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Book Review: Absolutely DO NOT Study English! A Korean AntiMoon in Japanese

December 17, 2007
By

Let’s keep this one short.

Every so often in the history of humankind, a book comes along that will forever change us. Or not, I don’t know. But really, every few weeks or so, I find a book that is just so perfect that it’s as if it was written just for me to read it (you: “yeah, no kidding”). It seems like the author sat down and thought: “and it shall come to pass that one named Khatzumoto shall walk through the doors of a bookstore, and when he doth gaze upon this tome it shall be fitting for him to purchase it. So it shall be written, so it shall be done”. Anyway, this book I found owns, and not only that but it also has a sequel. The book is:


Book 1 Cover
英語は絶対、勉強するな!:学校行かない・お金掛けない・だけどペラペラ
Absolutely DO NOT Study English: Get fluent without spending tons of money or going to English school

and its sequel:

Book 2 Cover
英語は絶対、勉強するな!2:不安が消える・疑問が打っ飛ぶ・マジでペラペラ
Absolutely DO NOT Study English 2: Clear your doubts and worries and get seriously fluent.

It’s significant that this book should be coming out of Korea (the Southern flavor), whose scores as a nation on, I believe it is the TOEIC test (some random, stupid English test) are at the very bottom of the world: only Japan’s are worse. In today’s Korea, English schools are raking in tons of cash; parents are freaking out about their kids “needing” to know English; the government is in constant panic mode about how and where and when to get more English taught in public schools; businessmen “need” to know English; university professors of English have terrible English; people who can speak well are mistaken for being intelligent. In other words, Korea and Japan are in the exact same position. Now that I think about it, the Japanese/Chinese situation outside of the kanjisphere is the same: most people outside of East Asia are convinced that they cannot be literate in Chinese and Japanese, let alone speak them; their typical rationalizations fall into one of the following extremes: it’s either the “we’re not as smart as East Asians” camp, or the “East Asians are stupid and our writing system is better because the Greeks molested boys and used an alphabet too and there’s nothing wrong with liking boys” camp.

Along comes 鄭讚容 (CHON Chan Yon) to the rescue. Kicking butt and taking names, he very frankly lays out that the English situation in Korea right now is abysmal but that it need not be so. He then proceeds to give his own recommendations based on a method he developed for himself. In terms of philosophy (you CAN do it) and overall method (focus on understanding real English and imitating native speakers, not the crap that passes for English you find in textbooks) it’s very similar to AntiMoon which — along with that scene in The Thirteenth Warrior — is the source of many of the ideas you find on this site. Chon’s book and AntiMoon were written with English in mind, but they clearly have advice that essentially applies to all languages.

Anyway, the best thing is to go and read both books. Here’s a gem that struck me, from page 225 of the second book:

「第一ステップでは、とりあえず英語を「無意味な音声」と考え・・・」
[On learning to understand normal, fast spoken English] When you start out, just accept it as sound without meaning…

Chon wants us to get used to the sounds of the language. As you listen, you’ll naturally start to make sense of it. Like a fog clearing, the sounds will start to get clearer and clearer; you’ll pick out more and more. Chon calls these “little miracles”. He also suggests you imitate these sounds, just as sounds, regardless of whether you understand them or not; get your mouth making the sounds of the language.

These words on page 27 of book 1 amused and inspired Momoko:

「親が赤ちゃんに『さあ、これから言葉を学びましょ』と言って、単語や文法を教え、これが主語、それは動詞で、あれは副詞なんて言うのを見た事が有る?」・・・どんな親も『可愛い子ねえ、お中すいたでしょ。おマンマ食べようね』『あらあら、おしっこしたのね、お締めがびしょ濡れよ』などと、赤ちゃんが理解しようがしまいが、とにかく愛情と一緒にたくさんの言葉を色々と浴びせ掛けるよね。そうやって親の言葉を始め、テレビの音、家の外から聞こえて来る声など、色々な音や言葉が赤ちゃんの小さな耳に休み無く吸収されて行く訳だ。」
Do you ever see parents take their baby and go: “right, Timmy, settle down and sit tight, it’s time for you to learn LANGUAGE!”, and break it up into vocabulary and grammar and explain how this is a subject, this here’s a verb and that there is an adverb — I mean you just don’t see that…All parents go “You’re such a cutey! You’re hungry, aren’t you? Time for foody-woody, isn’t it?”, “Ooo! You went pee-pee; your diaper’s aaaall soaking wet!” — whether the baby understands or not, they shower her with love and words. Day in day out the baby’s little ears are constantly absorbing this endless stream of words and sounds — whether it’s the words of his parents or the voices of people outside or whatever.

Another place where Chon really lays it out for me is here on page 28, again of book 1:

「無条件に何でもたくさん聞けばいい」
Unconditionally, constantly listen [to your target language].

Chon further advocates the use of English-English dictionaries. What else…oh — he has a cool name for his method: “英絶方式”, the Absolute English Method, or as I like to call it: “All English All The Time” 8) .

Anyway, so…yeah, they’re good books, the Japanese is of course A-OK; translated by someone I presume to be Japanese-Korean. Chon is, like me, not an expert linguist, just a guy who learned how to do something and is sharing it with the world. He takes flac from people with established ideas, but he speaks the truth: don’t kill the language and “study” it — instead, live it, become it. Highly recommended.

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41 Responses to Book Review: Absolutely DO NOT Study English! A Korean AntiMoon in Japanese

  1. Saleem on December 17, 2007 at 16:11

    For people who don’t read Japanese, but are looking for a brief summary of the technique CHON Chan Yon recommends, some dude wrote one here:
    www.ba.tyg.jp/~welchr/Chung.html

  2. Lance on December 17, 2007 at 16:45

    So we’ve got a group of people in Poland who have been successful with this method. We have Khatzumoto-san who has been successful with this, and now we have these two books in Korea that are apparently supporting the same method of learning. One can only hope the trend continues. I’ve just heard about this recently myself. I’d wish I’d heard about it sooner. At any rate, I wonder if we’re going to continue seeing more support for this method, or if it will continue to be drowned out by the sheer number of government and school endorsed Cram-The-Grammar-And-Vocabulary-Down-Your-Throat language courses? Honestly, unless the word gets out via other means, it appears to me that nobody who could really make people stop and listen is listening. (Granted, I’ve just started learning about this method myself, so, I’m in no way even remotely close to being any sort of authority on this subject. Let me know how wrong I am.) =)

  3. khatzumoto on December 17, 2007 at 21:31

    Another nice feature that the books have is Q&A from readers/implementers of the method. Forgot to mention that.

  4. Billyclyde on December 18, 2007 at 04:02

    Keep it short? Khatz, you’re always voluminous!

  5. Yun on December 18, 2007 at 05:13

    are there other language versions of the book? An English or Chinese version, perhaps?

  6. nacest on December 18, 2007 at 05:55

    Billyclyde, I think that’s a good side of Khatzumoto. He just lets it flooooow until the last drop.
    And it’s fun to read! :)

  7. Rachel on December 18, 2007 at 09:10

    Khazumoto, I have a problem. In school I’m forced to learn French. On an every other day basis I am getting French imput. We read books in French, we watch the news in French, our teacher speaks in only French. I am frusterated! How can I tune out the French, so I can just focus on Japanese?

  8. Jason on December 18, 2007 at 12:43

    Isn’t it a bit ironic that the book is about how to study on your own and yet there are so many books in the series. What on earth could all the other volumes cover?

  9. Kia on December 18, 2007 at 15:36

    Hey Khazumoto..this is a little off topic, but I had a question about the Chinese characters. I´ve decided to start on Chinese because I´m coming to a more comfortable place with my Spanish studies, and I was wondering if you thought that this series for kids would be a good place to start for the characters
    www.betterchinese.com/mfcw.htm

    The website that you listed that you learned from is honestly too difficult for me to focus on, and I can´t really see as well to get the charcters down in written form. and in these books i believe it is Chinese-Chinese. Good right?

  10. Tony on December 18, 2007 at 20:21

    I have 2 questions that are tied up with this one.

    1) What do you think of reading works translated into Japanese? I saw you mentioned in the post that it was probably translated by a Japanese-Korean and you read Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog in Japanese/Chinese(?) so I want to make sure I get the whole opinion on that. I was thinking about how Krashen suggested narrow reading and when I look at the fantasy section there are lots of books translated from English.

    2) There was a book that you recommended a while ago by a guy who studied Japanese from a foreigner’s perspective a long time ago but I can’t find the post. What was his name?

  11. Chiro-kun on December 19, 2007 at 01:18

    Why Chon-sensei when we have Khatzumoto-sensei ;)

  12. Savara on December 19, 2007 at 05:42

    Totally unrelated to this post but…

    I was wondering if you recognize this.

    Ever since school started I’ve been spending only an hour or so actively ‘studying’ Japanese everyday. (Including watching anime just for the Japanese – not because I really want to see the next episode or just like it :/ So I even watch boring stuff (I know, probably not the best thing, but better than not watching anything?) just because it’s Japanese.) Anyway, what happened a few days ago…

    My understanding just became so much better, suddenly, without a lot of extra study or whatever. I just did what I always do – review my words and sentences, add one or two new ones everyday (sentences) and sometimes I add a bunch of new words (50~100 at a time, then I practice them until I get down to 30~50 reviews a day, and add more).

    I’ve noticed these leaps of level in other things as well (ehm, yeah… Games for example, I’ll not be able to clear a certain level and seem stuck until I suddenly can do it with ease and even much harder things. But also for simpler tasks like … cooking ^^; ).

    It seems logical for some things, but I wonder how it works with languages. It seems like at a certain (seemingly) random time something just ‘clicks’. And really, it’s a leap. Not a small improvement… I think my understanding of dialog in Crisis Core (PSP game) went up from 10~20 % (LOW I know *ashamed*) to almost 40~50 % overall, easier conversations are up to something like 80 %. I also can ‘suddenly’ read kanji I never really studied but came across (with readings and translation – but still no real study). And just overall… understand so much more than just *days* earlier.

    I have been reviewing my sentences more seriously the past weeks (so instead of thinking “I know what it *means* even though I don’t understand every word/grammar thingy, so I’ll rate it a 5(best)” I’ll be stricter and only give an item a good rating when I understand every.tiny.detail – what it means, does (grammar wise) and…well when I really know it instead of being able to ‘guess’/memorize the meaning.

    Still, it’s a bit of a weird leap. Really from one day to the next, it just happened… It has me puzzled, but I won’t complain! Certainly makes it easier to enjoy games and anime (first time in months I really wanted to watch anime.) and increased my motivation a lot as well.

    But, is this something you recognize? Is it normal(haha… normal)?

    (yeah, long long comment *sighs* Sorry about that.)

  13. Nate on December 19, 2007 at 11:40

    Cool find! Since I always end up one way or another talking with coworkers and friends about learning English it’s a great book to help me speak well on the subject in Japanese. After reading the first section on Amazon, I was about to buy a used copy when I found out that a coworker friend owns the first two books, and he’ll hook me up. Don’t get the hard copies until next week though, which brings me to my question…

    What do you know about the CDs that accompany the text? I haven’t seen them myself, but it seems like having a CD of prescribed listening material is against the very spirit of the method. Isn’t the whole point to find your own audio, in the form of music and programs that you enjoy?

    I’ve done a little cursory surfing around and looked at the websites of Japanese people following the 英絶 method, and it seems like quite a few people read the book, bought the CDs, and then listened to them almost exclusively to improve their English. Not surprisingly, they burn out and falter, sometimes getting back to English months later, sometimes not. It strikes me that the fault is likely with the students, for not taking the initiative to seek out their own materials, but the fact that the CDs are being marketed makes me wonder about what the book says on the topic… what’s your take?

  14. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:24

    >the fact that the CDs are being marketed makes me wonder about what the book says on the topic… what’s your take?

    Well, in my personal experience explaining a method, people often want you to provide content/materials as well…kind of a one-stop shopping thing. Chon was probably just responding to that need/demand. I’m sure the English he has on it is natural, and he doesn’t say “only use my CD, m0ph0″; there’s just a book+CD version for people who want it…It seems to me.

    Truth be told, I don’t even know what’s on those CDs…I just bought the actual books.

  15. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:26

    @Savara
    Congratulations on the jump! I don’t recall having such an experience myself, I just know I picked up new things every day, and was able to hear [pick out] more words every day, from my listening to real Japanese.

    Anyway, congratulations!

  16. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:27

    @Chiro
    lol. b/c Khatzumoto also has much to learn of the world. *ペコペコ*

  17. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:30

    @Kia
    I haven’t seen the materials so I can’t really tell if it’s any good [plus I don't have that much experience with it]. But…to the extent that it’s kind of targeted at native speakers’ children…I’d say go for it.

  18. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:32

    @Rachel
    Maybe you could make a special arrangement to get language credit for self-study with Japanese. You might have to show them what you were studying and give them a way to test you. If you can explain yourself well to someone, it should definitely work. Ultimately, the point is to get you to learn a foreign language, French or not…

  19. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:34

    @Yun
    In my searches I am yet to find them.

  20. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 06:42

    @Yun!
    I speak too soon!
    There is a Chinese version. Two:
    千萬別學英語 (I believe this is book 1)
    還在學英語嗎?(and this is book 2)

    I found them on www.books.com.tw
    search.books.com.tw/exep/prod_search.php?cat=all&key=%BEG%C6g%AEe&image233223.x=15&image233223.y=19

  21. Rachel on December 20, 2007 at 07:00

    It’s a good idea, but I’m already half way through the course. I can’t drop out now, it’s not allowed. Thankfully next year I don’t have to take French, since this is my fourth year. Technically we’re only required to take two years of languages, but most colleges want four years, so I took four. But now I’m regreting that I signed up for the course this year. Any other suggestions?

  22. David on December 20, 2007 at 07:45

    Over at adse.cn someone seems to have put up complete transcripts of the Chinese Version.

    Check this out here:
    bbs.adse.cn/read.php?tid=7 for part I
    bbs.adse.cn/read.php?tid=8 for part II

  23. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 08:29

    @Rachel
    Study French through Japanese or Japanese through French…?
    Or, do exactly what you need to get a good grade in French and nothing else, “work the system” if you will.

  24. Rachel on December 20, 2007 at 11:12

    My art teacher actually recommended I studied Japanese through French. How would I go about that though? I should’ve bought the Japanese version of Le Petit Prince (^-^) that would’ve been fun to read a long with the French version. But we’ve just finished Le Petit Prince, and now we’re doing grammar, and vocab (text book stuff) for the next half of the year. Sigh. Well, I guess I’ll work the system. Thank you.

  25. khatzumoto on December 20, 2007 at 11:18

    It’s not too late to do Le Petit Prince in Japanese…it would be a good review, and you’d actually learn more grammar and vocab than by directly “doing” grammar and vocab…

    Maybe you can have a combination of system-working and Japanese/French “synergy”. For example, you can listen to Japanese music while working on French. Read articles in French about Japanese or articles in Japanese about French.

    And, definitely, read stuff you’ve already read in French in Japanese and cetera…

  26. Rachel on December 21, 2007 at 08:03

    Thank you. I’ll do that. I think this will work, that way I don’t have to waste four years of French. Even though I’m focusing on Japanese, I can still maintain my French by learning Japanese through French.

    Also, I have another question (sorry for all the questions). I’ve started watching Dragon Zakura again, this time with no subtitles, using a script, and a dictionary. The problem is that I don’t know how to navigate the scripts on どらま・のーと. They seem to skip over some dialouge, because in the Dragon Zakura script I’ll be reading dialouge, then suddenly the script will describe action in the movie, and then will go back to some dialouge. It’s confusing this way, because I don’t know when to listen to the dialouge because I don’t know if the script is skipping over dialouge, or if I just lost my place in the script. How am I suppose to use these scripts?

    Oh, and, did you ever use a script for Gokusen 1? I’ve been looking all over for one. I love Yankumi’s voice, I’m trying to mimic the way she speaks (when she’s not speaking like a yazuka, lol).

  27. mark on December 21, 2007 at 08:39

    I second the req

  28. mark on December 21, 2007 at 08:47

    Oops, fat-finger syndrome there – sorry about the partial post.

    Anyway, what I was going to say before my fat fingers intervened was – (to the person requesting Gokusen scripts): is this useful:

    dramanote.seesaa.net/category/167203-1.html

    And thanks for recommending Gokusen, Khatz – I am seriously getting into it (an a$$-kicking school teacher- fantastic!).

    Mark

  29. khatzumoto on December 23, 2007 at 17:59

    @Tony
    1) Perfectly fine
    2) I cannot recall…

  30. Rachel on December 30, 2007 at 11:51

    Thanks Mark… but I don’t know how to use the script. (-_-) it’s not word for word.
    Ah well…

  31. Alec on January 8, 2008 at 01:57

    Bought this book and two Japanese non-language-related books today. Plan on making them my first full books in Japanese and it’s all very exciting! If you’re interested, the non-language-related books I bought were 「極楽イタリア人になる方法」 (because I used to study Italian and thought it would be a good way to learn more about Italy without losing sight of Japanese) and 「KAT-TUNへ―赤西仁がやめた本当の理由」 (because I remember reading about this book when it came amount and thinking ‘I want to read that when my Japanese is good enough!’).

  32. Jimmy on January 17, 2008 at 22:42

    I haven’t read 英語は絶対、勉強するな, but I understand that the author encourages people to first listen without reading and without understanding the meaning of what is being said. However, anti-moon seems to say the opposite: listening is difficult for beginners, so they should focus on reading. What do you think of this?

  33. Rachel on January 25, 2008 at 07:05

    ^Listening practice is very important, and so is reading. Neither should be more important than the other. There’s a lot of ways you can incorperate learning both at the same time, such as watching a drama in the language with it’s script written in the language. It’s good to practice them together, and apart. I know a lot of beginners who have trouble with listening, and that is fine, they aren’t used to the language. They don’t listen to it 24/7, they aren’t constantly immersed into the language. The more immersed you are into a language, the more you’ll start recognize patterns. My best reccomendation is to, as this blog says, start to change your enviroment into an all japanese, all the time type environment. It has helped me tremendously.

    I have never practiced listening to French. I can hardly speak a sentence in French, yet I can read it fine, and I communicate with people online in French fine. I know a guy from Taiwan who writes very well in English. He has played online games in English, which requires you to write fast, so he has had a lot of expeirence with writing English with people who are fluent in English. However, he has a hard time speaking. Why is this? I’m not sure really, but I think he never really focused on listening input when he was in Taiwan, he had just focused on reading/writing. People who are learning a language need to practice listening, they shouldn’t wait until they can read first. I can repeat Japanese easily, whether I know the meaning or not, because I know how Japanese works. However, even though I can communicate in French well when writing, when I hear French it goes by me so quickly. I can’t repeat what is being said, because I’m not hearing everything. I don’t know how the language works, even though I’ve taken four years of French. I only started learning Japanese last September, but because I listen to Japanese constantly, I’m recognizing how the language works. Practice listening now! Don’t wait! There’s no reason to wait. Focus on both reading, and listening. That’s my opinion on it all.

    Oh, and about listening without understanding the meaning of what is being said, this is a very good technique. I am surrounded with Japanese all the time, but I don’t constantly have a dictionary by me. I’d have such a headache! It’s a lot of work to look up words I don’t know, and I’m fine with doing it, because I love the language, but sometimes I’m just too tired. Life is tough, and it tires you out. It’s okay to take a step away from the dictionary, and just listen. I watch Japanese dramas all the time without a dictionary both without subtitles and with, I listen to Japanese music without looking up everything, I’ll watch to variety shows, and listen to talk shows without understanding exactly what is going on. Working on listening is important. Sometimes when you put down the dictionary for a second, and just sit back and listen, you’ll realize how much you’ve improved. You’ll realize how you can hear every individual word, that the language isn’t a blur anymore. You’ll realize that you can understand some of what is being said, even if you don’t understand everything as a whole, it’s an accomplishment. If we spend all our time sweating by the dictionary, you’ll miss out on the recognization of your accomplishments, you’ll tire yourself out, and on days where you don’t want to do anything, you’ll go back to English and forget what you had learned.

    (btw: sorry for complaining about navigating the drama scripts. I was being lazy, and didn’t want to read every single thing in Japanese to find out how they work. Now I realize how lazy I was, lol)

  34. KONDDE on February 25, 2008 at 08:26

    Hey, Katzhu-san!

    How to find this kind the material to cover the step one?

    in www.ba.tyg.jp/~welchr/Chung.html

    A course with children level learning without any english voices with tranlation is very hard to find…

    Can you help me?

  35. slowreader on November 17, 2008 at 17:06

    Hi, Khatzumoto.

    (Excuse my English, I’m still learing it)

    Your methods of learning Japanese really inspired me greatly. I’m learning English in similar ways to your methods. I’ve even created a blog to introduce your and Antimoon’s way of learning foreign languages to Korean people.

    But this book, ‘Naver Study English’, is not a good choice.
    I’m Korean and I saw how this book got it’s famous. The book really thrilled many readers. But they began to find that the method promoted by this book was not even based on real experiences.

    The author, Chan-yong Jung’s English is not as good as your Japanese. And many readers who followed the book’s instructions became frustred because it didn’t work. Even after trying it for 2 or more years!

    Has it occured to you that korea’s lowest toeic rank is odd? The book came out in late ’90s (in Korea), and so many people follow the book, but we Koreans havent’t improved much.

    I cannot say the book is entirely wrong. Sometimes it gives great tips (and you quoted that parts), but we need more than that.

    I think your and Antimoon’s methods are way more better than the book.

  36. Bob on August 26, 2010 at 05:30

    @Khatzumoto
    You’re so right about Gokusen! It’s just great… Now a challenge for the master: did you ever get what Yankumi is talking about in the “practice interview”, gokusen 2, episode 7, around 10 minutes?
    Just checking … :)

    Thanks for everything! Great inspiration…

  37. A.J. on August 27, 2010 at 11:24

    Hello everyone,

    Has any Korean or Japanese tried studying English in Malaysia? Our style is British English and we’re the number 1 in South East Asia in terms of the number of yearly IELTS takers and passers (check with the British Council to confirm). :-)
    We are a peaceful, multi-racial society with a rapidly advancing political-economic-educational system.

  38. Afoofoo on May 2, 2011 at 19:36

    HA, this book! I was watching a live show exactly a month ago on Nico Nico and an actor mentioned buying this book xDD Looks really interesting~

  39. Neoglitch on August 26, 2011 at 01:29

    I’m getting and devouring these books Khatz! :D

  40. Miss Language Learning on August 26, 2011 at 10:17

    Damn, if only I spoke Korean. Reading a book in its “native” language is so much better

    • ライトニング on January 27, 2012 at 13:03

      If it’s professionally translated (like this book), I don’t really see the difference. Korean and Japanese are a lot closer than to english, so it’s easier to translate, so the translations will almost be 1:1, instead of lets say something like japanese to english, where for the english one you need to add more things for a sentence to make sense. Such as not using personal pronouns as much and etc.

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