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All In Moderation

September 13, 2009
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Spend some time around the old Internets, and you might start to hear a thing or two about how AJATT is “extreme”, Khatzumoto is “insane”, and “I want to learn Japanese but I don’t have time for that AJATT stuff; who does that guy think he is?! I have a right to watch reruns of Dawson’s Creek“.

Spend some time being alive, and you might get some kindly, herb tea-drinking, yoga-doing people say things to you like “slow down”, and “it doesn’t have to be so hardcore” and my all-time favorite of all time: “all in moderation“.

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“All in moderation”. Never has a phrase so bugged me. In all my life, never has an apparently reasonable-sounding piece of advice been so pregnant with mediocrity. It’s like a little perpetual-motion excuse factory. It’s the “get out of excellence free card” of life. It’s easily as bad as — perhaps worse than — the “you just have to be born with it” brand of stupidity.

A young kid wants to be an amazing golfer or mathematician or programmer, but a sinister alliance of parents, schoolteachers* and neighbors start saying things like “life isn’t all about success” and “she needs to be well-rounded and fit in with the other kids”, and “kids need to play in the mud and get bitten by ticks and catch a bit of Lyme disease now and then; that’s what childhood is about! Why, in my day…”

Let’s get a few things straight:

1. Life is about success. Don’t try to B.S. people and tell them it’s not. ESPECIALLY don’t try to B.S. children and tell them it’s not; it wastes valuable time, and forces them to spend good money later on repairing the damage. Half the reason personal development books even exist is to fix the forced “aim for the middle at all costs” brainwashing that so many kids are exposed to. The only question comes in what one defines as success. But to tell people that it is not about success is not merely to tell Santa-Clausian lies, but to commit a grave act of psychological abuse that will only hurt the listener later in life. See debt, wage slavery for details.

2. Even if you (not you — you’re a ravishingly good-looking person with piercing intelligence and impeccable taste in blogs (you read AJATT, don’t you?!) — I’m talking about the bumbling special needs cases who say things like “now, now, all in moderation”) are down for now, don’t be like alcoholics and try to pull everyone down with you.

3. I will take the childhood minus the tick-borne diseases, thank you very much

4. No one gives a flying fork about “your day”. “Our day” may have its weaknesses, but it is orders of magnitude better than “your day”. It would take obscene quantities of Larabars and Jelly Beans to get me to trade our day for your day.

Whenever someone wants to do something great, whenever someone wants to break free from the shackles of assumed wisdom, there always seems to be some idiot ready to whip out the “all in moderation” (AIM) card. Whenever someone’s aiming high, someone jealous of the would-be high-achiever will come out with this lupine idea in ovine vestments, and tell her to just AIM.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating going to extremes for the sake of going to extremes. I am not advocating hurting yourself — no good can come of one achieving oneself to death or injury. I am just saying this:

All in moderation.
Including moderation itself.

Most of the time, it’s fine to be moderate. But there are times, places and situations where one needs to be moderate about being moderate. There are times, places and situations where one needs to be thoroughly immoderate.

Things are such that we can only be immoderate about a few things. But it turns out that this immoderacy frequently makes for a better life for us and indeed the entire world. Remember friends, it was “moderate” in Europe 150 odd years ago to only bathe seasonally. It was “moderate” to perform surgery without washing hands. Yeah, that went well…

Native speakers — Japanese kids — never run away from Japanese; they never give up; they never make excuses; they never avoid; they never skip. They live an immoderately Japanese life. There is no stop; there is no break; there is no gap; there are no exceptions; it is never “a busy day”. No matter whether there are inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, sick, well, happy, sad, tired, hyper, at home, on the road, bathing, walking, running…everything is in Japanese, all the time.

The same goes for native speakers of every language. That is why they own so hard. Not because it was how they were born, but because of how they have lived. Their language might as well be a force of nature. Most Japanese kids have been in a room without Japanese about as many times as they’ve been in a room without air. This is epic stuff, man! This is freaking…living with Baak Mei.

But wait! Hold the phone! Simmer down now! Simma dahn nah! Shouldn’t they be more moderate? Shouldn’t they be AIMing? Shouldn’t they be mixing in other languages — you know, to get “well-rounded” so they don’t overspecialize? They need a balanced linguistic diet, right? Japanese is just one of the many languages of the world, right?

Native speakers are the yardstick by which all linguistic success is measured. They are the gold standard. If we want to be golden, would it not behoove us to set aside our pride and excuses, and take a good, hard look at how this gold is actually made?

For their immoderate skill, native speakers pay an immoderate price in time. Let’s say (being very generous), that it takes a native speaker 12~18 years to reach adult level. Call it 150,000 hours. If each hour were worth a dollar, that would be $150,000. We “adult-onset native speakers” are wanting to “buy” a “product” that costs “childhood native speakers” “$150,000″ in time.

Understandably, we don’t want to pay that much. But if we get a $150,000 product for $10,000 or even $20,000 or even $30,000, i.e. at about 10% of the full price, shouldn’t we be overjoyed? It’s like buying a brand new $200 flatscreen monitor for $20. It’s a good freaking deal. Gosh, buy two or three.

But the AIMers are telling you “don’t aim so much”, “you’re not a native speaker, so it’s okay to be and sound like an illiterate halfwit”. The AIMers want us to have native-level rights without native-level responsibilities. The AIMers want us to “be moderate” and attempt to “buy” a $150,000 skillset for less than $1000 — that’s now like trying to buy that brand new $200 flatscreener for a few cents — all because of some nebulous, moralistic truism that never got anyone anywhere. Now who’s being immoderate?

Be immoderate.
Sometimes, it’s the most moderate, sensible thing you could possibly do.

*A vanilla, English-speaking-background American friend of mine had two parents who had been missionaries in Finland and both spoke fluent Finnish. When they had their first daughter, they decided to raise her bilingually in English and Finnish. Long story short, it appears that the school district more or less forced the parents to stop teaching the daughter — and subsequent children — any Finnish. Way to go. Which all seems to go against a point a made earlier, but…you know…deal :D

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43 Responses to All In Moderation

  1. Amanda on September 13, 2009 at 23:38

    Yeah, I really hate it when people tell me to be more moderate about learning Japanese. Thanks so much for this Khatz, you just made my morning, and gave me some more motivation to be Japanese today, all day. Minus this, but you’re an excellent exeption :3

  2. Erick on September 14, 2009 at 00:11

    加油!This was a great articleto read after finishing Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”!

  3. Seth on September 14, 2009 at 00:12

    Thanks! This was a good one. The longer my Japanese studies go on, the more I see how important the environment is and how secondary the sentences/SRSing is. If all your focus is on sentences/SRSing, it’s a task. An environment is the most natural way to learn. Really nice :)

  4. Joe on September 14, 2009 at 00:13

    I remember my parents told me that 20 minutes of Japanese a day was enough, I looked at them like they was crazy. But they thought I was crazy when I mentioned AJATT, but they’ll see!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Joe on September 14, 2009 at 00:20

    Just what I needed to read first thing in the morning. You wouldn’t believe how many times I heard this kind of thing from my brothers and dad, with my dad’s favorite phrase being, *shudder*, “unplug.” There’s nothing extreme about really wanting something and then executing on it. In fact, the really abhorrent thing is people who put that down – they expect others to bust their butt so that they can passively reap the benefits, but then are quick to criticize that kind of work ethic in their own lives. Pure hypocrisy. If everyone put in what they were capable of we’d have colonies on Mars by now.

  6. DMH on September 14, 2009 at 02:00

    I dare the school districts here to stop me teaching my kids any language. Especially Russian or Ukrainian, which they’ll get from their mom!

  7. chris(mandarin_student) on September 14, 2009 at 02:13

    Being extreme can only be tied to work ethic if there is isn’t something else you absolutely should be doing. In those cases it can actually just be another type of Lazy.

    Going back a hundred years or so Mr Giles was of the opinion that learning to speak Chinese was pretty easy friedelcraft.blogspot.com/2009/07/learning-languages-is-not-new-thing-1.html , of course you had to actually go there. He had no recorded sound or SRS software, now that is pretty freakin extreme for one of those olden time guys ;)

    Go back a few hundred more years and we have Matteo Ricci and his use of memory techniques (the memory palace) to master Chinese language and script.

    Somehow I managed to batter my dementia addled decrepit neurons into a system for my own personal Chinese learning, it is not as extreme as yours but shares what I think are the important general principles. Unlike one or two of your more rabid followers I thunk it up all by myself to match my circumstances.

    I agree, if you are not hurting anyone how the hell can you be too extreme??? I am less “extreme” but I have three kids etc. so if I did all the learning I wanted I would actually be a complete a-hole. I don’t make excuses, just find the best work arounds.

    General principles are important not exact details, for example in my mind using Heisig to learn Hanzi is wussy (learning hanzi with English meanings and English stories come on now!), open to debate of course ;).

    Has it occurred to you that some of the resistence against your system is actually being generated by the occaisional rabid follower. After all you didn’t blindly follow the methodology of those before you, you assesed your own situation and got stuck in.

  8. Dave on September 14, 2009 at 03:53

    I’m going to be contrarian here, but not because I disagree with the AJATT method, but because I have always relied upon that maxim (“everything in moderation”) and it has served me well. I should add, however, that I’ve also always included the qualifier you added as well–”…including moderation itself.” It’s only logical.

    In fact, one could argue that “everything in moderation” is a fundamental tenet of the AJATT method. No, seriously, hear me out.

    There is, in fact, an anti-extreme, anti-obsessive, very MODERATE attitude that permeates your ideas, Khatz. It seems to me that you often say things like “it’s not how much SRSing you do at once, but how consistently you do it,” or, “don’t focus on reading/listening to/viewing everything, find stuff you like and get rid of those materials if they bore you.” No force, no coercion, no extreme means. It was a big revelation for me, in fact, to realize that I would get more mileage out of doing at a least SOME SRSing a day rather than trying to pack in two hours in once a week, or something stupid like that–and as a result, I’m much more invested in the process now, and ironically do a lot more SRSing now.

    But, as you said, there is a time for extremes. And perhaps that is in defining your goals. There is no benefit to assuming you cannot achieve something great. You are absolutely right about that! But the path to getting there is a series of moderate, simple, un-mindblowing achievements and practices. That is the AJATT way, isn’t it?

  9. Gary on September 14, 2009 at 04:16

    I was raised to be “balanced”, or aiming for the middle always. Which is why I’ve dipped in a hundred activities and haven’t became successful in any, nor have I developed any grit. I was simply allowed to give up whenever I found something hard, because all I had to be was “average” in everything, or a jack-of-all-trades.

    It really pisses me off sometimes that my parents raised my this way, but I have to cope with it; they say things like there’s no point acquiring a new language if you’re never going to have the chance to speak it, blah blah blah… I’m quite sick of it. Reading AJATT has brought upon some revelation upon me as well, not just how to learn Japanese, but the concepts of language-acquiring, motivation, discipline, etc.

    Truth is, nothing good comes out of doing something moderately, you have to keep it up. I kind of got lost in your post up there but I hope I’m getting the gist here :D. You just have to simply burst of your comfort zone continually to obtain any sort of success. It’s the same with Japanese, as well as anything else. Deliberate practice, as some might call it…

  10. chris(mandarin_student) on September 14, 2009 at 04:28

    @Dave good points, I particularly like the un-mindblowing acheivements. Even the final objective of learning the foreign could be viewed as un-mindblowing (you have literally invested all that effort to do something that in most cases has been mastered effortlessly by millions of people before).

    I met a Malaysian Chinese last week who spoke 5 languages there were other people around, her English, Mandarin and Cantonese were spot on (she spoke English with a faint American accent If I didn’t know I would have sworn she was born and raised in America). Can’t vouch for the others (hakka and a malaysian dialect I think).

    We are unlikely to match that, yet she didn’t seem to regard it as “succesfull” and had other yet to be realised aspirations.

  11. Dougal on September 14, 2009 at 04:30

    This is one of your best posts ever. Thought-provoking, erudite and altogether charming.

    Reminds me of a time I was chastising a sleep-deprived albeit high-achieving Japanese friend of mine to 「無理しないで。」

    Immediately he shot back with:
    「無理しないと何ができるっていうんだよ!」

    That has inspired me ever since.

    Seems like you two are cut from the same cloth.

    Onward and upward.

  12. shikantaza on September 14, 2009 at 04:50

    Hi Khatz,
    I kind of have to agree with Dave above here, AJATT does feel like a very “moderate” method – in a positive sense. Considering that it takes a lot more time (10,000 hours, that is) than other learning approaches (the “a-few-hours-once-a-week” thing), it isn’t really that extreme at all. OK, that sounds odd. Let me explain:
    Sure, you spend a lot more time IN the language using AJATT than using other methods, but you’d have to spend all that time doing something anyway, right? When exposing yourself to Japanese all the time, you pick up Japanese at a NATURAL pace (just like you did with your first language from the day you were born).
    On the other hand, when you go to Japanese class to study grammar and stuff just once or twice a week, you spend a lot less time immersed in Japanese, but still you expect to learn as fast as native Japanese. Of course that won’t happen, because you’re trying to force your way into the language at an UNNATURAL pace.
    It isn’t really about being effective or working hard. Like you Khatz have said so many times, it is all just about showing up – just being, just living. I can’t really see how that could be called “extreme”.

    Thus, what you described as “moderate” in this article, to me seemed pretty much like the OPPOSITE of moderation. So I guess it all just boils down to the word being interpreted in different (in this case, VERY different) ways. なかなかおもろい。
    Take this thing you wrote for an example:
    “Native speakers — Japanese kids — never run away from Japanese; they never give up; they never make excuses; they never avoid; they never skip. They live an immoderately Japanese life. There is no stop; there is no break; there is no gap; there are no exceptions; it is never “a busy day”. No matter whether there are inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, sick, well, happy, sad, tired, hyper, at home, on the road, bathing, walking, running…everything is in Japanese, all the time.”
    I understand this “never taking a break from Japanese” as a very ordinary and natural condition for native Japanese speakers. Just being in one language, avoiding this sickening “well-rounded” attitude, is what I would say being “moderate”.

    So, while I completely agree with what you’re trying to get across, I would use totally different words in conveying it.

  13. shikantaza on September 14, 2009 at 05:09

    To elaborate further, a “balanced” state, “moderation”, “following the middle way” etc. to me implies doing one thing at a time, without intervention, until you’re “finished” with it – that is, being so used to it that it’s as natural as breathing.

    I was brought up semi-bilingual. (I was raised in Sweden, so Swedish is my first language. My dad’s from Israel, so he only speaks Hebrew to me while I’ve always answered him in Swedish. Unfortunately, as I’ve never spent very much time with him, he never needed to say more than basic stuff, so my understanding of Hebrew is quite limited. That, in turn, has made it even more complicated for us to repair our severed relationship. So that “well-rounded-ness” doesn’t really work, obviously, and this parenthesis is way too long …) Also, I’ve noticed that though I’m interested in a lot of things, it is always only the things that I really devote myself to for longer periods of time (several months and/or years) that I end up gaining any substantial knowledge from.

    Now it’s probably time for me to shut up and go to sleep.

  14. shikantaza on September 14, 2009 at 05:22

    Also, one last thing, I think chris(mandarin_student) is spot on:
    Learning a foreign language isn’t at all that mind-blowing, making it happen using this method isn’t really a “success” in that sense, it’s just the result of putting in that much time.

    • Herman on January 24, 2011 at 22:20

      Then what is a success anyway? Learning a language by studying and taking exams? If a person could speak more than one language, I call it a success. Cuz the time he’s put in acquiring the other one (in a painful or painless process) could have been spent doing something else, which could possibly contribute to another success.

  15. Carl on September 14, 2009 at 06:16

    There’s this weird, obscure, unpopular book by a guy called George something, about oppression or some nonsense, that was published in 1949… The oppression and all that being irrelevant here, in it, this guy called Winston Smith wonders if insanity is statistical.

    If it is, then I guess you sadly are insane, Khatzumoto. Completely, utterly insane.

    I’m insane, too. And you know? I’m glad I’m crazy- after all, from what I’ve seen, it’s only ever the mad scientist that comes close to taking over the world.

  16. montecristo73 on September 14, 2009 at 07:29

    I will never forget this article. Thanks so much.

    ところで、AIMという人達は何時もそんな文句を英語で言ってしまう。面白くない?

  17. Victoria on September 14, 2009 at 10:19

    @Joe… “the really abhorrent thing is people who put that down – they expect others to bust their butt so that they can passively reap the benefits, but then are quick to criticize that kind of work ethic in their own lives”

    Seconded, absolutely. There are many, *many* people in this world who are happy to give it plenty of lip but do absolutely nothing, and undermine you then criticize you for not doing better (when somehow it becomes useful to them for you to achieve something). I grew up with these kinds of people, and it has cost me a great deal of time in my life!

    And damnit, now I’m gonna have to translate what @Dougal said because I need to know and my kanji are still limited.

    But yes, screw the AIM crowd.

    As an aside, I interviewed a student yesterday who wanted to start English classes as they’re moving to America with their partner at the end of the year. They had a score of 650 in a TOEIC about ten years ago, but hadn’t really “used” their English since apparently. This student was damn near *FLUENT*. They explained how a local city “was formed through the merger of (insert three towns here)”, talked comfortably about what they “would do” if they found money on the street, described their experience with impeccable and natural use of tenses. I was naturally curious as to how they’d sustained this level of English in a non-English speaking country. They said “I watch TV in English”.

    So if you ever doubted the power of Khatz’s “learn a language doing what you enjoy” philosophy, there’s a little anecdote to make you think again. I’m sure this student had worked quite hard initially to get the 650 score, but to maintain it for ten years by something as simple as watching TV is pretty goddamned impressive in my book.

  18. weakmonme on September 14, 2009 at 14:11

    Probably the great conspiracy is that a culture is an extermity in such large numbers that it can call itself “moderation”… or “common sense”.

    My experience of “common sense” is that it goes something like this:

    “What’s that? you don’t have any experience of doing X and you have trouble doing it? But I’ve been doing X all my life and it’s easy! Why the heck can’t you do X? It’s commons sense!”

    I guess the flipside of that is:

    “What’s that? You’re doing Y? I’ve never had any experience of doing Y and can’t imagine doing it! You’re so extreme!”

    Of course to me a lot of the AJATT method is common sense. So, I’m probably not one to talk. I guess that anything can look like common sense or extermism depending on your point of view. I just wish that some people would realise that.

  19. Jaybot7 on September 14, 2009 at 15:54

    The amount of times I have heard advice from other people on how to do something they have never done themselves is… a lot. I tend to ignore those people. :)

    @montecristo73 nah, you’ll hear them drilling it even harder in 日本語. I think the old phrase 出る釘は打たれる sums it up well ;)

  20. Jarrod on September 14, 2009 at 20:03

    I really love how you lay down the truth with style Khatz.

    Perspective on life is everything and you do a good job of adding in a bit of fire.

    Cheers! :D

  21. Eldon on September 14, 2009 at 20:39

    Awesome post. When it comes to trying to be great at anything, it’s really common sense that moderation ought to go out the window. I can think back to days when I’d only do half an hour of Japanese a day, because that was what teachers/parents said was appropriate. How wrong I/they was/were.

    Incidentally, I was rifling through my bookmarks, and re-discovered www.smashbros.com/jp/. Great if you’re a fan, since you’ll already know everything there is to know about each character – and if you don’t, there is, of course, an English translation ; )

  22. lingvoj on September 14, 2009 at 21:43

    Absolutely!!! However, some time ago by going hard I would become overwhelmed easily and so I would be a “three-day monk” (yeah I’ve been reading your blog.) studying hard for a bit of time and leaving it for months until my next binge.

    By being moderate, I started to do 2 hours a day of language study, then I increased to three, then moderate meant 4 hours a day. Nowadays I can study for 8 hours straight without any problem, now that is means moderate, just 8 hours per day.

    And language study here is “deliberate practice” doing srs reps, watching movies but stopping and reaplaying once and again looking for words and expressions. When I just wacth a movie to relax, just to keep immersion, but without “analysing it”, I don’t count it as ‘study’, so that wouldn’t count for the 8 hours I mentioned.

  23. John on September 15, 2009 at 01:21

    Except for foods and their groups. You shouldn’t eat all burgers all the time :p

  24. ryuk on September 15, 2009 at 03:22

    I would just like to thank you for using the word bollocks in this post. It really doesn’t get enough of an airing these days. Here here.

  25. Gary on September 15, 2009 at 06:50

    I swear, the previous Gary’s comment could have been written by me. Recognizing myself in his words, I fell deep into a state of total moderation. It was… mediocre…

  26. efeilliaid on September 15, 2009 at 20:24

    Hey Khatz!

    Dunno where to put this comment… Doesn’t the stuff at bit.ly/10kh5contradict much of what you wrote on the AJATT website? I don’t know what kind of fluency Ferris speaks about but it certainly isn’t fluency across multiple fields in the languages he speaks…

    Warm greetings to you as usual.
    Efeilliaid

  27. Rebeca on September 16, 2009 at 02:01

    I plan on raising my children bilingually in portuguese and english….my plan is for my child to not even speak a word of english until he/she joins school

    and there will be no school district in this planet that will stop me

    most of my brazilian friends with kids have done it this way, and the kid grows up to speak perfect portuguese and perfect english, and end up being even smarter in school because the extra language gives their brains an edge that the other kids don’t have….it makes them more curious about learning because they are constantly asking their parents for portuguese translations of new english words they learn in school….

    so its a real shame your friend chose to listen to the close-minded school district….even if the kid is a bit slow in the first year or two because of “language confusion”, the kid will eventually get it and will be all the smarter for it

    i myself moved to the US when i was 8 and speak both portuguese and english fluently, with no problem….i speak portuguese at home and english at school…there really is no downside to raising a bilingual child

    • 李便神 on September 8, 2012 at 07:34

      But can you read and write Portegeuse fluently?

      • Rebeca on November 21, 2012 at 04:34

        Yes, I can!! My mom encouraged us to read the Bible (we are Christian) only in Portuguese so that we wouldn’t lose our Portuguese reading/writing ability. She encouraged us to read other books too and we often brought back books in Portuguese from our trips to Brazil

  28. Dave on September 16, 2009 at 02:11

    efeilliaid, I think your link got stuck together with the word “contradict.” You meant this, right?

    bit.ly/10kh5

    Or, the full URL:

    www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/09/22/why-language-classes-dont-work-how-to-cut-classes-and-double-your-learning-rate-plus-madrid-update/

  29. Andy on September 16, 2009 at 04:35

    Khatz, you are once more a great source of inspiration.
    Just one week ago, I was mindlessly uttering my wish to achieve the cambridge certificate of proficency. Of course, the AIM Card was waved immediately. I was told to aim for the mediocre. In this case it would be an easier language certificate. Bullocks, I’ll go for it in the near future. It’s also nice,because my company pays for it.

  30. lingvoj on September 16, 2009 at 05:38

    efeilliaid, how can you trust a guy who has not learnt even one language to fluency, he may ‘get by’ in some but that is a far cry from fluency, most readers on this blog set teh bar higher, som even aim for native-like fluency. So totally different goals, totally different approaches.

  31. Jack on September 16, 2009 at 13:41

    He said most classes suck, but he found some that don’t suck and tried those, and it seems like he had some success with them.

    The guy is an efficiency guru. Because you learn fastest in language at the beginning, his approach is to learn ’til it gets slow and then stop. As you said, different approaches.

  32. Martin on September 16, 2009 at 14:12

    I don’t believe that you learn fastest in language at the beginning. It only seems faster because the things you learn in the beginning are a bigger part of your total knowledge of the language. As you progress in the language every word, sentence, structure you learn becomes a smaller part of your total knowledge pool and so the progress seems to go slower and slower.

  33. Maintaining motivation is easier in a sprint on September 16, 2009 at 16:21

    [...] quit even sooner, and with even less to show for it. What I realized was that, for the most part, moderation is for suckers, and that I needed to either go at things full-assed or not go at them at all. It was this [...]

  34. efeilliaid on September 16, 2009 at 19:05

    @ Dave:

    Yes, exactly, somehow I swallowed a space and the following word got glued to the short link.

    @ lingvoj

    I commented on bit.ly/10kh5 because Khatzumoto put it in his twitter updates. Except the thing about classes, the rest is utter boll#cks to me ;-)

    Sure what Khatzumoto emphasized in the link description was the thing about classes *only* but I continued reading that text to the end and was quite horrified. Several weeks to fluency? I don’t know. Maybe geniuses exist. I also read Mr Ferris’ 4-hour week book, ie I only made it to page 100 or so ;-) I loved the quotes from the great and famous of this world, but there was nothing new in it and I think it might be appealing to just some people in some Western countries. Being Polish and knowing what people can do in my country without being oppressed I don’t think it would be feasible for many people to follow the advice from this book. I don’t just mean other people looking down on them, I mean the reality of living in Poland with its economy, law and all. I don’t even want to think about people from other countries compared to which Poland seems paradise.

    My cousin’s Japanese wife learned Polish in less than two years and she’s perfect at speaking, her Polish (spoken and written) is mind blowing, but in those few initial weeks she was only able to function well up to the glass ceiling that always exists after just a few weeks’ work. What, can anyone cram 20,000 or more words into their brains in such a short time? Not to mention other areas of the target language…
    When I started my English studies back in 1993, anyone whose active vocab comprised fewer than 20-30,000 words on the very first day of the university inevitably lost it after the first semester because it was simply impossible for them to maintain the pace. And in those first months it didn’t really look like academic work – we just read all sorts of magazines and novels (tons of them, British and American literature), discussed them in class, did lots of fun stuff too, went to the phonetic lab etc. All that geeky linguistic stuff came *later*. They simply required us to be fluent and their definition of fluency was what I really liked – aim so high that the fall would kill you. I have been learning English since around 1988, worked as a translator (English-Polish) full time for eight years (IT, medical, legal, marketing, 2-3000 words a day), learned Welsh in Wales in the meantime (I had to take some classes; it’s a minority language and it’s not always possible to practice on the street), now I’m working full time for the kings of localization industry in Ireland, but I still feel there are gaps in my English. Fluency is an F word… So much for aiming high, soon I’m going to die ;-)

  35. マッカ on September 17, 2009 at 16:42

    「此処」って。馬鹿野郎!
    もう良いけどさー。俺も常に漢字を使うって好き。

  36. Jaybot7 on September 18, 2009 at 12:21

    Come to think of it (been mulling it around for awhile). I’ve never thought of AJATT method as being extreme. Quite the opposite in fact. AJATT method is really quite condensed and lazy at the same time.

    I think studying one kanji at a time and writing it hundreds of times until you memorize it (the normal way) is extreme. On the flipside, memorizing 20+ kanji a day with simple stories and mnemonics seems less extreme to me. :)

  37. Ionize on October 17, 2009 at 22:19

    Good insight yet again! Thanks for this piece of thought. I love the way you put it. Once I start being moderate for, let’s say, only a few hours, I regret it soon enough. It’s either all in or keep away.

    Best regards from Germany
    Ionize

  38. Peter on April 6, 2010 at 21:21

    Bilingual children end up knowing each language better than monolingual native speakers. When it comes to native languages, two is better than one. Most people are native speakers at the age of 10 or 12 not 18. It’s only a few more technical words here and there that people learn after that age. It’s really sad and a shame that those girls didn’t get to be given the gift of speaking two languages perfectly.

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