luxury of being able to major in the language they want to learn without harming what they want to get out of a degree it is a very good idea that can allow them more time to their self study. Of course, not everyone has this luxury, but for those who do…more opportunity to study that language of your choice 🙂

  19. khatzumoto
    October 27, 2007 at 09:41



    Call me extreme, but my position is that you should leave the class [Michael], or at least make it stay out of your way. What I mean is, generally, a class will not GIVE you more time for self-study; your time was already there [there are exceptions — Sutebun is an interesting case, he’s just taking Japanese so that his university coursework vaguely aligns with his personal study — this is admirable — Sutebun, just keep going as you are, not expecting to learn anything of true value from the class, ask if you can turn in self-study work instead of the stupid (yes, stupid) homework; make the class serve you, not you the class; and let there be a concrete understanding between you and your teacher that you are in this to learn Japanese, not to follow the curriculum [in theory, that is the aim of all curricula; in practice…]. In Michael’s case. the fact that these clowns are not dealing with kanji is a serious problem. VERY SERIOUS. And so, in a sense, trying to make that better is like trying to make your wetsuit smell nice when you’re swimming in a lakeful of raw sewage — it is possible — but it would be much easier to just get out of the lake, and wash in the perfumed, disinfecting waters of RTK1…

    In any case, class may be valuable to some extent, but so is every wasteful experience. When I say it’s not valuable, I mean that the NET value is negative, not that the class didn’t do anything. What class gives you minus what class takes away, generally puts you in the red. All that time spent, for what? For knowing 12 kanji and some kana, having a bad accent that the teacher never bothered to correct, and still spelling は as わ [real class-takers I met being described here]? Now, there might be a good teacher who’ll give you freedom and step out of your way, but are you going to sit around in the lake of romaji and busywork sewage waiting for her to come and save you? Why not just save yourself? I think…

    But that’s only my opinion, and I’m only one person. I can’t tell you the outcome of every situation, and it’s not my place to tell people what to do, so, if nothing else, think of this an experiment: “How To Get Fluent Even With Class Being All Up In My Grill” :D; give it a try, see what happens. In my experience, we’re almost always better off experimenting our way to truth than trying to just reason our way there.

  20. Sutebun
    October 29, 2007 at 03:03

    I think the most important thing that could help second language teaching is realizing two things:

    1) It’s by input (and coming to understand the input we get) that we gain vocabulary, unconscious grammatical patterns, and usage of a language.

    2) Output isn’t useless, but rather output improves the -mode- of output. Unless someone already has strong grasp of a language, I have serious doubts that output will help someone with that understanding of the underlying logic of the language, but if you want to improve the sound of speaking, or your writing ability, output will help. Ie, getting rid of accents, sounding like a native, being able to handwrite/remember kanji more, etc, output will help this.

    Thus I think language classes/schools should strive to keep the two separate. Firstly, have lots of input available for people. Also, make the understanding of the input more accessible to students. I don’t mean translate things to their native language for them, but rather, imagine if some language center made their own accurate subs for several tvs/movies and provided one-click definitions (which could be in context of the sentence too) of words a student doesn’t know. These don’t eliminate the learning or the challenge of studying, but just skip the unnecessary time spent trying to find definitions or new materials.

    Then secondly, work on output by working on output. Be strict, correct students how they say things etc. Don’t try to make students produce output, give them some material, let them read or what not, and help the student’s output from there. The ability to produce output isn’t what is being critiqued, but how the output comes out.

  21. elhnad
    July 12, 2008 at 03:48

    Hey Khazt,

    I’m in love with your site (although i should try spending more of that time doing your suggestions). I just read your response on improving the classroom traditional style teaching. I’m all for your AJATT method (or for me since I want to be a consultant of English in Japan, the AEATT method), but I was wondering what do you do if you can’t do AEATT? What do you do if you have only 3 hours to your day to study japanese or just one? What’s the most effective way to achieve your goal? I want to incorporate and spread your methodology to the unknowing japanese who are spending tons of money on useless eikaiwa schools (although I think I have to be employed by one initially to plant the seeds. it’d be near impossible to teach this style in such a school with strict preprogrammed lessons. I hear these schools are the majority. I wish I had the funds to start my own alternative school!)
    I know you suggest, just do something. And I know you were able to make time in spite of being a computer science major to study japanese as much as possible. But what’s the most efficient approach to acquiring proficiency in the language for a high school or junior high school student (who spends most of the day in classes and then in clubs always around people speaking the same language, and then has to do homework. the suggestion to break away from his friends seems inappropriate at that age level). Or for a college student who has a time deadline to pass a test like TOEFL or TOEIC? (I know I hate the sounds of standardized testing too but these are barriers to coming in to America to study) Surely watching a tv show or listening to music that you can’t comprehend for an hour wouldn’t be better than studying a grammar book or working on an SRS? What activities would be fastest? Do you think getting the most essential phrases into an SRS from a study guide would be most helpful and then next getting the student to input what he is interested in into the SRS.

    Maybe I’m making excuses for people. As the saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way. Maybe the question is how to spark that will in students. To encourage them that it’s possible and cool to do even if their friends will think it weird and might alienate the person. Do you have any suggestions for sparking motivation? Does Antimoon talk about this topic?

  22. Eleven
    August 16, 2008 at 04:15

    Just stumbled onto your site recently, and I think your ideas are great 🙂

    I’m considering learning Japanese, but I want to study it as a language in my IB Diploma course, which unfortunately is problematic. The method you describe has great advantages, one of them being finance. Yes, perhaps this shouldn’t be something to focus on, but my financial situation isn’t exactly fine and dandy, and self-study would cut down a great deal, in not having to hire a tutor. Also, like you said, exploit your weaknesses, turn procrastination into something productive. I would be so willing to try this.

    Unfortunately, I’m required to have a tutor and proper classes; my co-ordinator says self-study is not allowed. While this post about class suckage reduction is by all means incredibly useful, I am likely to have difficulty making this work, since it’s bad enough trying to find a tutor, trying to find one who will be willing to teach ‘differently’ will be an even greater pain, not to mention that the costs are going to rise too.

    I can sort of understand what beneficii said about ‘giving-the-apperance-of-putting-on-a-show-when-you’re-really-doing-it thing’ although I have a slightly different problem. Like you said about listening to Japanese 24/7, I got into a habit of listening to JPop 😛 Which is fine, no ‘putting on a show’ factor unless someone graps your mp3 to see the playlist. However, I’m a bit of a singer at heart, and so I tend to sing these Japanese songs out loud (not that I know just WHAT I’m singing. Although I do get a pleasant kick out of it every time I recognise a word or two. Also I like to think it’s working a little towards my pronunciation. Har har a likely story, but yeah) and eheh, I regularly get my head yelled off for it by my mother, whose hate for Japanese it seems, is inversely proportionate to my obsession with it.

    Such is the dilemma. I’ve got about another half a month to find a decent tutor for the course. If I don’t well, stick to French it is, and work around this alien new schedule to perhaps stuff self-study in (which I might try to pass of as CAS…)

  23. Todd
    December 8, 2008 at 14:28

    I really enjoy your posts and witty writing style. I’ve just begun to navigate the wealth of info you’ve created for Japanese language learners. One comment on the value of classes: I totally agree that classes can suck big time. I think that a lot of people assume that by the magic of paying for a class and attending, they will become fluent. That’s a huge mistake. I started taking a class here in Tokyo two months ago and it has really focused my learning and improved my ability.

    1. I self study much more than actual class time spent each week. I treat class as a place to practice what I’ve learned and correct mistakes, not my primary source of learning.

    2. Just because my class is on Chapter 10 say, nothing prevents me from going ahead and being exposed to the material ahead of time, or even finishing the book! Makes no sense to arrive in class and see the material for the first time.

    3. Like you always say, try to suck less each day. It takes time and effort. Nothing less will bring you to fluency.


  24. rw
    June 26, 2010 at 02:50

    Some have already pointed out that a class environment can be beneficial. I think that the best learning method is a class combined with your suggested methods. If the teacher takes a student centered approach, the class is beneficial in that provides controlled practice. You have to practice speaking, and you need someone who can hear and correct your grammar and pronunciation mistakes (the mistakes you don’t even know you are making because you don’t know how it should sound) One of the things I do when I teach English is draw and show the students where and how a given sound is being made. I also mark stresses and point out intonations. I don’t find many self study materials that do this. Also, if I learned x grammar structure I need the opportunity to use and practice that structure over and over until I get it. I can’t walk up to a person on the street and do this. (I could, maybe, once but after that it gets weird.) I can tell when an English learner has done mostly self-study because they usually understand me, but their pronunciation is HORRIBLE!! and I have a hard time understanding them. I realize I have spoken about English learners (because that is who I teach), but this applies to any language. Currently, I am teaching myself Japanese because I have not found the right teacher yet.

  25. nippyon
    July 17, 2010 at 02:06

    Don’t sweat it when people call you “obsessed” w/ Japanese. My family used to think I was completely nuts about following the Khatzumoto immersion method.. until they watched me speak to Japanese people in a bookstore and explain Japanese mangas to them lol. However, some people will never get your “obsessive” studying and/or love of Japanese(this is just from my experience, so idk). But THEY won’t learn Japanese properly. So just stay motivated and enjoy yourself.
    @Thomas (
    My parents own a small private school and are trying to find a way to make language-learning much more computer-based and effective.
    I’ve been using this site for Japanese for a while, and it’s worked super well for me, so I suggested the concept on this page. Khatz, would you mind if we tried out your method for highschool language classes and told you how it went?

  26. Ole
    September 22, 2010 at 22:51

    The biggest fix needed for classes is probably going from 90% L1 explanations and 10% L2 material (<- that's very optimistic I think…) to 10 % L1 explanations and 90% L2 material. Advanced classes should be monolingual I think, but in my 9. year of English in high school it was still the 90/10 pattern. And it's not getting better at college (we don't call it like that here, but it's closest to the type of school I'm at right now).

    And I actually thought of one advantage that a classroom could have. Remember that Krashen recommended that thing about i+1 material ? Well it may not be necessary, but it's definitely a motivating factor. When I immerse it's just to much work to get i+1 stuff, but a teacher could do just that. It would have to be more creative than the textbook stuff though. Maybe just choosing some good easy readers with natural language.

  27. Aaron
    September 25, 2010 at 09:34

    Hey Khatz, thanks for everything that you’ve done in this website. You’ve definitely changed my perspective on the whole language learning business.

    I’m in my first year of college, here in good ol’ Missouri. Right now I’m working on an Associate’s degree in teaching English at the community colleges. I’ll probably finish up and get a bachelors degree at some university after that. I took 3 years of Chinese in high school and am now realizing what a waste of time that was. Actually I had known for awhile I guess, I found it strange when people asked me to say something in Chinese and I would say “wo ke yi qu shi shou jian ma?” every time because I didn’t know anything else. It was funny at the time, but now that I look back it seems kinda sad.

    Anyway, one of the requirements is two courses in a foreign language. This presents two problems:
    1. 99% sure it will suck. Just like high school.
    2. The only class available that I might be remotely interested in is Mandarin Chinese, the stuff I studied in high school. The only reason I took Chinese in high school was because it was unique and I knew that some of Japanese used chinese characters(kanji). I only want to learn Japanese because I want to be an English teacher in Japan(maybe a little mangaka/writing business on the side lol… from what what I’ve heard it’s like impossible to be a gaijin mangaka even if your drawing/story telling skills are awesome, but hey If I DECIDE to do it then it could happen right? Dreams…lol). So the whole time in high school I just wanted to learn Japanese. But now I have to go through the whole worthless experience AGAIN. I’m dreading it already. I have no more interest in Chinese, so I’m not going to apply the AJATT method to it. It will completely SUCK. I’ll probably be using the AJATT method for Japanese by that time anyway, and I don’t want be confusing the meanings for hanzi characters with the meanings for kanji

    If there was a Japanese class then it would be fine and I would actually look forward to it so I could destroy everybody in the class (possibly even the teacher lol), and push the world one step closer to no longer forcing useless classes on students.

    Well that’s all I have to say. I guess just needed to vent somewhere lol. Thanks again man, if I hadn’t seen Tkyosam’s video with you talking about this site I would probably be one of the many foreigners who go to Japan with out being able to speak more than a few sentences.

  28. Greg
    August 27, 2011 at 02:44

    I took a Japanese 101 class in college and it was actually pretty awesome. I was already way passed the level of the class when I took it but I figured that I needed credits so I might as well take something that I was interested in.

    I believe that it was only successful for one reason, and that being that the teacher was a native Japanese speaker and she conducted the class solely in Japanese. She would only switch to English if there was something that she needed to be sure that the students understood like the date of a test or something along those lines.

    Some people might not understand how in a beginner level class, the teacher can do nothing but yell out orders in a language that no one understands and expect anyone to get anything done, but eventually everyone starts to understand. I got a lot of speaking and listening practice and I could get any question I had, typically only half related to what we were covering in class, answered almost instantly. 

    So yeah.. I don’t really there’s such a thing as good classes and bad classes. It’s all on the teacher. 

    One time there was a kid goofing off in class and I explicitly remember her yelling こらー!!! and hitting him with her notebook. Good times.  

  29. YoyoMan727
    August 1, 2013 at 11:01

    In high school I took Spanish for 4 years but during my senior year, my sensei, I mean senor, did something crazy.

    He told the class that we wouldn’t be using that s####y textbook anymore, or we wouldn’t be doing those stupid spanish packets where everyone would copy off each other before the teacher would check homework. What he did say we were gonna do is totally different. Every day all class long, we would listen to spanish.

    So this is what he did, our teacher would create stories everyday, actually pretty fun and funny ones, and he would narrarate the story and engage the students by asking them what happened in the story, as the story progressed. But ALLLL in spanish. And every day there would be a different introduction. For example, Mondays we would listen to a spanish song while reading the lyrics and spanish. Tuesdays he would call out a topic, and we would write for 10 minutes straight in spanish about that topic. Wednesdas,,, i forget. but you get my point.

    But the point was to get us listening to spanish frequently. Similar to AJATT.

    I actually thought it was very fun and I learned more in that time than the 3 years of BS textbook work where i would just cheat anyway. So that’s another method you could use in the classroom. Stories and songs and involving students by asking questions about the story.

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