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But I Don’t Have Time For Immersion!: How To Immerse Even When Your Time Is Controlled By Others

The other day, a handsome young AJATTeer (and South Park fan) named MGV sent me this handsome email:

On your site, which is awesome, you mention that you should spend 18-24 hours a day doing something/anything in Japanese. I’m in high school, grade 10. I have school Monday-Friday. I worked it out on a piece of paper, and the most time I can spend listening to Japanese is about 10 hours, and I was a little generous.

Anyways, I was hoping you might have some suggestions on how to listen to more Japanese each day. I don’t like to make excuses, but I’m wondering how often you had college classes. In other words, how did you find the time to “get used” to Japanese.

It’s not just with listening, at most I can review about 5-15 kanji a day. At that rate it will take ages get through the kanji phase.

Life is very busy, and school is just terrible for Japanese, since everything is in English (the E word!) and it’s loud and hard to have your headphones on in, and also, the worst, school issues hours of homework!

Sorry to ramble, you may have heard it all before. It just seems like learning to understand this language is gonna take a lot longer than it has to.

If you have any suggestions, please please please write them to me or post them in some immersion article or something.

Khatzumoto’s one-line answer:

Just focus on the time you do control, rather than on what you don’t.

The government and your legal guardians practically force you to be in school, but no one’s forcing you to watch English TV in your free time, and no one else but you controls the contents of your iPod, and no one’s got a gun to your head telling you to read English websites.

Control what you can control. No one reasonably expects any more of you. Do all you can when you can. And you’ll be surprised by how much you do progress and do get done.

Limits are not always a disadvantage. What seems like friction can actually be traction — just as professional runners use spiked shoes that actually get stuck into the ground (which would seem to suck) to give them more power to push off. In fact, people with all the time in the world can be very unproductive, unless they start to give themselves some self-made traction.

All your friction can be traction. All your friction can be a gift — a brand new pair of shoes 😀 . Limits are your friend.

Think of Japanese less as something to “get through” and more as something to “be”. Japanese is just who you are. As long as you’re doing even the smallest thing in Japanese, there’s nowhere you need to be other than where you are. The thing with AJATT is that you’re not directly forcing growth, you’re just ensuring good “nutrition”, knowing that growth will naturally take care of itself.

One inch counts. One kanji counts. One minute counts. Try holding your breath for one or two minutes (ok, don’t), and you’ll quickly see that it is a very long time.

P.S. When I was kanjiing hard core, I found my daily upper limit was 25 new characters per day (plus about 100 reviews), no matter how much time I had.

P.P.S. SRSing your school subject material could help you save time. The key is to make sure the format of your SRS cards is as good as possible a  reflection of your exam style.

P.P.P.S. Anyone with any suggestions — especially people who’ve faced and solved a similar problem — please feel free to share your advice.

  55 comments for “But I Don’t Have Time For Immersion!: How To Immerse Even When Your Time Is Controlled By Others

  1. efeilliaid
    October 22, 2009 at 18:13


    > When I was kanjiing hard core, I found my daily upper limit was 25 new characters per day (plus about 100 reviews), no matter how much time I had.

    And I thought I was slacking! You freakin’ hardcore AJATT man, I was convinced you were pushing 100 new characters down your throat a day 🙂
    25 is exactly what my upper limit is, and I usually do 50-100 reps a day, so I’m not doing that bad… My retention rarely goes below 95%.
    I have a full-time job in localization where I deal with loads of text everyday, go to meetings and hang on the phone for looong minutes… I maintain consistency of translations in 32 languages (plus – occasionally – 28 additional ones). It’s really messing up my head. I find myself tongue-tied for most of my lunchtime at work and for some time after work each day. And that’s only the job 🙂 I have a girlfriend with whom I spend a lot of time (but that’s the nicest ‘distraction’ ;-)). Luckily she’s now joined me in watching 52 episodes of S.A.C. and then 電車男, all those weird cooking and quiz shows as well…
    So, what I do is listening to my Japanese audio rips whenever I can. I used to get headaches when I started doing it at work but then I somehow got used to it and the headaches are gone. When I’m out in town or on my way to/from anywhere, the headphones are always on. I also use that ‘time boxing’ technique you mention elsewhere on your website.

    Thanks for another good post.


    P.S. A hint for ripping audio: MediaCoder
    Just set it up for audio and select Job -> Transcode audio only. Works great!

  2. WC
    October 22, 2009 at 20:12

    Good post. I think 1 part of it needs to be emphasized, though:

    ‘Think of Japanese less as something to “get through” and more as something to “be”. ‘

    As long as someone treats any part of Japanese as something to ‘get through’, they are hurting themselves. It’s all part of the language as a whole, and it’s all good. Enjoy all of it. Don’t suffer now so that you can have what you think will be fun later. If you don’t enjoy it now, you’re setting yourself up to not enjoy it later, either.

  3. Griff
    October 22, 2009 at 20:57

    My suggestion to the person who wrote the question is something that’s really inevitable.

    At some point, you’ll be able to write a fair amount in Japanese, so you could take notes and do other personal school writings in Japanese. That’s gotta take at least a decent amount of time away from English.

  4. Rob
    October 22, 2009 at 22:48

    I am not in school, but I do have a job that requires my mind to be in English most of the time. What I did when I was going through the kanji was play the keyword game. When you’re in class and your teacher is rambling on about whatever, listen for the Heisig kanji keywords. When you hear one, try to write it down. It might even help you in your classes too as you’ll more focused on what the teacher is saying.

  5. ichigo
    October 22, 2009 at 23:36

    ipod when you can. if you have ipod touch or iphone, anki reps when you can’t listen. whether you’re in class or outside of class, when you see/hear things, ask yourself what the equivalent word/phrase is in japanese. you’re already in the game, just make it a japanese game.

  6. October 23, 2009 at 01:34

    The times I did the most (in my case) Spanish were the times I was very busy with other things. I do major Spanish so that actually adds a bit to my ‘Spanish time’, but I also have several linguistics and didactics classes which are lectured in Dutch.

    Everthing you can do in Japanese, should be in Japanese. Ban English from your personal life, because school life is (at least at the moment for you) not really part of your personal life. I think Khatz took notes in Japanese when he was in college, so if you take notes in class they should be in Japanese (or at least kanjified).

    Like I said; my best time was when I was busy. Somehow it gives you a reason to fight; all kind of things are trying to get time from your target language, but if you fight against it and succeed you feel good and only want to spend more time on learning your language.

  7. Tom
    October 23, 2009 at 03:24

    Another thing that’s helping me to use my tme way better is buying school books in German when I can. For example there are four novels that I need to know back to front for my English literature course so of course I’m revising in German 😀

  8. Renee
    October 23, 2009 at 03:52

    Something interesting I realized while doing the kanji is that it seems actually better to not go too fast through the kanji. Sure you can add 100+ a day but a few days later all of a sudden you’ve got hundreds of reviews to go through. It becomes quite daunting to have that. (Esp. once you keep adding every day) And if you miss it one day for some unforeseen reason, it’s going to add up very quickly.

    I also noticed one trick when adding new characters. If you notice that your review for each day is rather high or it’s just too high for you to do in the time allotted each day, plus add new kanji: what I did was just to go through the reviews only. If I had alot of reviews, chances are I ended up failing a good percentage of them (which left me with so many to re-review as it was). After I got my reviews down to a low number again (usually after a couple days), then I added new characters.

  9. Chuck
    October 23, 2009 at 04:21

    no one’s forcing you to watch English TV in your free time

    Actually, yeah, they are, but that’s just one hour a day and I can review kanji during that time.

  10. Mallory
    October 23, 2009 at 04:22

    I’m really glad you wrote this post. I’m also a high school student (12th grade though!! Graduating this year at last!) and I’ve been AJATTing for over a year. I did major kanji learning/sentences over the summer, but now that I’m back in school I haven’t had nearly as much time 🙁 But I’m doing my best 😛

  11. Taseli
    October 23, 2009 at 04:33

    I know exactly how that guy is feeling. I thought I had no time last year. Now I’m in my junior year, and they really do like to cram your schedule. My parents dont even let me ont he computer during week days, unless its for school work.

  12. Travis
    October 23, 2009 at 05:28

    This fits my situation exactly, thanks so much for the advice.

    Question: I have friends who are also learning Japanese, via other methods(, they scoff at my strange “Kanji obsession”, and “weird story method”. I try to explain Heisig’s reasoning of isolating the kanji, but they’re learning pronunciation, and kana/hiragana/kanji-on-the-side all at once, and seem to be advancing at a breakneck pace, already claiming some success in understanding anime. As opposed to my 20 kanji-a-day. Honestly I feel a bit left behind… I know it’s been said a thousand times, but this really is the best way to go about it right? There’s really nothing else I should be doing than living in my asmuchaspossible-immersion environment, listening to (mostly)gibberish and kanji-fying everything I can?

    • Ali Khalid
      December 16, 2015 at 22:04

      Dude, just forget the Kanji for now, seriously. If you’re planning to write Japanese more than listen, then study Kanji, if you’re aiming to listen and speak in Japanese, screw the Kanji… for now.

      • Brandon
        May 26, 2016 at 01:16

        Ironic that I’m going to be writing to you, almost 6 months later… but you’re writing a response to someone nearly 6 years later. Said person, may already be fluent at this point ^_^

        IMO – I ignored Kanji too much in the beginning and realize in hindsight that you learn not only vocab, but the derivation of many words (a lot of which really ends up making sense). Recommendation for those that read this post in the future, check out (google search) for WaniKani. Great SRS kanji system that teaches in about 1 – 2 years (depending on individual pacing), ~2000 kanji and some ~6000 vocab.

  13. Paul
    October 23, 2009 at 05:41

    I was in this exact situation a year and a half ago. My solution? To pretend like I didn’t actually want to learn Japanese after all. REGRET!

    Even if I had just done 5 kanji (that takes what, 30 minutes?) I’d know all the kanji right now. I’d also have done about 1000 hours of active listening.

    It’s true with my ambitious high school schedule I had little time for Japanese, but I did have SOME time, and I wasted all of it doing crap like watching TV/playing video games in English.

    That’s just active time on Japanese. But passive time is important as well, i.e. listening to Japanese audio while doing something else. I would have racked up thousands of hours doing that.

    I regret giving up, even though I’m back on track and having fun now. But don’t make the same mistake!

  14. Ionize
    October 23, 2009 at 06:33

    Oh I can totally agree on your problem young MGV. As a university student it’s sometimes really hard to find your time to immerse yourself with all the stuff you’ve got to do or you better should be doing to keep up in your classes.

    Throughout the last two years I learned to spent my free time as best as possible. Something like “make the most of now”. If I’m really desperate on my time schedule I take a scrap of paper and note down what I’ve got to do until I actually got time of to immerse. Furthermore I rather repeat half an hour of Kanji and watch some more of my favourite anime, when I’ve got time off than repeating Kanji one hour on end and have less time to do the fun stuff. I think Khatz mentioned in one of his articles that it’s sometimes better to go for the sweet things first.

    Oh and what allways works for me nicely is time boxing my homework, e.g. doing like half an hour of homework before I watch some new episode of anime or do some Kanji, after that just repeat until you run out of homework to do.

    That’s my 50 cent on that.

    Best regards from Germany.

  15. Maya
    October 23, 2009 at 06:44

    Apart from managing your spare time (or managing yourself during your spare time), you can also actively work Japanese into many school things. Do your teachers ever let you do a presentation/essay on a topic of your choice? Do something related to Japan, and do some/most of your research for it in Japanese.


  16. October 23, 2009 at 07:46

    I’m a full-time software consultant with an hour travel to and from work once I eventual finish my 9 hours a day. Consequently my learning of kanji has been particularly slow… I think it has probably averaged out to learning about 7 new kanji a day with a little under 50 reviews per day.

    Sure it has taken forever but now I’m up to kanji number 2020 :D. I realised that learning japanese for me is not about ‘knowing japanese’ but rather it is about ‘having fun learning japanese’. By setting a baseline of enough momentum not to go backwards I can always enjoy making just that little bit of progress learning something. 10 months in it is still fun, I don’t care if people say it is slow cause I am the one having the fun not them :P.

  17. Griff
    October 23, 2009 at 07:53

    @ Travis

    I’m in the same situation as you are (minus having the friends also learning Japanese). Anyway, all we’re doing is building a better foundation by doing the kanji and immersing. I’ve used that NDS game, so I know what it’s all about.

    Either way, in the end (and about at the same time) those NDS Japanese Coach users will have the perfect vocabulary for a tourist, whereas you’ll be close to a native speaker.

  18. October 23, 2009 at 09:11

    I’m no longer in high school–I’m a university student now and I study Russian. One of the best ways for me to study Russian is to listen to it while I study. No matter what I’m doing–reading or writing papers–I have my Russian radio on in the background. I feel that doing this has already helped me get used to the sound of the language. I can almost always pick out the individual words being said even if I don’t understand what they mean.

    In short, even though school does demand a lot of your time, there’s always some way you can put your new language into your life.

    I hope that made some sort of sense 🙂

  19. Squintox
    October 23, 2009 at 10:33


    Lol, trust me, ~3 months after you finish RTK you’ll be laughing at the message you just posted 😛 That game is so slow compared to AJATT, you’ll soon be scoffing at them 🙂 After 3 months of studying, you can guarantee yourself that you’ll probably know around 200-800 characters. While they might still be below 150.

  20. Santiago
    October 23, 2009 at 12:28

    I used to think the same, that I didn’t have time to start learning French. I mean, I go to college every day, I work the whole morning and some afternoons too (I’m an high school English teacher). My native language is Spanish, so I was too busy with 2 languages already, 24 hours a day. I didn’t understand how I would add another one in between college (English) / working at school (English) / working as a webmaster (Spanish) / interacting with other people (Spanish) / thinking (both). So I decided to put French in everything I do… music, TV, devices I carry around and use a lot (notebook and cellphone), software, pieces of paper in between my college books’ pages, carrying a paper dictionary just in case I can’t use the notebook or MP3 player. Sometimes, when you are in a classroom and you are expected to pay attention, just having pieces of paper or even reading the cellphone menu in your target language is enough so as to stay immersed. In my case, I decided not to devote a specific time in the day to my language learning (remember, I don’t have time for that), but to the devote the whole day being in the language.

  21. Ken
    October 23, 2009 at 13:28

    Khatz: “no one’s forcing you to watch English TV in your free time”

    Chuck: “Actually, yeah, they are”

    Well then it’s not “free time”, by definition. 🙂

  22. Ken
    October 23, 2009 at 14:12

    OK, here’s my tip: Post-It notes. Greatest language-learning tool ever invented, after TV and the internet.

    Khatz thinks he’s pretty lazy because he’s doing like 20 minutes a day of active work on his SRS (and then watch J-TV). Not bad, but compared to me it’s totally amateur hour: I’m in a whole other league of laziness. I want to do 20 minutes a *week* of active work (and then watch J-TV).

    My system is: whenever I find myself using/seeing/holding/etc. something in my apartment, I pull out my dictionary and pad of big Post-It notes, write down the kanji and the first sample sentence in the dictionary, and stick it right on the thing.

    Cost: about 60 seconds. Benefit: for something I actually use all the time, I’ll not be able to look at it without seeing the kanji and a sample sentence. I think this is 10x better than an SRS, because it’s physically impossible for me to avoid. I can’t avoid doing these reps, unless I start walking around blindfolded.

    For example, I’ve labeled the 壁 by my kitchen, and now it’s impossible for me to enter or leave the kitchen without seeing 壁 and “壁に耳あり”. I’ll see these a whole lot of these Post-Its dozens of times before I even leave the house in the morning, without even trying. Granted, I can’t learn everything this way, but there’s a few dozen kanji that would be impossible for me to forget now, even if I tried. And they’re ones that are useful to me, because they describe my world.

  23. October 23, 2009 at 18:32

    > When I was kanjiing hard core, I found my daily upper limit was 25 new characters per day (plus about 100 reviews), no matter how much time I had.

    I was surprised by this too, and somewhat reassured. I’m always worrying that I need to finish RTK quickly to get back to actually “learning the language” (I was about JLPT 3 level before I started RTK) but I can’t really go any faster than 25 characters a day (which does roughly equate to 100 reviews for me too). I just need to keep reminding myself that any progress is progress towards the end goal and that, with constant work, I’ll suddenly find myself at the end of the book (I’m at 1410 right now).

  24. Ajatter
    October 23, 2009 at 20:54

    I can never spend as much time on kanji as I’d like, however, this traction thing is very interesting and true. I work 9-6 mon-fri, but somehow that’s when i get most my kanji done.

    I review my new stories of the day for 15mins on the train to work and 15mins on the way home, I review for 30-45mins on my lunch, I spend 30mins-1hr (working late ;)) and an 1 in the evenings thinking up new stories for the next day. Am doing 25-30 kanji a day spending 2-3 hours on it a day. 2-3 hours sounds alot but it doesn’t seem that way as I’m just doing a few mins here and there whenever I get a break from doing those things I have to do.

    On the weekends, I really struggle to learn anything new and just about manage to do my reviews so anki (my srs) doesn’t pile up the reviews. Though I feel like I should be able to do lots as I don’t have to work. Doesn’t seem to happen thou.

    Anywho, as long as I can keep this up I’ll be ok, it may take longer than I’d like but 2-3+ years now will worth it for the 60+ years of not sucking too bad at japanese after.

    All the little bits add up. Just make sure you use what time you have in the best possible way. Thanks Khatz for helping everyone do this.

  25. 牛ジュース
    October 24, 2009 at 07:07

    私も高校生です。実は、今月に漢字を70(on average)個覚えますが、大変です。


  26. Geir
    October 24, 2009 at 07:19

    Get up early, SRS your school material and buy a mini-laptop for reviews!
    I get 50-60 reps done on my way to uni (on the bus!)
    High school is important, but you’re more important! Time-box your homework and then have fun doing Japanese stuff! 😀

  27. Marshall
    October 24, 2009 at 10:52


    I didn’t think you’d post this Khatz! Thanks so much!!! I greatly appreciate how you took the time to read my message and make this post.

  28. Ryou
    October 24, 2009 at 12:49

    I’m in high school too, a freshman.
    I usually do 25-30 kanji a day, and I thought I was going slow… hahah.
    I’m so glad you posted this! I was about to email you and ask myself.
    It’s really hard to find time to get Japanese in.
    But what I’ve been doing is downloading lots of Japanese music and podcasts, listening to it while I’m studying, during free time, and even sleeping…
    It’s really cool when you can pick out a few words or a sentence here and there.
    Makes the effort worthwhile for sure c:
    I don’t have much time to watch any Japanese shows though. I hope that’s okay.

  29. Lawenia
    October 24, 2009 at 13:01

    Rob’s idea of the key word game is something that I have done before. It’s actually something that I should probably do again even though I’ve finish RTK. I just find that my focus strays in my three hour long college classes. =P

    What I would suggest to people in high school is to see if there is an independent study option available. At my high school Juniors and Seniors could take an independent study class if they had teacher to supervise them and turned in the proper paper work for approval. Unfortunately I didn’t notice this until the end of my Junior year but I was able to take an independent study in Japanese class my Senior year. This was great because it gave me one less class I had homework and it gave me time during school that I could work on Japanese.

    I actually came across this site and Reviewing the Kanji during my Senior year. I wasn’t happy with the progress that I was making so I searched the Interwebs for a better way. Finding these two sites has made all the difference. I highly doubt I would be enjoying reading raw manga on a daily basis without them. Thank you Khatzumoto and all you other awesome people who inspire me. =)

  30. Daniel
    October 24, 2009 at 15:20

    I’m a high school student trying to do AJATT. The trick is: don’t worry about how long it will take. The way I see it, no matter what happens, Japanese won’t REALLY be useful until I graduate from University. So I want to get fluent as soon as possible (I do japanese at school, and the better I get the better my marks are), but it’s ok if it doesn’t happen for several years. So just do what you can and don’t worry when you don’t do what you can’t.

  31. Fdsfdaafsd
    October 24, 2009 at 15:41

    Well just focus on the time you do have. I waste my time on the weekends doing nothing all day. With or without Japanese the weekends are almost the same I do nothing all day. Sometimes you need school to discipline you or something. I plan to get a job working at gamespot so I can get a Ps3 to buy Tales of Vesperia. That way I can waste my time on the weekend in Japanese. Also just do what you can. Forgot you want to learn Japanese in the first place. Just keep doing it because it’s uber fun. Come on now. You get to watch cartoons all day and you call it 勉強 it can’t get that much awesome then that. I had to give up all my desires in English. I replaced it with Japanese. In return I am isolated by one of my friends since he says I’m a Japanese wannabe. I know through time I will learn to think in Japanese. I don’t know what that will mean but I’m guessing in my book it means fluentcy. I’m happy I came through this site Khatz. You have been nothing but pure hardcore random knowledge. So just remember as long as your hours are close or over to the time you spend in Japanese your winning. Thinking you did as much if not more hours then you spend talking at school or listening English at school. As long as you keep going your winning but the worst thing you get do is give up all at once I did that last year and I’m not about to do it again.

  32. Rochella
    October 24, 2009 at 21:38

    I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret, and since we all love secrets 😀 we all win. Anyhow lol, It is far far far more effective to have short, concentrated 30 minute study sessions several times a day than one big 1-2 hour study sessions. Let’s face it, our brain wanders around a lot and can only focus in death grip mode for so long.

    School kinda to me works perfect with this. Spare 30 minutes before you go, 30 mins during lunch (unless you wanna hang with friends of course) 30 mins after school, and/or 30 mins before bed. bam, 2 hours from no where to devoted death grip studying. I was a MAJOR band geek in my high school years and even after all those electives/activities/homework, I had that much time at least for my extra studies.

    Also, I find that if I do an srs like its meant to be done ( ie giving myself less than 10 seconds to recognize the card) I don’t even spend all that much time on it, my retention rate is awesome, and I do about 25ish new cards a day.

    I’m a stay at home mom with not a lot to do. I find that I waste more time than people with full schedules when it comes to studying (though i probably get a lot lot lot more listening time than people with full schedules). When I have more to do, I timebox far more effectively. So rather than letting your schedule hinder you, work it to your advantage! Good luck and kick some butt!

    (ps to the person asking, games like the DS one are more like instant grits. Sure you get “done” faster, but it tastes like sh*t.. In the long run, you’ll pass them like a stock Lamborghini versus a Yugo! BAM!)

  33. マッカ
    October 25, 2009 at 20:21

    I’m in Year 11 at High School, and I’ve managed to completely Japanese my life and minimise English.
    1. I customised my time table to give me lessons off, and with some luck too, I’ve managed to get pretty much all subjects which I can do well at without doing much homework etc, I get As/Bs for all my subects….except Physics.
    2. I fit in Japanese whenever I can. At school, I take notes in Japanese, I think ONLY in Japanese, I take Japanese books with me, I hide in the corner and listen to my iPod (well, back corner of the oval), and I listen to my iPod while riding my bike to and from school.
    3. Outside of school, it’s all Japanese. I’m living Japanese 24-7 outside of school. I’ve just worked myself into a routine that I can maintain and feel happy that I’m making the maximum progress with.
    I personally went through RTK1 in 2.5 months, but I now think I could have completed it in about 1 month had I had the right tools back then.
    I did RTK3 when I had all the right tools (, Anki + shared anki RTK1 + 3 deck etc) and got it done in 8 days (not to boast or anything).
    I now just pick up a new kanji as I come across it, but am intending on learning a another 2, 000 in the school holidays.

  34. kuraido
    October 26, 2009 at 13:27

    I decided today that, contrary to my instincts, I wanted to shotgun the last thousand of RTK 1. I was doing my 25 religiously, but noticed that reviews weren’t enough to remember, so I changed my grading (made it harder) and that like tripled my reviews…So then I made the time to split it and it all relaxed for me…50ish 2x a day, but then I wasn’t adding. I told myself “Let’s get solid on the first thousand”. This resolution caused all sorts of painful fallout for me: I was reviewing OUTSIDE of my SRS and almost twice as much, and making no headway…Well I had an epiphany and realized that I was trying to do the work of my SRS for me. So, I have decided to go hardcore on the last thousand…I still intend to keep up my Heisig deck when I go to the sentence phase. Heisig is fun, though I just had to rearrange a bit to make this all go right for me.

    Oh, and in the Spirit of this post, I will say it is not much better on the other side of high school UNLESS you grab the time and selfishly hoard it like a gold-deprived dragon. I think this is because people just expect stuff out of us, and have no compassion for our Japanese (or other similarly awesome language) pursuit. I’m still trying to have the courage to do the 英語をわからない thing…people get grouchy.

  35. Surreal
    November 11, 2009 at 05:41

    I’m a bit late, but I think this can help. Before proceeding, I should say that parts of what I say highly depends on what kind of person you are and noone should force themselves to use it It’s worth noting I’m a 20-year old uni student.. Anyway.

    Music: Find good japanese music and listen to it, when you’re at a high enough level start looking up the texts and make sure you understand the whole song (mining what you feel like too, of course). Then when you can’t use your iPod, tune into the songs. I don’t know how common it is to be able to do it, but I can be listening to japanese music in my head while simultaneously listening to teachers, friends anyone and being able to respond if I need to. I hear it more clearly if I can sit tapping my foot too. If you can’t do this, then try at least remembering fragments of conversations, thinking about grammar points or other stuff that can be worked with mentally to make you used to the mindset.

    Not just iPod everywhere but book everywhere: if you have ANY japanese books make sure you have one with you whenever you can. Again, if you can multi-task it, read during lessons. (yes, ideally you mentally play music while reading in Japanese and listening attentively in English) An important reason all this works is what Khatz says in later posts about skipping. Most of what your teacher says isn’t that important. You can ‘skip’ it, you don’t need to hear every word just understand the meaning of it. Usually I’m able to follow the lesson better than others in fact because I’m NOT BORED. How could I be? I’m reading an awesome story while listening to cool music, writing mindmaps in a creative way (not in Japanese yet in my case tho) and at the same time learning interesting stuff.

    Now, remember. You’re like, what, 16? You probably have a long way to go in many ways, and you NEED friends. You cannot deny them in the same way, make a choice in the same way 20-somethings can. If you do you will be incredibly pissed at yourself. Believe me, I tried doing that (for reasons other than Japanese) and yes, worst decision of my life so far. Share your Japanese interest as much as you can, but don’t push friends away even though you won’t go back on studying Japanese. Of course, if you can find Japanese friends too that’s a huge bonus, but either way you need your friends and family. Make sure you seriously sit down and decide just how important you want Japanese to be for you, to what degree you can let it affect other aspects of your life. And remember to not limit your influences too much, don’t make your world too narrow (oh hey I just thought about something. GO LOOK AT A WORLD MAP RIGHT NOW. There’s a huge risk that you have a very skewered view of the world and this hopefully gives you a wake-up call in that case. Look at it for real, checking wikipedia for random countries just seeing how huge everything is.)

    Last paragraph, promise.
    Let your interests influence your Japanese learning, look up gamer communities, cooking shows, popular Japanese sports, whatever in Japanese related to your interests.
    Let Japanese affect your interests; maybe there’s an association where a lot of people with Japanese background go in your town? Look up culture you meet through your immersion; try asking your religions teacher what she or he knows about Shintoism.
    Use the skills you’ve gained from learning other stuff, if you find you’re really good at remembering with the help of making acronyms well apply that to Japanese, of course, and remember that even though Japanese culture is different and you’re speaking a different language, your social skills make all the difference.
    And the other way around is DELICIOUS. I was doing pretty good for myself in high school but ho boy, if I knew all the things I’ve learned from Japanese then school would be a breeze. Try to see not only the Japanese you learn but what you learn on a more general level: simultaneous input, memorization, creativity from those wacky RTK stories, leading a more relaxed and fun life that leads to success in your goals, staying humble. Use it in your daily life and you will hopefully find you have more time on your hands for doing Japanese, which will make you grow even more, and SO ON!

    You’re doing more than just learning Japanese. You’re becoming a good dude. An even gooder dude. While having FUN! Good luck.

  36. Travis
    November 16, 2009 at 12:08

    >On the weekends, I really struggle to learn anything new and just about manage to do my reviews so anki (my srs) doesn’t pile up the reviews. Though I feel like I should be able to do lots as I don’t have to work. Doesn’t seem to happen thou.

    I hate that! It happens to me every time… I always say I’m going to get a ton done over the weekend but I always end up doing what you described. Guess it goes back to the “People with all the time in world get nothing done”.

  37. Celene
    March 21, 2010 at 07:43

    im a sophomore in college now. my high school was super easy, and college is rather easy as well (although I always try to take the maximum number of units per semester)…
    I’m using a site called to help me keep to my goals. You basically wager money on yourself…so if you follow through on what you are supposed to do, you keep the money. Otherwise, you lose it XD I’m using it for SF4 (I want to compete), finding a job, starting my own company (I realized…i want to become a CEO anyway…so why not start now XD) and soon for Japanese (like today XDXDXD) 🙂
    I just turned 20, sooo im studying abroad when i turn 21 (nothing to do with drinking though XD), and basically not wasting my time on socializing (except for some business clubs and stuff)
    I know it depends on the person/school, but my state uni. is very easy sooo i think college is still an easy time to learn Japanese. 🙂 Also, someone mentioned how they waste time a lot…I recommend using leechblock for Mozilla (and deleting any other browsers). They have a whitelist feature so you can only view certain websites. X3 this can sooo help stop you from wasting time..i used to waste around 5-10 hours per day online until using leechblock. 😀
    Good luck (and yea, i know this is late…but haha)
    ps: also, i highly recommend music/mnemonics as study aids. i studied abroad in Chile when i was 15 with only 1 semester of high school spanish and became fluent…and i hardly even studied. XD
    Good luck!!! 🙂

  38. scott
    July 26, 2010 at 13:27

    I have read a fair bit of this site (it is very good btw), but have not come across the answer to this question:

    What do you mean by “fluent” when you say you became fluent by 18 months? Could you provide descriptions of the type of communication you were comfortable with by that time? Thanks.


  39. Megan
    September 14, 2010 at 01:41

    I have a lot of free time since I’m a stay at home housewife. My husband gets home at 4 p.m. and goes to bed at about 7 p.m. plus he’s home all weekend, but otherwise I’m in the middle of nowhere by myself.

    It also means that I have no personal income and my husband’s income goes to little luxuries like food and electricity. He’ll buy me the occasional Japanese concert (like for my birthday, if we can afford to get me anything at all) but, really, he hates Japanese music and doesn’t care to learn to speak it either, though he is otherwise encouraging of my determination to learn. So I can’t replace our stuff; I can only add to what we have… and I’m being quite literal when I say there is 0 money to spend on movies and books in Japanese.

    The music, well, I had 11 years of collecting that so I’m good on that front; it’s all I’ve listened to for so long that I already had a nice collection before I became a stay-at-home wife.

    Any advice on ways I can, within those limitations that I cannot change, make this the most immersive environment possible? I’m gonna start looking for websites in Japanese and try to use Japanese whenever I’m talking to myself (which is embarassingly often) or my cat. I have a word processor that lets me type in Japanese easily so I was thinking I’d start with getting all my romanized song lyrics into proper Japanese and delete the old romanji ones plus turn the file names and tags of my digital backups of my music collection to Japanese.

    I got the Anki program to do SRSing also but beyond this, I’ve run out of ideas to make this an immersion environmet. My mom says when I was a little kid I used to read the dictionary for fun (I know, I know… wierd kid, huh?) so I was thinking if I could find a free online Japanese dictionary (not a language to language one but an actual all-Japanese dictionary) that’d be great. It’d be like when I was a little girl wanting to learn all the words I could.

    Sorry this is so long of a comment; it’s just that after reading all of this stuff from the AJATT site, it’s gotten me all excited about the thought of not only understanding what they’re saying in the songs I can sing along with but also what they say in the skits they stick in the concerts I got before we were completely broke LOL

  40. nippyon
    September 20, 2010 at 03:02

    I’m a highschool senior, so I never have any time either. Not limited time, NO TIME. But I always either:

    1)Play Japanese music, podcasts, drama cd’s, or audio ripped from a drama while doing my homework(this especially helps when I have no time to watch a drama)
    2)Put all need-to-memorize material on Anki so that I HAVE to go to Anki to study. While I’m there, might as well do some kanji reps.(This also improves your school study habits)
    3)Try to mentally translate random phrases into Japanese whenever I feel like it.(I wonder what Dalton’s Atomic Theories would be in Japanese…hmmmm…)
    4) I always keep manga in my backpack or purse in case I have a free moment. Only comedy though. If it’s complicated or too deep, I’ll never bother reading it. I also keep a mini notebook to write vocab in. And a dictionary. It’s alot of books, but with the size of my textbooks, it’s nothing. If all else fails, manga is key.
    5) If you have a Japanese friend, tutuor, teacher, neighbor, anyone who speaks Japanese, talk to them( in Japanese). Also ask them to correct your mistakes no matter how many there are. Sometimes people will think they are being rude to correct you, and will be embaressed(picture yourself correcting a foreigner who speaks really bad English..embarassing isn’t it). Assure them that you want to be corrected. This will help your Japanese A LOT.
    Pretty much, I find that multitasking will get you to do the most. Easy,quick tasks are second best. It’s better you do something tiny than nothing at all. がんばって!

  41. 星空
    November 29, 2010 at 10:22

    I squeeze whatever i can into japanese. notebook margins work teh best.
    and if you’re an aspiring writer (in my case, 漫画家) write as few RO-MAji as physically possible. do it in [whatever] 日本語.

    and does “bilingual multitasking” reallly work?
    eg. read AJATT while listening to music (or vice versa)

    Monolinguist haterss have been addressed, so have people that are too scared to break away from their comfort zone. but what about 1/2 & 1/2? I’m talking about 日英語 JAPANGLISH
    [or whatever variation of the concept you happen to be dealing with]

    I sent khatz an email………
    but i fear it’s at the bottom of his massively overloaded inbox(es?)…

    If anyone has any advice on either of those, i’d appreciate it, J or E.

  42. Traci
    November 29, 2010 at 13:03

    I know firsthand how much more you learn while using music and simply immersing yourself. I did this with two other languages besides English (French and Spanish) and I’m learning Japanese. I’m taking classes (GASP in horror I know) but I needed to major in something and it was the only thing that I was interested enough in to do. So. My classes are BS (Seriously I didn’t really learn anything and I’m doing Japanese 3 and 4 aka intermediate level and I’ve gotten straight As…) I would much rather spend my time listening to music and watching dramas (I loved my boss my hero btw). I can write in Japanese fairly well but for whatever reason when it comes to me reading it I am so slow. Frustratingly slow even. I’m going to be taking two semesters off to finish the remainder of my degree (science and math and electives ftw!) and won’t be taking classes till next fall. Challenging myself to at least get halfway fluent. Classes in the fall will be ENTIRELY in Japanese which will help immensely. I practice all my languages by translating what I want to say into either french or spanish then to japanese. sounds odd but sometimes makes a sentence easier to understand that way.
    And wow that got long so I’m going to wrap it up with another suggestion. If you want to find people in your area who speak your target language, try using and look for people who want to meet up for coffee or something and speak with them. Even learners of a language will help you improve!

  43. FH
    May 5, 2011 at 03:40

    Phew, yeah…. me, I work 8 hours per day. I tried listening to music with my mp3 player while working but found it didn’t work out because I really have to focus on working and the music distracts me too much.
    Plus, I sometimes just need some quiet time. Without music, TV etc. But otherwise, I listen to japanese radio oder stuff on my mp3 player most of the time.
    I think the most important thing is to do it regularly, on a daily basis. Not once a week but once a day. Even if it’s just a little.

    Any ideas on how to immerse yourself in Japanese while not distracting yourself from work? I think it’s pretty difficult.

    But OK. Since I have listened to Japanese music and watched anime & stuff for a few years now, I guess I already collected a few of these 10.000 hours.

    What’s next? There’s a Japanese bookstore that also imports magazines so… I’ll subscribe to Shounen Jump. I read some of the mangas anyway. I can also spend my manga reading time learning Japanese. Even though Shounen Jump is about twice the Japanese price here…

    • 魔法少女☆かなたん
      May 5, 2011 at 21:36

      I find it sometimes difficult to write long and complex analyses in English for my current work while listening to a different language. What I found I could do was just take a break for a couple hours. Just a short little break in a long-term project. Then I could listen and write at the same time for a couple hours. And when I came back to listening to Japanese later, it felt like “yes! yes! oh, yes~!” It was pretty intense.

      But anyway, I think it’s important to the make the time you do have as enjoyable as possible, not to try to force yourself to do too much. It’s not a race to see who can get ten thousand hours the fastest.

  44. October 26, 2011 at 19:11

    Thanks a lot for this article and for all the comments. I really needed that. Yesterday, I almost felt like giving up. I’ve amassed thousands of hours of listening already, but I was too depressed to go on. Now, I feel better.

  45. October 26, 2011 at 19:12

    By the way, I agree, some silence is necessary to calm down, but try to keep the silent periods to a minimum.

  46. Insiya
    October 17, 2012 at 10:49

    In response to the end of your article: You can still learn a lot at school, even if you don’t have Japanese speaking friends. You can always print out kanji and their meanings and study them at lunch or after tests in class. I almost never listen to morning announcements because I’m too busy doing little kanji and kana worksheets (I make them myself– it’s fun to make them and you can’t cheat because the answers are at home). I know most schools don’t allow iPods and all, but it’s very easy to memorize a Japanese song once you have the lyrics. Just hum them quietly and scream them out loud in your head. At least try writing your homework down in Japanese. Fill the cover pockets of your binders with small kanji posters. And whatever happened to good old-fashioned flashcards?

  47. Insiya
    October 17, 2012 at 10:50

    Another thing: If you like video games, get the Japanese version. I wonder where I can find the Japanese version of Pokemon Soulsilver….

  48. IL
    April 13, 2013 at 11:45

    Try if no one has mentioned it yet…

  49. Lucy
    July 13, 2013 at 09:46

    So I have always thought immersion, listening, reading, and just getting int the “real” language would be the best way to learn. However I have continually struggled with finding Japanese music, books, movies,… ect. I have watched anime and that helped me get down a few words but there our few things I can find that I can actually take with me. Where do you get your things to read and listen to? And what do you recommend for learning Kana and Kanji?

  50. fabions
    September 3, 2018 at 01:41

    For, the best way to deal with school BS and all the homeworks and tests is very simple: cheat as much as possible. Even though it’s incorrect cheating on test and this stuff, it will save a loooooooot of time, ’cause, when your cheating on exams you can just use the time in class to japanese, maybe having you earphones on, in a way that it superpasses the teachers voice, and may be writting or reading in japanese, plus you’ll never have to study no any exam anymore.
    As I said, I know it’s not “right” to cheat, but when I decided that I want japanese and not all that BS tha school tries to force to us, I actually came to think that the real not right thing is to have to waste my time on some shit that I don’t want to know and isn’t going to take anywhere :). Although, this is just an option if you really don’t give the very little possible shit about school, ’cause if you still want to go to an university, you better follow Khatz advice instead of mine. I hope this little text can help any AJATTer’s that are still going to school like me :).

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