Recently, I met this one girl. She’s really cute. And she knows Japanese. Fluently. Native-level fluently. After only studying it four years. She talks circles around people who studied it for four years in college.
Why is this girl so good at Japanese?
Because she spent 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a years studying Japanese. She has spent 40,000 hours listening to Japanese. Her name is Didi.
The people who went to college spent 5 class hours a week, plus perhaps 1-2 hours out of class per hour in class, for 52 weeks a year. That comes to 2000-4000 hours a year, being generous. This is an order of magnitude less than Didi.
Didi is just shy of four and a half years old.
Don’t ever talk to me about how kids are magical until you spend 40,000 hours listening to your target language.
Don’t ever talk to me about how you’ve spent 4 years studying Japanese when really you’ve only spent 3-6 months, counting by hours.
Don’t ever blame on something as nebulous and BS-ological as talent, what can much more easily be explained mathematics.
Put in your hours. And you will be rewarded. It’s that simple. It is a poisonous combination of ignorance, arrogance and innumeracy to expect to have even passable Japanese WITH AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE LESS EFFORT than even a typical Japanese toddler has put in.
For the record, I have logged about 20,000 hours of listening since June 2004. And my vocab is easily far larger than Didi’s (sorry, Didi! you’re still my friend!). So chalk another one up for adult learners.
Adults can do it. You can do it. Japanese — any language. But you need to step up to the plate; you need to show up; you need to not have the temerity to think that 1000 classroom hours and some homework is an acceptable level of effort. Because it isn’t. Come back with 5 figures, and then we can talk, literally 8) .
Steve Kaufmann does a much better job explaining it than I have. If, as he says (and I think he is absolutely right) most vocabulary is learned incidentally rather than deliberately, then it is crucial that we give the vocabulary lots of chances — lots of “incidents”, lots of hours of input — to hit us, and thereby be learned.
This is not fluff. This is not theory. This is cold, hard, listen to effen Japanese in 5-figure+ quantities if you want to get good at it. That’s all you have to do. But you do have to do it. As Jim Rohn suggests, success is easy; the things that you need to do to succeed are easy. But the reason so many fail is because: “The things that are easy to do are also easy not to do”.
Language is easy. There may or may not be difficult problems in life, but language is not one of them; get it out of your head that it is.
Now get listening!