The essence of learning Japanese is in the almost meaninglessly small things you do.
When you find something so small, so apparently meaningless that you think “that couldn’t possibly help”, but it’s something that puts you in more contact with Japanese, then that, my friend, is your sweet spot. Because you have found something that is easy for you to do. You have found an “atomic action”. Now, just take that atom…and do it. Then repeat. Make that chain (reaction) go…
We’re always trying to make work harder, we’re always trying to make things more complex. When, in fact, the real “work” is in finding these simple, tiny, almost unnoticeable building blocks, and then duplicating them. We all have an action that we can painlessly (and even pleasantly), thoughtlessly, absent-mindedly, effortlessly, automatically perform over and over and over again. For me, it’s…I dunno…mouseclicks.
Click your mouse, just on Japanese stuff.
Sure, one atom is small. One seed is small. One push of the “play” button on your Japanese media is small. But if we ignore every atom, every seed, every second, every chance that comes our way because it is “too small”, then we are left with, as the Chinese say…bupkiss.
The sea is deep because it doesn’t look down on water. The mountain is tall because is doesn’t look down on soil.
We’ll never light bonfires if we look down on matches and kindling. We’ll never make it to our roadtrip destination if we refuse to even walk to the car. People who look down on atoms as “too small to be worth the bother” aren’t going to make nuclear weapons.
Take what you have, wherever you find it. Have your tools at the ready. Have the mp3 player with you, have the manga in your bag, have the smartphone with all the menus set to Japanese. Your chances will come; they’re always coming. And they will be small. A 15-minute walk here, a 30-minute wait in line there. They’ll seem too small; they’ll seem too easy. Good. Take them. Let them be easy. Let life be easy.
When it comes to learning, I think people plan too much and do too little. All the time I get emails from people going: “Khatz, tell me what schedule I should have”; “Khatz, give me a day in the life of Khatz”. You don’t need a day in the life of effing Khatz. Screw that Khatz kid! And his schedule! And his couch!
All you need to know is that anything (and everything) you don’t have to do in English can be done in Japanese. Any (and every) moment that you don’t have to listen to English can be spent listening to Japanese. Any (and every) English book that you are not required to own or read can be replaced by a Japanese book. Any (and every) English song or data file…you get the idea. It really is that simple.
The habit of giving any spare moment (wherever you may find it) to Japanese is much more valuable than any plan. A habit, good or bad, will wipe the floor with any plan. A habit, good or bad, will trump any resolution. So, if you must, treat Japanese like cigarettes. One at a time. 90 seconds of song here, 90 seconds of SRS there. Tiny snippets of Japanese. Frequency over quantity. Don’t try to put 60 cigarettes in your mouth all at once just because these “cigarettes” are good for you…enjoy them one at a time…enjoy those tasty bite-sized pieces.
Finally, relax. Don’t get worked up and overwhelmed. Just do more than nothing. That’s all you have to do. Whenever you feel down, out, wasted and/or confused just do…one. Just do more than nothing.
OL2L: ハリウッド・セレブ・ニュース: when I said “be a couch potato and read trash, just in Japanese“, I meant it.