This blog post was brought to you by the generosity of AJATT's patrons!

If you would like to support the continuing production of AJATT content, please consider making a monthly donation through Patreon.

Right there ↑ . Go on. Click on it. Patrons get goodies like early access to content (days, weeks, months and even YEARS before everyone else), mutlimedia stuff and other goodies!

After the Binge Must Come the Purge

The tortoise mindset has been good to Michael Johnson 😀

Rest follows every race. Purge follows every binge. Binge on kanji now, and you might end up having to take a break from them for the rest of your life.

And all for what? For a 0 duecount on Anki? Is that what your life has come to? Suffering in order to game some stats?

What gets measured gets managed. You want to milk that Hawthorne effect for all it’s worth.
So don’t get me wrong: gaming stats is a good thing.
Until it stops being a game.

There is no happiness on the other side of that kanji binge. No gumdrops and rainbows. Only burnout and bitterness. You will hate yourself. You will hate the kanji.

So play the game, but be the tortoise rather than the hare. Even just 5 new kanji a day comes to almost 2000 kanji a year. Time and mathematics are on your side; they will work for you if you’ll just make friends with them.

Pheidippides. He binge-ran. From Marathon to Athens. His body needed to rest, needed to purge. Forever. He died. Ran to death.

Are you going to run your kanji self to death? Or are you going to be sensible and take breaks? Take it from a man like Tony Schwartz. He calls modern sprinters “Greek gods“. Because they run themselves to death, right? No, because they look sharp. Because they sprint. Short bursts. Short sprint and long rest.

Are you going to be a chump like Pheidippides? Or are you going to be divine? Your call.

  20 comments for “After the Binge Must Come the Purge

  1. Heinzern
    January 15, 2012 at 00:55

    It’s like you read my mind. Today and yesterday I was doing a shitton of Kanji and felt kind of burnt out (I upped the amount of new Kanji per day from 10 to 20).
    I would always do so many reps until there are 0 reviews necessary. It’s good to know that I can take it easy.

  2. Caren
    January 15, 2012 at 01:48

    When I get tired with SRS (or slime forest), I just quit and go do something else. That due count is a goal, not a necessity. My only requirement for myself is that I do at least one timebox (which is set to 10 minutes or 20 questions – whichever comes first). If I go back for more, it’s only because I feel like it.

    Especially now that I have some psn demos from the japanese psn store. Playing them is way more  fun and I get more than enough kanji practice through them anyway.

    I don’t want to binge. I’ve done plenty of that in the past, which often led to 6+ month breaks and why I’m still not fluent despite that, when I did study, I would make major increases regardless of the method. But I would go on 12-hour studying binges, using one method. Looking back, it’s no wonder I’d get sick of it and stop for months at a time.

    • January 15, 2012 at 18:25

      Even 10 minutes can be too long sometimes.
      I recently reviewed nearly 200 entries a day for a few days in a row. In mostly 2 minute increments. About 40-50 of them a day. Sometimes, I was all like, that was so easy, just one more hit, I’m not addicted or anything… <.< It was an easy time filler between other activities. I felt a little disappointed when I ran out of material to review.
      I probably would have felt awful if I had tried to do all that at once, but instead, I found myself wanting more, so I added some new material, and read something else afterward. 
      So, in short…short is good! One delicious confectionery at a time!

      • kalek
        January 16, 2012 at 06:09

        I agree. 2 minutes or less has an addictive quality to it.  I did 200 Kanji reps yesterday (catching up, although I had no intention of doing that many — meant to do 10 or 15 maybe lol), all in 2 minute increments, mostly right in a row, until, to my surprise, they were totally done.

  3. Agent J
    January 15, 2012 at 05:55

    Words of wisdom.

  4. アンソニー
    January 15, 2012 at 06:25

    This article made me think of this picture.
    What do you want to be? A marathon runner or a sprinter?

  5. mintyroll
    January 15, 2012 at 07:44

    I said ‘yes’ half-jokingly to these 3:
    For a 0 duecount on Anki? Is that what your life has come to? Suffering in order to game some stats?
    since I’ve been trying to do this for the past few days, but fail every time.

  6. ハックスリ
    January 15, 2012 at 10:59

    i’ve been binge reps with kanji for a while and then taking days of breaks in between. trying to rush to sentences and what not. Looks like i’m going to try timeboxing now. thanks for opening my eyes. 

  7. Freddy
    January 15, 2012 at 14:07

    I definitely enjoy taking breaks, leaving Anki with unfinished decks, mainly because when I finally get to them, I realized that mind is sharp and I remember a decent 95% of what I have been studying. Don’t get me wrong, I study everyday but I don’t kill myself trying to learn new things everything either. Some days are just review and some days are all about learning. I have no method, I just let the chips fall where they will. But yes, I do make a conscious effort to learn something new everyday. FYI I highly recommend, Practical Guide for Mimetic Expressions. Funny book and very educational.

  8. January 15, 2012 at 23:21

    That’s the good and  bad of the SRS game.  It keeps you on track, but sometimes too much.  It requires discipline to take breaks.  It pays to remember that Japanese isn’t something you finish.  It’s with you for the rest of your life.

  9. January 16, 2012 at 04:57

    This is exactly what happened to me. I crammed in the last 1/4 of RTK in December last year, going at 70+ a day in order to meet my resolution of “finishing” by the end of the year. But did I really finish? No. I now have 362 failed cards on RevTK, and I’m failing (so forgetting) more each daily review than I have time to restudy in a day (25). So, yeah, that cramming didn’t really work, did it? I’m sure for the amount of time it’s going to take me to truly get them in my head, I may as well have just kept my constant pace, and avoided the stress of intense cramming and the resulting frustration.
    The hardest problem is the impatience of wanting to move on from just kanji, but I’m loathe to start sentences without at least the basic kanji done.

    • January 17, 2012 at 09:48

      When you say, “December last year”, are you referring to December 2010, or December 2011? In either case (though especially the first) could it be that not moving on is where you’ve stumbled?
      Now that I’m sentence mining, I feel like RTK really only gave me two things; a familiarization with kanji, so they no longer look like random squiggles, and a “call for help” when I can’t quite remember a word. Maybe this will make me sound dumb, but when working my way through RTK, I thought that I was working on unlocking the largest part of what it takes to read Japanese. But alas, knowing only the keyword for a kanji and how to write it still left me more or less illiterate. RTK really helps demystify the Japanese writing system, but I don’t feel like it’s too much more than a fallback in unadulterated text.
      Maybe this sounds demotivating, but I think it may be liberating. What I’m trying to get at is RTK, though important, isn’t what Japanese literacy hinges on. If you did a shady job on it, you may have made the next part of your journey a little harder, but it’s not the end of the world. You said you finished it, therefore you are an RTK graduate. You aren’t a professional student, are you? No need to go back to school, time to go off into the wild blue yonder! 🙂

      I hope this helps. I feel like I’m only a little ahead of you in my Japanese journey, so I feel like I can relate to your situation well.

      • January 17, 2012 at 14:12

        “when working my way through RTK, I thought that I was working on unlocking the largest part of what it takes to read Japanese. But alas, knowing only the keyword for a kanji and how to write it still left me more or less illiterate.”
        I agree completely.  I believe there are 3 stages to learning kanji:  Memorizing individual kanji (in an RTK-esque fashion), being able to construct meaning from compound kanji (Horse + Deer = Huh? What?), and being able to read them in, as you put it, “unadulterated text.”  I wrote a whole article about this on my site, and it sounds like it dovetails with your experience.  RTK is a good start, but it’s only the beginning. 

        • January 17, 2012 at 18:36

          I checked out your article on the three phases of kanji learning, and I like what you have to say! I’ll have to give your site a more thorough reading later.

          ..oh, and Horse + Deer…. that one is easy! 😛

          • January 17, 2012 at 21:55

            Yeah thanks. I was just at an izakaya tonight, having a discussion with this old salaryman about which sashimi was the most delicious: horse sashimi or deer sashimi.  They both sounded pretty horrible to me, but I’m pretty sure if there was a horse and deer sashimi hybrid, it would be a huge hit in Japan. Or maybe that’s just baka.

      • January 17, 2012 at 22:05

        It is 2012 now, so I meant December 2011, i.e. a few weeks ago, not more than a year ago. 😉

        I think you’ve made a good point, but I don’t think I’ve stuck with it for too long. If anything I’d still be plodding through the latter chapters of RTK1 without the December rush (and the effects this blog post is talking about). But I agree that not glorifying it as some sort of kanji holy grail of perfection is a good thing. I’ve considerably liberalised my ‘pass’ review criteria since, under the expectation that I will be much better moving on to studying in context rather than achieving “perfection” in an artificial half-way compromise.

        Thanks for the helpful pointers. It’s definitely motivational. 🙂 

      • Oli M
        January 29, 2012 at 06:49

        Thanks for your reflection. Did you go through RTK using orthodox or lazy methods?

        I am still working my way through Lazy Kanji, but since I can read the ひらがな and カタカナ just fine already, I’ve been reading manga with furigana. I recognize a lot of kanji and their components, and sometimes remember the keyword, but often it doesn’t quite allow me to read. I always wonder if orthodox RTK gives a larger boost.

        Surprisingly, the knowledge I’ve gained through listening immersion has helped quite a bit more–I can often guess at words and constructions even when there’s no ふりがな.

  10. Travis
    January 16, 2012 at 11:09

    Sprinting is essentially binging without the self guilt.  Rest your guilt away then sprint. 

  11. fangsryoga
    January 20, 2012 at 23:38

    A truly moving and inspirational article about a deaf man with no language, not even signing, who learns to sign even after 27 years of a language-less/symbol-less life. Grammar can go to hades; it’s our interactions with the living language that matter the most.

Leave a Reply to Chagami Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *