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.